Finding two capable starters to use in a condensed afternoon slate is usually an impossible task. Not on Thursday, when the National League’s three ERA leaders (Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Aaron Nola) all get an early work assignment. Scherzer and Nola square off in a star-studded duel while deGrom could receive another tough-luck loss against Madison Bumgarner. Oh yeah, there’s also a Coors Field contest among this five-game slate.
The evening’s four-game tilt isn’t as fun by comparison, but gamers won’t need to bend over backward to formulate a lineup under the $100,000 budget.
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Afternoon SP: Madison Bumgarner ($14,600) at New York Mets
Bumgarner only costs $14,600, so this is someone to start alongside one of the NL Cy Young Award candidates. I’m not opposed to playing Bumgarner and deGrom in hopes of the Mets’s ace getting mistreated to another 2-1 loss. While the Mets are playing better baseball in August, they enter Thursday with the second-worst wOBA (.285) and strikeout rate (25.4 %) against lefties. FantasyDraft is pricing Bumgarner not as a postseason deity brandishing a 3.05 ERA, but a fringe starter with a 10.7 K-BB% and 3.89 FIP. Despite some rough sledding, he has averaged 6.1 innings and 5.2 strikeouts per start. No longer an ace, he’s still worth using in a favorable matchup at a mid-tier cost. The other starter depends on the rest of the lineup. Finding the $23,100 for deGrom may come at the expense of significant Coors exposure, so I’d probably save $700 with Scherzer.
Evening SP: Trevor Cahill ($17,800) at Minnesota Twins
Trevor Cahill has mixed domination with disaster, but the overall results are superb. Only one starter boasts an ERA below 3.45 with at least a 25.0 % strikeout rate and 50.0 % ground-ball rate. Any guesses? If you said Cahill … you’re wrong. It’s Nola. That’s because the Oakland righty has complemented his 3.12 ERA and 53.4 % GB rate with a measly 24.9 K%. The Twins have maintained a steady offense without Brian Dozier, but this pick is all about Cahill and a lack of appetizing alternatives. A hot start to his Cubs tenure makes Cole Hamels the slate’s priciest option despite a tough matchup at Cincinnati. I’ll likely pair Cahill with Sean Newcomb and Tyler Glasnow, who can feast on weak prey in the Marlins and Royals, respectively. Yet the former has cratered while the latter just surpassed five innings for the first time this season.
Jed Lowrie has reversed a July snide by collecting 15 hits (four doubles, two homers) and eight walks over Oakland’s last 12 games. He’s also a proxy for a red-hot lineup facing rookie Kohl Stewart, who surrendered 16 baserunners and six runs in two starts (seven innings) against Detroit. A lack of evening aces even keeps the sizzling Khris Davis in play despite his hefty $10,600 price tag.
Nick Markakis has fallen hard from an incredible start. Wait, not really. He was bound to stop hitting like an All-Star eventually, but the 34-year-old is still batting a respectable .281/.333/.463 after the All-Star break. While he’s also searching for his first extra-base hit since August 13, it hardly qualifies as a major slump since he has also reached base in seven of those 10 games. Elieser Hernandez, a right-handed rookie with a 5.08 ERA and .389 wOBA against lefties, makes the perfect candidate to snap that power block.
Early Value: OF Avisail Garcia ($7,300) at Detroit Tigers (LHP Matt Boyd)
Avisail Garcia has gotten the better of Matt Boyd, going 9-for-21 with two homers and a double. That small sample size isn’t why he’s here. It’s because the other numbers support such success. The free-swinging outfielder is a career .307/.358/.465 hitter against lefties who holsters a .371 wOBA at their expense this season. Although Boyd has limited righties to a .283 wOBA during a quietly stout season, he’s still on the hook for a career .335 wOBA and 1.5 home runs per nine innings. You’ll need some cheap bats to afford an afternoon ace and Coors participants.
Early Stack: San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies (LHP Kyle Freeland)
Kyle Freeland is great at home, where he has defied the high altitude and baseball gods to post a 3.06 ERA in 156 innings. That’s actually good news for DFS players, who as a result do not have to pay five figures for San Diego’s righties against a southpaw at Coors. There are so many affordable options that I’m not even including Wil Myers ($9,000) and Eric Hosmer ($8,100).
- Christian Villanueva ($8,300): The platoon master ties Nolan Arenado (who’s worth every penny of his $10,500 price tag versus Joey Lucchesi) with 14 home runs against lefties. Two were against Freeland on April 3 at Petco Park. His .463 wOBA versus lefties ranks fourth among qualified hitters behind Arenado, Mookie Betts, and Eugenio Suarez. He’s as close to a must-start as there ever will be.
- Hunter Renfroe ($8,600): This year’s .334 wOBA against lefties isn’t spectacular, but Renfroe demolished them last season (.439 wOBA) and has homered six times this month.
- Freddy Galvis ($7,600): A feeble hitter against righties, Galvis has held his own versus lefties (.325 wOBA). He has also hulked up with six home runs in August.
- Franmil Reyes ($6,000): If the Padres start Reyes, so are you. His immense raw power presents scary opportunities at Coors, especially since the righty has already registered three homers and two doubles in 38 plate appearances against southpaws. His basement-level price makes it possible to craft a lineup with deGrom and Arenado.
Honorable Mentions: Athletic at Twins (Stewart); Rockies vs. Padres (Lucchesi)