Rhys Hoskins has been white-hot at the dish lately, collecting hits in 10-of-11 games.
We have another small slate on our hands with only eight games on tap this Thursday. The best pitchers on the main slate will cost you a pretty penny, and the midlevel arms have some tough matchups, so we’ll weigh the risk/reward to determine whether it’s worth spending up on pitching or taking a gamble to save money for the offense. Second and third base are both pretty shallow, so paying a premium at those positions would be a wise move as well. We’ll do a deep dive into the underlying stats to try and pinpoint the best matchups and stack the deck in our favor without further ado.
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- Despite Mills’ rough ERA (5.23), he’s not necessarily “cheap” because he’s facing the Pirates on the road. He’s been pretty roughed up over his last four starts by allowing four, six, three, and four earned runs, respectively. I still think this is a good “buy low” opportunity for the 28-year old even though he’s a bit costly. There’s no better place to get off the snide than at PNC Park against the Pirates who are last in baseball with a 69 OPS+ and bottom five in runs/per game (4.09) and team batting average (.218). This start certainly comes with risk as Mills has been anything but sharp over the last month, but he’s still managed to pick up two wins, and two quality starts over that same span; he’s got a chance to earn both against the Pirates, which would more than justify his price.
- McCullers has struggled against Texas in his career with a lifetime 5.61 ERA across 33.2 innings. But he hasn’t faced the 2020 version of the Rangers who are dead last in baseball at 3.71 runs/per game and second to last in wOBA (.277) and OPS+ (75). The only current Ranger with any real success against McCullers is Elvis Andrus, who just came off the IL after dealing with a lower back strain. McCullers is also coming off one of his best starts of the season when he only gave up one earned run and struck out seven Oakland A’s en route to picking up a quality start and a win. He’s got a real chance to keep it rolling against the light-hitting Rangers at home.
- Before Cease’s last start, ironically also against Kansas City, he had notched three straight quality starts and picked up four consecutive wins in August. He was wild in that last start, though, walking six Royals and only lasting 4.1 innings, but he still only allowed one run. Command has always been an issue with the 24-year old, but he’s done an excellent job limiting the damage this year as he owns a solid 3.00 ERA over 36 innings (seven starts). I’ll take a chance here and assume Cease won’t issue six free passes, and the heavy-hitting ChiSox offense will bring him a victory.
- Hoskins has been white-hot at the dish lately, collecting hits in 10-of-11 games. He’s picked up four consecutive multi-hit performances with five home runs and five doubles over the 10-game span. The Phils are facing the struggling Anibal Sanchez, who’s allowed five earned runs in three of his six starts this year. He’s also given up five home runs and six doubles to right-handed batters this season. Put your money on the hot streak to continue and let it ride.
- Walker has some impressive career numbers off Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw; he’s 5-for-11 with four home runs and seven RBI. Maybe there was some luck involved, but those lifetime stats are just too hard to ignore. The first baseman has three homers and 10 RBI with a .908 OPS over the last two weeks, and he’s also tied for second in the league with 13 doubles on the year. He’s priced at a bargain, and the savings would allow you to pay up at a shallower position.
- Nola was a force for the Mariners before being traded to the Padres at the deadline. The 30-year old catcher is amid a career breakout, and he put up a ridiculous 1.077 OPS with three homers and 10 RBI over the last two weeks. He picked up a single and scored a run in his first game with San Diego and will look to ingratiate himself further with his new team against lefty Andrew Heaney. Nola is slashing .259/.333/.481 in 27 at-bats against left-handed pitching this year. He’s a bit of a dart throw, but you could do much worse for this price, especially now that he’s playing on a legitimate playoff contender.
- Cronenworth has collected at least one hit in 14-of-15 games, six of which were multi-hit performances. He also had an 11-game hit streak during that span and is slashing .360/.407/.400 over 25 at-bats against left-handed pitching this year. He usually hits sixth in the Padres lineup and has at least three batters hitting .300 ahead of him in Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Eric Hosmer. The table is set for Cronenworth to eat.
- Villar was traded to Toronto at the deadline, and his fantasy stock received an instant upgrade. He’s hit third in both games with the Blue Jays so far and has career success against Red Sox starter Martin Perez with a .286/.375/.714 batting line with two long balls and five RBI over 14 at-bats. $3,000 is a low price to pay for Villar’s stolen base and run-scoring upside.
- Moran was the hottest hitter on Pittsburgh before heading to the 7-day concussion list and missing six games. Since returning, the third baseman is 3-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, four runs scored, and two walks. He gets to face Alec Mills, who’s been pretty shaky over his last three starts, registering an 8.56 ERA to go along with a 1.61 WHIP. Nothing is exciting about Moran, but he could give you a massive return on investment for his price.
- The Cubs are facing rookie JT Brubaker, who’s been nothing special this season, compiling a 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a 22:10 K/BB ratio over 20 innings. Bote is an inexpensive piece of the Cubs offense, who, despite his flaws, has an .807 OPS against right-handed pitching this year. He’s also hit three of his five home runs against righties. All it takes is one swing for him to pay off.
- Frazier is slashing .343/.425/.514 across 35 at-bats against left-handed pitching this year and has four hits, including a home run, in 16 plate appearances against J.A. Happ. He’s a cheap option at third but carries considerable risk due to the fact he was just traded back to the Mets and isn’t guaranteed to start. He’s more of a name to keep an eye on closer to first pitch. If he’s in the Mets lineup, then he could be in yours.
