Two days ago, I covered a FantasyDraft slate featuring Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale. Thursday’s tilt, on the other hand, contains a landmine of shaky pitching.
Enjoy watching MLB’s elite aces? Then you’ll love seeing Mike Fiers, Chris Tillman, and Eric Skoglund make their scheduled starts. While there’s no shortage of viable hitters, it’s nearly impossible to find two trustworthy pitchers in the afternoon and evening contests, which respectively contain five and four games. Two of Thursday’s top probables, Patrick Corbin and Alex Wood, will compete in a 3:40 p.m. ET game left out of both slates. Far from locks, the highlighted pitchers at least have the track record to hope for a turnaround.
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Top SP: David Price ($18,400) at Texas Rangers
The evening’s best starter, Sean Manaea, gets a tough matchup against a potent Mariners lineup led by lefty killers Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger. A 1.03 ERA and limited alternatives inflate the Oakland ace’s price to $21,400, so let’s roll the dice of David Price. He’s by no means a safe choice. The lefty has relinquished 17 hits, five walks and 10 runs in his last two turns, and a 7.8 % swinging-strike rate represents his worst mark since 2009. Yet the Rangers, playing without Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, have recorded a .313 wOBA and 25.2 strikeout % against southpaws. Given the evening’s options, he just needs to win a decent start to validate the investment.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Carrasco ($23,000) vs. TOR
Value SP: Julio Teheran ($13,900) at New York Mets
The pitching pool for each slate gets ugly in a hurry. I almost left this section blank. Alas, here I am endorsing a starter with a 4.50 ERA, 12.6 walk % and 5.53 FIP. If that’s not scary enough, Julio Teheran left his last start early with back tightness. He’ll return following an extra day of rest to face the Mets, against whom he tossed seven shutout innings on April 21. He now flaunts a career 2.44 ERA against his NL East rival as well as a 3.30 ERA on the road since the start of 2017. This isn’t a strong endorsement, but I’d rather take my chances with Teheran than mess with an Astros-Yankees matchup between Lance McCullers and Masahiro Tanaka.
Honorable Mentions: Masahiro Tanaka ($14,900) at HOU; Mike Minor ($10,100) vs. BOS
IF Mike Moustakas ($8,700) vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Mike Fiers)
Fiers has surrendered four home runs in as many starts. That’s a positive step from last year, when he yielded 32 long balls in 29 outings. His 3.91 ERA comes with a meager 15.2 strikeout % and .353 xwOBA above his actual .319 mark. So go ahead and play Mike … Moustakas. Since the start of 2016, the Royals third baseman has tallied 42 home runs in 609 plate appearances against righties. He has a golden opportunity to add another dinger without a superstar price tag.
Honorable Mentions: Justin Upton ($9,100) vs. BAL (Chris Tillman); Edwin Encarnacion ($9,000) vs. TOR (Jaime Garcia)
OF Ronald Acuna ($8,000) at New York Mets (LHP Jason Vargas)
Considering how many people have already voted Ronald Acuna into Cooperstown, it’s surprising to see him reasonably priced against a weak lefty. The 20-year-old neophyte has validated the immense buzz by smacking five doubles and a homer in his first seven career games. After facing Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, he’ll get a far easier matchup in Jason Vargas, who yielded 12 baserunners and nine runs in his 2018 debut. That was against the Padres. Sweetening the pot, the Mets have conceded an MLB-worst 28 steals this season. Vargas allowed 13 last year. There probably won’t be many more chances to play Acuna for $8,000.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Chapman ($8,100) at SEA (Wade LeBlanc); Eddie Rosario ($7,600) at CHW (Reynaldo Lopez)
Value: OF Nelson Cruz ($7,600) vs. Oakland Athletics (LHP Sean Manaea)
With so many atrocious pitchers on the docket, it’s strange to pick on a good one. Yet $7,600 is a terrific discount for Cruz, who owns a career .293/.379/.549 slash line against lefties. Despite already belting six home runs this season, the 37-year-old designated hitter does not receive the same respect as Haniger, who costs $9,000. Righties recorded a .348 wOBA against Manaea last year, and six starts does not cement him as a superstar. Cruz is the perfect slugger to drag him back to earth.
Honorable Mentions: Corey Dickerson ($7,500) at WAS (Jeremy Hellickson); Max Kepler ($7,300) at CHW (Lopez)
Stack: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals (LHP Eric Skoglund)
Expect a shootout between the Tigers and Royals on Thursday afternoon. With Fiers facing Skoglund, contestants might want to stack both sides. That’s a cop-out, so let’s pick the squad with streaking, yet affordable hitters sporting a platoon advantage. Nicholas Castellanos, who is 9-for-20 with three walks against southpaws this season, entered Wednesday with a .410 xwOBA. He’ll cost just $8,100 against Skoglund, the purveyor of a 6.23 ERA and 49.2 % hard-hit rate. Although Jeimer Candelario has generated most of his power against righties, he’s still in play for $8,300 after improving his slash line to .287/.364/.513. Those not interested in a stack should single out JaCoby Jones, a .280/.337/.467 batter who has smacked seven hits in the last five games. Throw in a .387 xwOBA and 45.1 % hard-hit rate, and $6,300 is a great deal.
Honorable Mentions: Angels vs. Orioles (Tillman); Royals vs. Tigers (Fiers)