Everyone can exhale -- the weekend is here. This Saturday's slate isn't the most stacked one we've seen, but with a pair of bona fide aces on top and a decent number of intriguing options in the middle and lower tiers, there's still plenty to like. Let's get started with the guy who figures to anchor most cash-game lineups.
Max Scherzer is the day's top cash game play, and it's really not close. Since June 1, the right-hander holds a 2.10 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.6 K/9. With a road matchup against the Braves, who have the worst offense in baseball against right-handed pitching, Scherzer is sitting pretty and should be locked into cash lineups. The only drawback is that the Braves aren't a big strikeout team. Then again, with the second-best whiff rate in the majors, Scherzer carries double-digit strikeout upside into every matchup regardless of opponent.
Chris Sale also finds himself in an enticing spot, facing off against an A's team that's below average versus lefty pitching. However, he plays second fiddle to Scherzer on Saturday. The southpaw is still whiffing nearly a batter per inning this season (8.8 K/9), but that's a far cry from the elite whiff rates he has posted in previous years. Like the Braves, the A's make a lot of contact, so while Sale will provide plenty of value in terms of run prevention, the strikeout upside is lagging behind what Scherzer brings to the table.
It's true that Felix Hernandez is no longer a fantasy ace. His strikeout rate has collapsed this season (7.7 K/9), and his 4.0 BB/9 walk is by far a career worst. That said, the right-hander been pitching better of late, as Felix's last four starts have seen him put up a 3.04 ERA with 30 K's in 26 2/3 innings. There's plenty to like here against a Brewers team that doesn't hit right-handed pitching well (86 wRC+) and whiffs at a bloated 26 percent clip.
It's not often that you'll see Robbie Ray highlighted as one of the day's more intriguing options, but hey, that's what a matchup against the Padres will do. Ray has quietly been one of the game's best strikeout pitchers this season, as his 10.9 K/9 ranks top-five in baseball. Pair that with a Padres team that strikes out 25 percent of the time against lefties, and you've got yourself a very appealing tournament play. Keep in mind, though, that while the Padres are one of the worst teams in baseball against right-handed pitching (82 wRC+), they've actually hit lefties pretty hard this year (109 wRC+), so there's risk here in cash.
After struggling in his first few starts with his new team, Drew Pomeranz has settled in with the Red Sox, posting a 2.37 ERA over his last three outings. In his last start, he gave up only two runs over 7 2/3 innings against the Indians, a team that's hard on left-handed pitchers. Still, it's hard to feel great about Pomeranz matching up against the Tigers, who are above average against southpaws and have plenty of guys who can hit the ball out of the park. If you're considering Pomeranz as a tournament play, it's worth nothing that, despite his 9.8 K/9, he hasn't whiffed more than seven in a game since May.
Matt Moore owned a 7.5 K/9 with Tampa Bay before being traded, but he has whiffed 19 batters in 18 innings since joining the Giants. On Saturday, he gets a home date with a middle-of the-road Mets offense that whiffs 22 percent of the time versus lefties. Moore makes for a solid SP2 if you're paying up for your first hurler.
Jake Odorizzi is on a nice little run. Over his last six starts, he has posted a 1.66 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, which includes three straight starts in late July and early August in which he didn't give up a single run. With the Rangers coming to town, Odorizzi gets a Texas team that's below average against righties (93 wRC+) and has really struggled offensively in August (85 wRC+). He's in the cash game discussion.
Aaron Sanchez draws a tough road matchup against an Indians team that doesn't go easy on righties (108 wRC+) and has been crushing in the second half (120 wRC+). So there's certainly no shame in simply avoiding Sanchez on Saturday. Of course, Sanchez has been matchup proof over the last few months. Over his last 10 starts, he has given up more than two runs only once, and that includes eight innings of one-run ball against the Rockies in Coors Field. He remains cash viable Saturday.
