The regular season’s final Thursday slate offers little pitching in an abbreviated catalog. Of the six games featured on FantasyDraft’s evening tilt, Gerrit Cole is the only veritable ace taking the hill. The Astros already wrapped up the AL West and home-field advantage in their ALDS series against Cleveland, so don’t be surprised if he gets an early hook in an inconsequential game. If he only works four or fewer frames, anyone who spent $24,700 on him is toast.
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I had a whole section written about Jon Lester before realizing I’d rather play his opponent. Trevor Williams has posted an unbelievable 1.08 ERA—seriously, I’m still convinced FanGraphs made a typo—in 11 second-half starts. A lack of whiffs had capped his upside, but he has made significant progress on that front by filing 32 strikeouts in his last 29.2 frames. The Cubs are limping to the finish line with some of baseball’s worst offensive results this month. Also, he’s $600 cheaper than Lester. Chicago’s southpaw, however, comes with the security of his start’s sizable playoff ramifications.
Honorable Mention: Jon Lester ($18,500) vs. PIT
I don’t feel great about this pick. Julio Teheran is touting the highest walk rate (11.8 %) of his career by a hefty margin after issuing 13 free passes in his past three starts. Contrary to last season, he hasn’t upped his game on the road (4.13 ERA). Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario are also honoring the annual tradition of giving Mets fans false hope before getting crushed anew with innovative combinations of misfortune and incompetence. Well, here goes nothing. The other options are even more unappetizing, and the righty has registered a 3.13 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 54.2 innings since the start of August. Maybe it wouldn’t be so crazy to play the dueling Williams and Lester.
The Twins have not declared a starter as of late Wednesday, but Stephen Gonsalves is in line to either start or follow an opener. If Nicholas Castellanos is playing a bad lefty, start him. He’s batting .390/.442/.589 against southpaws and .383/.441/.630 in September. Gonsalves holds a 6.75 ERA with more walks (14) than strikeouts (18) in 21.1 frames. Righties have registered a 38.2 % line-drive rate against the rookie. Don’t overthink this. Go ahead and pair him with Jeimer Candelario ($7,800), who carries a .363 wOBA against lefties and has settled into Detroit’s leadoff slot.
IF Ryan O’Hearn ($8,500) vs. Cleveland Indians (RHP Josh Tomlin)
Already looking ahead to next week, Cleveland may just let Josh Tomlin take one for the team. The righty has relinquished a 6.44 ERA that is somehow significantly lower than his 7.34 FIP. Lefties are hitting .365/.412/.738 with a .479 wOBA against him. No single player has exceeded that wOBA in a single season since Barry Bonds (.537) in 2004. He might have trouble against Ryan O’Hearn, who has crushed righties with a smothering .343/.435/.778 slash line. His .497 wOBA against righties is the highest of any hitter with at least 100 plate appearances. Tomlin may only last four innings, but two chances may be plenty for Kansas City’s first baseman to circle the bases.
Elvis Andrus is ending an ugly year in uglier fashion. Batting .194 (14-for-72) in September, the once reliable speedster has not stolen a base since July 22. Yet he’s a career .285/.350/.396 hitter against lefties who has maintained a respectable .327 wOBA against them during his 2018 doldrums. Even if he’s just an average player with little power or pop facing a solid Marco Gonzales, he’s still worth a look for $6,300. Other hitters assigned the same price: Matt den Dekker, Lane Adams, and Martin Maldonado.
I nearly highlighted Jason Vargas as my value pitcher. He has overcome a horrendous start to weave a 4.37 second-half ERA. He has even recorded 31 strikeouts in his last five turns. Yet righties are still batting .296/.351/.538 against the southpaw, and some of Atlanta’s young stars are cheaper than one would expect given the matchup.
- OF Ronald Acuna ($9,700): The sensational rookie has rocked lefties to a .411 wOBA. No team has allowed more steals than the Mets, so he’s well worth the price of admission.
- IF Ozzie Albies ($8,400): While the anchoring effect may overinflate his 2018 success, the All-Star second baseman has batted .339/.361/.557 against lefties. He has rediscovered some pop with two homers in his last five games and is also a threat to run if he reaches base.
- IF Johan Camargo ($7,200): Pretty cheap considering the third baseman’s .500 slugging % and .358 wOBA against southpaws. Is there anyone with a 3.0 fWAR appreciated less than Camargo?
Honorable Mentions: Royals vs. Indians (Tomlin); Mariners vs. Rangers (Jurado)