This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
All player prices are as of Friday, July 31
Taijuan Walker, SEA (Fri. at MIN), $6600 – With Clayton Kershaw (hip/glute) bouncing back from a minor injury and most of the other top starters drawing difficult matchups, it's a good thing there are some nice pitching options on the cheaper end for Friday night. Chief among those is Walker, who allowed a whopping 19 earned runs over his last four starts. Although the recent slump has lifted his ERA to an unsightly 5.03, the hard-throwing right-hander still owns an excellent 110:30 K:BB ratio through 112.2 innings this season, with a 63:7 mark over his last 10 starts (61.2 innings). He won't get to pitch at Safeco Field on Friday, but he will get to face a Minnesota lineup that ranks 21st in strikeout rate (20.4 percent) and wRC+ (92) against right-handed pitchers.
Jeremy Hellickson, ARI (Sat. at HOU) – Although I didn't imagine that Hellickson would be worth targeting this season, his recent performance merits another look. He topped 20 DraftKings points in four of his last six outings, enjoying surprising success on the strength of improved strikeout numbers. While never known for his ability to miss bats, Hellickson has 56 strikeouts over 57 innings in his last 10 starts, with a 3.95 ERA, 3.22 FIP and 3.35 xFIP during that stretch. His improved ability to fan batters is also supported by his other peripherals, as Hellickson owns an 11.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 75.4 percent contact rate over his last 10 starts. With the DBacks facing the homer-happy, strikeout-happy Astros, Hellickson is best used in GPPs.
Jose Fernandez, MIA (Sun. vs. NYM) – I may target cheap pitchers for the first two days of the weekend, but Fernandez should put an end to the trend Sunday, facing a Mets team that's at least two deadline deals away from boasting a decent lineup. Even if Jay Bruce and/or another player provide a boost, the Mets will likely be overmatched by Fernandez, who already looks like the best version of himself. Through his first five starts, the right-hander owns a 4-0 record, 2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 37:7 K:BB ratio in just 32 innings. The Marlins have been somewhat conservative with his pitch counts, but that hasn't stopped Fernandez from averaging 24.8 DK points so far. He also owns elite swinging-strike (15.2) and contact (71.2) rates, albeit in a small sample size.
Other options:Michael Wacha, STL (Fri. vs. COL), $9000; Rubby De La Rosa, ARI (Fri. at HOU), $7400; Ian Kennedy, SD (Fri. at MIA), $6900; Jacob deGrom, NYM (Sat. vs. WAS); Raisel Iglesias, CIN (Sat. vs. PIT); Noah Syndergaard, NYM (Sun. vs. MIA); Jaime Garcia, STL (Sun. vs. COL); Nathan Karns, TB (Sun. at BOS)
C Kyle Schwarber, CHC (at MIL), $3700 – Schwarber has cooled down over the last week or so, often settling for walks (six in his last five games) instead of extra-base hits. He still owns an impressive .344/.429/.557 slash line through the first 61 at-bats of his career, with a reasonable 18:9 K:BB ratio. If he can keep his strikeout rate around its current mark of 25.7 percent, Schwarber will almost certainly be one of the top hitters at his position for the final two months of the season. There's no guarantee that the K rate won't start to move north of 30 percent, but even if that eventually happens, Schwarber should still be in for a big weekend against the Brewers' slew of mediocre (or worse) right-handed starters.
1B Freddie Freeman, ATL (at PHI), $4200 – Freeman may not have much help in the Atlanta lineup, but the Braves should still be in for a big series. With Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon finally shipped out of town, MLB's worst pitching staff has actually managed to get significantly worse. The de facto ace, rookie Aaron Nola, started his season at the Double-A level. I won't shy away from Nola on Saturday, and I'll aggressively target both David Buchanan (Friday) and Adam Morgan (Sunday). Freeman has the perfect opportunity to break out of his slump, after managing just three hits in his first 23 at-bats since coming off the disabled list.
2B Neil Walker, PIT (at CIN), $3700 – With the exception of anything involving Coors Field and the Colorado pitching staff, Walker couldn't ask for better circumstances to produce with the bat. Not only does he get to hit at the Great American Bandbox, but also he'll be facing a Cincinnati rotation that just lost Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. Raisel Iglesias (Saturday) is tougher than his stats would seem to suggest, but both he and Anthony DeSclafani (Friday) are worth targeting with left-handed batters. Sunday's starter had yet to be named as of Friday morning, but we can safely assume it won't be anyone especially good.
SS Jhonny Peralta, STL (vs. COL), $3700 – Peralta draws fantastic matchups this weekend, first facing one of MLB's worst right-handed pitchers (Kyle Kendrick), then squaring off against back-to-back lefties in Jorge De La Rosa (Saturday) and Yohan Flande (Sunday). Given that he's also carrying a very reasonable price, Peralta makes for an ideal alternative to the more talented Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Correa. His handedness splits aren't significant this season, but Peralta has historically been quite a bit better against southpaws.
OF Preston Tucker, HOU (vs. ARI), $3600 – Tucker may not have been viewed as a top prospect, but with his rookie season only getting better as time passes, it increasingly appears that he's the real deal. His .266/.322/.477 slash line doesn't seem to be the product of good luck, as he owns a modest .298 BABIP to go with solid strikeout (19.9 percent) and walk (7.2 percent) rates. Even better, at least for our purposes, is the fact that Tucker's done nearly all of his damage against right-handers. He owns a .299/.361/.584 slash line in 154 at-bats against righties, compared to a .188/.224/.219 line in 64 at-bats versus southpaws. Luckily for Tucker, the Astros are scheduled to face three right-handers both Friday and Saturday.
OF Melky Cabrera, CWS (vs. NYY), $3900 –Finally, after a three-month slump to open the season, Mr. Cabrera has remembered that he's good at baseball. Welcome back, Melky, and please don't do that again. He did go 0-for-3 Thursday, but Cabrera had multiple hits in each of his previous seven games, with an RBI in each of his previous nine games. All of a sudden, he owns a respectable .282/.321/393 slash line, and is on pace for 10 homers, 78 RBI and 75 runs. With the White Sox tentatively scheduled to face Nathan Eovaldi (Fri.), Esmil Rogers (Sat.) and Ivan Nova (Sun.) this weekend, Cabrera should be able to stay hot.
Other options:1B David Ortiz, BOS (vs. TB), $4400; 1B Justin Bour, MIA (vs. SD), $2700; 3B Manny Machado, BAL (vs. DET), $4400; 3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY (at CWS), $5200; SS/OF Hanley Ramirez, BOS (vs. TB), $4100; OF Andrew McCutchen, PIT (at CIN), $4900; OF Gregory Polanco, PIT (at CIN), $3500
White Sox vs. NYY's Nathan Eovaldi
Reds vs. PIT's Jeff Locke
Red Sox vs. TB's Erasmo Ramirez
Diamondbacks at HOU's Scott Feldman
Giants at SF's Nick Martinez
Orioles vs. DET's Buck Farmer
Pirates at CIN's Michael Lorenzen
Cardinals vs. COL's Kyle Kendrick
Tigers at BAL's Wei-Yin Chen