Note: Player prices are based on Thursday’s games (8/21) for players in action Thursday and Friday’s games for all other players.
Here are some of the top plays on DraftKings for Thursday night and the upcoming weekend:
Matt Shoemaker, LAA (Thu. at BOS), $7,300 – Aces Clayton Kershaw ($14,200) and Madison Bumgarner ($9,500) both look like strong plays Thursday night, but pairing the two together will leave you with little room to add hitting. Shoemaker is the only attractive option south of $8,500, and while his 3.84 ERA leaves something to be desired, his ability to miss bats should serve you well on DraftKings. Although the 27-year-old rookie didn’t pile up a ton of strikeouts in the minors, his 8.72 K/9 for the Angels is backed by an 11.1% swinging-strike rate and 75.7% contact rate, with both those marks ranking in the top-20 in the majors among starters who have thrown 80-plus innings. Shoemaker has an excellent chance to nab the extra four points that come with a win, as his team’s fearsome offense gets to face Boston rookie Rubby De La Rosa, owner of a 4.12 xFIP and 6.31 K/9.
Yordano Ventura, KC (Fri. at TEX) – While he hasn’t been the strikeout maven that many expected before the season, Ventura has settled in as a solid pitcher on a team with an excellent bullpen and decent lineup. His 3.48 ERA is perhaps a bit better than he deserves, but the key ERA estimators hover around 3.80, indicating that the gap is a small one. As covered in previous iterations of this article, the Rangers’ ugly lineup looks even worse against right-handed pitchers. After costing just $6,700 for his last start, Ventura should be similarly cheap in a hitter’s ballpark.
Danny Salazar, CLE (Sat. vs. HOU) – This isn’t a selection for the faint of heart, as Salazar will face a Houston team that piles up both home runs and strikeouts. The Astros rank 28th in strikeout rate (23.2 percent) and seventh in ISO (.148), having hit more home runs than all but three teams. While Salazar has pitched quite well of late, the Indians still seem intent on overreacting to his every mistake, as they demoted him to the minors following an Aug. 6 start against the Reds in which he allowed his only two home runs over his last five outings. Between the Astros’ power and the Indians’ short leash, there’s plenty of blow-up potential with this selection. However, you also get a strikeout pitcher at a cheap price, facing a team that’s one bad game away from leading the majors in strikeout rate.
Mike Fiers, PIT (Sun. vs. PIT) – Fiers has been fantastic in three starts since joining the Milwaukee rotation, posting a 0.86 ERA and 25:3 K:BB over 21 innings. While 14 of those Ks came in an outing against the Cubs, the right-hander was also excellent against the Dodgers and Blue Jays. His success really shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Fiers owned an 11.35 K/9, 1.50 BB/9, 2.55 ERA and 2.87 FIP through 17 starts with Triple-A Nashville this season. Back in 2012, he posted a 9.52 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 3.74 ERA and 3.09 FIP in 23 appearances (22 starts) with the Brewers. A lost 2013 caused some to write him off, but Fiers has bounced back strongly, to say the least. His price won’t stay down for long, but even a significant jump from last start’s $6,000 still leaves the 29-year-old as a bargain.
Other intriguing options: Madison Bumgarner, SF (Thu. at CHC), $9,500; Clayton Kershaw, LAD, (Thu. vs. NYM); Doug Fister, DET (Fri. vs. SF); Adam Wainwright, STL (Sat. at PHI); Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA, (Sun. at BOS); Stephen Strasburg, WAS, (Sun. vs. SF); Trevor Bauer, CLE, (Sun. vs. HOU)
Derek Norris, C, OAK, $3,500 – Though they’ve both cooled off, Norris and fellow A’s catcher John Jaso are both well above average hitters for their position. The slumps are reflected in the prices, which have now become tantalizingly low. With the A’s set to face lefties Hector Santiago (Fri.) and C.J. Wilson (Sat.) this weekend, Norris and his .959 OPS against southpaws should have a good time. If you’re looking for a cheap stack, both Santiago and Wilson have been shaky, and the A’s offer some cheap right-handed bats. Jonny Gomes ($2,900) has been hitting either second or fifth against lefties, and 1B Nate Freiman ($1,900) has been getting more playing time. Those two can be paired with Norris and Josh Donaldson ($4,500), making for an excellent mini-stack that leaves plenty of room for elite pitching.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC, $4,800 – Following a disappointing 2013, Rizzo’s price has lagged a bit behind where it probably should be for nearly all of this season. At this point, there’s no need to examine how good he is, so we can merely focus on the matchups. You obviously aren’t using the big first baseman Thursday against Madison Bumgarner, but the green light will be on all weekend. With the Orioles coming to town, Rizzo will face right-handers Kevin Gausman (Fri.), Bud Norris (Sat.) and Miguel Gonzalez (Sun.). While none of the trio is truly awful, they’re all below average starting pitchers.
Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA, $5,000 – The Boston rotation has become an easy target, as it’s entirely populated by mediocre or worse right-handed pitchers. The Mariners, meanwhile, trot out a surprisingly respectable lineup against righties, highlighted by Cano and 2B/3B Kyle Seager, a duo I always seem to use together. With 1B/OF Kendrys Morales finally hitting, and the affordable Dustin Ackley entrenched in the No. 2 hole versus righties, you have the makings of a strong stack. On an individual level, Cano has been torrid over the last couple of months, erasing concerns about his power while further raising his excellent batting average. The superstar second baseman owns a .333/.440/.571 slash line in August, after posting a .354/.426/.490 line in July.
Matt Carpenter, 2B/3B, STL, $4,300 – I avoided Carpenter like the plague early in the season, as he always seemed just a bit too expensive for a guy who doesn’t hit many homers or steal many bases. However, not only has his price come down, but the All-Star third baseman piles up singles, doubles, walks and runs like few other players. He also draws excellent matchups all weekend, with the Cardinals traveling to hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park to face right-handers Kyle Kendrick, David Buchanan and Jerome Williams. It should be a good weekend for the Cards’ left-handed bats, all of whom are reasonably priced.
Chris Coghlan, OF, CHC, $3,200 – While he’s no longer red-hot at the plate, a slumping Coghlan now makes for an excellent bargain, so long as he remains in the leadoff spot. While there’s nothing spectacular about his game, Coghlan has posted a strong .273/.346/.449 slash line this season with a .322 BABIP that’s only a touch higher than his career-long mark of .318. Much like teammate Anthony Rizzo, the 29-year-old outfielder should benefit from matchups against a trio of Baltimore right-handers this weekend.
Yasiel Puig OF, LAD, $4,500 – Here’s your boring pick for the weekend, as Puig doesn’t draw particularly great matchups, and he hasn’t been any better than usual of late. He’s merely underpriced by a good margin, perhaps because it’s been a while since he had a huge game. Given that he isn’t struggling and won’t face any aces this weekend, Puig makes for a solid high-end offensive play, without the lofty price attached to many of his fellow superstars.
Other intriguing options:
Carlos Santana, CLE, C/3B, $4,100; Joe Mauer, C/1B, MIN, $4,100; Evan Gattis, C/OF, ATL, $3,800
Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL, $5,000; Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, TOR, $4,800; Justin Morneau, 1B, COL, $4,200; Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY, $3,900; Matt Adams, 1B, STL, $3,700; Adam Lind, 1B, TOR, $3,100; Nate Freiman, 1B, OAK, $1,900;
Ian Kinsler, 2B, DET, $4,000; Kolten Wong, 2B, STL, $3,800; Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, NYM, $3,600; Omar Infante, 2B, KC, $3,300; Yangervis Solarte, 2B/3B, SD, $3,300
Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK, $4,500; Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, SEA, $4,200; Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, DET, $3,100; Luis Valbuena 2B/3B, CHC, $2,900;
Zach Walters, 3B/SS, CLE, $2,100; Josh Rutledge, 2B/SS, COL, $2,800; Mookie Betts, SS/OF, BOS, $2,600
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, MIA, $5,600; Alex Gordon, OF, KC, $4,900 Adam Jones, OF, BAL, $4,800; Christian Yelich, OF, MIA, $4,700; Ryan Braun, OF, MIL, $4,700; Jason Heyward, OF, ATL, $4,200; Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, NYY, $4,200; Charlie Blackmon, OF, COL, $4,100; J.D. Martinez, OF, DET, $4,000; Corey Dickerson, OF, COL, $4,000; Marcell Ozuna, OF, MIA, $3,700; Alejandro De Aza, OF, CHW, $3,600; Torii Hunger, OF, DET, $3,500; Dustin Ackley, OF, SEA, $3,500; Jonny Gomes, OF, OAK, $2,900