We've suffered through plenty of bad Thursday slates before, but my goodness ... I don't think we were prepared for this. Most eight- or nine-game slates are ugly. This, however, is something else entirely. It's hideous, grotesque, repulsive. Thursday's slate (if you can even call it that) consists of only four games, with one taking place in the afternoon. There's no sense in delaying the inevitable, so let's dive in. Just brace yourself -- it's not pretty.
Getting even one pitcher in the elite tier on a day like this is a gift. That gift is Jacob deGrom, who gets a home date with Miami. DeGrom's last start was skipped so he could work on a mechanical issue, which likely contributed to his recent poor performance (13 runs allowed over his last two starts), so the hope is that he's ready to right the ship. The Marlins are below average against right-handed pitching (94 wRC+) and posted an MLB-worst 82 wRC+ in August, so the matchup is definitely favorable. Add in the fact that deGrom is much better at Citi Field (1.89 ERA vs. 4.16 ERA on the road) and owns a 2.80 ERA and 10.2 K/9 over seven career starts against Miami, and the Mets right-hander is going to be awfully tough to fade in cash games with so few options available.
Also in the cash game discussion -- surprise, surprise -- is Jose Quintana, one of the most stable and reliable hurlers in the game. The left-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last eight starts, which results in a 1.81 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in that span. He also owns a 2.36 ERA this season in four starts against the Twins, who are middle-of-the-road versus lefties and whiff at a 23 percent clip, the second-worst rate in the American League. On single-pitcher sites, Quintana is the only cash-game anchor I'd consider along with deGrom. On multi-pitcher sites, you might as well roster both.
I don't normally target pitchers going against the Giants, who have a solid lineup that rarely strikes out and draws lots of walks. On a shortened slate like this, though, Mike Montgomery is at least in play with a home outing against San Francisco. The left-hander sports a 3.43 ERA as a starter this season, and the Giants are less effective against lefties than righties. Montgomery is not my first choice on Thursday, especially considering how hot the Giants offense has been the last two weeks (118 wRC+), but he's a nice pivot if you're looking to differentiate your lineup.
Ervin Santana was roughed up by the Blue Jays in Toronto his last time out (6 ER in 6 2/3 IP). He'd been on a roll prior to that, however, allowing two or fewer runs in 10 of 11 starts, culminating in a 1.79 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in that timeframe. On Thursday, he matches up well with a White Sox club that's struggled against righty pitching (87 wRC+). They don't strike out a ton, but whiffs aren't a big part of Santana's game, anyway. As is the case with Montgomery, Santana isn't the top option of the day, but he at least deserves consideration when filling out your lineups.
Mike Foltynewicz has his faults, and a 4.86 second-half ERA certainly brings a level of concern. That said, he's coming off one of his strongest outings of the year, a 7 2/3-inning, one-run performance against the Giants, and he's set to face a Padres team that's the worst in baseball against right-handed pitching (80 wRC+) and whiffs at a bloated 25 percent clip. It's hard to trust Foltynewicz in cash given his start-to-start inconsistency, but there's plenty to like here as a tournament play if you're playing a contest that includes the afternoon game.
A road matchup against the Cubs, who feature one of the most dangerous lineups in the National League, will have plenty of DFS players steering clear of Jeff Samardzija on Thursday. That makes the right-hander an appealing GPP play. Shark is no longer a big strikeout guy, but he could still rack up a decent number of whiffs against a Cubs lineup that has plenty of swing and miss. He's also coming off a strong August (2.76 ERA) after looking completely lost in June and July (6.21 ERA).
It's tough to put much stock in a guy like Jarred Cosart, who doesn't miss many bats (6.3 K/9) and has big-time control problems (5.6 BB/9). Then again, this is a four-game slate we're talking about, so let's focus on the positives. While the right-hander primarily pitches to contact, he makes it work because he gets a lot of weak contact, as his 27 percent soft-hit percentage would rank first in baseball if he qualified. He's also generated 66 percent ground balls in his nine starts and has allowed just one earned run in three straight starts. Against a Braves lineup that's one of the weakest in baseball, Cosart is an under-the-radar option on Thursday.
If there's a guy I'm avoiding, it's Jose Urena. A road matchup against the Mets isn't overwhelming by any means; it's just that the right-hander's skill set is uninspiring. He owns a 4.81 ERA as a starter this year, and he's yet to whiff more than six batters in a game in 15 career starts. Even on a slate this thin, it's best to invest your fake funds elsewhere.
Urena is the weakest pitcher of the day, so it makes sense to target Mets' hitters against him. The righty primarily struggles against hitters from the left side (.360 wOBA), so the Mets have a bevy of batters to consider here, including Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, James Loney and Curtis Granderson.
The Braves' lineup doesn't feature much firepower, but it still matches up well against Cosart, who has averaged a 48 Game Score over nine starts this season. The right-hander has shown reverse splits over his career, which puts Matt Kemp, Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers on the map. Freddie Freeman, a career .298 hitter against righties, is in the mix, too.
Mike Foltynewicz has not fared well against left-handed hitters in his career, as he's surrendered a .384 wOBA to them in 931/3 innings. The Padres have an unimposing lineup, but lefty hitters Travis Janikowski, Alex Dickerson, Ryan Schimpf and switch-hitter Yangervis Solarte could make for a sneaky stack in tournaments.
Samardzija has been solid this season, but he's also shown blow-up potential at times. Going from AT&T Park to face the Cubs at Wrigley Field creates some upside for Cubs hitters, who sport a .333 home wOBA, good for second-best in the NL. Left-handed swingers Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward are all in nice spots.
Most likely to go yard: Jay Bruce
Bruce has hammered 21 of his 27 homers this year against righties, and the matchup against Urena puts the slugger in a great spot to make it 22 of 28.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Denard Span
The Cubs have allowed 112 stolen bases this season, more than any team in baseball. With the Giants in town, Span, the leadoff man, is the most likely to pilfer a bag.