We are running out of days in September, which truly means that tonight will be one of the final 15-game slates of the 2021 MLB season. It looks like it’s actually going to stay a 15-game slate, too, with five domed stadiums and a lot of good weather in the forecast for Friday evening.
Let’s go position-by-position and break down everything you’ll need to know to set your lineups.
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets, $10,600 - Unless you’re looking to take your chances with Chris Sale ($9,500) this evening, none of the top pitchers on tonight’s slate really have an unbelievable matchup. Still, having said that, Wheeler has absolutely dominated the Mets the past two times he’s faced them in 2021, throwing a complete game shutout versus the club on Aug. 8, which followed seven-scoreless innings of work in a contest from back in late June. All told, those two outings account for 16.0 innings, zero earned runs, six hits and 19 strikeouts. I’d say that’s acceptable production from the highest-priced option on the pitching salary list. Wheeler also sports a 2.67 FIP and a 28.9% strikeout rate for the season as a whole, so it’s not like either performance was a fluke.
Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $6,800 - It’s the series we’ve all been looking forward to watching all week! To be blunt, a contest between the Marlins and the Pirates isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with offensive potential. This is going to be a low-scoring affair and Hernandez should be able to outperform his very modest price point. Yes, he’s surrendered an eye-popping 2.2 opponent home runs per nine across his eight starts in 2021, but Pittsburgh isn’t the team that’s built to take advantage of that flaw. In fact, the Pirates come into Friday’s action with baseball’s lowest ISO (.128) and second-lowest wOBA (.293) against right-handed pitching. Also, to Hernandez’s credit, he’s racked up 37 strikeouts in 37.0 innings so far this season, a year after registering a 32.1% strikeout rate over 25.2 innings. When healthy, the 26-year-old isn’t lacking upside.
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers, $5,300 - The sample sizes aren’t very big, as Grandal’s spent weeks on the IL this season, but in his most recent 65 plate appearances, the backstop is slashing .412/.523/.824 with a 255 wRC+. Needless to say, Grandal is red-hot. The switch-hitter has also punished left-handed pitching throughout 2021, owning a 1.142 OPS within the split. Taylor Hearn ($5,000) is a fun prospect, yet he’s surrendered seven home runs in his past four starts. That’s bad.
Kurt Suzuki, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics, $2,700 - If the catching pattern the Angels have been using all week continues, tonight will be Suzuki’s turn behind the dish. That could open up an avenue to some value. While the veteran is currently in the midst of his worst offensive season in a half-decade, Suzuki is slashing .293/.350/.481 with a 121 wRC+ against left-handed pitching going back to the beginning of 2019. Cole Irvin ($6,600), the southpaw set to start for Oakland, has also been struggling as of late, posting a 6.75 ERA and a .405 opponent wOBA over his past six starts.
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Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels, $5,500 - It would seem the Angels are set for a bullpen game on Friday, with both Oliver Ortega ($4,000) and Kyle Tyler ($4,000) scheduled to appear. Both men are right-handed, which would assure Olson the handedness advantage in both matchups; however, in 2021, it hasn’t really mattered who’s throwing to Olson. The All-Star boasts a wRC+ of over 140 against both RHPs and LHPs, making him a perfect DFS target in a script where he might end up facing four or five different pitchers.
Daniel Vogelbach, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs, $2,500 - Vogelbach provides a lot of upside at this price point, even if said ceiling is attached to a cavernous floor. Essentially, it’s home run or bust for the 28-year-old. Still, that’s not a terrible profile when you’re set to square-off with Zach Davies ($6,000). Over the RHP’s most recent 13 stats, Davies has conceded 2.5 home runs per nine and a .413 wOBA to the 128 LHBs he’s faced within that span. So, again, Vogelbach has the opportunity to do some damage on Friday.
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins at Toronto Blue Jays, $5,200 - Since the beginning of June, Polanco has simply been one of the best hitters in baseball. The infielder has taken 389 plate appearances within that span of time, posting a .279 ISO and a 145 wRC+. He’s also be opposed by Hyun Jin Ryu ($8,600) on Friday, which is a much better matchup than you might expect. The former All-Star has been roughed up in his past seven starts, registering a 7.27 ERA and surrendering at least seven earned runs on three different occasions.
DJ LeMahieu, New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Guardians, $3,900 - The overall lack of power continues to be concerning, but LeMahieu has started to turn the corner the past three weeks, hitting .306 going back to Aug. 30. He’s also continued to hit leadoff for Aaron Boone’s club, which is always an admirable trait in a DFS asset — especially when the lineup you’re atop has an implied team total of well over five runs. Zach Plesac ($8,400) will oppose the Yankees this evening. He’s allowed 1.86 home runs per nine to RHBs in 2021.
Eduardo Escobar, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs, $4,600 - Escobar’s been hitting exceedingly well so far in September, with an .878 OPS and a 133 wRC+ in his 48 plate appearances. I’d assume that level of success will continue this evening with the aforementioned Davies taking the mound for the Cubs. At least, that’s what the math suggests, as the Brewers sport an implied team total of well over five runs.
Jack Mayfield, Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics, $2,600 - We’re dipping deep into the player pool for this one, but with Irvin clearly having his issues retiring hitters the past month, Mayfield could be in a sneaky position to thrive. The infielder has batted fifth the past two times the Angels have faced a left-handed opponent and, in 33 plate appearances this season versus LHPs at home, the 30-year-old owns a 172 wRC+. Small sample, but a small salary, too.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles, $4,800 - It should shock no one that Boston is in possession of this slate’s highest implied team total, which is probably why it feels so weird to have Bogaerts priced below $5K. He hasn’t skipped a beat since returning from the COVID IL, with three multi-hit games in his last five starts. For the season, Bogaerts has also registered a .996 OPS and a 165 wRC+ when facing LHPs at Fenway Park. Keegan Akin ($5,100) should be very afraid.
Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres at St. Louis Cardinals, $3,600 - Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see if Cronenworth is going to be in the lineup tonight, as he continues to deal with a finger issue that’s kept him sidelined for the past week. However, this would be a great spot for him to make his comeback. Not only has Cronenworth produced a .208 ISO and a 124 wRC+ against RHPs in 2021, but Miles Mikolas ($6,400) has always had problems with left-handed bats. To wit, in six starts this season, Mikolas has conceded a .359 wOBA to the 61 lefties he’s faced.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins at Toronto Blue Jays, $5,400 - Buxton cooled off against Cleveland after a torrid weekend, but I have a feeling he’ll re-find his peak form this evening versus Ryu and the Blue Jays. Simply put, Buxton has destroyed left-handed pitching when healthy in 2021, posting a .306 average with a .392 wOBA and a 151 wRC+ within the split. It’s the sort of stat line you would expect from a player that’s produced a barrel in 11.1% of his plate appearances this season — the seventh-best mark among hitters with 100-plus batted ball events.
Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres, $2,900 - Carlson’s less valuable as a DFS asset now that he’s no longer the Cardinals’ leadoff man, yet he’ll still have a middle-of-the-order slot for this evening’s contest against Vince Velasquez ($6,900) and the Padres. Let’s just say there was a reason that Velasquez was cut by the Phillies. The veteran has pitched to a 5.59 FIP in 2021, while he’s also surrendered a whopping .391 wOBA to opposing LHBs. Carlson, who’s hit .298 with a 120 wRC+ in St. Louis, is in a prime spot to have a huge night.
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