Saturday brings us plenty of fantasy goodness. Not only are there multiple elite options at the top, but the middle tier is stacked with viable options in both cash games and tournaments. There are many ways you can go, so let's sift through and find the most likely path to success.
As usual, Max Scherzer tops the rankings with a home matchup against Philadelphia. It's a tremendous spot for baseball's strikeout leader, as the Phillies are one of the worst teams in baseball against right-handed pitching (81 wRC+) and are whiffing at a 24 percent clip in the second half. Scherzer, meanwhile, is particularly dominant at home (2.35 ERA) and has fanned double-digit batters each of the past two times he's faced the Phillies. He'll be pricey, but fade him at your own risk in cash games.
While the Phillies are awful against righty pitching, they aren't the worst. That designation goes to the Padres, who own an 80 wRC+ versus righties and have struck out at a whopping 27 percent clip since the All-Star break. The beneficiary of this prime matchup is Jon Gray. The Colorado righty has had his ups and downs this season, but he's consistently dominated the Padres, putting up a 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in three starts this season, including 30 K's in 20 frames. It's rare that we see Gray in the elite tier, but this matchup warrants it.
After stumbling to a 4.66 first-half ERA, Chris Archer has rebounded with a 3.03 ERA since the break, which includes a 2.79 ERA and 11.6 K/9 during his past nine starts. The Yankees have been playing well, winning 19 of their past 30 games, but this is still an offense that's below average against right-handed pitchers (92 wRC+) and has not performed any better since the break (92 wRC+). This isn't as favorable a spot as where Scherzer and Gray find themselves, but it's still an appealing situation for the Tampa right-hander.
Felix Hernandez technically cracked elite status with a Game Score of 60, but I'm knocking him down a tier. The right-hander owns a 4.62 second-half ERA and has gotten nicked for six runs in back-to-back outings. He's no longer a big strikeout threat (7.6 K/9), and his 4.0 BB/9 rate is poor. There's nothing here that says "elite." A matchup against the A's doesn't pose much of a threat, but there are better pitchers in better spots Saturday.
Speaking of better pitchers in better spots, Rich Hill draws a road start against Miami. Since returning from his blister issue, the southpaw has twirled 12 shutout innings with 11 whiffs in two starts. For the season, his 10.3 K/9 ranks top-10 in baseball. Against a Marlins team that's below average against lefties and has tanked offensively since the All-Star break (85 wRC+), Hill figures to find plenty of success.
Johnny Cueto hasn't been as sharp in the second half (3.90 ERA) as he was in the first (2.47 ERA), and he suffers a big park downgrade going from AT&T Park to Chase Field. Those are the negatives. The positives are that Cueto has allowed only one run in three of his past four starts, and he matches up very well with a Diamondbacks team that struggles against right-handed pitching (86 wRC+) and whiffs at a healthy 23 percent clip. I'm more than comfortable using him in cash.
Back-to-back rough outings against the Mariners (13 ER in 6 IP) his past two times out may have owners feeling some hesitancy with Cole Hamels. Prior to those beatings, however, he had gone eight straight outings without allowing more than three runs. The lefty is a good bet to bounce back against the Angels, though the matchup isn't exactly ideal. In addition to hitting lefties hard (106 wRC+), they also strike out less than any team in baseball (16 percent). Hamels isn't a bad play, but I'm not going out of my way to roster him in this spot.
John Lackey returned from his strained shoulder to throw five innings of one-hit ball against the Giants his last time out. This time he gets the Astros, which are below average against righties and are much more strikeout-friendly. Lackey carries a nice floor and also a nice ceiling thanks to his career-best 8.8 K/9 rate, making him a worthwhile target in multiple formats Saturday.
Masahiro Tanaka is in an excellent spot, squaring off against Tampa Bay at home. The right-hander has allowed just four runs in his past four starts combined, and while he's whiffing just 7.5 batters per nine this season, he carries nice strikeout upside against a Rays team that's whiffing 24 percent of the time versus righties. Tanaka is viable in both cash games and tournaments.
Julio Teheran, who gets a home tilt against the Mets, also has some cash-game appeal. The Mets may be making a strong run at a playoff spot, but they are below average against right-handed pitchers and strike out 22 percent of the time. Teheran offers a nice floor by whiffing eight batters per nine and holding a BB/9 under 2.0. He's allowed more than three runs in a start just once in his past seven turns.
Consistency has been an issue for Adam Wainwright this season, but a matchup against the Brewers, who strike out 26 percent of the time versus righties and sport an 88 wRC+, offers plenty of upside. In his two starts against Milwaukee this season, Wainwright allowed just one run in 14 innings of work with 12 K's.
Eduardo Rodriguez finds himself in a tough spot, facing off against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. That said, this is also a high-upside spot, as the Jays are striking out 23 percent of the time since the break. Also consider that Rodriguez sports a 2.73 ERA in 52 second-half innings. He's a free agent in 80 percent of leagues.
Available in 73 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Jerad Eickhoff draws a road start against the Nationals. The right-hander isn't overpowering, but he has decent stuff and is in a fine spot against a Nats team that's been slightly below average against right-handed pitching this season.
There are too many options to take a long look at Collin McHugh. The right-hander has some nice peripherals (8.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9), but a 5.50 second-half ERA and a matchup against the Cubs have me feeling gun-shy.
When James Shields is on the mound, I always want some exposure against him. The guy is a powder keg ready to blow. He's already allowed 35 homers this year, putting him on pace to allow 41 this season. Both right- and left-handed hitters have hit him hard this season, making the Royals a compelling stack Saturday.
Archie Bradley is the lowest-ranked pitcher of the day, and left-handed batters have absolutely hammered him this season (.396 wOBA). With the Giants in town, Denard Span, Angel Pagan, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are all in play here.
Ubaldo Jimenez has been pitching better of late, though he still has allowed a.405 wOBA to lefty swingers this year. It's a shame that the Tigers' lineup is so right-handed, but switch-hitter Victor Martinez is definitely in play, as is any other lefty swinger who draws a start Saturday.
Daniel Wright has made only four appearances (two starts) this season, spanning 13 innings, yet he's allowed at least three runs in every outing. That amounts to a 7.62 ERA. It'd be a good idea to get some exposure to Rangers hitters in this one, regardless of which side of the plate they hit from.
The game is taking place in Petco Park and not Coors Field, but I'm still targeting Rockies hitters against Christian Friedrich. The lefty owns a 5.48 ERA at Petco this year, including a 5.64 ERA since the All-Star break.
Most likely to go yard: Kendrys Morales
You know I have to pick against James Shields in this spot. It's not a matter of if he'll allow a home run, but how many. Morales, who is on pace to hit 30 bombs for the first time since 2009, is my pick to click here.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Mike Trout
Cole Hamels is one of the day's better pitchers, but he's also one of the worst at preventing steals. His 21 steals allowed are fifth-most in the majors. Trout will look to take advantage.