This Thursday we’ve got a solid eight-game fantasy baseball slate that should set up for some good action with a favorable weather forecast. Six of the eight games are divisional matchups, so the teams will know each other well for the most part. The two non-divisional contests are the Angels on the East Coast to face the Red Sox and the Phillies continuing their West Coast swing with a stop in San Francisco.
The slate features four pitchers with salaries of $10K or more and four starters with salaries under $6K, indicating attackable matchups for opposing lineups. There are lots of good plays to consider, and here are my favorite plays as studs and values at each spot.
StudAaron Nola, PHI at SF, $10,600 — After a rough start to the season, Nola has found the groove the Phillies were hoping for when they inked him to a bid deal this offseason. He started the season with a 6.84 ERA in his first five starts but has made up for it lately, going 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA over his past nine starts, holding opponents to a .173 average and striking out 73 in 61 1/3 innings. Nola has averaged 26.2 DKFP per start over that span and is coming off an impressive 34.8-DKFP performance in his most recent start against the White Sox. He’s in a good spot against the Giants, who have cooled off after their push to get back into the playoff race and have scored just 18 runs while dropping six of their past seven games. Nola will look to get the Phils back on track after they dropped the final two games of their series in Arizona. Other Options — Chris Sale ($10,000), Domingo Germán ($9,700)
ValueCole Hamels, CHC at CIN, $8,800 — Hamels goes head-to-head with Alex Wood ($7,600) in a matchup of lefties who recently returned from the injured list. Hamels threw five shutout innings with six strikeouts and 20.9 DKFP in his return from an oblique injury last Saturday against Milwaukee, lowering his ERA to 2.84 on the season with 103 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings. It was Hamels’ first start since late June, but he looked sharp and ready to jump back into the front of the Cubs’ rotation and fantasy lineups. Wood looked good his last time out, too, but I prefer Hamels’ matchup against the Reds to Wood’s against the Cubs. While both are good options, I’m paying the extra for Hamels if possible.
Other Options — Alex Wood ($7,600), Jorge López ($4,800)
StudJ.T. Realmuto, PHI at SF, $4,200 — Realmuto has gone 12-for-40 (.300) over his past 10 games with five doubles, two homers, eight RBI and 10.1 DKFP per contest. He is 3-for-6 with a pair of doubles against Madison Bumgarner ($8,400) in his career and has hit lefties well all season. He is batting .305 against southpaws with six of this 15 home runs and a .907 OPS. Realmuto typically hits in the heart of the Phillies’ order and is a great way to get a top bat at a spot that sometimes can be tough. Other Options — Christian Vázquez ($4,300), Victor Caratini ($4,000)
ValueFrancisco Mejía, SD vs. COL, $3,200 — The Padres got Mejía a start Wednesday since they had the DH, and the 23-year-old responded with 20 DKFP by going 3-for-4, including his fifth home run of the year. He has gotten a hit in four straight starts and picked up multiple hits in each of his past three games with multiple at-bats. The Padres could give Mejía more time down the stretch to see if the former top prospect is ready to be a bigger part of their plans next year. Based on his recent results, Mejía seems to be trending the right way.
Other Options — Kyle Higashioka ($3,500), John Hicks ($3,300)
FIRST BASEFreddie Freeman, ATL at MIA, $5,400 — Freeman has been red-hot for the first-place Braves and leads a potent lineup into a good matchup with Elieser Hernández ($5,000). Freeman has homered and produced at least 19 DKFP in three straight contests and has averaged 13.3 DKFP in his past 10 games, going 14-for-37 (.378) with a double, four home runs, 11 RBI and even a stolen base. He usually thrives against Miami and has gone 16-for-47 (.340) with three homers and a 1.074 OPS against the Fish this season. Other Options — Carlos Santana ($4,700), Brandon Dixon ($4,500)
ValueSam Travis, BOS vs. LAA, $3,600 — Travis has been a solid contributor for the Red Sox since rejoining them and becoming their go-to option at 1B against lefties. He has gone 14-for-48 (.292) with three doubles and three home runs over his past 18 games and 10-for-30 (.333) over his past 10. Travis likely will be in the middle of what should be a productive lineup against Dillon Peters ($5,300).
