There are 12 games to be played this Thursday, split into a four game early contest and an eight game late contest. The game in Baltimore is threatened by scattered storms.
Building the ideal stack is an exercise in optimization. For example, I'm tempted to highlight the Angels versus Colby Lewis, but Angels hitters cost a lot. There's probably a better value proposition out there. Conversely, the Mariners offense might let Yohan Pino off the hook. The matchup is good, but not worthy of a full write up here. Today is a tough one for stacking, despite that few starting pitchers are desirable.
Ultimately, I let the ballpark pick my target for today. We're headed to Great American Ballpark. Newbie Kyle Hendricks will make his major league debut for the Cubs today. He posted solid numbers in Triple-A including a 3.59 ERA, 8.50 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9. The command and control specialist possesses an underwhelming fastball. Such pitchers sometimes flop at the major league level. The Reds offense is a bit pricey, but it's more affordable than my alternative - the Brewers against David Buchanan. This particular stack has a very specific use case - GPPs and large tournaments. That's usually true, but this one smells particularly hit or miss.
Jose Abreu - CWS: The top power hitter in baseball will face one of the best left-handed starters in Jon Lester. Abreu is showing a slight reverse platoon split this season, but the sample is tiny. Reverse platoon splits rarely hold up beyond one season, so let's not make a big deal out of this one. Regardless of split, Abreu will turn his aim to the Green Monster. He could golf a couple over or smash several singles off the facing.
Adrian Beltre - TEX: Speaking of splits, Beltre hits lefties better than righties. Of course, he also hits righties very well, so the platoon advantage isn't a big deal with him. That's a good thing for this particular matchup. Hector Santiago is unlikely to last more than four or five innings, so Beltre will probably be facing right-handers after his first two plate appearances.
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Anthony Rizzo - CHC: Rizzo is quietly turning in a strong season with a lousy Cubs team. The slugger is on pace to shatter his career best 23 home runs from last season. Homer Bailey has recovered from a poor start to the season, but he's always allowed his share of home runs. Rizzo, Bailey, and Great American Ballpark blend to make home run cocktail.
Salvador Perez - KAN: Perez has settled in as a steady, above average hitter. You can't ask for much more out of a catcher. He's affordable today against Drew Smyly. Proponents of the hot hand will like his performance over the last 10 games, which includes two home runs and three multi-hit games. He has a big platoon split over his career, but it's been reversed this season in a small sample.
Jason Kipnis - CLE: I like to use slumping stars because they offer so much upside. Kipnis can do a bit of everything. He'll face David Phelps at Progressive Field. The Indians park is deceptively friendly to left-handed hitters, and Phelps doesn't do much to prevent home runs. The ingredients are there for a monster day.
Oscar Taveras - STL: We discussed Taveras on Tuesday, and he's posted two multi-hit games since then. He still carries a dirt cheap price, but a couple more good games will have him in the bulk category. A start against Edinson Volquez isn't anything to avoid.
Danny Valencia - KAN: With the Royals facing Tigers southpaw Smyly, Valencia is likely to start. He's hit well against left-handers throughout his career and 2014 has been no different - .358/.375/.528. He could be pulled once Smyly leaves the game.
Scott Kazmir - OAK: Clayton Kershaw is the obvious top pitcher today, but who can afford him? After Kershaw comes Kazmir. There's no point mincing over the details; he's pitched well this season. He brings you innings, strikeouts, and a good chance for a win. He's affordable enough that you can roster some decent hitters. He'll pitch at super pitcher friendly AT&T Park.
Aaron Harang - ATL: I felt bad picking Harang's name off the list today. The factors I usually consider - talent, matchup, park, and innings - pointed to Harang, but he's definitely an iffy pick. Earlier this season, he mysteriously added a couple strikeouts per nine innings without any statistical explanation. Those punch outs have disappeared over the last month. The good results he posted went with them. Harang is no more talented than a half dozen other pitchers, but a matchup against the Mets at CitiField is one of the best out there. Harang's last outing was pretty blah, but he pitched eight innings and picked up a win. Mediocrity can help you to a win, so long as there's a lot of it.
Odrisamer Despaigne - SDP: This is a terrible day to cheap out on pitching. I very nearly picked Despaigne as the guy to stack against tonight, which should show my comfort level with him. If I had, Hendricks would probably be in this spot, so keep that in mind if you're dead set on a cheap starter. I look for one thing in my low cost pitchers - innings. Innings bring points in three ways - the innings themselves, more strikeout opportunities, and a better chance for a win. Of the cheapos today, Despaigne is probably the most likely to pitch seven frames. His first three major league starts have not been encouraging. A 0.92 ERA is great, but he's only struck out 6.9 percent of batters (2.29 K/9). To make matters worse, he's walked 11 percent of hitters (3.66 BB/9). It's impossible to pitch well with those numbers, but that's what he'll have to do in order to defeat Kershaw today.