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Thursday evening’s nine-game slate is headlined by two returning aces. Gerrit Cole opposes one of MLB’s worst lineups in the Tigers, and Max Scherzer is expected back from the IL to face the Pirates. That means plenty of DraftKings gamers will pay up for one of the two, particularly in cash contests. With that in mind, every hitter highlighted below hails from the bargain bin.
Top SP: Gerrit Cole, HOU ($12,000) vs. DET
There are other strong options beyond Cole and Scherzer, particularly Mike Soroka against the Marlins and the red-hot Ryan Yarbrough opposing the Orioles. Both hurlers, however, are priced up accordingly to those matchups. So let’s just open our wallets some more for the premier choice. Cole leads the majors in strikeout rate (36.8%), and no team strikes out more often than the Tigers (26.4%). There’s no discount despite Houston’s ace making his first start since Aug. 7, but the same is true for Scherzer at $11,400. Only health will stop Cole from compiling double-digit strikeouts for the 14th time this season.
Honorable mentions: Scherzer ($11,400) at PIT; Soroka ($10,000) vs. MIA; Yarbrough ($9,300) at BAL.
Value SP: Adam Civale, CLE ($6,200) at NYM
The Mets are far from an offense to attack at the moment, but Cole requires a cheap SP2 complement. Besides, Civale already handled a sizzling New York lineup well when containing the Yankees to three runs (two earned) this past Friday. Before that, he held the Twins to one run. The 24-year-old rookie has pitched six innings in each of his four starts, allowing five combined runs with six walks and 22 strikeouts. It’s a small sample size due for a course correction, but DraftKings is daring everyone to take the gamble. At this price, just hope for another six innings with two or three runs.
An old friend to all DFS players, Joyce owns a career .347 wOBA and 121 wRC+ against righties. Injuries to Nick Markakis, Austin Riley, and Ender Inciarte have ushered the 35-year-old back into a platoon role for Atlanta. He hasn’t missed a step, collecting eight hits, a walk, and six RBI in his past five starts. Joyce wields a .349 wOBA and 112 wRC+ against righties this season, and the opposing Sandy Alcantara enters Tuesday with a 1.42 WHIP and 5.73 SIERA. Sure, it’d be better if DraftKings made him cheaper for old time’s sake, but the part-time extraordinaire still makes a fine choice for buyers on a tight budget.
Smoak is batting .195 since the start of May, so it’s getting harder to point to his .379 xwOBA and shout “unlucky” to the mountaintops. And yet he leaves just enough hope to consider as a dumpster-dive play. The scuffling first baseman has shown a pulse with five doubles and a homer in his past six games, and he still holsters a .352 wOBA against righties. Maeda, meanwhile, has permitted a .330 wOBA and 10 of his 18 long balls to opposing lefties. The 31-year-old righty has only pitched through the fifth inning once since the All-Star break, yielding a 5.46 ERA in the process. Although certainly a low-floor play, Smoak still carries enough of a punch for those allocating a large chunk of their funds at pitcher.
A Texas stack could pay major dividends against Detwiler, who owns a treacherous 6.10 ERA and 7.33 FIP this season. With Hunter Pence ($5,500) Danny Santana ($5,400), and Willie Calhoun ($5,100) all given a price surge, it’s not a feasible route to take alongside Cole. However, Solak offers one cheap source of Rangers’ exposure. After getting traded from Tampa Bay, the second baseman prompted a quick promotion by batting .347/.386/.653 in 30 Triple-A contests. He has since gone 4-for-11 with two walks, two doubles, and a homer in three games with the parent club. Righties have recorded a .425 wOBA against Detwiler, so Solak is a slam-dunk selection in all contests as long as he receives the starting nod.
The most interesting stacks (Rangers, Astros) are too expensive to pursue with Cole, but the Yankees present an interesting cost-conscious pivot. On the heels of a quality start (six innings, two earned runs) against the Astros, Roark has registered a 4.01 ERA and 4.14 FIP during a solid season. He’s still an often-combustible starter ceding a .388 wOBA to lefties. While Didi Gregorius ($4,000) hasn’t fully shaken off the cobwebs from Tommy John surgery just yet, he has plastered seven home runs with a .483 slugging percentage after the All-Star break. It’d sure be nice if Mike Tauchman moved up the Evil Empire’s lineup card, but he’s a .293/.372/.549 hitter (as of Wednesday) available for $3,900.
Aaron Judge is slumping. He has a pedestrian .329 wOBA against righties, and Roark has flummoxed like-handed opponents to a .266 wOBA. Still, this is Aaron Judge. He collected a single and double each on Friday and Sunday before snapping a 13-game homer drought Tuesday night. The star outfielder is capable of heating up in a hurry, so this could be the last chance to deploy him at the clearance rate of $4,000.
Honorable mentions: Rangers at White Sox (Detwiler); Astros vs. Tigers (Zimmermann); Dodgers vs. Blue Jays (Waguespack).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is akgould4) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games on which I offer advice. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings, and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any nonpublic information.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter).