There are just eight games on Thursday’s slate, and the first five of them could be affected by rain. As such, our entire lineup below is made up of players in the final three games between the Braves and Red Sox, Cardinals and Diamondbacks, and Marlins and Dodgers.
Starting pitcher: Kenta Maeda ($10,000) vs. Miami and Clay Buchholz ($8,000) vs. Atlanta
The pitcher on the other side of the Marlins-Dodgers game, Jose Fernandez, might get more attention, but Maeda has been the better hurler in 2016. The 28-year-old rookie is clearly enjoying his first season in the states, allowing just one run with 23 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings thus far. He hasn’t exactly had easy assignments, either, beginning his career with home starts against the Diamondbacks and Giants before getting his first Coors Field experience. Not only did Maeda blank the Rockies for 6 1/3 frames, he allowed just three hits and struck out eight while walking one. He’s for real, and should keep it rolling against the Marlins.
Everyone keeps it rolling against the Braves. Their offense isn’t just bad. We could be talking about once-in-a-generation levels of futility. The Braves are hitting .224/.297/.282 with a .261 wOBA. Their isolated slugging percentage of .058 is the lowest in the majors by 63 points. The 29th place Marlins are closer to the sixth place Orioles than they are to the Braves. This is a bad offense you’re always going to want to at least consider targeting in fantasy. Buchholz wins that lottery on Thursday.
Catcher: Welington Castillo ($3,200) vs. St. Louis, Michael Wacha
It might seem like we’re picking on Wacha throughout this column, but it has more to do with the strength of the Arizona offense and the reliability of this game being played. Castillo is swinging a hot bat, going 10-for-22 with three homers and seven RBI in his last five games. That has his slash line up to a robust .327/.389/.551 in 54 plate appearances on the year.
First base: David Ortiz ($4,700) vs. Atlanta, Jhoulys Chacin
Ortiz got back in the lineup Wednesday after the Red Sox spent the first two days of the week playing in Atlanta without the DH. He responded by collecting hits in his first three at-bats, all doubles, and finishing the day 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs. The 40-year-old is now hitting .322/.429/.644 on the season, doing things about 95% of the game’s 20-year-olds wish they could do. Buchholz isn’t the only Boston player who should exploit Atlanta on Thursday. The Red Sox have the best stack on the board.
Second base: Jean Segura ($3,800) vs. St. Louis, Michael Wacha
Segura picked up two more hits on Wednesday, though they didn’t lead to much fireworks in Arizona’s 11–4 loss to St. Louis. Still, Segura leads the majors with 35 hits and is now slashing .386/.411/.629 on the season. Segura has frequently made our ultimate lineup, and he has typically delivered. He’s riding a nine-game hitting streak during which he has gone 16-for-43, and that has lowered his batting average. Get him while everything he hits seems to be finding a hole.
Third base: Travis Shaw ($3,700) vs. Atlanta, Jhoulys Chacin
Shaw sure has made John Farrell’s life easy after the manager deemed him, and not Pablo Sandoval, the team’s starter at third base. He is hitting .329/.392/.521 with a pair of homers, eight doubles and 14 RBI this season. Moreover, Shaw has crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of .408/.482/.673 in 56 plate appearances. He’ll get that platoon advantage he loves against Chacin on Thursday.
Shortstop: Aledmys Diaz ($3,600) @ Arizona, Rubby De La Rosa
The Cardinals are going to have a tough decision to make when Jhonny Peralta returns from a thumb injury. While they need his defense at short, they cannot afford to lose Diaz’s bat from the everyday lineup. The 25-year-old rookie is slashing .468/.500/.823 with four homers in 66 plate appearances. He’s on a five-game hitting streak during which he has gone 13-for-22 with two homers, two doubles, five RBI and seven runs.
Outfield: Mookie Betts ($5,200) vs. Atlanta, Jhoulys Chacin; Randal Grichuk ($3,900) @ Arizona, Rubby De La Rosa; David Peralta ($3,600) vs. St. Louis, Michael Wacha
Betts completes our Boston stack against Chacin, teaming with Ortiz and Shaw. In his last eight games, Betts is 14-for-38 with two homers, two doubles, two triples, three steals, five RBI and 11 runs scored. Chacin isn’t going to slow him, or the Red Sox, down. Grichuk has just one hit in his last 13 trips to the plate, so he could be in line for an off-day Thursday. If he plays, his power makes him very intriguing against De La Rosa, a pitcher who has always struggled with the longball. Finally, Peralta’s price tag seems forever stuck on $3,600, and that always makes him attractive when there’s a righty on the mound. He’s hitting .292/.343/.492 against righties this year, and slashed .325/.384/.552 against them in 2015.