Apologies to anyone hoping to ride Dan Straily or Dereck Rodriguez to glory, but FantasyDraft excludes the Marlins-Giants showdown from its four-game Thursday afternoon tilt. Another four contests featuring a mesh of title contenders and sinking ships follow in the evening. Even on a short day, all five of the AL’s current playoff squads give each slate serious star power. Aside from one Cy Young candidate, most of that talent falls on the hitting side, which puts this column’s focus on two cheaper hurlers and marquee bats.
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Early SP: German Marquez ($10,100) at Philadelphia Phillies
Every now and then, the numbers will completely catch you off guard. Philadelphia’s offense is held in relatively high regards because of its big names and MLB-best 10.2 walk %, but the group is collectively batting .228 after getting stymied by Tyler Anderson last night. Their 88 wRC+ ranks just a point and spot (24th) above the Mets, who haven’t scored a run since April. (OK, not really, but you’d believe it if you only watched Jacob deGrom’s starts.) While Citizens Bank Park is far from a pitcher’s venue, it may feel like one to German Marquez, who has registered a 2.06 ERA and .267 wOBA in six starts away from Coors Field. The Phillies also strike out more (26.0 %) than any other MLB squad, so investors can tolerate some walks. A $10,100 price makes Marquez the perfect afternoon pitching partner for Justin Verlander, who costs an exorbitant $25,800.
Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer ($10,900) vs. MIN
Late SP: Domingo German ($13,000) vs. Tampa Bay Rays
The evening pitching catalog is a perilous minefield with no safe routes. The best players (Blake Snell at NYY, Tyson Ross at ATL, David Price at SEA) have debilitating matchups. The guys with good matchups (Matt Koch vs. NYM, Anibal Sanchez vs. SD) don’t elicit any trust. Domingo German might belong to the latter category, but he has at least shown some upside with 53 strikeouts and a 14.1 % swinging-strike rate in 47.1 innings. Although still exceeding expectations, the Rays have relapsed with 43 runs over their last 13 games. In a grouping with no enticing choices, it’s worth rolling the dice on another German. Atlanta hitters not named Freddie Freeman are cooling down, so Ross ($16,200) is the most palatable of the top starters.
Honorable Mention: Anibal Sanchez ($10,900) vs. SD
Anyone who plays Ross and German (or really anyone besides the $21,600 Snell) will have ample money to spend on hitting in the evening slate. So why not pay top dollar for the premier option? Paul Goldschmidt ended May with a .209/.326/.393 slash line. He’s now batting .258/.369/.500 after smashing six doubles, a triple, and five home runs in a dozen June games. Instead of facing Steven Matz, who was pushed back because of a blister on his finger, the red-hot first baseman will oppose Jason Vargas. Even better! The career .332/.439/.610 hitter against lefties now gets a more vulnerable southpaw who has yielded a .376 wOBA to righties. Before the swap, FantasyDraft still spiked his price to account for a power tear and original matchup against another lefty. Yet the change now makes Goldschmidt a near must-play in cash contests. Ketel Marte ($7,200) and John Ryan Murphy ($6,800) are also strong options for an Arizona stack.
Matt Koch’s 4.20 ERA is OK. His 13.7 K%, 5.50 FIP, and .430 xwOBA? Yikes. The Mets haven’t recorded a hit since 2016 (technically not true), but this could be their chance to score more than four runs for the first time in a June game. (That stat is actually true! They have tallied 14 runs in 10 games this month.) Yet before tossing Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto into the lineup, consider Koch’s severe reverse splits. While the righty has baffled same-handed hitters to a .253 wOBA, lefties have pummeled him to a .333/.383/.643 slash line and .433 wOBA. The Mets don’t brandish many righties with Yoenis Cespedes on the shelf, but Todd Frazier has smacked two home runs in seven games–impressive considering the Mets have hit just one homer since David Wright was last healthy 15 years ago–upon returning from the disabled list. He also has uncharacteristically struggled far more against southpaws (.250 wOBA) in 2018, so give him a twirl on Thursday.
Because of Verlander’s lofty price, the afternoon slate requires a keener search for value bats. The search need not span beyond his own team. Batting .229/.328/.368 and only recently back from a leg infection, Josh Reddick costs $6,700 for good reason. His opponent, Frankie Montas, has also ceded three runs in as many starts. Let’s look from a wider lens. Reddick is a career .274/.335/.460 hitter against lefties, as Montas–who served up 10 homers in 32 major league innings last year–made his last two turns against the Royals. Rather than taking the typical approach of stacking Houston’s studs, consider two of his streaking teammates for $7,200. Yuli Gurriel has compiled 11 hits in his last four games, and Evan Gattis went yard on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Stack: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox (LHP Carlos Rodon)
On a day (afternoon and evening) with no clear stacking choices, let’s roll with Cleveland’s studs against the recently returned Carlos Rodon. Francisco Lindor ($10,200) wields a .424 wOBA against lefties, making Jose Ramirez ($9,700) look like a scrub with his puny .375 clip. They’re the only two hitters in the early tilt who have averaged double-digit FantasyDraft points per game. Edwin Encarnacion had ethered six homers in 12 games before an ankle injury paused his hot streak. The ailment keeps his price checked to $9,000. Keep an eye on Cleveland’s lineup; Brandon Guyer ($5,700) could return from the disabled list just in time for the club’s first start against a lefty this month.
Honorable Mentions: Astros at Athletics (Montas); Diamondbacks vs. Mets (Vargas)