Major League Baseball is ready to start the weekend right with a 14-game fantasy baseball slate this Friday night. Only the Athletics and White Sox are out of the player pool, as the Sox take a page from the book of their crosstown rivals and play a Friday matinee that starts at 3:10 p.m. ET. The rest of the action is under the lights and on the main slate, including nine divisional matchups as teams continue to play their way into playoff races heading into the final seven weeks of the season.
There are a lot of high-priced pitchers on this slate with five arms checking in with five-figure salaries. There are also plenty of big bats in good matchups to consider as the Astros and Yankees visit the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively. Once you have your big-ticket players locked in, you might find yourself scrambling to fill the end of your roster with some more affordable options. Check out these five options, who have affordable salaries but should be primed to outproduce their price.
SP DEVIN SMELTZER, MIN vs. CLE, $7,800
The Twins lead over the Indians in the AL Central has shrunk to just one game coming into Friday’s contest, and Minnesota will hope Smeltzer can pitch well enough to keep them in the driver’s seat. The 23-year-old lefty is 1-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in his five Major League games this season including three starts. He started Sunday against Kansas City and posted an impressive 23.7 DKFP with six shutout, two-hit innings.
Smeltzer went 4-4 in his time in Double-A and Triple-A but had a solid 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 17 games before rejoining the Twins on Aug. 4. He has 21 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings in the Majors this season, so there is excellent upside to consider if he can continue the form he showed in his most recent outing. The Indians’ offense has turned things around after a slow start, but they still are hitting .247 against southpaws, which could set Smeltzer up for a strong outing.
SP DREW SMYLY, PHI at SF, $5,800
Playing any pitcher under $6K is a risky option, but it does allow you to fit in almost any lineup stack you like. Smyly is so affordable since he enters this start with an ERA over 7.00 and gave up five runs in five innings to the White Sox in his most recent outing. However, there are some reasons to think Smyly can provide good return at this affordable rate. Even in that outing against Chicago, he struck out seven and still managed 12.3 DKFP.
That start was his third for the Phillies, and in his previous two outings, he produced 23.9 DKFP and 26.8 DKFP by dominating the Pirates and the Giants, respectively. He got the win against San Francisco by throwing seven scoreless, four-hit innings and striking out five. Smyly has 20 strikeouts in his 18 innings with Philadelphia and has looked much better than how he looked in his time with the Rangers. If he can continue the success he had against the Giants on July 30, he’ll be an amazing bargain play and has a good shot at a win with the backing of a solid lineup.
OF ARISTIDES AQUINO, CIN vs. CHC, $3,700
Aquino was given his nickname “The Punisher” by his older brother when he was just 12, but an overhauled swing this spring training has helped the 25-year-old become the latest in a long line of productive power prospects to make a splash this season.
He hit 28 home runs in 78 games in Triple-A with a .299 average and a .992 OPS. After being called up, he went 0-for-6 in his first two games in the Majors but has been locked in since then. In his past five games, Aquino is 9-for-16 (.600) with a double, three home runs and a 1.892 OPS. He had 22 DKFP Tuesday and 23 DKFP on Thursday while homering in both home contests. He gets another home matchup against Yu Darvish ($9,200) on Friday. Even though he isn’t as cheap as many of the bargain picks I highlight, his salary will skyrocket if he keeps mashing, so enjoy the affordability and play The Punisher this Friday.
2B LUIS URÍAS, SD vs. COL, $2,900
While some rookies make an instant impact like Aquino, others take some time to adjust. Urías struggled badly when he first joined the Padres but seems to be finding his footing in recent games. There’s no doubt the 22-year-old can hit after he had 19 home runs, 19 doubles, a .315 average and a .998 OPS in 73 games in Triple-A. However, he went a brutal 3-for-48 (.063) in his first 19 games with the Padres.
Since that point, though, he has hit safely in seven straight starts, going 7-for-22 (.318) with a double, a home run and 7.4 DKFP per contest. He still is loaded with potential and comes at a very affordable salary under $3K. He hasn’t shown the ceiling Aquino has impressed with but is a great way to get some production while paying down at one spot to afford big bats elsewhere.
SS JORDY MERCER, DET vs. KC, $3,000
Mercer was the hero last night with a walk-off two-run homer for the Tigers in the ninth. He extended his modest hitting streak to five games with the blast and continued a strong run of play since the All-Star break.
So far in August, Mercer is 9-for-22 (.409) with a pair of home runs, five RBI and a 1.162 OPS. He quietly has been playing well since the break, hitting .301 (22-for-73) with five home runs and a .863 OPS. While he’s buried in the Tigers’ sad lineup, Mercer has shown he can make an impact. Mercer is on a one-year contract with Detroit and could get a better team’s attention for next year if he keeps producing. He missed a huge part of the season with quad injuries but quickly is making up for lost time.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.