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. Get all of Michael Beller’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
Starting pitcher: Chris Sale ($13,800) vs. Houston and Michael Wacha ($7,200) vs. Colorado
Sale costs 27.6% of your budget on Thursday, which has previously been territory reserved for Clayton Kershaw. Just like Kershaw always warrants the price tag, so, too, does Sale. The White Sox lefty hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start over his last six trips to the mound, and has two complete games in that stretch. The Astros lead the majors in strikeout rate, whiffing in 25.5% of their plate appearances. They have been a bit better against lefties than righties this season, posting a .329 wOBA, but there aren’t many lefties out there like Sale.
After spending $13,800 on Sale, we immediately need to go down the pricing ladder for pitcher No. 2. Luckily, we find the right guy in Wacha. The St. Louis righty may not be excellent in any one thing, but he’s strong across the board, and that makes him a great pair for a pitcher like Sale. There’s plenty of upside with him at $7,200, even in a matchup with the Rockies. For what it’s worth, the Rockies are 18th in the league with a .318 road wOBA.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos ($3,000) @ New York Mets, Matt Harvey
Ramos is just 3-for-17 in his last five games, but we’re still looking at a $3,000 catcher who’s hitting .340/.376/.524 with four homers and seven doubles in 109 plate appearances this year. Harvey has been the pitcher we all expect him to be through the first three innings of his starts this season, but he has gotten roughed up when he sees a lineup for the second and third time on a day. That helps make Ramos a real bargain on Thursday.
First base: Joey Votto ($4,000) vs. Cleveland, Josh Tomlin
We’re through almost seven weeks of the 2016 season, and Votto is still way short of his usual production. The 32-year-old is hitting just .214/.356/.359 with five homers on the year, and hasn’t found any sustained success, even for just a week or 10 days. Despite his struggles, Votto is always the sort of hitter you want to bet on figuring it out sooner rather than later. His price makes him an attractive play, especially after the money we spent on Sale.
Second base: Starlin Castro ($3,500) @ Oakland, Kendall Graveman
Castros has been a consistent presence in the Yankees lineup during his first season in the Bronx, slashing .283/.320/.455 with five homers and eight doubles in 153 plate appearances. His production has slowed a bit recently, but Thursday’s matchup should be a good one for the Yankees. Graveman has a 5.84 ERA, 6.30 FIP and 1.49 WHIP in 37 innings this season, surrendering 24 earned runs and 41 hits, including 10 homers. Castro provides an affordable avenue of investment into the Yankees lineup.
Third base: Matt Carpenter ($4,300) vs. Colorado, Jon Gray
Carpenter’s batting average is down this season, but he’s slugging .500 and has a .381 OBP. In other words, he’s doing plenty of damage even if he’s not finding as many holes as he typically does. Gray has been excellent outside of Coors Field this year, showing signs that he’s starting to figure things out at the major league level, but we can still attack him with confidence with one of the best offenses in baseball.
Shortstop: Aledmys Diaz ($3,400) vs. Colorado, Jon Gray
Diaz continues to swing a hot bat for the Cardinals, racking up six hits, including a homer and two doubles, in his last five games. The 25-year-old shortstop is now slashing .376/.403/.648 this season, galvanizing the St. Louis lineup from the bottom. He completes a mini-Cardinals stack with Carpenter against Colorado’s Gray.
Outfield: Charlie Blackmon ($3,800) @ St. Louis, Michael Wacha; Michael Saunders ($3,500) @ Minnesota, Ervin Santana, Rajai Davis ($3,400) @ Cincinnati, Tim Adleman
Any time you look at Blackmon’s counting stats this early in the year, remember that he spent two weeks on the DL. The centerfielder is hitting .296/.352/.459 and has seven hits in his last five games. He’s also a leadoff man whose team is on the road on Thursday. Saunders is still raking on top of Toronto’s lineup, bringing a .311/.381/.530 slash into action on Thursday. He, too, is a leadoff man for a potent lineup on the road Thursday. We complete our lineup with one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the last few days. Davis is 7-for-12 with two homers and seven RBI in his last three games.