May began with Clayton Kershaw’s last start before suffering left biceps tendinitis. It ends with his return.
Although light on aces, Thursday’s nine-game night slate welcomes back the four-time Cy Young Award winner. It’s tempting, but probably impractical, to celebrate Kershaw Day in FantasyDraft contests.
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Top SP: Aaron Nola ($21,300) at Los Angeles Dodgers
Is Kershaw excused from the Disabled List Hangover? Last year, the ace returned from a five-week hiatus by tossing six shutout innings. Yet that was against the Padres, and FantasyDraft is not offering a discount ($22,900) for his month of inactivity. Further hurting his cause, two elite and expensive offenses (Astros and Yankees) have mouth-watering matchups, so let’s sidestep those conflicts by playing his opponent, Aaron Nola, instead. Any fears of the Dodgers are more based on reputation, as their 99 wRC+ and .313 wOBA (before Wednesday night’s game) depict an average offense. Nola doesn’t need the help, but Dodger Stadium offers far more outfield terrain than Citizens Bank Park. Although hardly cheap himself, the 24-year-old is not as costly as Kershaw either. The $1,600 saved will make a major difference.
Honorable Mentions: Clayton Kershaw ($22,900) vs. PHI
Value SP: Shane Bieber ($14,500) at Minnesota Twins
Cleveland revealed its plans to unveil Shane Bieber days ago, so you’re all probably sick of the Justin Bieber puns. Let’s just focus on the more talented Bieber—the one who has allowed 10 runs and three walks in 10 minor league starts. The 22-year-old righty has not issued a walk in his last four Triple-A turns, and he has submitted 22 punchouts in his last 21.1 innings. He earned this opportunity by tossing a seven-inning no-hitter on Friday. There’s no guarantee the finesse pitcher will enjoy similar success against the big boys, and Shiny New Toy syndrome could nevertheless yield a high ownership rate. For $14,500, he’s still worth the risk against a struggling Twins offense at Target Field. Cleveland has scored 43 runs over the last five games, so let’s hope the newbie at least gets to work five frames for a win.
Opponents are hitting .309/.402/.521 against Drew Pomeranz, who has ceded five runs in consecutive starts. He now gets an untimely matchup against the Astros, a brutal task for any southpaw. I could have highlighted Jose Altuve at $9,400 for the second time this week, but let’s spread the love to George Springer, who has continued his punishment of lefties by batting 18-for-56 with five home runs against them in 2018. After a rare night out of the starting lineup, he should receive plenty of reps by leading off a high-scoring affair at Minute Maid Park. Feel free to add Altuve, Carlos Correa ($9,300), Alex Bregman ($8,200), and/or Evan Gattis ($7,700) for a Houston stack.
This is going to be ugly. Andrew Cashner has already coughed up 11 home runs in as many starts, over which he holds a 5.07 ERA and .400 xwOBA. He’s facing the Yankees. At Yankee Stadium. He limited the Bronx Bombers to one run on April 5 (also on the road), but don’t expect a repeat performance from someone with a .289/.374/.523 opposing slash line. A stack will be costly, but feasible by eschewing Kershaw and Nola or using Seth Lugo for $8,000. Not interested in that path? At least get some exposure by playing Greg Bird. Less than a week into his return from foot surgery, the first baseman costs less ($8,000) than their other regulars. While the career .228 hitter represents a boom-or-bust option, the cards are perfectly aligned for the left-handed slugger to amass his 22nd career home run in his 99th game.
Value: OF Franmil Reyes ($5,900) vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Wei-Yen Chen)
Franmil Reyes, a newcomer praised for his raw power, has circled the bases in each of his last three games. He costs $5,900 despite facing Wei-Yin Chen, a lefty inflicted with Gopherits (7 HRs allowed in 128 batters) this season. These are small sample sizes, but why not play the hot hand with a great matchup at a minuscule cost? Other guys with the same sticker price include JT Riddle, David Bote, and Andrew Stephenson.
Lineup Stack: Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers (LHP Mike Minor)
I felt a tinkling of déjà vu while researching Seattle’s matchup against Mike Minor before realizing I recommended a stack in the same spot two weeks ago. He relinquished six runs, including a Ryon Healy dinger and three-hit games from Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. The 30-year-old southpaw is now on the hook for nine homers and a .380 wOBA against righties, and Seattle’s .332 wOBA versus lefties ranked seventh as of Wednesday night. Healy has not gone yard since taking Minor deep on May 15, but he only costs $7,300 despite his .373 career wOBA against lefties. A gloomy May also makes Haniger and Nelson Cruz available for $8,400 and $7,600, respectively, despite stellar splits versus southpaws. For those who want as much Yankees and Astros exposure as possible, Guillermo Heredia sports a .414 OBP and bats atop the lineup. While his upside is limited, the outfielder can earn back his $5,700 and clear cap space for more exciting upside plays.
Honorable Mentions: Yankees vs. Orioles (Cashner); Astros vs. Red Sox (Pomeranz)