We have six games on the schedule Thursday night, including a high-profile pitching matchup in New York. There are only two games in the afternoon, so we will focus on the evening slate for your FanDuel lineups tonight.
Chris Sale – CWS @ MIN - $10,000 - Chris Sale is the top pitcher on the board Thursday night, coming in as a strong favorite on the MLB odds board against Minnesota. He faced the Twins in his first start of the year and struck out eight batters in six innings, and he should continue to get stronger as the season progresses. Sale is an elite strikeout pitcher; he struck out 10.8 batters per 9 innings in 2014 while maintaining an elite walk rate the past two years. He is both a safe cash game pitcher as well as a high upside tournament play.
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Stephen Strasburg – WAS @ NYM - $9,200 – The slow start for Strasburg is a little concerning for cash games, as you want to be able to count on consistent performances from high-priced pitchers. But on a tough day for pitching, he is still an elite tournament option. He has been bit by a .403 BABIP (which will be coming down), and though he hasn’t yet looked as dominant as we’ve seen in the past, he still has 23 K and 7 BB in 24 innings of work.
Victor Martinez – DET @ KC - $3,500 – I don’t like to pick on Kansas City’s Danny Duffy too much, but this is a tough matchup for him. He dominates left-handed hitters, but the Tigers can present him a right-handed heavy lineup with no easy outs. Martinez posted a silly .476 wOBA against LHP in 2014. He has struggled coming out of the gate this season, but has remained strong against left-handed pitching.
Russell Martin – TOR @ CLE - $3,200 - Get ready to read about a lot of Blue Jays right-handed bats against T.J. House. House struggled with a .357 wOBA against RHB last season, and so far this season, he looks lost on the mound with just 7 K and 9 BB. He has allowed 14 ER in just 10 innings, and this matchup is not promising for him to turn it around. With the injury to Jose Reyes, Martin has been moved up in the lineup, giving him more at-bats in the heart of a great lineup.
Edwin Encarnacion - TOR @ CLE - $4,000 – This is just a terrible matchup for House. He does not have a good history against RHB, and the Blue Jays come fully loaded from the right side of the plate. Encarnacion has an incredible history of elite plate discipline against left-handed pitching and a wOBA of .372 or higher for the past three seasons.
Freddie Freeman – ATL vs CIN - $3,400 – Freeman always seems to go overlooked at first base, but he is doing his best to get noticed, with four straight multi-hit games. Cincinnati’s Mike Leake runs into most of his trouble against left-handed hitters. He allowed a .352 wOBA to LHB last season, and his strikeout rate dipped dramatically against lefties.
Jose Altuve – HOU vs SEA - $4,400 – Altuve has picked up right where he left off in 2014 and is showing no signs of slowing down. He has seven straight multi-hit games and 8 SB in the month of April. Seattle’s James Paxton was a much weaker pitcher against RHB in 2014 and his biggest strength is a high ground ball rate, which plays into Altuve’s hands.
Robinson Cano – SEA @ HOU - $3,500 - After a couple of days against left-handed pitching, it is time to get Cano back in your lineups, as he’s facing a very hittable right-handed pitcher in Scott Feldman. Cano is an elite hitter against RHP, posting a .382 wOBA in 2014, and has an 89% contact rate against righties the past two years. Feldman’s low strikeout rate is not a good match against a hitter of Cano’s caliber.
Josh Donaldson – TOR @ CLE - $4,200 – Of all the Blue Jays bats, Donaldson is my highest priority play for Thursday. He simply crushes left-handed pitching; he posted a .429 wOBA in 2014 and a .442 wOBA in 2013. He has homered once every 13 at-bats against LHP the past two seasons, and in a small sample size this season, he’s batting .500 with a 1.155 OPS.
Todd Frazier – CIN @ ATL - $3,700 – Frazier had a reverse split in his breakout 2014 season, posting a .355 wOBA against right-handed pitching and hit 25 of his 29 HR against righties. Atlanta starter Shelby Miller has skated by so far this season despite a low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. His BABIP and HR/FB% are likely to regress soon.
Alexei Ramirez – CWS @ MIN – $2,600 - Shortstop is the toughest position to fill on Thursday night with very few options even worth considering. The White Sox should be able to put a few runs on the board against Trevor May, and Ramirez is virtually an identical hitter against right-handed pitching the past two seasons. He is tough to strikeout and should be able to get some good swings against the inexperienced May.
Zack Cozart – CIN @ ATL - $2,300 – Cozart is typically not a player to look towards, but he has had a very strong start to the season with 4 HR and RBI in the early going. Atlanta’s Shelby Miller is going to start giving up some runs, and at near minimum salary, Cozart offers some upside in a potent Cincinnati offense.
Jose Bautista – TOR @ CLE - $5,000 – Yes, another Blue Jays right-handed batter! There’s not much more to say about the poor matchup for House - this should get ugly. As for Bautista, he had a ridiculous .461 wOBA against lefties last year and has homered once every 12 at-bats against LHP the past two seasons.
Nelson Cruz – SEA @ HOU - $5,000 – Cruz needs to be mentioned as a potential play every day right now - his hot start cannot be overlooked. He has hit 10 HR in April and reached base in all but two games. Houston’s Scott Feldman doesn’t show any extreme splits, as he is just as hittable against right-handed bats. I will probably stay off of Cruz at this price in cash games, but he has as much tournament upside as anyone in the game right now.
J.D. Martinez – DET @ KC - $3,400 – It’s easy to forget about Martinez when he’s hitting around the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. The matchup with Danny Duffy suits him well, as all of Duffy’s troubles come against right-handed batters. Martinez is a lefty killer; he posted a .425 wOBA against lefties in 2014 with a HR every 13 at-bats.
Melky Cabrera/Adam Eaton – CWS @ MIN - $2,600 – The top two hitters in the White Sox lineup both have the platoon advantage against Minnesota’s Trevor May. Both Cabrera and Eaton have very solid on-base skills to give the youngster troubles today, and the big bats in the Chicago lineup will be ready to hit them in. I would rank Cabrera slightly ahead of Eaton as he’s had the stronger start and a bigger edge in the lefty-righty matchup, but both make solid plays tonight.