Note: Player prices are based on Thursday’s games for players in action Thursday (7/24) and Wednesday’s games for those who won’t play again until Friday. Although 22 of the 30 teams are playing Thursday, an unusual amount of this week’s top batting plays have the day off.
Teams not playing Thursday: Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks
Now, on to some of the top plays for the next few days….
Wei-Yin Chen, BAL (Thu. at SEA), $6200 – Though he’s had issues with the long ball since April, Chen has otherwise posted decent peripheral numbers, highlighted by a 79:19 K:BB over 109 innings. The $6200 price tag is rather cheap for a decent pitcher, and Chen gets to face a lousy offensive team at one of the league’s more pitcher-friendly stadiums. Not only that, but the Mariners have been especially bad against southpaws, ranking 29th in wOBA (.291), wRC+ (84) and OPS (.657). While the Mariners are at least a respectable 20th in strikeout rate (21.9) versus lefties, their .104 ISO against southpaws is worst in the majors. Chen’s homer issues should disappear for at least one day, as Seattle’s lack of right-handed punch has shown up on the stat sheet.
Alex Wood, ATL (Fri. vs. SD) – For all those categories in which the Mariners rank 29th, the Padres are the only team behind them. There’s no need to further detail the Friars’ woes, as they’re unquestionably one of the worst offensive teams in recent memory. As for Wood, the 23-year-old lefty has been excellent since rejoining the rotation, posting a 2.87 ERA and 27:8 K:BB over five starts (31.1 innings). He was similarly effective earlier this season, and has given up more than three runs in just two of his 12 starts. While he’s struggled out of the bullpen, Wood has held his opponents to a meager .230/.279/.356 slash line and posted a 71:17 K:BB ratio as a starter. Best of all, he cost just $7400 last time out, and should fall south of $8000 this time around.
Wily Peralta, MIL (Sat. vs. NYM) – Peralta cost just $6700 in his last outing, and while his price will likely rise for Saturday, the right-hander should still make for an excellent bargain. His modest 6.7 K/9 will scare some away, but Peralta has plenty of other things working in his favor. He’s the proud owner of an excellent 2.4 BB/9, and his ground-ball rate (54.5) is 10th best in the majors among qualified starters. The Mets, one of my favorite punching bags all season, are a lousy offensive bunch that particularly struggle against right-handed pitching. They rank 25th in wOBA (.298) and OPS (.670) against righties, 21st in wRC+ (91), and 17th in strikeout rate (20.5). Peralta, meanwhile, has bounced back strong from a stretch of poor starts, topping 24 points on DraftKings in each of his last two times outs.
Scott Kazmir, OAK (Sun. at TEX) – Kazmir has been fantastic all season, yet he still cost just $9100 in his last start. His 2.32 ERA and 0.99 WHIP may not be sustainable, but a 114:28 K:BB and 3.12 FIP indicate that the 30-year-old lefty truly has been one of the better pitchers in the American League. Given that he was also fantastic toward the end of last season, there’s little reason to doubt Kazmir. As for his opponent, the Rangers have a hitter-friendly ballpark and a noted pair of lefty mashers in Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios. However, that only tells part of the story, as the perennial contenders have devolved into a laughingstock, with injuries forcing them to regularly start a bunch of guys who probably shouldn’t be in the majors. If you aren’t convinced yet, Kazmir’s stats versus Rios and Beltre should do the trick. He’s held the two right-handers to just 16 hits in 75 combined at-bats (.213 batting average), with a 22:5 K:BB ratio.
Other intriguing options: Corey Kluber, CLE (Thu. at KC), $9000; Felix Hernandez, SEA, (Fri. vs. BAL); Julio Teheran, ATL (Sat. vs. SD); Sonny Gray, OAK (Sat. at TEX); Mike Minor, ATL (Sun. vs. SD)
Travis d’Arnaud, NYM, C, $2600 – While his numbers since returning from the minors haven’t been anything spectacular, d’Arnaud finally looks like the player the Mets thought they were getting when they traded R.A. Dickey to Toronto before last season. He’s yet to put together an impressive hot streak, but over the last two months, the 25-year-old catcher has slowly but surely raised his slash line from .189/.265/.302 to .230/.300/.364. A weekend series in Milwaukee means d’Arnaud will be faced with a bunch of medium-difficulty matchups, and he’s recently been batting either fifth or sixth in the lineup.
