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Every weekday during the MLB season, we’ll provide you with our ultimate DFS cash game lineup. Please note that the column is written in the morning, and you should check all lineups to make sure the players we’ve recommended are starting that day.
Starting pitcher: Jacob deGrom ($11,400) @ San Diego and Jerad Eickhoff ($7,600) @ St. Louis
Thursday’s pitching slate is rather light, with deGrom the only one priced north of $10,000. Putting price aside, though, he’s clearly the best pitcher on the board, and he also happens to have one of the best matchups. The Padres are 28th in the league with a .283 wOBA, better than only the Braves and Phillies. Matt Kemp is the only real power threat on the team, and if you neutralize him, you can dominate this lineup. DeGrom will likely be the most popular player today, but that doesn’t bother us in a cash-game format.
Eickhoff is a bit of a gamble in a tough matchup with the Cardinals, so he’s a nice differentiator, especially after starting the lineup with deGrom. Eickoff has been a strikeout machine this season, fanning 32 batters in 30 1/3 innings. Pay no mind to the 4.15 ERA, which only signals that the 25-year-old righty has been a bit unfortunate. His FIP is down at 2.84, while his WHIP sits at a comfortable 1.12. If you can stomach the St. Louis draw, you’ll get a low-owned pitcher with a ton of strikeout upside.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos ($3,100) @ Cubs, Kyle Hendricks
Ramos is on an absolute tear of late, going 9-for-18 with three doubles and four RBI in his last five games. He has raised his slash line to .364/.373/.545 in the process, and has been one of the few reliable fantasy catchers in the league this season. Hendricks has been mostly good this season and is tough on righties, but Ramos checks every box we look for in a DFS catcher.
First base: Anthony Rizzo ($5,200) vs. Nationals, Joe Ross
Speaking of hot hitters in this weekend’s best series, there may be no hotter hitter in baseball than Rizzo. The Cubs first baseman is riding an eight game hitting streak, during which he has gone 13-for-31 with three homers, seven doubles, 10 RBI, 10 runs and six walks. Those who were foolishly worried about his batting average, even while he was among the league leaders in homers and walks, are worried no longer, with his slash line sitting at .260/.403/.635. Rizzo is one of the best plays, regardless of position, on Thursday.
Second base: Kelby Tomlinson ($3,200) vs. Colorado, Chris Rusin
Why not go right back to the Tomlinson well? He got two more hits on Wednesday, and is now 7-for-20 with three steals while filling in for the injured Joe Panik. Six of those hits have come in his last three games, and he has also scored a pair of runs while driving in another in that span. The price is right, and the Giants should be able to get after Rusin.
Third base: Josh Donaldson ($5,000) vs. Texas, Derek Holland
It’s rare when you can get hitters like Donaldson and Rizzo in the same lineup without sacrificing anything at all on the mound, so let’s enjoy it. Donaldson knows Holland well from his days in Oakland, and he has always gotten the better of the Texas lefty. In their 25 meetings, Donaldson is hitting .333/.440/.857 with three homers and a pair of doubles. Couple that small sample success with his large sample domination of lefties, and Donaldson becomes an easy choice for our lineup.
Shortstop: Javier Baez ($3,000) vs. Washington, Joe Ross
You’ll again have to make sure Baez is in the starting lineup, but he has likely earned more at-bats from Joe Maddon, especially while Jason Heyward (wrist) and Matt Szczur (hamstring) are on the shelf. Baez went 3-for-5 in the Cubs win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and has not struck out in his last 15 plate appearances. That would have seemed a minor miracle just one season ago. The 23-year-old is maturing before our eyes and starting to unlock his potential.
Outfield: Ryan Braun ($4,700) @ Cincinnati, Alfredo Simon; Carlos Gonzalez ($3,800) @ San Francisco, Matt Cain; Nomar Mazara ($2,900) @ Toronto, J.A. Happ
Simon has had the misfortune to draw the Cubs twice in his first four starts, and that has resulted in some comically bad numbers. The righty has a 13.50 ERA, 8.47 FIP and 2.85 WHIP in 13 1/3 innings. Braun, who went 2-for-5 in his return to the Milwaukee lineup Wednesday, should be able to take advantage. Gonzalez has faced no pitcher more than Cain, and the pitcher has dominated the battle. In 58 plate appearances, Gonzalez has slashed .122/.241/.163 against Cain. Still, we’re talking about a $3,800 Gonzalez against a diminished right-handed pitcher. I’ll take that gamble. Finally, Mazara’s price has somehow dropped another $100, likely owing to the matchup with Happ. The pitcher’s numbers look great, but he doesn’t strike anyone out, and righties have managed a .264/.322/.443 slash line against him this season.