This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Thursday not only brings a limited schedule, but it will also feature mostly day games. The afternoon will be highlighted by a battle between the Yankees and Astros. Let's dig into the matchups and discuss some players to consider for your entries.
The star pitcher for this slate is Gerrit Cole ($10,500), who is set to face his former squad. He's been as good as it gets, allowing two earned runs or fewer in each of his first six starts. Maybe even more impressive is that he has 62 strikeouts compared to just three walks over 37.2 innings. In fact, two of his three walks came in his season debut, so his control has really been stellar. While his salary will do a number on your budget, he's the most appealing option on the board.
Zack Wheeler ($9,600) has improved his control from the early stages of his career, which has helped him record a WHIP of 1.26 or lower in each of the last three seasons. He's off to another great start in that department this season with a 1.11 WHIP. Add that with him allowing 0.9 HR/9 for his career and he's an appealing pitcher despite his limited strikeout upside. He also has a favorable matchup against the Brewers, who entered Wednesday with the seventh-worst OPS in baseball.
One of the few teams that has been worse than the Brewers is the Tigers, who entered Wednesday with a .601 OPS. Not only is that the worst mark in baseball, but it's more than 50 points lower than the next worst team, which is the Pirates with a .655 OPS. That means this could be the day to take a chance on Nathan Eovaldi ($8,400), who has a 1.15 WHIP and hasn't allowed a single home runs through his first six starts.
Jon Lester ($6,400) made it through five scoreless innings in his season debut last week, but his outing wasn't exactly anything to write home about. He did it against a compromised Marlins' lineup and he recorded only one strikeout along the way. He'll be facing a much tougher task trying to slow down the Braves, specifically Ronald Acuna Jr. ($5,500). For his career, Acuna has a .279 ISO and a .399 wOBA against left-handed pitchers.
Danny Duffy ($8,800) is off to an excellent start with a 0.60 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP across five outings. His FIP is considerably higher, but it's still very good at 2.61. He has a 95.4 percent strand rate, which isn't likely to hold up as the season wears on given that he has a 75.2 percent mark for his career. He's also allowed at least 1.5 HR/9 in back-to-back seasons, which makes the duo of Jose Ramirez ($5,700) and Franmil Reyes ($4,500) appealing for their matchup against him.
Nate Lowe ($3,600) has been a bright spot for the Rangers, recording a .198 ISO and a .365 wOBA entering play Wednesday. For his young career, he has impressive numbers with a 46.3 percent hard-hit rate and a 13.0 percent barrel rate. While he does have some strikeout issues, that shouldn't be a problem for this matchup with Michael Pineda ($7,500), who has recorded a strikeout rate of 23.3 percent or lower in each of the last three seasons.
Going back to the Braves' matchup against Lester, Austin Riley ($3,900) could also provide value. Known more for his power, he only had a .124 ISO entering Wednesday. However, his walk rate has jumped up to 10.4 percent, helping propel him to a .376 wOBA. While he only has a career .313 wOBA against right-handed pitchers, that mark sits at .340 versus lefties.
Stacks to Consider
Turnbull is coming off of a disappointing start against the Yankees in which he allowed four runs and had only one strikeout over five innings. He has a 1.38 WHIP for his career, so he could be in trouble against the potent Red Sox lineup. Verdugo has certainly started off the season on a high note, posting a .382 wOBA and a 147 wRC+. He's shown an excellent eye at the plate, leaving him with an 8.6 percent walk rate and a minuscule 12.9 percent strikeout rate. You'll need to keep an eye out for his status, though, given that he was scratched from Wednesday's lineup with lower-back tightness. The good news is that it doesn't appear to be a serious issue since he is listed as day-to-day.
Lyles had a disastrous 2020 campaign, finishing with a 7.02 ERA and a 5.95 FIP. He's off to a similar start to 2021 with a 7.39 ERA and a 6.14 FIP, which doesn't exactly bode well for his prognosis moving forward. His problem has been keeping hitters inside the ball park considering that he's allowed 45 home runs across 226.2 innings since the start of 2019. That could end up being his downfall against this powerful Twins' trio.
Smyly has allowed at least four runs in each of his first four starts, so it's no surprise that's he's struggled on a couple of fronts. First, he has a 1.53 WHIP. Second, he's allowed nine home runs across 19 innings. In his last full season, he allowed a whopping 32 home runs across 114 innings in 2019. Expect Zimmerman to make his way into the lineup for this game given that he has a career .391 wOBA against left-handed pitchers.