Thursday night’s six-game slate packs a heavy punch. While the AL West hosts a battle of dueling aces, two NL West foes will joust for playoff positioning at Coors Field. Not everything needs to be about the Red Sox and Yankees, but they’re also playing.
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Top SP: James Paxton ($20,400) at Houston Astros
James Paxton would cost more than $20,400 against a lesser team, but these Astros aren’t truly the Astros. He’ll face a depleted squad missing Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Jose Altuve. It doesn’t matter how deep your lineup is; losing three superstars stinks. Paxton, who threw seven scoreless frames against the Astros minus Correa and Altuve on July 30, has now yielded two combined runs in three turns against the defending champions. The opposing Justin Verlander is just one of four qualified starters with a superior SIERA and strikeout rate to the Big Maple’s 2.94 and 32.0 %, respectively. Since Houston’s ace costs $3,400 more against a healthier Seattle lineup, take a chance on the southpaw receiving enough run support for a victory.
Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander ($23,700) vs. SEA
Value SP: Ivan Nova ($9,100) at San Francisco Giants
Welp, I don’t like this any more than you. One of the evening’s six games takes place at Coors Field. The Red Sox and Yankees are each facing a vulnerable rookie. I want as much money left over for offense as possible, and Ivan Nova is put in the right situation to mange a quality start. Home runs are a major bugaboo for the soft-tossing righty, but AT&T Park is one of baseball’s toughest venues to go deep. With Brandon Belt on the shelf, the Giants also have no potent lefties in the lineup beyond Brandon Crawford and his .327 wOBA against righties. They are also ice cold, possessing baseball’s third-worst wOBA (.291) after the All-Star break. All those factors make Nova palatable at a microscopic $9,100 price despite his nine strikeouts in the past four starts.
Honorable Mention: Yonny Chirinos ($10,900) vs. BAL
David Hess is bad enough to make DFS players ponder a Tampa Bay stack on a Coors night. The 25-year-old’s 6.41 ERA is actually four points lower than his FIP. He ties Martin Perez for the fourth-worst strikeout rate (13.1%) of any starter with at least 50 innings pitched. Lefties and righties both own an OBP above .350 and slugging % higher than .500. Because he’s batting .370/.462/.537 with nine steals in 17 second-half games, Mallex Smith stands in as the Rays’s primary representative. Yet Joey Wendle ($8,500), Jake Bauers ($8,300), and C.J. Cron ($8,200) are all mighty enticing as well.
Lack of discount aside, I’m still rolling with the red-hot Steve Pearce, who’s batting an absurd .353/.421/.647 against southpaws. He’d probably cost more if Ryan Borucki wasn’t flaunting a 2.30 ERA in seven starts. Heck, I might instead be touting Toronto’s 24-year-old neophyte if he had a mundane offense on the docket. He has tamed the Astros, Yankees, and Mariners, but got roughed up (3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K) against the Red Sox last month. Let’s just hope Pearce isn’t rusty with his platoon number last called on Sunday.
Value: 1B Justin Smoak ($7,200) vs. Boston Red Sox
I typically avoid recommendations based on batter-vs.-pitcher data, but Justin Smoak has taken Rick Porcello deep five times in 44 plate appearances. He also costs just $7,200 despite sporting a .365 wOBA because the Boston hurler just tossed a complete-game gem against the Yankees. Porcello also yielded eight runs to Toronto (including one of those Smoak dingers) on July 12, so he’s far from untouchable. Those playing Nova shouldn’t need to dive this deep for hitters unless they’re going all in on the Red Sox and/or Coors.
Lineup Stack: Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado Rockies (LHP Tyler Anderson)
Look, I know Tyler Anderson has a 3.65 ERA at Coors. I’m still not trusting a starter with a 4.51 FIP to conquer the Dodgers in an extreme pitcher’s park. Especially not a starter with 10 walks and 14 runs allowed in his past four outings. This stack, of course, won’t be cheap. You’ll have to pay an exorbitant $10,400 for lefty-killer Brian Dozier despite his tumultuous 2018. Even if he’s in the lineup, don’t put the reeling Max Muncy ($9,900) in yours against a fellow southpaw. Go after these guys, assuming they get the starting nod:
- 3B/SS Manny Machado ($10,500): Pay up for Machado, who has decimated lefties (.411 wOBA) without the benefit of Coors. He’s oddly just $100 more than Dozier.
- 3B Justin Turner ($9,100): Turner has scattered five hits (two doubles and a homer) in five starts since returning from a groin injury. He also vaunts a .408 wOBA against lefties. He may have joined Machado and Dozier in the five-digit range if given more time to prove his health.
- OF Enrique Hernandez ($8,300): Always a good play against southpaws, Hernandez has hacked them to a career .351 wOBA. Underwhelming 2018 returns versus lefites (.288 wOBA) keep his price in check as he takes his newly harnessed power—his 17 homers already exceeded last year’s career high of 11—to Colorado.
- OF Matt Kemp ($8,100): Kemp, who has compiled two hits in his last 13 games, has not cleared the fences since going yard twice on July 22. Use that slump to afford the career .317/.377/.544 hitter versus lefties when squaring up with Anderson at Coors. Just make sure he maintains a spot in Los Angeles’s crowded lineup.
Honorable Mentions: Rays vs. Orioles (Hess); Red Sox at Blue Jays (Borucki)