Update: Chris Sale has been scratched for Saturday.
As trade talks pick up around Chris Sale, #WhiteSox scratch him from tonight's start. Matt Albers will go instead.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) July 23, 2016
The weekend is here, and there's plenty to be excited about. That's the case Saturday, as Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Jacob deGrom and Sale all draw game scores north of 60. Whether you're looking to pay up for the elite or go cheap with some risky but high-upside arms, there's plenty of depth here. Plus, with all but three games featuring evening start times, it's not your typical split slate. It's going to be a good Saturday.
Johnny Cueto will now start for the Giants on Saturday, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. We have updated our matchup charts to reflect this change.
There are multiple elite options you can hitch your cash-game lineups to on Saturday, but Max Scherzer leads the pack with a home outing against San Diego. The Padres are an easy target for an even a league-average pitcher, much less Scherzer, who's one of the most dominant hurlers in baseball, whiffing 11.4 batters per nine innings. When they visit Nationals Park this weekend, they'll bring with them a .288 wOBA and 25 percent strikeout rate versus righties. Scherzer has registered seven double-digit strikeout games this season. You might want to go ahead and pencil in No. 8 here. If you can afford his premium price tag, he's an ideal cash-game anchor.
Of course, trying to make a case for rostering Scherzer over Jose Fernandez (or vice versa) is difficult. The only starting pitcher who can better Scherzer's 11.4 K/9 is Fernandez, who registers a 13.3 K/9, the highest whiff rate since Randy Johnson posted a 13.4 K/9 in 2001. The Miami righty has also surrendered one or zero runs in nine of his last 12 starts (1.80 ERA). The Mets' lineup isn't as weak as San Diego's, but they are still below average against righties while fanning at a 23 percent clip. In fact, when Fernandez last faced the Mets in early June, he tossed seven shutout innings and racked up a season-high 14 K's. The lone negative here is that Jacob deGrom is toeing the rubber for the Mets on Saturday, meaning a win is no sure thing.
Speaking of deGrom, the Mets' right-hander is coming off his best start of the season, a one-hit shutout against the Phillies. A matchup against a Marlins team that has been ho-hum against right-handers this year (95 wRC+) puts deGrom in a good spot, though the ceiling is somewhat limited. The Marlins have been the second-hardest NL team to strike out this year (19 percent), and deGrom's 8.7 K/9 pales in comparison to what Scherzer and Fernandez bring to the table.
John Lackey is in the midst of a rough patch. Over his last five outings, he has managed only one quality start while posting a 6.75 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. The good news is that the veteran right-hander is facing off against a Brewers team that has been brutal versus righties this year, putting up an 84 wRC+ and an MLB-worst 26 percent whiff rate. Combine that with Lackey's career-best 9.2 K/9, and this has the makings of a great matchup for tournament play.
On days with short slates and minimal pitching depth, Cole Hamels is often one of the top options on the board. He kind of gets lost in the shuffle Saturday, though, with a road date against Kansas City. The Royals have been tough on lefties this season (106 wRC+) and rarely strike out (18 percent), making this a less-than-desirable matchup for both cash and GPPs.
If you don't want to pay up for guys like Scherzer and Fernandez in tournaments, consider David Price, who draws a home start against the Twins. Price has been a fairly inconsistent cash option this season, but he's whiffing 9.8 batters per nine and has notched double-digit K's in three of his last four turns. Against a Twins lineup that fans 23 percent of the time, Price carries plenty of GPP appeal.
A late switch has landed Johnny Cueto on the hill for the San Francisco Giants with Jeff Samardzija pushed to Sunday. Keeping in mind this is one of three afternoon affairs, so it's only available in a limited number of DFS contests, the veteran righty profiles very well for cash game action against the New York Yankees, who have done little versus right-handed pitching (89 wRC+).
Mike Leake, the owner of a career 6.1 K/9, has whiffed double-digit batters in back-to-back games. Part of that is due to his opponents -- the Brewers and Padres, both of whom strike out a ton -- but Leake has admittedly been more aggressive lately, and the expectation is that he'll carry that same mindset into future starts. Against an average Dodgers lineup, Leake is a strong streaming option given that he's still available in over half of ESPN.com leagues. I also like him as a potential SP2 in DFS.
The obvious caveats apply with rookie Tyler Glasnow, as his control has been an issue (4.9 B/9 at Triple-A) and he has only one big league start under his belt (in which the Cardinals hit him for four runs in 5 1/3 innings. That said, we also know his potential is great. Glasnow is in a great spot Saturday, facing a Phillies team that can't hit right-handed pitching (81 wRC+) and features a healthy 22 percent whiff rate. His ESPN.com ownership is just 24 percent.
Colin McHugh, a free agent in 62 percent of leagues, gets a home start against the Angels. Although the Angels' offense has been red-hot so far in July, posting a .362 wOBA in 16 games, it has been middle-of-the-road against righties this season. McHugh has been pitching some of his best ball over the last month, as he sports a 2.41 ERA over his last six outings.
Kenta Maeda has been a big fantasy asset this season, but I'm staying away from him Saturday, for DFS purposes anyway. Not only has the righty battled inconsistency lately, failing to make it out of the fifth inning in two of his last three starts, but he draws a Cardinals lineup that has torched right-handed pitching this season, sporting a 118 wRC+ that's tops in the National League.
Matt Wisler has had trouble with left-handed bats in his short big league career (.384 wOBA), and heading to Coors Field won't help matters. It probably goes without saying, but lefty bats Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are great targets. Daniel Descalso, who is batting .371 versus righties this year, is also worth consideration as a cost-effective option.
The lowest-ranked pitcher of the day is Ricky Nolasco, who just happens to be matching up against the Red Sox, the most deadly offense in baseball versus righty pitching this year (119 wRC+). This one could get ugly. They'll be expensive, but the Red Sox make for a great stack.
With Ivan Nova taking the mound for the Yankees on Saturday, left-handed Giants hitters register a perfect 10 rating. Denard Span, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all in play in a matchup at Yankee Stadium, which is one of the game's most favorable parks for left-handed power.
Keyvius Sampson is lined up for a spot-start Saturday, and DFS players need to pounce. The right-hander has pitched only in relief so far this season, but he has been truly awful in his seven appearances, sporting a 7.7 walk rate and giving up 11 runs, including five homers, in just 16 1/3 innings of work. You'll want some exposure to Diamondbacks hitters in this one.
Right-handers hitters generally get their licks in against southpaw Robbie Ray, who is allowing a .357 wOBA to righty bats this season. As a result, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Brandon Phillips are all on the radar.
Most likely to go yard: Brandon Belt
Ivan Nova doesn't handle lefties well, and Yankee Stadium boosts lefty power. Sounds like a good time for Belt to muscle up.
Most likely to swipe a bag: Charlie Blackmon
Matt Wisler has not been adept at holding runners on base this season, as 15 of the 16 attempted basestealers have been successful against him. Blackmon will look to take advantage.