Note: Player prices are based on Thursday's games for players in action Thursday (6/26) and Friday's games for those who won't play again until Friday.
Teams not playing Thursday: Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners
Now, on to some of the top plays for the next few days….
Cole Hamels, PHI (Thu. vs. MIA), $10,600 – With the exception of a couple shaky outings to start the season, Hamels has been his usual dominant self in 2014. His strikeout rate sits at a sterling 25.1 percent, while his swinging-strike rate (11.3), FIP (2.81), xFIP (3.25) and other peripherals are largely in line with career norms. The southpaw has seemingly come at a friendly price all season, and he draws a struggling Miami lineup on Thursday. While the Marlins have respectable season-long numbers at the plate, they've been simply awful in June, ranking 29th in wRC+ (72), 29th in wOBA (.278) and dead last in strikeout rate (25.7). The Miami offense isn't as bad as what we've seen lately, but it also isn't as good as it looked earlier in the season.
Trevor Bauer, CLE (Fri. at SEA) – Bauer cost a mere $6500 in his last start, and while that price will likely be higher come Friday, he still figures to offer excellent value in one of the better matchups a pitcher can draw. His 4.40 ERA isn't particularly enticing, but a 9.0 K/9 and 9.4 percent swinging-strike rate indicate that his ability to miss bats has translated to the majors. The Mariners may not be as bad versus righties as they are against lefties, but the numbers still aren't particularly pretty. Against right-handed pitching, Seattle ranks 17th in wRC+ (93), 19th in wOBA (.308), 16th in OPS (.698) and 21st in strikeout rate (21.4). While the Seattle does have some hot bats at the moment, the Mariners still aren't a team to be feared, particularly when playing at Safeco Field.
Sonny Gray, OAK (Sat. at MIA) – Gray went through a bit of a rough patch in late May and early June, but he appeared to be back on track in his last two starts, allowing five runs over 13 innings (3.46 ERA), while posting a 14:3 K:BB ratio. As previously mentioned, the Miami offense is headed in the wrong direction, and a pitcher-friendly home park won't be of much help. Gray's price sat at a very reasonable $8400 in his last start, and his past two outings probably weren't dominant enough to cause a major increase.
Drew Smyly, DET (Sun. at HOU) – A few poor starts in late May sunk Smyly's price, and it still hasn't rebounded as one might expect. He cost a mere $6100 last time out, and Sunday brings a matchup against the strikeout-prone Astros. Houston has been surprisingly good against left-handed pitching this season, but its 22.9 strikeout rate against southpaws is still just 26th in the majors. While not a particularly safe choice, Smyly offers an excellent ceiling for his bargain-basement price.
Other intriguing options: Ryan Vogelsong, SF (Thu. vs. CIN) $7400; Kevin Gausman, BAL (Fri. afternoon vs. TB); Justin Verlander, DET (Fri. at HOU); Madison Bumgarner, SF (Fri. vs. CIN); Brandon McCarthy, AZ (Sat. at SD), Marcus Stroman, TOR (Sat. vs. CHW); Felix Hernandez, SEA (Sun. vs. CLE)
Travis d'Arnaud, C, NYM, $2600– D'Arnaud's stint with Triple-A Las Vegas was an absolute disaster…for pitchers in the Pacific Coast League. The young backstop posted an insane .436/.475/.909 slash line with six home runs in just 59 plate appearances. He homered in his first game back with the Mets on Tuesday, and then went 1-for-4 with a run on Wednesday. A few good weeks don't mean that he'll finally live up to the hype, but at this price he's hard to pass on while still hot.
Jose Abreu, CHW, 1B, $4900 – Making a second consecutive appearance in this space, Abreu might just have to become a permanent fixture. His price still indicates that he's not quite an elite slugger, and that obviously isn't the case. The 6-3 Cuban hit homer No. 23 on Wednesday, while extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He has four home runs and 10 RBI during the streak, which has included five multi-hit performances. Abreu won't get to hit at the Cell this weekend, but Toronto's Rogers Centre makes for a pretty decent substitute.
Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, WAS, $4500 – Rendon's fast start began to look fluky in May, but he's done plenty since to redeem himself, and then a little more. All in all, he appears to be one of the better hitting second baseman in all of baseball, with a solid mix of power and contact skills. In addition to his .810 OPS, Rendon is on pace for 25 homers, 90 RBI, 103 runs and 13 steals. He's priced with the second-tier of second baseman while producing like an elite option.
Jose Reyes, SS, TOR, $4500 – Reyes seems to keep popping back up in this column, as his personal version of struggling still makes him one of the better options at a thin position. The price is excellent given his past production, and there's nothing to indicate that Reyes has substantially changed as a player. After dealing with a foot issue earlier in the week, the Jays' shortstop looked perfectly healthy Tuesday and Wednesday, going a combined 5-for-10 at the plate with a home run, two doubles and a stolen base.
Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL, $4500 – Gomez's price has dropped due to a recent lack of homers and steals, but he hasn't been striking out at an overwhelming rate, and there's never been any reason to question his raw power or speed. Following a two-game stretch without any hits, the speedy centerfielder bounced back Wednesday with a 3-for-4 outing that included a triple. Best of all, the Colorado pitching staff is headed to Milwaukee this weekend, offering Gomez and his teammates an excellent chance to pile up some stats.
Kole Calhoun, OF, LAA, $3700 – I'm about as pro-Calhoun as they come, and the 26-year-old outfielder is finally not making me feel stupid. He's turned his season around in a hurry, slashing .328/.382/.541 in June while batting atop an excellent lineup. Calhoun still needs to be avoided against southpaws, though Angels manager Mike Scioscia will likely do the job for you by holding Calhoun out of the lineup. Luckily, there's just one lefty on the Angels' docket over the next four days.
Other intriguing options: Buster Posey, C, SF, $4200; Adam Lind, 1B, TOR, $3700; Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL, $4700; Brian Dozier, 2B/SS, MIN, $4400; Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT, $4000; Alexei Ramirez, SS, CHW, $3700; Eric Young, OF, NYM, $3500; Adam Jones, OF, BAL, $4700 (Wed.); James Jones, OF, SEA, $3400 (Wed.); Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, SEA, $3900 (Wed.); Carlos Santana, C/3B, CLE, $4200
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