Saturday brings us a fine slate, with worthwhile options in every tier, including multiple aces at the top and a marquee matchup with two of the NL's best squaring off. So what are we waiting for? Let's get to it.
It always complicates things when the top pitcher of the day finds himself in an unappealing matchup, but that's the case on Saturday, with Jose Fernandez heading to Cleveland to take on the Indians. Not only does the right-hander have to face DH instead of a pitcher, but he'll be tasked with shutting down an above average lineup that's out-produced every other AL team since the All-Star break (109 wRC+). He also hasn't fared nearly as well on the road this year (4.02 road ERA vs 1.91 home ERA). On the other hand, Fernandez is the top-ranked pitcher for a reason. His strikeout potential is unmatched, and he's allowed one or zero runs three of his past four turns. Still, while Fernandez is always a tough guy to fade, he's far from a must-play in this spot.
The marquee matchup of the day is Giants versus Cubs at Wrigley Field, with Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta pitted against each other. Neither matchup is favorable. Bumgarner gets a Cubs team that smashes lefties (117 wRC+), while Arrieta gets a Giants lineup that draws plenty of walks and rarely strikes out. Between the two, Bumgarner makes for the more appealing tournament option, as the Cub strike out a lot more than the Giants. However, I'm not sure I'm willing to pay the premium to roster either in cash games.
Rich Hill and his well-publicized blister issues are slated to make his second start in Dodger Blue on Saturday. The veteran lefty lucked into a great spot. as the San Diego Padres are in town for a weekend set with their SoCal rivals. There's risk of an early blister-induced exit, so it's better to use Hill in tournament play.
Tanner Roark's has been one of baseball's most consistent starters. Through the season's first five months, his ERA has been 3.56 or lower in each month. He also owns a 2.61 ERA since the All-Star break. A matchup against the Mets, who are below average against righty pitching and whiff 22 percent of the time, has Roark in another fine spot on Saturday. The ceiling is limited here because he doesn't miss many bats, but his high floor makes him a great cash-game option if you're not paying up.
In terms of having a low ceiling but also a high floor, Rick Porcello is similar to Roark. Dating back to June 28, the Boston right-hander has allowed more than three earned runs in a game only once. His success should continue against an Oakland team that poses very little threat to right-handed pitchers (89 wRC+).
A 5.76 second-half ERA will have most DFS players shying away from Vince Velasquez on Saturday. And that might be the right play. That said, the right-hander is still whiffing 10.5 batters per nine innings, and he gets a home start against a Braves lineup that's one of the most exploitable in baseball. There's some tournament appeal here.
Last time out, Marco Estrada snapped a three-start streak of failing to toss more than five frames with a seven-inning stint in Baltimore. Today he's in a great spot to make it two consecutive strong efforts with another road contest, this time in St. Petersburg. In fact, the strikeout-prone Tampa Bay Rays lend Estrada the upside to be a DFS tournament option.
Available in 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Kevin Gausman draws a home start against the Yankees. The Yankees offense has been hot of late, but they've still been a below average offense against righties this season. For his part, Gausman sports a 3.04 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in the second half. In fact, his last start came against the Yankees, and he twirled seven shutout innings with nine whiffs.
After holding a 3.48 combined ERA in April and May, Jaime Garcia has put up an ugly 5.09 ERA since. So, it should go without saying that there's plenty of risk here. Still, his matchup against Cincinnati is extremely favorable. Not only are the Reds one of the worst teams in baseball against lefty pitching (89 wRC+), but they strike out a ton, too (23 percent). If you're seeking a cheap GPP play, this is it.
Blake Snell's strikeout upside is appealing, but his 5.3 walk rate curbs the excitement. Add in a matchup against the Blue Jays, who pummel left-handed pitching, and this is a situation to avoid on Saturday.
Taijuan Walker has done some good things this year, but he's given up 13 earned runs in 17 innings over his past three starts since rejoining the Mariners' rotation. Even against an Angels offense that's middle-of-the-road, there's little reason to take a shot here.
Braden Shipley owns a 4.75 ERA in seven starts this season, which includes six or more runs allowed in two of his past three starts. In other words, a trip to Coors Field doesn't figure to go well. The right-hander has shown reverse splits this season (.397 wOBA allowed to right-handed batters), so there's no reason to stick only to Rockies hitters with the platoon advantage. They're all in play here.
While Tyler Chatwood sports a 1.82 ERA on the road this year, he has yet to figure out Coors Field (5.43 ERA). Arizona's lineup is predominantly right-handed, but that's of little concern. This is still a fine stacking opportunity.
James Shields has already allowed 32 home runs this season, putting him on pace to allow 39 dingers, which would by far be a career worst. With the Twins on the docket, there's plenty of upside with sluggers Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler.
Daniel Mengden holds a 5.73 as a starter this year, and he's set to face a Red Sox team that owns the highest wRC+ in baseball against right-handed pitching (115). It could be a long day for the Oakland right-hander. I'm focusing on left-handed hitters in this one, so David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. are the top targets.
Most likely to go yard: Miguel Sano
James Shields has allowed more home runs than all but two pitchers in baseball. Meanwhile, Sano has slammed 30 of his 38 career homers against right-handers.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Starling Marte