Ben Paulsen, 1B, COL, $2000 (Wed.) – Not considered a top prospect by any stretch of the imagination, the 26-year-old Paulsen has started each of the Rockies’ three games since being called up Monday, batting either fifth or sixth in the lineup. He’s 4-for-11 thus far, after posting a .291/.380/.524 slash line over 400 plate appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs. With the Pirates’ shaky pitching staff headed to Coors Field this weekend, Paulsen should continue to find success while filling in for Justin Morneau (neck). First base isn’t typically the position where I look to go cheap, but Paulsen has some friendly matchups in a batter’s paradise, and he seems to be at least a decent hitter.
Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, COL, $3300 (Wed.) – Continuing with the theme of Colorado injury fill-ins, Rutledge batted second for the Rockies in each of the last four games, and figures to see consistent playing time while Troy Tulowitzki (thigh) is on the DL. While I won’t be using him once the Rockies head out on the road, Rutledge owns a solid .277/.329/.435 career slash line at Coors Field. Those Rockies home stacks are finally looking affordable, though they do lose some of their appeal without Tulo in the lineup.
Tommy La Stella, 2B, ATL, $3400 – La Stella seems to have settled into the No. 2 hole against left-handed pitchers, which probably should have happened a few weeks back. He won’t provide more than the occasional homer or stolen base, but his excellent plate discipline has translated to the majors, as he owns a .288/.359/.362 slash line and 23:19 K:BB over the first 200 plate appearances of his career. La Stella’s .329 BABIP is only a bit higher than what we can expect going forward, as he typically posted BABIPs north of .300 in the minors, and owns a 24-percent line-drive rate with the Braves. He also has a rather lofty ground-ball rate (49.4 percent) and a very low fly-ball rate (26.6). Sure, he doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but La Stella makes for a strong play in 50/50s, or if you need to fill out one or two roster spot and don’t have much cash to work with.
Coco Crisp, OF, OAK, $4500 – Following a friendly Thursday matchup against Houston’s Scott Feldman, the A’s will head to Arlington for a three-game series in which they won’t have to face Yu Darvish. With right-handers Nick Tepesch, Miles Mikolas and Nick Martinez on the upcoming slate, pretty much any Oakland hitter should make for a decent play, particularly those who bat from the left side. The A’s typically produce when facing solid pitchers at the cavernous O.co Coliseum, so it should be an outright feast against the cellar-dwelling Rangers in homer-happy Arlington. Brandon Moss ($4700) should be in for a big weekend, while Jed Lowrie ($3700) and John Jaso ($3800) allow you to get in on the fun without spending top dollar.
Josh Harrison 3B/OF, PIT, $3500 (Wed.) – While the weekend trip to Colorado means Harrison’s price will jump a few hundred dollars, it also means that he’ll have three straight matchups against left-handed pitchers at Coors Field. With Starling Marte sidelined by a concussion, Harrison figures to bat second against southpaws, as he did on both July 19 and 20 when Marte first suffered the injury.
Other intriguing options: John Jaso, C, OAK, $3800; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL, $4000; Brandon Moss, OAK, 1B/OF, $4700; Dan Johnson, 1B, TOR, $2000; Kolten Wong, 2B, STL, $3900 (Wed.); Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU, $5000; Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK, $4600; Nolan Arenado, 3B, COL, $3900 (Wed.); Jed Lowrie, SS, OAK, $3700; Jose Reyes, SS, TOR, $4800; Jose Ramirez, 2B/SS, CLE, $2000; Carlos Gonzalez, OF, COL, $4800 (Wed.); Corey Dickerson, OF, COL, $4300 (Wed.); Yoenis Cespedes, OF, OAK, $4400; Melky Cabrera, OF, TOR, $4400; David Peralta, OF, AZ, $3700 (Wed.); Bryce Harper, OF, WAS, $4900 (Wed.)
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