This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Note: Player prices are based on Thursday's games for players in action Thursday (6/19) and Friday's games for those who won't play again until Friday.
Teams not playing Thursday: Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants
Now, on to some of the top plays for the next few days…
Scott Kazmir, OAK (Thu. at BOS) $8,400 – Kazmir draws a tough matchup in Fenway Park against a lineup that prefers to face lefties (.313 wOBA) over righties (.306), but the Red Sox simply aren't the hitting machine of years past. With Kazmir on a roll right now, it's nearly impossible to pass him up at this mid-range price. Over his last five starts, the 30-year-old southpaw has given up just six earned runs in 35.1 innings (1.53 ERA), while posting a 29:8 K:BB ratio. He's given up just five homers all year, and boasts an ERA (2.05) and WHIP (0.98) near the top of the league.
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Henderson Alvarez, MIA (Fri. at NYM) $7,300 – Alvarez is finally showing some ability to miss bats this season, with a 5.79 K/9 and 7.8 swinging-strike rate that are at least starting to creep in the direction of league average. He still isn't a great bet to pile up strikeouts, but he's been on an absolute tear over the last few weeks, allowing just four runs (three earned) in his last five starts, while posting a 21:4 K:BB ratio over 33.1 innings. Alvarez should be able to continue his hot streak in an enticing matchup against a Mets team that owns a woeful .291 wOBA against right-handers this season, good for third-worst in the majors.
Jason Vargas, KC (Sat. vs. SEA) – Looking at the Mariners' preferred lineup, it comes as no surprise whatsoever that the team has been an absolute disaster against left-handed pitching. Against southpaws, the M's rank 29th in wOBA (.285), 22nd in strikeout rate (22.3), 29th in OPS (.642) and 28th in ISO (.102). Not that they're a whole lot better against right-handers, but it's always worth targeting Seattle in a matchup with any decent lefty. As for Vargas, he's been more than decent this season, posting a 7-2 record, 3.25 ERA and 1.21 WHIP on the strength of his ongoing run of five consecutive quality starts. The peripherals indicate that he's the same pitcher as ever, so while the ERA and WHIP figure to rise with time, Vargas should first turn in another strong outing.
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY (Sun. vs. BAL) – The unquestioned favorite for both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young honors in the American League, Tanaka is perhaps the most dominant pitcher we've seen since prime Pedro Martinez in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He still has plenty of work to do to back up that claim, but a 1.99 ERA and 113:16 K:BB through 14 career starts aren't a bad place to start. Each time he takes the hill, Tanaka is both the safest play available, and the one with the highest ceiling. As for Sunday's opponent, the O's are no slouches, but their bats have been a bit disappointing this season, with the obvious exceptions of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. In his first matchup with Baltimore back in April, Tanaka surrendered an uncharacteristic three runs over seven innings, but more than made up for it with 10 punchouts.
Other intriguing options:Andrew Heaney, MIA (Thu. vs. NYM), $6,500; Drew Hutchison, TOR (THU. at NYY) $7,400; Stephen Strasburg, WAS (FRI. vs. ATL) $10,900; David Price, TB (FRI. vs. HOU); Josh Beckett, LAD (Sat. at SD), Tanner Roark, WAS (Sun. at ATL)
Derek Norris, C, OAK, $3,800– Norris has been a strong option all season when the A's face a lefty, as he'll typically bat either second, fourth or fifth in a solid lineup. While he is still best used against southpaws, the bearded backstop has been getting more playing time against right-handed pitching, with the A's opting to start both Norris and John Jaso, slotting one of the two in as DH. Coming off a solid season that saw him feast on left-handed pitching, Norris has been trouble for both types of pitchers this season. He not only owns an impressive .313/.416/.531 slash line, but also has eight home runs, two stolen bases, and a sterling 29:29 K:BB ratio. With a .275/.394/.440 line against right-handers, Norris is proving that he can be used in all situations, particularly at this price.
