After getting a limited congregation of talented pitchers to choose from on Wednesday, we get a slightly better situation on Thursday. Walker Buehler ($10,500) comes in as the priciest pitcher on Thursday’s main slate on DraftKings and there is definitely upside with him. But with Buehler, he faces a San Francisco Giants team that has the highest ISO to RHP this season and they just got Buster Posey back in the lineup. I have my concerns with Buehler, so I don’t know if I’ll be using much of him in my lineups, which means he’ll explode for 40+ points on DraftKings. He does have somewhat of a safe floor as he’s scored 20+ points on DraftKings in 11 of his 15 starts this season. While Buehler won’t be my highest-owned pitcher, let’s dive into who I’m liking the most on Thursday night upon my first look at the slate.
Favorite pitcher: Sean Manaea ($9,600) @ Seattle Mariners
Sean Manaea is my favorite pitcher on Thursday’s main slate and the lefty hurler on the Oakland Athletics has been pitching relatively well in the past couple of months. One reason for Manaea’s success thus far is the fact his fastball is at the highest velocity (92 MPH) of his career since his rookie season in 2013 when he was throwing 93.1 MPH. Even though Manaea has some middling metrics elsewhere, he does have a career-best 12.2% swinging strike rate this season. Manaea will go up against the Seattle Mariners on the road and his numbers on the road are better than at home. Up to this point, Manaea has a 27.4% strikeout rate on the road compared to 24% at home. The veteran lefty also sports a 29.2% fly ball rate on the road compared to 40.2% in front of his home crowd. Back on June 2nd, Manaea threw a complete game shutout versus the Mariners and they haven’t been much better to LHP since. Since the beginning of June, Seattle has registered the second-highest strikeout rate, the third-lowest OBP, and the sixth-worst BABIP to southpaws. I’m liking Manaea to throw another gem versus the Mariners on Thursday night.
Least-favorite pitcher: Kenta Maeda ($9,000) vs. Los Angeles Angels
Just because Kenta Maeda was able to pitch against the Detroit Tigers (and have success against them) twice, along with the Kansas City Royals (who have the second-lowest ISO to RHP since June) in his last three starts, Maeda is priced up to $9,000 on DraftKings. Given the inconsistency we’ve seen from Maeda this season, I’m not interested in paying near his ceiling price. Throughout the season so far, Maeda is surrendering 1.36 HR/9 and has a career-worst 38.8% hard hit rate. If not having Maeda in my lineups burns me, then so be it. I’d rather not take my chances on starting a shaky RHP versus the league-leader in home runs in Shohei Ohtani and a Los Angeles Angels squad that has the eighth-best ISO and wRC+ to RHP in 2021.
Favorite stack: Atlanta Braves @ LHP Matt Moore
The Atlanta Braves are getting an opportunity to face an awful pitcher in Matt Moore on Thursday. Moore is posting a career-low 1.75 HR/9, an alarming 5.27 xFIP, a dismal 1.61 WHIP, and a measly 8.7% swinging strike rate this season. While his overall numbers are abysmal, they are even worse at home. When playing at Citizens Bank Park this season, Moore is accruing 2.03 HR/9 (1.59 HR/9 on the road) and a 2.10 WHIP (1.32 on the road). In his last start versus the Miami Marlins, Moore struck out nine batters, which is an obvious outlier for the experienced southpaw, who hasn’t fanned more than five batters in any of his other starts. Even with Ronald Acuña Jr. suffering a devastating season-ending injury, the Braves still have guys in Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley that can do damage to LHP. Joc Pederson and Guillermo Heredia are worth consideration as well if they are confirmed in the lineup.
Second-favorite stack: Minnesota Twins vs. LHP Andrew Heaney
I’m assuming that the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees could see some ownership just due to the game taking place at Fenway Park. While I like Boston more than New York, I’m fond of the Minnesota Twins, too. Andrew Heaney, the lefty that the Twins will take the plate against on Thursday, has quite a few statistics that have gotten him into plenty of trouble this season. First and foremost, Heaney has a treacherous combo of a 42.6% hard hit rate to go along with a 42.3% fly ball rate. Those numbers are followed by a ghastly 90.1 MPH exit velocity. All of his troubling woes on the mound have led to 22 earned runs and six homers allowed in his last five outings. It won’t get much easier for Heaney as he takes on a Minnesota team that has been seeing the ball well versus southpaws recently. From the moment June began, the Twins have the third-lowest strikeout rate and the eighth-best ISO to LHP. You’ll want to grab the righties on Minnesota’s roster in Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco — who is a switch-hitter. But don’t be afraid to use Max Kepler or Trevor Larnach in the lefty-lefty matchup.
Favorite one-off: Hunter Renfroe ($3,000) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery
I understand there are going to be pricing blunders every day, but I’m scratching my head at Hunter Renfroe’s price on DraftKings. Renfroe comes in at an inexpensive $3,000 salary and is somehow priced lower than Tyler Wade of the Yankees. For reference, Wade has just 12 hits in 60 at-bats this season, with no home runs under his belt. No offense to Wade, he’s probably a nice guy, but there’s no legitimate reason for him to cost more than Renfroe. Nevertheless, I’ll take advantage of the power-swinging outfielder on the Red Sox. Over the course of his 112 plate appearances to LHP this season, Renfroe owns an impressive .400 wOBA, a .215 ISO, and a 152 wRC+ in said matchups. Renfroe will face Jordan Montgomery on Thursday, who has shown that he can be taken advantage of by righties. When facing right-handed batters, Montgomery is permitting 1.21 HR/9, a 34.5% hard contact rate, and a 41.3% fly ball rate. Montgomery could have some trouble at Fenway on Thursday night and Renfroe is one of the members of the Red Sox that could wreak havoc.