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MLB DFS: Alek Manoah and the best/worst plays for Thursday, July 8th

Heath explores the seven-game slate at DraftKings for Thursday, July 8th.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

It’s a seven-game slate on DraftKings tonight, highlighted by some top-heavy pitching, the return of Zach Plesac (on a 60-pitch limit), and the Toronto Blue Jays AGAIN in a phenomenal hitting spot (after they scored 10 runs yesterday). Let’s hop into an overview.

Pitching

Best play: Alek Manoah at Baltimore Orioles ($6,800)

This is just too cheap for a man of Manoah’s talents. The 23-year-old rookie has back-to-back 20+ point DK efforts (21.9, 37.4), with one coming against these same Orioles in Toronto. Manoah struck out 10 Rays in his most recent start, and there’s no reason to ignore him today based on his price point. He’s been good overall, but better against right-handed hitters in his small sample—he’s allowed a stupid-low .132/.213/.294 slash line to RHH compared to a tolerable .242/.315/.455 slash to left-handed bats. The Orioles project to start just three hitters from the left side, in Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, and Domingo Leyba. Mullins I’ll discuss in a second, but we aren’t concerned about Leyba and Santander is slashing only .217/.265/.406 against RHP this year. He just hasn’t been the same force that he was during his breakout 2020.

The Orioles aren’t exactly an offensive whipping post, but they’ve managed just a .149 ISO (21st) over the last 14 days. Over that same time frame, they aren’t striking out much, at only a 22.7% rate (17th). However, on the year the Orioles carry a .154 ISO (20th) against RHP, as well as a 24.7% strikeout rate (21st). Cedric Mullins (.249 ISO, .409 wOBA, 161 wRC+) has been a wrecking ball, but nearly everyone else has fleas. Trey Mancini (.156 ISO, .242 BA, 100 wRC+ vs. RHP) gets most of his power against southpaws (.280 ISO, .280 BA, 145 wRC+). Ryan Mountcastle has pop (.197 ISO) but a sizeable 30.5% strikeout rate. Austin Hays has been heating up lately, but he’s another bat who fares better versus lefties. Like I said, it’s just too cheap for Manoah, who is also backed by that powerful Toronto offense. Manoah will be popular, maybe even in excess of 30% owned in some contests. Ownership is hard to figure, but this is likely a chalky play. The only downside is that this will be his third turn against the Orioles. So maybe Baltimore is a sneaky way to vault up the leaderboard if their offense actually hits. But this price point is begging you to have shares of Manoah. I can find other ways to differentiate.

Worst play: Max Scherzer @ San Diego Padres

Zach Plesac is a bad play due to the aforementioned 60-pitch limit. Keegan Akin is an obviously bad play at home against Toronto. The lefty J.A. Happ is another fairly obvious bad play. But let’s get off the reservation here a bit with Mad Max. The Friars are NOT a team you want to pick on. If you want to talk yourself into Scherzer against San Diego in order to be different, be my guest. But I can’t do it against a red-hot Manny Machado, the beast that is Fernando Tatis Jr., and a San Diego unit that boasts a .216 ISO and a paltry 20.3% strikeout rate over the last 14 days. I just can’t. I don’t care how good Scherzer is. Trent Grisham (.318/.412/.614) and Tommy Pham (.279/.360/.512) have also been formidable over the last two weeks. Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Jake “Rake” Cronenworth...this is a DEEP lineup. The ceiling here is capped for Scherzer, and that’s all there is to it.

Hitting

Best play: Detroit Tigers @ LHP J.A. Happ

If you’re looking for a cheaper stack to help you fit in high-priced pitching and/or high-priced bats, look no further than Detroit against Happ. The Tigers won 5-3 at Texas last night, and are winners of seven out of their last 10 games. Over the last two weeks, Akil Baddoo has swiped a whopping five bags, while Eric Haase has cracked four home runs (.394 ISO, .426 wOBA, 171 wRC+). Add in the reliable Jonathan Schoop, the do-it-all Robbie Grossman, and even the affordable Jeimer Candelario—who homered last night—and there’s plenty to like about the Tigers in this matchup.

The 38-year-old Happ has a bloated 6.09 ERA this year, with a stunning 1.91 HR/9. The majority of that damage has been done by right-handed sticks, who are slashing .300/.356/.588 with 15 of the 16 homers that Happ has allowed this year. Some of these switch hitters need deciphering...Candelario hasn’t shown power to either handedness of pitcher, but he does have a robust .306 BA versus lefties. Grossman is FAR better against lefties, with a .207 ISO and .378 wOBA in the split. Willi Castro has been a letdown this year, but he is up to six homers and four steals, and he bats for a decent .266 average against lefties. I don’t hate it if you need to save the dough. Briefly put, Happ has been a disaster and I’m looking to Detroit for salary relief today.

Worst play: Minnesota Twins vs. LHP Tarik Skubal

I guess I’m liking the Tigers in general. Yes, the Twins get a lefty. Yes, the Twins lead the league with 42 homers against southpaws. But it’s the Twins without Josh Donaldson, Mitch Garver, and lefty-basher Kyle Garlick, who have accounted for 14 homers combined against lefty pitchers. It’s still a really a solid top five that Minnesota can trot out, but I’m liking Skubal’s strikeout ability against Sano and the bottom half of that lineup.

I’ll probably get away from Manoah a bit with a couple of Skubal shares. It’s hard not to like Skubal’s shiny 27.6% strikeout rate, and Minnesota’s lack of an ability to draw a walk is also encouraging given that that’s Skubal’s weakness (4.03 BB/9) thus far in 2021. The Twins’ 7.3% walk rate against lefties is the third-worst mark in the majors, trailing only the Royals and Rangers. And that number is dampened by the losses of Donaldson (14.5%) and Garver (9.5%). I could see Skubal paying off his low salary due to all that strikeout upside.

Other notables are a red-hot Franmil Reyes at 4K versus the lefty Danny Duffy, while Andrew Benintendi ($3,100) is too cheap for a man of his talents. J.T. Realmuto ($3,500) is another guy to buy low on, and guys like Luis Arraez ($3,300) and Ryan Jeffers ($3,400) make a lot of sense if you aren’t trotting out Skubal.

Who are you liking in your first pass today, gamers?