David Phelps has made only three starts since joining Miami's rotation, but he has been impressive in limited action. While he hasn't pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any outing, he has given up only three runs in 14 2/3 innings (1.84 ERA) and racked up 17 K's. On Saturday, Phelps and the Marlins head to Pittsburgh to face a hot Pirates team that has won nine of its last 12 games. That said, the Pirates' lineup has been middle-of-the-road versus righties this season and has actually been well below average since the All-Star break (88 wRC+), so this is a decent spot for the Marlins' right-hander. Phelps is ripe for the picking in 83 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
A free agent in more than half of leagues, Ian Kennedy draws a home date with the Twins. The righty has been dealing of late, as he has given up only three combined runs over his last four starts. He's also striking out nearly a batter per inning (8.9 K/9). The Twins' offense has really been clicking in the second half (110 wRC+), but Minnesota has still been merely average against right-handers this season (99 wRC+). I like Kennedy as a streaming option and also think he has appeal as an SP2 in DFS.
The big league debut for Luke Weaver was a bit of a mixed bag, as he lasted only four innings and struggled with his control. Granted, he was facing a Cubs lineup that's one of the toughest in baseball. The rookie will have some smoother sledding Saturday, as he lines up against the Phillies, who can't hit righties (82 wRC+) and are whiffing 23 percent of the time so far in the second half. Weaver still likely won't pitch deep into the game, but he should find success in this favorable matchup.
A decent game score of 55 might draw some attention, but there's little reason to consider Hector Santiago on Saturday. While it's true that the Royals' offense hasn't been anything special against lefties this year, Santiago has been too much of a liability lately. He has failed to register a quality start in six straight outings, and the Royals are actually the team that roughed him up his last time out (7 ER in 4 IP). A struggling hurler with walk and homer issues is not someone in whom you want to invest.
Despite posting Triple-A peripherals eerily close to what Jon Gray has done in the majors this season, it's best to take the wait-and-see approach with Jeff Hoffman, as he makes his big league debut in Coors Field. Perhaps if he were facing someone other than the Chicago Cubs, the message would be different.
With A.J. Griffin taking the mound for the Rangers on Saturday, it's a good time to get some exposure to left-handed Tampa bats. Griffin has been torched by lefty hitters this season, giving up a .403 wOBA and 13 homers in 41 innings. Brad Miller, who has hit 23 of his 25 homers off righties, is the top play, and Kevin Kiermaier, Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson are options, too.
You'll also want some exposure to Nationals hitters, who are squaring off against Tyrell Jenkins. The righty has put up a 5.06 ERA since the break, he has walked more than he has struck out, and both right- (.366 wOBA) and left-handed batters (.356) have hit him hard. Don't discriminate against Washington hitters without the platoon advantage: They're all in play here.
It's not difficult to see the appeal in targeting hitters against Wily Peralta. After all, the right-hander owns a 6.00 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in 15 starts this season, and he has been clobbered by left- and right-handed hitters alike (.393 wOBA and .404 wOBA, respectively). Seth Smith, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager are all intriguing options in this one. Take your pick.
The usual small sample size caveats apply, but through six starts, Chad Kuhl has done a splendid job suppressing right-handed bats (.226 wOBA), but lefty swingers have consistently gotten the better of him (.374 wOBA). We'll have to wait and see whether the trend continues long term, but it's something to take advantage of for the time being. With the Marlins in town, take a look at Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Derek Dietrich.
Brett Anderson made his season debut on Sunday after missing the first four and half months of the season as he recovered from back surgery. His return didn't go well, as he gave up five runs in only one inning before leaving the game because of a sprained left wrist. Anderson has been cleared to return to the mound Saturday in Cincinnati, but there's a good chance he still has some rust to knock off. As a result, I like right-handed bats Zack Cozart, Adam Duvall, Brandon Phillips and Eugenio Suarez in this matchup.
Most likely to go yard: Brad Miller
Miller has been scorching hot of late, batting .327 with 11 bombs in only 30 second-half games. Look for him to continue his home run onslaught Saturday against Griffin, who has been punished by lefties this year.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Dexter Fowler
Rockies catcher Nick Hundley has been an easy target behind the plate this year, as he's thrown out just six of 46 potential basestealers. With the Cubs coming to town, the leadoff hitting Fowler is the most likely to pilfer a bag.