The end of the MLB regular season is near and the playoff push is now or never.
For the here and now, however, let’s take a look at tonight’s seven-game main MLB slate and see if we can get our week started on the right note!
P – Jose Berrios (MIN) – $8,500 vs. CWS
To me, the best matchups on the slate are Jose Berrios at home against the White Sox and Robbie Ray at home against the light-hitting Marlins. With that in mind, a quick view of Ray’s game logs shows some serious inability to get deep into games of late, none more obvious than his last outing in which he allowed five earned runs in just two thirds of an inning against the Mets. The Marlins also don’t strikeout as much against lefties as they do righties, so I will go with Berrios and his big-time strikeout upside against this White Sox club. Sure, his 8.60 K/9 on the season is nothing to write home about, and that number actually drops to 8.25 at home. However, Berrios takes on a White Sox club that sports a 26.1% strikeout rate against right-handed pitching this season, tied for the second-highest strikeout rate versus righties in baseball this season. Berrios has always been a superior pitcher at home in his career, and while the splits aren’t quite as wide this season thanks to some yeoman’s work on the road, I’m not about to argue with a 3.32 ERA, 3.60 FIP and a tiny 1.93 BB/9 clip at home this season. Berrios is also coming off of seven shutout innings in a win over the Nationals, so I’ll look for him to get the job done against the White Sox tonight with the Twins listed as -230 favorites to win this one on the moneyline.
C/1B – Yasmani Grandal (MIL) – $3,200 vs. SD
The Brewers will continue their big for a postseason berth tonight when they take on the San Diego Padres at the hitter-friendly Miller Park in Milwaukee. The Brewers should certainly be able to get some runs across the board in this one as they take on right-hander Garrett Richards as he takes the ball for the first time in the big leagues since last July. There’s little doubt the oft-injured Richards has been a very good MLB pitcher – when healthy – as he owns a career 3.54 ERA and 3.62 FIP, however Richards has thrown just 9.1 minor league innings this season and most recently posted a 8.10 ERA across 6.2 innings at the High-A level. He won’t last long in this one either way, but there’s a good chance the Brewers get to him early in this one, so let’s grab some Milwaukee exposure beginning here with the switch-hitting Grandal. The bat has been better against left-handed pitching this season, but Grandal’s numbers against righties remain very good with a .207 ISO, .832 OPS, .356 wOBA and a 117 wRC+. It’s also been a massive month of September to this point for the veteran backstop as he’s posted an eye-popping .429 ISO, 1.195 OPS, .478 wOBA and a 197 wRC+. Let’s look for him to stay hot in a favorable home matchup tonight.
2B – Ketel Marte (ARI) – $3,900 vs. MIA
This was actually the last pick of my lineup tonight as I had $4,000 left to spend on a second baseman after filling in my stacks, meaning I could have any second baseman on the slate, and why not go with the best option available in Marte who is putting up MVP-type production this season in what has amounted to a breakout year. I actually considered a D-backs stack in this lineup, but Marte will be a one-off as Arizona is a much better offense against left-handed pitching than righties, and they’ll face a righty in Pablo Lopez who has struggled on the road this season. The switch-hitting Marte has actually posted very similar splits against lefties and righties this season has been best against right-handed pitching at home, which is the split he will be in this evening. Marte owns a .250 ISO, .975 OPS, .404 wOBA and a 150 wRC+ on the season against right-handed pitchers overall. Against righties at home, Marte has posted a .264 ISO, 1.015 OPS, .419 wOBA and a 160 wRC+. Not only is Marte in his best split tonight, but he’s also enjoying the most productive month of his excellent season as he’s posted a .358 ISO, 1.167 OPS, .474 wOBA and a 195 wRC+ in the month of September to this point. Sign me up all day long.
3B – Mike Moustakas (MIL) – $3,300 vs. SD
Continuing with our three-man Brewers stack is Moustakas who is once again having a big season in terms of power against right-handed pitching, although he’s handled left-handers with plenty of power as well, so I won’t be concerned with matchup issues against left-handed relievers when Richards departs this game early – which is a certainty given his tiny workload this season and long injury history. The man known as Moose enters this one sporting a .283 ISO, .880 OPS, .360 wOBA and 120 wRC+ on the season against right-handed pitching. However, against lefties, he’s posted a .245 ISO, .841 OPS, .348 wOBA and 112 wRC+. For whatever reason, Moustakas’ bat as been more productive outside of the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park in Milwaukee, but the good news is the raw power remains excellent at home with a .242 ISO overall and an increased .253 mark against right-handed pitching at home. A common theme in this lineup has been a red-hot month of September, and Moustakas is no exception. The veteran slugger has posted a massive .391 ISO, .986 OPS, .377 wOBA and a 131 wrC+ for the month to this point. With three homers over his last five games, sign me up for the power bat of Moustakas this evening.
