Yesterday’s action was highlighted by the Astros putting up 12 runs on Jose Urena and the Tigers, Kyle Schwarber socking two more homers, and the Blue Jays jumping all over Baltimore pitching to the tune of nine runs. Egads! I recommended Schwarber yesterday, and wound up not having a ton of him. I used a low-owned St. Louis Cardinals stack (bad) alongside elite pitching (good) and just didn’t get enough from those bats against Chad Kuhl. In fact, it was the opposite side of that game—the Pirates shredding Carlos Martinez and Wade LeBlanc—that paid dividends. Thankfully, it’s a new day. Let’s move on...
Best play: Chris Paddack vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($8,800)
If you aren’t playing him now, I don’t know when you’re playing him. Which is fair, if you tell me you never play him. He is as mercurial as they come. Just when you think he’s turned a corner, he blows up in your face. Hopefully that doesn’t happen tonight, as the D-backs aren’t a threatening group. I had higher hopes for the Arizona offense as a whole this year, but injuries have sapped them of some value. Ketel Marte—their best hitter—is battling a hamstring injury and is not projected to play, which only improves the outlook. On the year, Arizona’s 45 home runs against RHP ranks 29th in the league, ahead of only the Pirates (40). The .222 batting average is 26th. The D-backs also rank poorly with a .128 ISO (29th), 24.9% K-rate (18th), .286 wOBA (30th), and 79 wRC+ (29th). And all of that is without Marte, who has batted .316 with a pair of homers in limited duty versus righties this year. Marte leads all Arizona regulars with a .363 wOBA and 130 wRC+ in this split, so his absence is notable.
I should talk about the pitcher, right? He’s off of back-to-back outings of nearly 30 points (29.1, 27.9) and he’s pitched six innings in four of his last six turns, with the other two being 5.0 and 4.1. He’s also reached at least six strikeouts in five of six of those turns, with his latest two efforts (11, 9) being his strongest to date this year. Hitters aren’t making as much contact against him this year, and his 13.2% swinging strike rate is the best of his career. His .127 HR/9 is also the best of his career, and he’s allowing far less hard contact this year (37.9%) than last (47.4%). I’ll be taking plenty of shots with him tonight, but so will others given that the Padres are HUGE -302 favorites against RHP Matt Peacock and the D-backs. So you’ll need to differentiate elsewhere, I’d imagine.
Worst play: Tony Gonsolin vs. Chicago Cubs ($9,500)
Gonsolin was limited to only 3 2⁄3 innings in his last turn, perhaps because of being taken out of his previous turn with shoulder soreness. Here are his pitch counts in his three turns of 2021: 66, 81, 46. Even if he’s deemed healthy tonight, I can’t see him reaching crazy new heights with the pitch count, especially since the Dodgers should beat up on RHP Jake Arrieta of the Cubs. I’d expect a sizeable lead early, one that will only encourage L.A. to continue to treat Gonsolin with kiddie gloves. He’s a hard pass for me at his price point as the fourth-most expensive pitcher on the board.
Best plays: TOR vs RHP Matt Harvey, HOU @ Wily Peralta, LAD vs. RHP Jake Arrieta
I’m surprised Matt Harvey has “only” a 1.44 HR/9 allowed thus far. I’m also surprised he’s still being allowed to pitch every fifth day for a big league ballclub. Take advantage as you can, but those Toronto bats are costly. There’s no denying the upside of their matchup, though.
The Astros, fresh off of a 12-run effort, catch the embattled right-hander Wily Peralta of the Detroit Tigers. I dinged Houston last night based on park factors—at least compared to the plush hitting environs enjoyed by the Braves (@ CIN) and the Blue Jays (home vs. BAL). That was a mistake! Check the weather in this one, as it’s possible we get some storms and some impactful winds. But outside of that, there’s no reason to fade Houston bats, who are red-hot right now. I should mention that Peralta isn’t missing bats. He’s got a career 6.56 K/9, but over 40.1 frames in 2019 he was at 5.36 K/9, and so far this year he’s got a 4.26 K/9. Those descending marks are supported by a career 8.3% swinging strike rate, as well as a 8.4% rate in 2019 and a mere 6.3% rate in 2021. He should have trouble against the best team in the MLB at not striking out against right-handed pitching—only a 19.2% K-rate against RHP for the Astros.
The Dodgers catch RHP Jake Arrieta at home, which could be some late-night hammer action. The L.A. offense needs no introduction, but I’ll remind you that they rank well versus RHP with a 22.1% K-rate (3rd), 11.2% walk rate (2nd), .334 wOBA (2nd), and 115 wRC+ (2nd). The raw numbers aren’t as impressive, as the 62 homers against RHP ranks 15th and the .167 ISO is 12th. But this is a team that should continue to rise versus RHP now that bats like Betts, Bellinger, and Muncy are all in the lineup healthy together.
Worst play: Chicago White Sox vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi
The White Sox have been attractive against southpaws all year, but I want no part of picking on Kikuchi, who has a career-best 3.46 ERA so far in 2021. He made a jump in average fastball velocity in 2020, bumping from 92.6 MPH in 2019 to 95.1 MPH in ‘20. So far in 2021, he’s at 95.8 MPH on average, while the velocity on his slider (his second-most used pitch) is down nearly 3 MPH from 2019. The gap in MPH on those two pitches, as well as bumping up SL/CH usage this year seems to be working well for him. Playing CWS bats is just a one-off situation for me. The White Sox have a .120 ISO (26th) over the last 14 days, and only a .144 ISO (25th) over the last month. Over the last two weeks, alleged big stick Jose Abreu has a .120 ISO and a 26.4% K-rate. Electric leadoff man Tim Anderson—who I love—hasn’t been striking out much, but his .085 ISO is putrid. Yermin Mercedes has been ice cold for a while now. Yoan Moncada has a .071 ISO. Yasmani Grandal has a .105 ISO. You get the idea. These guys haven’t been good recently, but Kikuchi has. I’m probably out on White Sox hitters unless it’s a Tim Anderson one-off situation.
Value plays: Reese McGuire, Dansby Swanson, George Springer
McGuire may seem random, but not really. If I’m squeezing in big offenses, punting catcher is always attractive. He’s at home against RHP Matt Harvey, and McGuire is quietly slashing .344/.391/.484 against RHP, with a lowly 17.1% strikeout rate, .381 wOBA, and 141 wRC+. All of that comes in a small sample (only 70 PA). But he’ll likely bat ninth and shouldn’t be a popular pick.
Swanson ($3,400) should bat leadoff if Ronald Acuña Jr. is forced to miss his third game in a row with back issues. That play didn’t pan out last night () but I’ll go right back to the well again today against RHP Vladimir Gutierrez and that crummy Reds bullpen. I’d love to see Atlanta move on from Abraham Almonte (1 HR) batting cleanup, too. Maybe we can see Swanson slide up into that role today...stay tuned.
George Springer ($3,900) is priced too low for a man of his talents and his matchup against RHP Matt Harvey. He’s been pretty quiet since returning from the IL, but today could be the day he wakes up. He’s got some BvP on his side, too. He’s 4-for-8 with a pair of home runs against Harvey.
Due to price points, hot streaks, or other factors, I have some early interest in Daz Cameron ($2,100), Adam Duvall ($3,600), other cheap Marlins against Jon Lester, and some cheap bats in the CLE/MIN game (check lineups).
That’s about it for me in the first pass, as coffee cup No. 1 is all dried up. Who are YOU looking to play tonight, ladies and gents? Give me some sneaky picks for my MLB DFS Wars lineup...I need a few big weeks here at the end of things to make some noise in that competition!