Other Options — C.J. Cron ($3,800), Cheslor Cuthbert ($3,500)
StudJason Kipnis, CLE at MIN, $4,300 — Kipnis had a rough start to the season but has been turning things around lately. He has gone 12-for-37 (.324) over his past 10 games with four doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI and 12.9 DKFP per contest. He has a great career history against Kyle Gibson ($7,800), who he has gone 14-for-34 (.412) with a home run, 12 walks and a 1.124 OPS against. Kipnis has hit safely in seven straight and should be in a good spot to continue his resurgence in Minnesota. Other Options — Ozzie Albies ($4,800), Whit Merrifield ($4,100)
ValueHarold Castro, DET vs. KC, $3,500 — Castro has become a regular part of the top part of the Tigers’ lineup and proven to be a solid on-base option that usually finds ways to contribute. He is hitting .293 over his past 10 games but all 12 of his hits have been singles. He has stolen three bases this season with two home runs, so there is some limited potential for a big game. What Castro provides is steady mid-level production, and he’s in a good matchup against Jorge López ($4,800) and the Royals, making him a relatively low-risk play at this salary.
Other Options — César Hernández ($3,600), Luis Rengifo ($3,400)
StudDJ LeMahieu, NYY at TOR, $5,100 — LeMahieu has been locked in all season and leads the American League with a .335 batting average. In August, he has been even better, hitting .370 with three home runs and 11.3 DKFP per contest. LeMahieu and the Yankees crushed the Orioles to start the week and now will move the party north of the border to face the Blue Jays. Lefty Thomas Pannone ($4,200) will start Thursday, and LeMahieu is an especially good option since he is hitting .370 on the season against southpaws with a 1.044 OPS. He has also crushed the Blue Jays, going 17-for-39 (.436) with a 1.271 OPS. Other Options — Gio Urshela ($4,600)
ValueVladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR vs. NYY, $4,200 — Guerrero is a little pricy compared to my usual value picks, but there aren’t any great ultra-affordable options at the hot corner. Guerrero has been on a tear lately and averaged 15.1 DKFP over his past 10 games by going 19-for-46 (.413) with five doubles, four home runs and 18 RBI. He got Wednesday off but should be back in the cleanup spot against Domingo Germán ($9,700) and the Yankees. Even in that less-than-ideal matchup, Guerrero seems underpriced given his recent roll.
Other Options — Jon Berti ($4,000), Luis Arraez ($3,600)
StudFernando Tatis Jr., SD vs. COL, $5,400 — Tatis homered in both of the Padres’ games in Seattle and now has 21 long-balls on the season to go with an impressive .324 average and .987 OPS. He has been a beast at home all season, hitting .341 at Petco Park with a .998 OPS. He’s an expensive play but has been delivering top-tier numbers throughout his impressive rookie season. Other Options — Xander Bogaerts ($5,200), Bo Bichette ($4,300)
ValueJohan Camargo, ATL at MIA, $3,100 — Camargo is hitting only .217 on the season but will continue to get playing time for Atlanta with Dansby Swanson (foot), Austin Riley (knee) and Nick Markakis (wrist) all on the injured list. Camargo had 11 DKFP on Wednesday night by going 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBI. He has shown flashes of production in the past and is in a good matchup in Miami. He is a career.292 (14-for-48) hitter at Marlins Park with three doubles and a home run.
Other Options — Jean Segura ($3,900), Humberto Arteaga ($2,200)
StudJ.D. Martinez, BOS vs. LAA, $5,300 — Martinez missed Monday with a back issue but has collected multiple hits and an extra-base knock in each of his two games since then. He is 20-for-54 (.370) over the past 15 days with three doubles, 12 RBI and five home runs propelling him to a 1.201 OPS over that span. He has been especially good all season against left-handed pitching, hitting .396 against southpaws, including 14 of his 25 home runs and a 1.365 OPS. He hasn’t faced young Angels lefty Dillon Peters in his career, but Martinez is still a great slugger to target in a plus matchup. Other Options — Ronald Acuña Jr. ($5,600), Cameron Maybin ($4,600)
ValueJosh Naylor, SD vs. COL, $3,500 — The trade of Franmil Reyes ($3,800) to Cleveland opened up playing time in the OF for Naylor, who started four straight games after the trade before coming off the bench Wednesday. Naylor went 4-for-13 during that small sample while flashing his power potential with a double and a home run. The 22-year-old lefty has gone 11-for-36 (.306) in 17 games since July 1 with a .861 OPS. He showed good power potential with a .314 average, 10 homers and a .936 OPS in 54 games in Triple-A before being called up, and San Diego signaled that his time is now by sending Reyes to Cleveland. He’s an affordable way to get some late thump in your lineup.
Other Options — Nicholas Castellanos ($4,200), Aristedes Aquino ($3,800)
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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.