- You’re paying up for Seager, but the reward could be well worth it. D-backs starter Luke Weaver was lit up for six earned runs in his last start against the Dodgers, and he’s surrendering a .322 batting average with a 1.098 OPS in 67 plate appearances against lefties. Enter Seager, who is slashing .367/.405/.747 against righties this year with eight home runs and 19 RBI. This is a matchup made in heaven and is worth the investment.
- Gregorius has been mashing righties all year with a .315/.390/.452 batting line to go along with six extra-base hits, including two homers. He also has career success against Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez, going 4-for-13 with two HR and five RBI. Didi is a low-cost, high upside option at shortstop.
- Andrus missed a week and a half with a lower back strain and was struggling mightily at the plate before going down. His .203 BABIP suggests he’s been extremely unlucky up to this point, though. He’s been active for two games since coming off the IL and smacked a game-tying home run on Tuesday against the Astros. He makes this list because of his stellar career numbers against Astros starter Lance McCullers. The shortstop is 8-for-14 lifetime with one home run and five RBI.
- Jimenez has reached base safely in 16 of his last 21 games with 11 multi-hit performances over that span; he’s also hitting .297 with a .919 OPS against lefties this year and took Royals starter Danny Duffy deep for a two-run shot the last time they faced off. He makes for an intriguing stack with teammate Luis Robert, mentioned below.
- Robert, like Jimenez, also cracked a homer off Duffy in the same game. The rookie phenom is hitting .290 with a pair of home runs in 31 at-bats against lefties this year. He’s notched four multi-hit games over his last eight with three home runs and seven RBI.
- Happ has been on fire over the last week, slugging .963 with four home runs and seven RBI. He’s got 10 long balls on the season, and nine of them have come against right-handed pitching. Enter Pirates rookie, RHP JT Brubaker. It could be a slugfest at PNC Park, and Happ should be front and center for the fireworks show.
- Frazier has been excellent for the Yanks since his call up, slashing .294/.410/.608 with four homers and 12 RBI. He’s been incredibly dominant against righties with a 1.208 OPS, collecting all four of his dingers in 40 at-bats. The Yankees should tee off on Robert Gsellman, who is still getting stretched out as a starter since joining the Mets rotation out of the bullpen.
- Verdugo has been a bright spot for the struggling Red Sox this season, and while he hasn’t homered since August 15th, he’s been collecting doubles like nobody’s business. Entering Thursday, the outfielder is tied for second in all of baseball with 13 two-baggers. Verdugo is batting .317 with a .937 OPS across 82 at-bats against right-handed pitching this season, and he gets to face righty Taijuan Walker.
5 Studs Worth Their Salary
- Clayton Kershaw, LOS ($10,900): The most expensive pitcher on the slate has career success against Arizona (2.77 ERA), and only one Diamondback, Christian Walker (.455 BA with four homers 11 at-bats), has lifetime success against the southpaw.
- Lance Lynn, TEX ($9,200): Lynn has been incredible this year with his 1.93 ERA and 0.916 WHIP. He’s also picked up four wins but still hasn’t faced the Astros. His ratios justify the price tag, but he could struggle to grab a win and, to a lesser extent, a quality start.
- Robinson Cano, NYM ($3,500): Over the last week, Cano has three dingers and five RBI to go along with a 1.205 OPS. He’s facing a lefty in J.A. Happ, but Cano has a lifetime .290/.361/.516 batting line against him.
- Manny Machado, SDP ($3,900): Machado has a 1.470 OPS with 15 runs, six bombs, and 17 RBI over his last two weeks. He’s been one of the hottest hitters in baseball and is slashing .333/.385/.611 in 36 at-bats against lefties this year. Andrew Heaney should have his work cut out for him.
- Trea Turner, WAS ($4,000): Turner has a 1.347 OPS over the last two weeks with three round-trippers, nine RBI, and 14 runs scored. He’s also 4-for-15 lifetime against Zach Eflin with a homer. He hasn’t been stealing much at all, but he’s primed atop the Nats lineup in this plus matchup.
5 Notable Players to Fade
- Mike Clevinger, SDP ($9,400): Clevinger has had a rocky start to 2020 with the off-field drama that led to his trade. He’s making his Padres debut against an Angels team that has drawn the third most walks in baseball, which is a tough draw for Clev, who’s been wild in his first four starts with a 21:11 K/BB ratio.
- Zach Eflin, PHI ($9,000): Eflin does possess high strikeout upside and sports a 37:8 K/BB ratio over 26.1 innings this year. However, a handful of Nationals, including Juan Soto and Trea Turner, have career success against him. It’s a high price tag in a matchup that doesn’t favor Eflin all that much.
- Fernando Tatis Jr., SDP ($4,700): It’s hard to bet against someone of Tatis’ caliber, but if he does have a slight weakness, it’s against lefties. He’s hitting .242 with a .807 OPS against southpaws this year with just two home runs and three RBI. He’s a fantastic player, but it’s a very steep price to pay in a matchup that isn’t tailor-made for him.
- Mike Trout, LAA ($4,600): Trout has a .273 batting average in 11 at-bats against Mike Clevinger in his career. Clev has also been wild in his four starts this year, walking 11 batters. Trout’s price is a bit rich for my blood in a matchup where he could end up going 0-for-1 with three walks.
- Cavan Biggio, TOR ($3,800): While Biggio has hit lefties pretty well this year (.302 BA), he’s struggled over his last 31 at-bats, collecting just five hits and only drawing one walk. I’d rather pay up at another position and go with lower risk, cheaper option at 2B.
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Jon Mathisen is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jon, check out his archive and follow him @eazymath.