Note: Player prices are based on Thursday's games for players in action Thursday (7/3) and Friday's games for those who won't play again until Friday.
Teams not playing Thursday: Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres
Now, on to some of the top plays for the next few days .
Max Scherzer, DET (Thu. vs. TB), $10,400 Scherzer's price will probably rise back up above $11,000 within the next week or two, but daily gamers get at least one more chance to take advantage of the discount. Since his catastrophic 10-run outing against the Royals on June 17, Scherzer has shown exactly why he's the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. First, he struck out eight Indians while allowing just one run over six innings. Then, the big right-hander fanned 13 Astros over seven innings of two-run ball. Whatever may have been bothering him in late May and early June, Scherzer has clearly moved past it.
Chris Sale, CHW (Fri. vs. SEA) Sale's price may bounce back from the $11,000 it sat at for his last outing, a seven-inning, two-run performance at the Rogers Centre. Still, he'll likely come in at under $12,000, and there's really no arguing with the matchup. Seattle is a light-hitting team that heavily relies on left-handed batters, so the Mariners awful numbers against southpaws come as no surprise. They rank 29th in OPS (.659), 28th in wOBA (.292), 27th in wRC+ (83), 18th in strikeout rate (21.5), and dead last by a wide margin in walk rate (5.2).
Anibal Sanchez, DET (Sat. vs. TB) The Rays may not be quite as awful at the plate as the numbers suggested earlier in the season, but don't be fooled by the rebound in June. Tampa still trots out a pretty ugly lineup every night, and that's before we account for the reality that Evan Longoria has slowed down again. As for Sanchez, the peripherals indicate that he's back to his pre-2013 self, after putting together a dominant campaign during his first year in the American League. Of course, pre-2013 Sanchez was nothing to laugh at, and his recent price tags haven't put too much weight on the career year. Assuming his price once again sits in the $9000-$9500 range, Sanchez should represent excellent value against the feeble Tampa Bay offense.
Jake Arrieta, CHC (Sun. vs. WAS) The suddenness of Arrieta's dominance makes it all seem rather fluky, but his peripherals numbers are so incredible that it's hard to mount an argument against him. He's given up just three runs over his last five starts, while posting an insane 46:3 K:BB ratio that is typically only seen from guys named Price or Wainwright. Is Arrieta really this good? No, almost certainly not, but it's still very likely that he's better than the guy we saw in previous seasons. Given that he won't be priced like an ace, Arrieta should be a fantastic option come Sunday, and possibly for a few more starts. The Nationals, as you might expect of a team that heavily relies on right-handed batters, have struggled against right-handed pitching this season. They rank 24th in strikeout rate (21.8) against righties, and are similarly low down the list in pretty much every measure of offensive production.
Other intriguing options: Brandon McCarthy, AZ (Thu. at PIT) $6500; Marcus Stroman, TOR, (Fri. at OAK); Matt Cain, SF (Fri. at SD); Gio Gonzalez, WAS (Sat. at CHC); Corey Kluber, CLE (Sun. vs. KC)
Yadier Molina, C, STL, $4100 Molina's strikeout rate has been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now, but he still doesn't whiff very often, and his other peripherals are essentially what we've come to expect. He slashed a miserable .210/.278/.309 in June, which explains why his price tag has been retreating toward $4,000. With a three-game home series against the Marlins coming up, Molina should be able to turn things around in a hurry. He's still one of the batter hitters at his position, and with the exception of Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy, the top backstops have largely been disappointing this year.
Brandon Moss, OAK, 1B/OF, $4500 A ridiculous hot streak in May led to speculation that Moss might be ready to join the elite (non-Cabrera) group of first baseman. While that no longer seems realistic, Moss now comes at a reasonable enough price that he's again worthy of consideration. Despite scuffling through June, he still owns an excellent .274/.358/.534 slash line for the season, and still gets to bat cleanup in a strong lineup. Moss may be ready to embark on another hot streak, as he went 4-for-4 with a home run in Wednesday's loss to the Tigers.
Neil Walker, 2B/3B, PIT, $3700 I'm high on all of the Pirates' left-handed batters, as they all seem to come at very reasonable prices just as the team runs into a stretch of weak right-handed pitching. The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright looms on Monday, but until then the Pirates get to face Arizona's Brandon McCarthy and the Phillies' trio of Hernandez-Buchanan-Burnett. There's really nothing exciting to say about Walker, who is once again doing exactly what's expected of him and nothing more. Of course, he's expected to be one of the better offensive players at his position, so that's hardly a knock against the veteran. Luckily for daily gamers, the Pirates have been using their second baseman in either the No. 3 or 4 hole against right-handed starters. Walker should be in for a huge weekend, despite a price that suggests otherwise.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT, $3800 Pretty much everything working in Walker's favor also applies to Alvarez, who finally picked things up in June. The third baseman owned an ugly .216/.300/.387 slash line at the end of May, albeit with peripherals that suggested he deserved better. He proceeded to slash .299/.396/.483 in June, particularly turning it on at the end of the month. Alvarez's 13 home runs are undoubtedly disappointing, but the upcoming schedule suggests he'll add to that total, and it has been well documented that he's striking out less often than in past years.
Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD, $5300 While his month of June was rather disappointing due to a lack of home runs, Puig doesn't appear to be doing anything different at the plate. His plate discipline is still much improved from last season, and the doubles and triples haven't dried up along with the homers. Headed to Coors Field for a four-game series against the Rockies' weak, all-lefty rotation, Puig should live up to the lofty price tag, and then some. Prices being equal, he's the one batter I'd want above all others over the next few days.
David Peralta, OF, AZ, $3500 The Diamondbacks face a trio of manageable right-handers over the next few days, until running into Braves lefty Alex Wood on Sunday. That's excellent news for Peralta, who has struggled to the tune of a .572 OPS against southpaws, albeit in a sample size of just 24 at-bats. The 26-year-old outfielder got off to a hot start when he was first called up at the beginning of June, then struggled for the next couple of weeks. He seems to be just fine now, with nine hits and only four strikeouts in his last 27 at-bats. Peralta isn't a speed demon or a slugger, but he does have two home runs, two stolen bases and five doubles through the first 100 at-bats of his career. Given his excellent minor league track record, Peralta could settle in as a respectable big-league starter sooner than people think.
Other intriguing options: Buster Posey, C, SF, $4100; Derek Norris/John Jason, C, OAK, $3600; Jose Abreu, CHW, 1B, $5000; Carlos Pena, 1B, TEX, $2900; C.J. Cron, 1B, LAA, $3600; Luis Valbuena, 2B/3B, CHC, $3100; Juan Uribe, 3B, LAD, $3500; Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE, $3800; Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK, $3500; Alcides Escobar, SS, KC, $3800; James Jones, OF, SEA, $3400; Gregory Polanco, OF, PIT, $4000; Stephen Vogt, C/OF, OAK, $2900; Bryce Harper, OF, WAS, $4300; Jason Heyward, OF, ATL, $4000; Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, STL, $4000
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