Our experts are here to provide the best hitters and pitchers for you to build your daily fantasy baseball lineups around on Thursday.
Today's panel includes ESPN Fantasy's Leo Howell, Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe.
Hitters to build around
James Shields has allowed the sixth-most home runs among all pitchers since the start of the 2016 season, and Judge is hitting a home run in just over eight percent of his plate appearances this season, second-most in baseball (behind Cody Bellinger, also a great option Thursday). However, unlike Bellinger and other leading sluggers, Judge also hits for average and gets on base via walks, leading to the best OPS in the league. Since the start of last season, Shields has allowed the second-highest OPS among qualified pitchers. This is a DFS match made in heaven.
This is a common stack for me against righties, and considering that JC Ramirez has been among the worst against left-handed bats this season, this is a no-brainer for me. We all know what Pederson is, so I will focus on Utley and his reasonable price tag. His strikeout rate has dipped in a significant way against RHPs this season, and he is typically used as the leadoff hitter of this explosive offense. Speaking of leadoff hitters, they are reaching base nearly 45 percent of the time against Ramirez this season. Yes, please! The Dodgers should produce plenty of runs tonight, and the price point of both these players is worth it.
Homer Bailey is making his second start of the season following an embarrassing 2017 debut over the weekend, when he gave up eight runs and lasted only 1 2/3 innings against Washington. Bailey hasn't been healthy since 2014, and even then, he logged only 145 2/3 innings. This is a perfect matchup for a big left-handed bat like Shaw's, and let's not forget that Shaw is batting .315 with 14 home runs, 15 doubles and a .973 OPS vs. RHPs this season. The good thing about Brewers-Reds games, too, is that no matter the home team, the game is played in a hitter's park.
Pitchers to build around
Leo Howell -- Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even a "struggling" Kershaw is a superior option to every other pitcher in daily fantasy baseball, and his six innings of shutout baseball pitched against the Rockies in his last start is a reminder of what he can do at his best. The home run has been one of the biggest problems for Kershaw this season, but the Angels have the worst home run rate against lefties in all of baseball, along with a bottom-10 OPS against southpaws. Spend up on a bat or two, lock in Kershaw and then find bargains to round out your lineup.
Listen, I could spew positive Kershaw stats at you all day, but what good does that do? He is among the best to ever do it, and in a matchup with the Mike Trout-less Angles, he is the top play. But if you need an SP2 or just want to get cute on a one-pitcher site, why not consider Garcia? "Pitcher opposing San Diego" is often an elite option, and at this price point, Garcia is tough to turn down. He has completed at least six innings in 10 of 14 starts this season and has managed to allow no more than two earned runs in seven of those outings. Garcia has been a force on the road this season, and there is no better environment to pitch at than Petco Park.
Happ is affordable on Thursday, and he's sure to be lower-owned than the higher-priced bigger names like Kershaw and David Price. Always a force at home, Happ has settled in nicely of late, with at least six innings in each of his last three starters while allowing only four runs in that span, striking out 22 and walking just one. Baltimore is slightly above average against southpaws this season, but if you believe in Happ's success at Rogers Centre since he became a Blue Jay, there is reason to be bullish about the veteran lefty tonight.