It’s Thursday. You know what that means when it comes to MLB DFS: A very small, very odd slate. Specific to tonight’s version, we’re looking at a five-game slate that begins at 6:40 p.m. ET. There’s also a pretty decent chance that this evening’s contest between the Pirates and the Phillies gets rained out, so I’ll be avoiding that matchup in this article. Fun!
Let’s go position-by-position and try to make some sense of what’s certainly going to be a weird one.
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Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals, $8,900 - As I’ve noted in this space a few different times throughout the season, Castillo’s been a different pitcher since the beginning of July. In fact, dating back to his start on July 6 — a span of 14 games and 86.0 innings — the right-hander has registered a 3.03 ERA and a 3.23 xFIP to go along with a 26.9% strikeout rate. Heck, in his most recent outing, Castillo racked up 10 strikeouts and 34.1 DKFP against the Dodgers across 6.1 scoreless innings. He’s a pitcher with serious upside and any time you can get him below $9K is a steal.
Glenn Otto, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles, $6,700 - Ah, the perks of a small slate. Otto has surrendered 15 earned runs in his past two starts — a stretch where he’s scored a combined -12.2 DKFP — and yet, here we are. If you’re really looking for a positive spin on those two disastrous outings, I guess it’s that the crooked numbers weren’t the result of a barrage of home runs, but a .560 opponent BABIP. I feel safe in saying that such a trend is unsustainable. In fact, across his four MLB starts, the rookie still owns a 3.10 FIP to go along with a 10.47 K/9. There’s some actual upside here and the Orioles aren’t quite the Astros or the Athletics. Baltimore is sporting the league’s fourth-highest strikeout rate in September (25.9%), so I’d look for Otto to get back on track this evening.
Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $3,700 - When healthy, Garver is a very, very dangerous hitter. The backstop has only been able to make 218 plate appearances so far in 2021, yet in that small sample, Garver’s produced a .278 ISO and a 141 wRC+. For his career, he’s posted a 127 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. So, in short, Steven Matz ($9,200) will need to be careful with a bat that will surely end up in the middle of the Twins’ order on Thursday.
Tyler Stephenson, Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals, $3,200 - Prior to a quick stay on the COVID-19 IL, Stephenson hit clean-up for the Reds this past Sunday against a left-handed opponent. It’s actually something he’s been doing for most of 2021. If that’s the case again this evening, Stephenson will be hard to ignore as a value asset, especially as he’s slashed .310/.379/.452 with a .359 wOBA at Great American Ball Park.
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins, $6,200 - Tonight’s contest between the Jays and the Twins has the highest total of the slate on the DraftKings Sportsbook, and it’s not incredibly difficult to see why. Michael Pineda ($5,800) has been pretty underwhelming since the start of June, striking out just 14.5% of the 234 batters he’s faced within that span. That’s a lot of contact to be surrendering to Toronto, especially someone like Guerrero, who is hitting .331 with a 180 wRC+ off of RHPs in 2021.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels, $4,200 - It’s sort of weird that Gurriel remains this inexpensive. For the season as a whole, the veteran owns the league’s third-highest qualified batting average (.319), something he’s paired with a noteworthy 135 wRC+. However, things have only gotten better in the month of September, as Gurriel’s hit a jaw-dropping .351 over his first 83 plate appearances. Maybe his lack of elite power is a deterrent for some, but the upside of simply batting in the middle of a potent Astros lineup is more than enough for me.
Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays at Minnesota Twins, $5,300 - Semien’s been in a slight slump the past week, but that doesn’t really change the fact that the infielder is viable against any right-handed pitcher in baseball. Coming into Thursday’s slate, Semien is slashing .279/.350/.564 with a .285 ISO and a 142 wRC+ within the split. He also still has a 1.021 OPS in September, which illustrates just hot scorching hot the All-Star was just a few days back.
Andy Ibanez, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles, $4,500 - It’s difficult to find anyone who hits left-handed pitching well on the Rangers, but Ibanez is certainly one of the few exceptions to the rule. In his 86 plate appearances within the split in 2021, Ibanez is slashing .341/.372/.512 with a 143 wRC+. So, if you’re wondering why the 28-year-old was hitting in the top-third of Texas’ lineup the past two times the team was facing a southpaw, now you know. Ibanez’s viability is also assisted by the presence of Zac Lowther ($5,300), who has conceded 2.29 opponent home runs per nine in his eight appearances.
Josh Donaldson, Minnesota Twins vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $4,300 - Donaldson has made a habit of putting together good at-bats versus left-handed pitching in 2021. In fact, the former MVP enters play on Thursday with a .287 ISO and a 140 wRC+ within the split, which the aforementioned Matz knows first hand, as he was taken deep by Donaldson at the Rogers Centre this past Saturday. None of this should be a shock, either, with Donaldson sitting in the 98th percentile of average exit velocity and the 92nd percentile of expected wOBA. He’s still a great hitter.
Charlie Culberson, Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles, $3,000 - Culberson will surely find his way into the Rangers’ lineup this evening, as he’s done nothing but crush left-handed pitching all season long. In 137 plate appearances within the split, the veteran is slashing .341/.373/.548 with a 149 wRC+. Can he hit the right-handed reliever he might face after Lowther has left the game? That’s another story. However, at this pricing tier, no one’s perfect.
Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $5,000 - In a prospective stack of this Twins-Blue Jays game, there isn’t really a bad option when choosing between Polanco and Bo Bichette ($5,200). However, I do think the former is the better play. Not only is Polanco $200 cheaper than the Blue Jays’ All-Star, but the switch-hitter has been deadly against left-handed pitching going back to the start of August. In his last 48 plate appearances as an RHB, Polanco owns a 1.013 OPS, a .364 ISO and a 170 wRC+. Pretty amazing stuff.
Kyle Farmer, Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals, $3,800 - Almost all of Farmer’s success in 2021 has come against left-handed pitching. The 31-year-old has an .836 OPS and a .238 ISO within the split — figures that absolutely dwarf his production versus RHPs. This is all good news with Patrick Corbin ($7,400) set to take the mound for the Nationals on Thursday. The lefty’s nightmarish season has somehow gotten worse over his past five outings, a stretch where Corbin’s pitched to a 7.62 ERA and has allowed opponents to compile a stunning .433 wOBA.
Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals, $5,500 - I mentioned that Corbin’s past five starts have been terrible, but let’s not glaze over the fact that this recent run is far from an anomaly for the veteran in 2021. For the season as a whole, Corbin has been consistently roughed up by RHBs, with the lefty conceding a .307/.361/.575 slash line and a .393 wOBA to the 546 he’s faced. Castellanos is one of the best right-handed hitters in all of baseball and he’s managed a .915 OPS against southpaws. He should be able to take advantage of a soft matchup this evening.
Brandon Marsh, Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros, $2,200 - Marsh has been hitting leadoff for the Angels for a couple weeks now, which makes him an incredible value at a price tag just above the minimum. Don’t get me wrong, this has mostly been out of necessity, though Marsh has posted a decent 110 wRC+ versus RHPs in 2021. Also, though Lance McCullers Jr. ($10,100) rarely struggles, the few issues he’s had this season have been with left-handed opponents.
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