Jose Abreu, CHW, 1B, $5,000 – Abreu's price hasn't quite caught up to the reality that he's an elite power option, and daily gamers should take advantage while they still can. In addition to all he's done this season, Abreu has been even better than usual lately, going 5-for-12 with a homer and a double over his last three games. All the strikeouts may leave you with the occasional goose egg, but the Cuban rookie is on pace for a ridiculous 45 homers in just 131 games. If not for the injury he suffered earlier this season, he'd likely be on pace to break Mark McGwire's rookie record of 49 round-trippers in a season. Making Abreu even more attractive is that he's slated for a four-game series in Minnesota against the woeful Twins pitching staff.
Scooter Gennett, 2B/SS, MIL, $3,700 – Gennett has locked down the leadoff spot whenever the Brewers face a right-handed starter, which means he gets to bat in front of guys like Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and Aramis Ramirez. Not only does he have a cozy spot in the order, but Gennett is carrying a streak of five multi-hit games into Thursday's action, with the recent run pushing his slash line to .306/.342/.458. While he may have just four homers, his 17 doubles and two triples explain the solid .458 slugging percentage, and also indicate that there may be more long balls on the way. If you aren't already convinced, keep in mind that Gennett will be playing at Coors Field this weekend.
Colby Rasmus, OF, TOR, $3,500 – Rasmus' all-or-nothing approach at the plate has its merits for daily fantasy games so long as he's only used in certain matchups. He has always struggled against lefties, and his fly-ball heavy profile plays much better in smaller stadiums than in larger ones. Now would be the time to strike, as Rasmus carries a reduced price in the wake of a DL stint, with a game at Yankee Stadium – against David Phelps, no less – followed by a three-game series at the Great American Bandbox.
Eric Young, OF, NYM, $3,400 – Young has yet to steal a base in three games since returning from the disabled list, but he does have four hits, including a pair of doubles. Given the ample potential for steals and runs, it would be hard to pass Young up at this price, if he's batting leadoff against a non-elite pitcher. Unfortunately, the Mets twice used Young in the No. 9 hole behind the pitcher, before moving him to leadoff for Thursday's game. He responded by going 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI, so perhaps the Mets will leave EY in the No. 1 hole, despite his lifetime .324 OBP.
Brad Snyder, 1B/OF, TEX, $2,000 (Fri.) – Snyder has proven that he can hit enough home runs to make up for all the strikeouts – at the Triple-A level, that is. Whether it carries over to the majors at all remains to be seen, but his kind of power is worth taking a risk on at this price, particularly if you're just shooting for upside. 32 years old with just 60 MLB plate appearances to his name, Snyder was once a well-regarded prospect, and he owns a lifetime .507 slugging percentage over a whopping 3,085 Triple-A plate appearances. He's unlikely to make a big splash, but could help daily gamers out with a big game or two fueled by his power.
Starlin Castro, SS, CHC, $4,200 (Fri.) – Castro was already enjoying a strong rebound season, before catching fire over the last few weeks. He owns a .333/.370/.594 slash line through 69 June at-bats, despite starting the month with a 3-for-20 stretch. The following 49 at-bats have produced 20 hits (.408 batting average), including three home runs and six doubles. A red-hot Castro should spend his weekend teeing off against the decimated Pittsburgh pitching staff.
Other intriguing options:Joey Votto, 1B, CIN, $4,400; Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, CIN, $4,400; Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, CLE, $3,300; Brian Dozier, 2B/SS, MIN, $4,800; Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF, $3,700 (Fri.); Luis Valbuena, 2B/3B, CHC, $3,100 (Fri.); Kole Calhoun, OF, LAA, $3,600; Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK, $4,500; Jose Reyes, S, TOR, $4,700; James Jones, OF, SEA, $3,400; Evan Longoria, 3B, TB, $4,300; Brett Gardner, OF, NYY, $4,200; Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, NYM, $3,800