I’ll be honest – while it’s refreshing that we finally have a Thursday slate that isn’t a barely playable 3 or 4 game disaster, today we’ve got one of the most boring slates I’ve seen in a while. Pitching wise, at least in cash, the slate appears to offer an interesting debate between two options, one of whom is noticeable more expensive than the other, but for reasons that I’ll get to, to me the choice is clear. And offensively, there are a few teams in good matchups, and one or two good players, but other than that, it’s a whole lot of meh. It’s so much meh that I couldn’t even come up with a clever introduction. The only clever thing I can say is to call this slate the 40 degree day slate.
On to the picks…
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Clayton Kershaw, SP: $11,000 – Last we saw Kershaw, his velocity was down, he was striking out the fewest amount of batters since 2013 and walking the most since 2013. This would only make him an elite pitcher instead of the best pitcher in the league. Phillies are middle of the road in strikeouts with elite patience and low power. Given that we don’t know how long Kershaw is going to go and he’s mega expensive, this is more of a GPP play. However, there aren’t that many other good cash options, so if (and that’s a big if, given that the Dodgers are often quite cagey with their plans) we get some form of an official announcement or report that Kershaw will be allowed to throw his normal number of pitches (or at least would be allowed to throw 100), he enters the discussion for cash options. However, Dave Roberts said last night that “I don’t really have a number (of pitches), but I think he’s fine to go deep (Thursday) depending on how he’s throwing”, and that’s the exact sort of statement that makes me feel queasy about his cash viability.
Aaron Nola, SP: $9,500 – Aaron Nola has an elite combination of skills, but each one is slightly worse than Kershaw. Nola is at 24.6% strikeouts and 6.3% walks. But where Nola really shines is in getting ground balls where he’s at 51.9%. Nola is fairly safe and at a big discount from Kershaw, and given that the offensive players in the best spots today are kind of expensive, that combination makes him the cash game pitcher.
Brett Gardner, OF: $3,100 – The Yankees are a monster offense, 17% better than league average, tops in the league by a large margin. Andrew Cashner is a different pitcher from last year, with way more strikeouts, more walks and way more fly balls. All of this combined makes him just as equally jabroni as last year, but this time he’s actually targetable. Gardner has a .356 wOBA since the start of last year vs righties and with the weather warming up, he’s back to his power happy ways (.200 ISO and .395 wOBA in May). Plus, the Yankees are on the road, guaranteeing them the 9th inning at bat.
The Rest of the Yankees – The Yankees have the best matchup of the day and you can play any of them, because they are good and Cashner is a jabroni vs righties and lefties. Greg Bird is an above average hitter with good power for a cheap price and obviously Stanton, Judge and Sanchez are the best players and make fine GPP plays. Finally, Gleyber Torres is smashing every ball in sight these days and is also a fantastic GPP play.
Matt Carpenter, 3B: $3,800 – Carpenter since the start of last year vs righties has had a .369 wOBA and a .234 ISO. Meanwhile, Trevor Williams since the start of last year as a starter vs lefties has struggled to miss bats (14.4% strikeouts). Even with his average control (7.8%) and above average ground ball rate (47.7%), Williams is nothing to be afraid of. Carpenter makes for a very solid play in your DFS lineups.
Freddie Freeman, 1B: $4,400 – Freeman is one of the best hitters in MLB and vs righties he .410 wOBA and a .257 ISO with a .421 OBP. Freeman is just a very well rounded hitter who takes his walks and hits balls hard. Tanner Roark isn’t always someone to target, but given his struggles with lefties (20.7% strikeouts, 9.5% walks and 42% groundballs) Freeman is a fine play.
Houston Astros – Drew Pomeranz has lost more than 2 MPH on his pitches from last year and the numbers are backing it up. His strikeout rate is down to 20.4%, his walk rate is up to 12.5% and his groundball rate is down to 37.3%. Targeting him is easy since you just want players who are swinging a bat, but, George Springer is my favorite play on the Astros. He crushes left handed pitching with a .417 wOBA and a .271 ISO and will likely bat leadoff. The prices of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are just too expensive for cash games but make excellent GPP stacks given Pomeranz propensity to give the free base this year. For cash, cheap Astros will also be a good spot to find value plays. Yulieski Gurriel is most likely going to be in the lineup hitting in the top 5, and whomever amongst Evan Gattis, J.D. Davis, Max Stassi, or Marwin Gonzalez ends up in the lineup becomes playable as a cheap source of value.
I’m Only Happy When It Rains
St. Louis and Baltimore have some rain chances, so make sure to monitor that. This could also wind up being a 40 degree weather day, especially in Baltimore.
Doing Lines In Vegas
Seeing as how I think Nola is not that far behind Kershsaw in terms of overall projection, and may very well out-pitch Kershaw today, I am quite happy to take the Phillies at +145.