Stacked. That’s the only possible way to describe the pitching options on tonight’s 15-game featured MLB slate. Sure, Shane Bieber ($11,300) and Jack Flaherty ($10,200) are going to be non-factors coming off the IL at their respective prices; but the name recognition on Friday, all the way down through Jose Berrios ($9,500) and Max Fried ($9,200), is incredible.
How do you sort through so many viable starting options? Let’s go position-by-position and break it all down.
Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox, $10,800 - When in doubt, use Cole in a spot where he might be slipping under the radar. Because of the volume of quality pitching options on tonight’s slate, I could see a scenario where ownership is pretty flat across the board; however, that could be doubly true with Cole, who is coming off a horrendous outing against Cleveland. Cole is also facing a red-hot Red Sox team on the road, so you can understand why people might be a little hesitant. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t massive upside here. For the season, Cole possesses a sterling 2.76 FIP and a 34.2% strikeout rate that’s the best mark in the American League. Speaking of leading the AL, at 12.5%, Boston is sporting the Junior Circuit’s highest swinging strike rate in September. That’s a tempting combination.
Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels, $6,400 - After a rocky August, Gilbert has gotten things back on track in his past four starts. In 22.1 innings of work, the rookie has pitched to a 2.01 ERA and a 2.67 FIP, all while holding opponents to a microscopic .243 wOBA. Gilbert’s also been striking out well over a batter per inning during this run, with his strikeout rate sitting at a respectable 25.8%. Considering the Angels rank dead-last in batting average (.211) and wRC+ (72) for the month of September, I have confidence that Gilbert will keep the good times rolling on Friday. Heck, with the Mariners back in the thick of the Wild Card chase, he sort of has to.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies, $5,200 - Posey saw his numbers slip slightly at the plate in August, but he’s been producing since the calendar flipped to September. In fact, in Posey’s past 67 plate appearances, the backstop is slashing .311/.358/.525 with a .213 ISO. That will certainly play at Coors Field, especially with Peter Lambert ($4,900) taking the mound for Colorado. Lambert hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019, when he posted an ugly 6.05 xERA over 89.1 innings.
Luis Torrens, Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels, $3,700 - Torrens and Seattle will draw the left-handed Jose Suarez ($6,300) this evening, which should mean good things for the former. In 139 plate appearances within the split in 2021, Torrens has registered notable marks in OPS (.841), ISO (.277) and wRC+ (126). Below $4K at catcher, I’ll take any asset with that much home runs upside.
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Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies, $5,300 - It doesn’t take a genius to figure out stacking the Giants on tonight’s slate is a wise move. In fact, San Francisco doesn’t just own this evening’s highest implied team total, it’s also one of the first totals I’ve seen over seven runs in quite some time. Truly the magic of Coors. Anyway, Lambert surrendered a .421 wOBA and 1.9 home runs per nine to opposing LHBs back in 2019. Belt should be licking his chops for this matchup.
C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies vs. San Francisco Giants, $3,400 - While Alex Wood ($8,400) has been the definition of “solid” so far in 2021, this price point for Cron is almost insulting. In 73 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in Colorado this season, Cron is slashing .375/.452/.844 with a 219 wRC+. Heck, regardless of handedness, the veteran has posted a 1.105 OPS at Coors Field. There’s a reason he started the month with a string of salaries well over $5K. Cron’s elite when hitting in the altitude.
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Miami Marlins, $5,200 - The struggles at the major league level have been quite noticeable for Edward Cabrera ($6,200). The top prospect comes into Friday’s start against the Rays rocking an eye-popping 10.48 xERA, while Cabrera has also conceded a .718 slugging percentage and a .485 wOBA specifically to the 48 LHBs he’s faced across his five outings. Lowe, a left-handed bat, owns a .291 ISO and a 151 wRC+ when facing RHPs in 2021. You couldn’t ask for a better matchup.
Tommy La Stella, San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies, $3,900 - Rinse and repeat. Any left-handed bat in the Giants’ lineup is viable this evening against Lambert, particularly one that’s leading off with a price tag below $4K and one that’s posted an .878 OPS over his past 10 games. He’ll be part of a popular stack, but it’s hard to argue with the stats.
Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres, $4,800 - Here’s a list of qualified players with a better slugging percentage than Riley dating back to the beginning of July: Bryce Harper, Juan Soto, Kyle Tucker, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt. That’s some pretty amazing company for a 24-year-old. Within that same span, Riley is hitting .321 with a 155 wRC+ across 313 plate appearances. Simply put, the guy can hit, and it’s quite the buying opportunity that you can still get Riley into a lineup for less than $5K.
Nolan Arenado, St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs, $3,400 - There’s a few things to consider here before we even start talking about Arenado himself. First, this is a seven-inning game, but with the Cardinals on the road, they will be guaranteed at-bats in the seventh. Second, the wind is blowing out of Wrigley tonight, which is a boost to hitters on both sides. Third, Zach Davies ($6,500) is terrible. Through three outings in September, Davies has pitched to a 13.06 ERA and he’s surrendered a .498 wOBA to opponents. All in all, I think Arenado gets at least four plate appearances in this one, and that’s enough for me.
Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks, $4,800 - Let’s just say that Humberto Castellanos ($5,300) has struggled in his past three starts. The right-hander has faced 38 LHBs within that span, and he’s allowed them to slash .306/.342/.667 with a .418 wOBA. That’s very bad. Meanwhile, Seager is very good, particularly on the road so far in 2021. In his 209 plate appearances away from Dodger Stadium, the shortstop has registered a massive 147 wRC+.
Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays at Miami Marlins, $3,600 - It’s hard to say anything definitive about a Kevin Cash lineup, but I would assume, with the aforementioned Cabrera’s issues with left-handed bats, that Wendle will be right in the middle of Tampa’s order this evening. Why not? Though it’s easy to forget, Wendle was an All-Star this season and he’s hitting .291 with a 121 wRC+ against RHPs. Never doubt the Rays when it comes to maximizing splits.
Juan Soto, Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds, $6,300 - He’s expensive, but goodness is it difficult to pass up an opportunity to use Soto at Great American Ball Park. Sonny Gray ($8,600) isn’t really a pitcher I’m looking to stack against in a vacuum; however, he’s certainly has his troubles pitching in Cincinnati this season, posting a 4.64 ERA and allowing 1.5 opponent home runs per nine within the split. As for Soto, no one in the league is swinging a hotter bat. In September alone, the phenom is slashing .473/.608/.838 with a 263 wRC+. Yes, Soto has reached base in 62 of his last 102 plate appearances.
Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs, $3,400 - Everything I wrote about about Arenado applies to O’Neill. Really, I think St. Louis’ entire lineup will go under-owned this evening due to the hesitation about stacking a doubleheader, but the presence of Davies is enough for me to take a risk. It also doesn’t hurt that O’Neill’s posted a 1.028 OPS and a 171 wRC+ so far in September.
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