Today we have another split slate day, so it will give us two opportunities to cash our lineups! The early slate features some decent pitching options and could make for a pretty decent slate overall. There are five games early and six games last, so there is a good balance today. Let’s dive into our top options.
David Price ($12,200) is going to be the top option for most on the early slate and it is due to his strikeout upside. With his 25% strikeout rate, Price is definitely known as a strikeout pitcher. He will face a smoking hot Baltimore squad, who is 5-0 this season. This will be the debut of Price at Fenway Park, so he should be pretty amped up, but we really can’t quantify that. For those narrative street folks, go ahead and use it. Fenway Park is not a pitchers’ park so Price does take a hit there against a hot offense. At $12,200, you are expecting some serious strikeout numbers from Price. The Orioles posted a 20% strikeout rate against left-handed pitchers last season, so there is some upside there. Price is a -170 favorite in a game with an 8.5 run total. It is worth noting that the winds are blowing out to left-field in Boston today so if the ball gets in the air, don’t be surprised if a few leave the yard. This isn’t my favorite spot for price and he is surely going to be chalk in the early slate. In tournaments, it may be wise to fade him and play the Orioles offense, which we may get to later.
In the early slate, I am a fan of Aaron Nola at $8,500. In the minds of many, Nola is not much of a strikeout artist, but a guy who is going to attack the strike zone and generate ground balls. That is fair, but he also possesses strikeout upside with his curveball and developing changeup. People may fade Nola due to the Padres offense getting hot in Colorado, but who doesn’t hit well in Colorado? The Padres finished last year with a .301 wOBA against right-handed pitchers to go along with their 23.3% strikeout rate. In the early going this season, that has remained consistent, as they currently have a 23.4% strikeout rate against righties. As most games in the early slate, the wind is blowing out, so there is some risk with home runs, but Nola finished ’15 with a 47.6% groundball rate, which shows that he keeps to ball down in the zone. In a slate that isn’t too deep with arms, I like Nola at 8.5K in his home debut against a team with a 23% strikeout rate.
In the late slate, the top two options will be Max Scherzer ($13,100) and Jon Lester ($10,500). For savings reasons, I could see why Lester would be a favorite target. Lester and Scherzer are also the two biggest favorites on the board today at -250 and -208, respectably. Both of these pitchers project well and have strikeout upside, with Scherzer getting the weaker of the two lineups. Early weather reports have the wind blowing out in Washington and in at Wrigley Field with neither expecting any precipitation. Once I see lineups, I will be able to determine my clear favorite, but I think both have tremendous strikeout upside. It is going to come down to the extra money to go from Lester to Scherzer.
The Detroit Tigers are going to be one of the top stacks on the slate today going against left-hander Jon Niese. This game is in Detroit, so Niese will have to face the DH, too. The Tigers are going to run out a lineup that features eight right-handed bats, including Kinsler, Cabrera, Upton and V-Mart. That lineup has some serious thump. Last year, Jonathan Niese finished with a .330 wOBA against right-handed hitters, and he is going to see some of the better ones in baseball today. The sneaky player in here is my usual punt at catcher, James McCann ($3,200). Last season, McCann finished with a .390 wOBA against left-handed pitchers and gets one today. Along with that, he should have some men on base with the big bats in front of him. Niese finished as my lowest ranked pitcher today and those big bats and eight total righties in the Detroit lineup are a part of that.
In the early slate, the Red Sox appear to be a good option against Yovani Gallardo, who allowed 14 hits and 6 runs in 11 innings against the Sox last year. Small sample size, no doubt, but the lineup is the same. Gallardo also allowed two homers in his lone matchup in Fenway and as stated earlier, the winds are blowing out to left field today. This Boston lineup has a ton of firepower from one through six today. In his career, Ortiz has faced Gallardo eight times, recording four hits and a homer. He does not have a strikeout against Gallardo either. Small sample, sure, but maybe useful as some guys do see the ball better out of certain pitchers’ hands. In this stack I like Ortiz ($4,700) and Pedroia ($4,300), who may be under owned with the plus matchups for other top 2B like Kinsler and Dozier. As a team, the Red Sox hit better at home in 2015 with a .345 wOBA compared to their .297 wOBA on the road. Don’t forget that Gallardo isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher anymore as he had just a 15.3% strikeout rate in 2015.
The Astros are in a great spot tonight, and I really think this game could see a good number of runs as it is being played in Houston, which has an elevated home run rate. Chris Young has a career 55.1% fly ball rate, which was even higher at 57.9% last season. In a park that plays well toward power, that could be deadly. Young also doesn’t miss many bats with his 16.6% strikeout rate from last year. He also allows his fair share of homers with 1.17 per nine innings. I think that this is a good spot for Rasmus, Tucker and Valbuena, but will tweet my favorite plays when lineups are released.
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