FantasyDraft splits Thursday’s condensed schedule into two five-game slates. Time’s ticking on submitting those early lineups, as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both host bouts starting at 12:35 p.m. ET. While two upper-middle tier starters presents the best path for afternoon success, the evening showcases revolve around one pricey ace who is eons better than the night’s other probables.
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Top Early SP: Jose Berrios ($20,500) vs. Chicago White Sox
The afternoon offers more options without a singular clear choice. Miles Mikolas and his 2.49 ERA host the feeble Marlins, but that makes him the costliest starter despite a middling 18.5 K %. Nick Pivetta, meanwhile, possesses a 27.6 K% and 2.87 FIP. He is also, however, coming off a three-walk, three-run dud in four frames against the Giants, and the opposing Cubs carry the NL’s best wOBA over the last 30 days. Jose Berrios feels just right. After collecting 34 strikeouts in his last four starts, the 24-year-old righty has fanned nearly a batter per inning (74 in 74.2 IP) with vast improvements in first-pitch strike (64.1%) and swinging-strike (11.6%) rates. While the White Sox wield a near league-average offense, they’re also among the league’s worst offenders in strikeouts, as seen by Berrios tallying a season-high 11 in seven shutout frames against them on April 12. Since so many mediocre starters round out the schedule, it’s probably best to pair Berrios with Mikolas, Pivetta, or Jameson Taillon in cash contests.
Honorable Mentions: Miles Mikolas ($21,200) vs. MIA; Jameson Taillon ($16,000) vs. LAD
Top Late SP: Gerrit Cole ($27,600) at Texas Rangers
How can you not play Gerrit Cole in a cash contest when the next best options are Mike Leake or Cole Hamels against the Astros? No American League pitcher has a higher strikeout % than Cole (38.2), and no team strikes out more than the Rangers. The Houston ace put both trends into motion by compiling 25 punchouts in two April starts against the AL West foe. He has capitulated a 3.96 ERA over his past four starts, but trust Cole to turn the corner against an all-or-nothing Rangers lineup. Like any stadium concession stand, FantasyDraft gouged his price to captive customers with little choice but to pay it. As for picking a second starter, Leake has allowed four runs and no walks in his last three turns and faces a reeling Rays squad that has scored 12 runs during an ongoing six-game losing streak.
Honorable Mention: Mike Leake ($14,600) at TB
OF George Springer ($8,900) at Texas Rangers (LHP Cole Hamels)
If also starting Cole, this is only other indulgence you can afford. Pairing the ace with Astros teammate George Springer will require a strict budget for the other seven lineup spots, but the matchup is too good to resist. The reigning World Series MVP is batting .333/.385/.638 against lefties this season, fortifying his career wOBA to .399. He has already blasted three homers against Cole Hamels, who has coughed up 10 dingers and a .496 slugging percentage at Arlington in 2018. The southpaw is hiding a 5.31 FIP underneath his 3.63 ERA, but has nevertheless performed well enough to contain Springer’s price to $8,900. Someone looking for a cheaper Houston slugger can pivot to Evan Gattis ($7,300), who also has also taken Hamels yard three times.
Honorable Mentions: Nicholas Castellanos ($8,900) at BOS (Jalen Beeks); Matt Olson ($8,000) vs. KC (Jason Hammel)
OF Starling Marte ($7,300) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (RHP Dennis Santana)
Take value wherever it’s presented. Although not initially on my radar, my plans changed when seeing Starling Marte available for $7,300. Despite an eight-game homer drought in which he’s hitting 9-for-38, the outfielder is still batting .294/.349/.477 with seven home runs and 12 steals this season. Before he swiped two bags on Wednesday night, only three outfielders from the evening slate (Austin Meadows, Charlie Blackmon, and Kris Bryant) had averaged more FantasyDraft points per game than Marte’s 8.76. Dennis Santana submitted five runs in his MLB debut, so the matchup does not explain the discount.
Honorable Mentions: Mitch Haniger ($7,700) at TB (Ryan Stanek); Marcell Ozuna ($7,700) vs. MIA (Trevor Richards); Matt Carpenter ($7,200) vs. MIA (Richards)
Value: IF Danny Valencia ($6,800) and IF/OF Trey Mancini ($6,600) at Toronto Blue Jays (LHP Jaime Garcia)
Need cheap bats to fill an evening lineup with a budget siphoned by Cole? The Orioles can help. Yes, those Orioles with the AL’s worst offense and 15 runs in their last nine games. That’s why they’re cheap. One of their few productive hitters beyond Manny Machado, Danny Valencia is batting .270/.323/.461 in 127 plate appearances. He finds himself roaming the hot corner regularly, but the 33-year-old has shined versus southpaws, whom he has battered to a career .369 wOBA. Although another hitless game dipped Trey Mancini‘s slash line to .231/.309/.367, don’t give up hope. A .364 xwOBA suggest better days ahead for the outfielder. Both are solid cost-cutting choices against Toronto’s Jaime Garcia, who has been gashed to a 6.08 ERA while allowing a .391 wOBA to righties. Affording Machado’s $9,700 will be challenging, but contestants can complete a Baltimore stack by adding Adam Jones ($7,300) and/or Jonathan Schoop ($7,500).
Honorable Mentions: Yuli Gurriel ($6,300) at TEX (Hamels); Jake Bauers ($6,000) at TB (Leake)
Stack: Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP James Shields)
In his defense, James Shields hasn’t been that bad for how often I pick on him. A 4.48 ERA and 4.27 FIP would each represent his best marks since 2015. I often target lefties against the homer-prone righty, but he has Shielded (get it?) them to a microscopic .255 wOBA this season. Yet a 6.3 K-BB %, 5.12 SIERA, and .349 xwOBA all foreshadow regression, and no pitcher yielded more long balls to lefties from 2015 to 2017 than Shields, who watched 56 of them sail over the fence. So I’m rolling with Eddie Rosario ($9,800), who is batting .370 (50-for-135) with 10 homers since the start of May. Anyone who checks and implements BVP data will quickly notice that Brian Dozier ($8,400) owns (12-for-38, seven walks, five doubles, four homers) his upcoming opponent. Max Kepler has demolished lefties and slumped versus righties, but those uncharacteristic splits are baked into a $7,400 price tag. Logan Morrison would provide some cheaper exposure ($6,700) if he returns from a back ailment.
Honorable Mentions: Orioles at Blue Jays (Garcia); Mariners at TB (Stanek)