SS – Nico Hoerner (CHC) – $3,700 vs. CIN
My main stack in this lineup tonight is going to be the banged-up Cubs as they take on right-hander Kevin Gausman and the Cincinnati Reds. Now, while Gausman is going to start, it’s not clear how long they plan to pitch him for tonight as he’s been used out of the bullpen since bringing him in off of waivers from the Atlanta Braves. He has been hit hardest as a starter with a 6.19 ERA on the season in situations such as tonight with better luck as a reliever with a 4.02 mark. Nonetheless, the Cubs certainly have something to work with tonight despite missing Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez from the starting lineup. It’s been a productive start to the career of Nico Hoerner as he’s clubbed a pair of homers across the first seven games of his big league career and owns a .379/.438/.655 slash line through the first 32 plate appearances in the bigs so far. Interestingly, Hoerner didn’t hit for much power at the Double-A level this season he homered just three times and posted a small .116 ISO in 70 games at that level, but he absolutely rocketed through the Cubs’ minor league system as he was the 24th overall pick just over a year ago in the June 2018 draft. Clearly, big things are expected here and Hoerner has not disappointed early on.
OF – Ben Zobrist (CHC) – $2,700 vs. CIN
Zobrist will be the one leading off this Cubs stack tonight as he gives us some value upside in that valuable leadoff spot. The 38-year-old veteran has missed most of the season and appeared in just 36 games to this point due to personal issues, and we already know that the power isn’t what it used to be years ago as he has just one homer in 133 big league plate appearances on the season and hit just nine in 139 games last season. That said, the bat is still very much productive as he put together a very nice .355 wOBA and 123 wRC+ just last season on the back of a big walk rate and tiny strikeout rate. The OBP numbers remain strong this season at .368 thanks to a big 13.5% walk rate which interestingly matches his 13.5% strikeout rate. Despite a tough year that includes a 5.83 ERA, Gausman has actually kept the walks in check at 2.82 BB/9, however I still believe this is a real avenue for Zobrist to get on base and score some runs in this one – delivering us some value in the process. There’s also the case of Zobrist absolutely owning Gausman in their history against one another. He’s gone 8 for 13 (.615) with a homer and four doubles against the veteran right-hander. I believe I will take that out of the valuable leadoff spot tonight.
OF – Nicholas Castellanos (CHC) – $3,700 vs. CIN
Castellanos was always a productive hitter in his days with the Detroit Tigers, however he has entered another stratosphere in his Cubs tenure after being dealt to Chicago at the trade deadline. After posting a .189 ISO and .790 OPS with the Tigers, Castellanos has caught fire with his new club, posting a .354 ISO, 1.070 OPS with hitting .343 with the Cubs. He homered 11 times with the Tigers this season in 439 plate appearances, but has already homered 15 times with the Cubs in just 175 plate appearances. He’s also been a doubles machine wherever he’s played this season as he’s doubled 54 times on the season including 17 times with the Cubs in just 42 games. The production has been sky-high even of late as he’s gone 7 for 13 (.538) with five doubles, a homer, six runs scored and six RBI over his last three games. Is that good? The numbers have also been lights out against both left and right-handers after he was primarily a lefty-masher while with the Tigers. Castellanos has also enjoyed success against Gausman as he’s 4 for 15 against him (.267), but with two homers and a double, good for a .467 ISO and 1.046 OPS in this matchup. Once again, sign me up all day with the white-hot Castellanos.
OF – Kyle Schwarber (CHC) – $3,200 vs. CIN
Completing our four-man Cubs stack is Schwarber who is projected to move into the cleanup spot tonight thanks to the injuries to Rizzo and Baez. Schwarber’s bat certainly fits the profile as a cleanup hitter as he sports some of the best raw power in baseball. The power is strong against both lefties and righties – which helps for when the remainder of the bullpen enters this one – but the bat is far more productive against righties as he owns a .285 ISO, .851 OPS, .348 wOBA and 113 wRC+ on the season versus righties. He’s been an absolute monster at home versus righties as well where he owns a .312 ISO, .932 OPS, .379 wOBA and 133 wRC+. How about the month of September? Is he mashing like most of the players in this lineup? The answer is yes. Schwarber has pummeled opposing pitchers to the tune of a .333 ISO, .959 OPS, .386 wOBA and 138 wRC+ for the month, continuing a torrid second half in which he’s put together a .351 ISO, .935 OPS, .380 wOBA and 134 wRC+. It’s a small sample, but Schwarber is 1 for 2 with a home run in his career against Gausman. Finally, while I was hesitant to stack against the Reds earlier in the season due to their bullpen ranking in the top five, that’s no longer the case as the Reds’ ‘pen is tied for 22nd with a 5.00 ERA in the season’s second half. Big hopes for this four-man stack tonight.
UTIL – Eric Thames (MIL) – $2,700 vs. SD
It took a while, but I will finally complete my three-man Brewers stack with Thames who brings some real nice value to the table considering his price and his power – most of which comes against right-handed pitching. Thames enters this one tonight sporting a .264 ISO, .874 OPS, .361 wOBA and 121 wRC+ on the season against right-handed pitching. The production has picked up a couple notches at home as well as Thames has posted a .281 ISO, .934 OPS, .385 wOBA and 136 wRC+ on the season against righties at Miller Park. It hasn’t been a terribly productive September for the power-hitting Thames, but that power has remained with a strong .211 ISO for the month. Below standards? Yes. However, it’s still a strong number nonetheless. After going his last five games without a hit, Thames went 2 for 5 with a double and a run scored in yesterday’s game against the Cardinals, so perhaps a hot stretch has begun. Not only are the Brewers facing a pitcher that hasn’t pitched in the big leagues in more than a year, but they’ll also face the league’s 19th-ranked bullpen afterwards, so I like the chances of this three-man stack to put some runs on the board in this one.