As usual, Saturday offers a split slate. Nine games feature an afternoon start time, while six contests won't get underway until the evening. Fortunately, there are enough aces to go around. Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg anchor the early slate, while Clayton Kershaw will throw his first pitch under the lights.
To the surprise of no one, Kershaw again finds himself on top of the projected Game Score heap, with a home start against the Braves. It's a matchup that, on paper, doesn't even look fair. Kershaw is pitching out of his mind right now. His 1.56 ERA and 0.65 WHIP are both best in baseball, his K/BB ratio is an absurd 21:1, and he's whiffed double-digit batters in seven of his past eight starts. The Braves, meanwhile, are the worst team in baseball against left-handed pitching (59 wRC+) and strike out 23 percent of the time. Don't overthink it. Pay up in cash games.
Strasburg isn't Kershaw, but he also finds himself in an enviable spot Saturday. Although the Washington right-hander will be hitting the road and going to the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, he'll be facing a Reds team that struck out at a 23 percent clip in May and is a bottom-five team against righty pitching (78 wRC+). For his part, Strasburg's 11.0 K/9 is top five in MLB, and he's thrived on the road this season, sporting a 1.64 ERA in five starts. He's the top option in the early slate.
Next up is Sale, who draws a road start against Detroit. Despite a lineup stacked with righty sluggers, the Tigers have been below average against left-handed pitching this season while striking out nearly 24 percent of the time, so the matchup sets up better for the Chicago lefty than you might think. Sale's upside isn't what it once was, as he's pitching more to contact this season, but he still carries an incredibly high floor for cash games.
Junior Guerra has done well for himself since sliding into the Brewers' starting rotation, putting up a 3.47 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in six starts while whiffing nearly a batter per inning. While he's taken advantage of some weak lineups (Braves and Padres), he's also tossed quality starts against both the Cardinals and Cubs, the two highest-scoring teams in baseball. On Saturday, he's in a fine spot against a Phillies team that can't hit righty pitching (.284 wOBA) and sports an above-average strikeout rate.
Jeff Samardzija has been a rock-solid cash option this season. Although he underwhelmed in a prime matchup against Atlanta his last time out, Shark had allowed only six runs in his previous five starts combined, while showing good control and missing a fair number of bats. The right-hander finds himself in a tough spot Saturday, as the Cardinals have been the toughest team in the National League against righties (.348 wOBA). There could be some tournament appeal here because he figures to be low-owned, but you're better off paying for one of the aces in cash games.
Jason Hammel finds himself in a similar spot. A matchup against the Diamondbacks, who rank top five in the NL in runs scored, figures to be a challenge. That said, the righty has been super reliable this season, allowing more than three runs just once in 10 starts. He hasn't pitched nearly as well as his 2.09 ERA indicates, but he's always a good bet for a win, with the Cubs' offense supporting him, and he misses enough bats (8.0 K/9) to keep him in the SP2 conversation.
Since joining the Rays' rotation, Matt Andriese has put up a 2.36 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in five starts. He's benefited from some good luck, and his 5.2 K/9 tells us the upside is pretty much non-existent. Still, he's finding a way to make it work, and he should be able to continue that success against the Twins, who sported the second-worst wOBA (.301) in the American League in May while whiffing at a 23 percent clip.
Ervin Santana, available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues, finds himself in a very appealing spot with a home start against Tampa Bay. Although the Rays are only slightly below average against right-handed pitching, they strike out at a bloated 26 percent clip. Santana has battled some start-to-start inconsistency this season, though he's allowed more than three earned runs only once in nine starts.
After getting roughed up his last couple of times out, Chad Bettis' ERA now sits at 5.46, which tells you there's some risk here. Of course, getting roughed up at Coors Field is one thing. Facing the Padres at Petco Park is another. Against a Padres team that sports an MLB-worst .275 wOBA against right-handed pitching and whiffs nearly 25 percent of the time at Petco, Bettis is at least worth consideration as a streaming option.
Dan Straily has been surprisingly effective for the Reds this season. The walk rate is a little high, but he's missing enough bats to matter (8.4 K/9) and he's done a good job keeping both right- and left-handed batters in check. Remove his start at Coors Field, and he's yet to allow more than three runs in a start this season. A free agent in 88 percent of leagues, Straily is a decent bet against a Nationals team that's below average versus righty pitching.
After a rough April (6.65 ERA), Collin McHugh settled down in May (3.83 ERA). He's been particularly effective during his past three outings, in which he's whiffed 26 batters in 21 1/3 innings. The A's don't strike out much against right-handed pitching, but they also don't hit much, either. Look for McHugh to continue his recent stretch of success Saturday. He's still a free agent in nearly 40 percent of leagues.
At this point, it's wise to avoid almost any pitcher starting against the Red Sox, who own the best record in the AL and put up an MLB-best .382 wOBA in May. Marcus Stroman is no exception. He's been hit hard of late, and his two starts against Boston this season have not gone well (12 ER in 10 2/3 innings). He doesn't even strike out enough hitters (6.2 K/9) to warrant tournament consideration.
The lowest projected Game Score of the day belongs to Mike Pelfrey, who has been hammered by both right- (.385 wOBA) and left-handed (.393 wOBA) bats this season. You'll definitely want some exposure to White Sox bats in this one. Boppers Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier are the most intriguing, even though they lack the platoon advantage.
Justin Nicolino takes the hill against the Mets on Saturday. The soft-tossing lefty owns a 4.50 ERA in seven starts this season, and his lowly 3.6 K/9 rate means he's allowing a lot of contact. As it happens, he's allowing a lot of hard contact, as his 38 percent hard-hit rate would rank bottom-five in baseball if he qualified. Focus on the Mets' right-handed bats here, with Yoenis Cespedes being the top option.
The Angels travel to Pittsburgh to take on lefty Jeff Locke and the Pirates. Locke has had difficulty against right-handed bats, and while the Angels' lineup has been mostly dormant this season, they have a few righty hitters -- namely Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron (though one of the latter two may sit, as the Angels lose the DH in a National League park) -- who can take advantage of a soft-throwing lefty like Locke.
With southpaw Martin Perez on the mound for the Rangers, the Mariners' right-handed bats look awfully appealing. Nelson Cruz is the premium play, but Franklin Gutierrez and Chris Iannetta are more cost-effective options.
Finally, take a look at left-handed Yankees hitters against Tyler Wilson, who is striking out fewer than five batters per nine, and has pitched much worse this season than his 3.83 ERA indicates. The Yankees' lineup is full of left-handed and switch-hitting bats, making this a fine stacking opportunity.
Most likely to go yard: Gregory Polanco
Jhoulys Chacin has had issues with the long ball, and Polanco is the most likely to make him pay.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Jean Segura
Cubs catcher Miguel Montero has thrown out just one of 18 potential base stealers this season. Leadoff hitter Jean Segura will surely have the green light if he gets on base.