Thursday's main slate begins at 6:40 pm ET, giving us six games to work with this evening. Implied team totals are on the lower side overall, though, and the game at Wrigley Field might be one to avoid for hitting entirely, as cooler temperatures and pitcher-friendly winds are likely to keep runs at a minimum.
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Let's check out the top options on today's main slate.
Logan Gilbert ($10,600) is not only the slate's best pitcher, but he also gets the Oakland bump tonight, making him an easy top choice.
Over nine starts, Gilbert has amassed a 3.05 SIERA and 30.6% strikeout rate, and he leads tonight's pitching group in both metrics by a wide margin. While the right-hander tends to have lower pitch counts than we would like, occasionally coming up short of even 90 pitches, good control helps him remain efficient (4.6% walk rate), so he's still logged six or more innings in six of his nine outings.
He shouldn't have much trouble earning the quality start bonus against the Athletics, which has an active roster entering with an 88 wRC+ and 25.4% strikeout rate versus right-handed pitching. Predictably, the A's have a meager 2.99 implied team total against a pitcher of this caliber. On a small slate, we shouldn't overthink this, and Gilbert should be the priority in most lineups.
Lucas Giolito ($10,000) is the only other pitcher at $10,000 or higher, and he's a logical runner-up at the position. He's in the midst of a rock-solid campaign, sporting a 3.85 SIERA, 24.4% strikeout rate, and 4.9% walk rate, and his matchup is excellent against the Tigers.
Although Giolito lacks Gilbert's elite strikeout rate, he tends to get more leash in his starts, cracking 100 pitches in 4 of 10 games. He's gone six-plus innings in eight straight appearances, and six of those have been quality starts.
Detroit's active roster checks in with an 84 wRC+ and 23.2% strikeout rate against righties, and they have abysmal power, owning a league-worst .112 ISO in the split. As a fly-ball pitcher, Giolito should be able to get easy outs facing a lineup lacking punch, and he couldn't ask for a much better matchup.
Much like Corbin Burnes, Aaron Nola ($9,700) has seen his strikeouts plummet this year, as both his K rate (21.3%) and swinging-strike rate (9.9%) are significantly lower than what we've seen for practically his entire career. On the bright side, Nola otherwise has a respectable 4.16 SIERA, isn't walking many guys (5.2% rate), and is generally suppressing hard contact with a 3.66 xERA.
The veteran righty is also doing a good job of accumulating innings, going six or more in seven straight starts, and he's logged at least seven frames four times.
Nola racked up a season-high 10 punchouts his last time out, too, which is hopefully a sign that he can get that strikeout rate back closer to his usual levels. This is a tough spot for him against an Atlanta team with a .185 ISO versus right-handers, though the bottom of the order has been lousy in the split if he can survive the big bats up top.
Between his overall lack of strikeouts and a significantly more difficult opponent, Nola lags behind Gilbert and Giolito tonight, but he should also see a lower roster percentage than either one.
In the value range, JP Sears ($8,200) andClarke Schmidt ($7,900) look like our best options, as they have 25.1% and 26.1% strikeout rates, respectively, which are actually the night's best marks behind Gilbert. While both have generally positive underlying metrics, the reason their salaries are down here is that their actual results have been shaky at best, with home runs being the biggest culprit.
Of the two, I lean toward Sears due to his matchup against the Mariners. That's because Seattle's active roster has put up the third-worst strikeout rate (27.2%) versus southpaws, and they've been a below-average offense overall (95 wRC+) when facing them. Sears has gotten up to 101 pitches a couple of times, so the workload is there if things are going well, and he's hit double-digit strikeouts once this year, pointing to the potential upside we're hoping for.
The New York Yankees are one of the only teams with a notable implied team total (4.71), and their matchup is a good one against Kyle Gibson. Although Gibson has gotten decent results this year, he's produced an uninspiring 4.80 SIERA and 16.7% strikeout rate, and outside of a 51.6% ground-ball rate against lefties, there isn't much of anything to scare us off.
A low-strikeout matchup for Aaron Judge ($4,500) is always appealing, and then Gleyber Torres ($3,200) and Anthony Rizzo ($3,300) are the other top bats. Rizzo rarely hits grounders (27.3%), so Gibson's one positive attribute is pretty much a non-factor against him. The rest of the lineup comes in on the cheap, withJake Bauers ($2,500) being another fly-ball-hitting lefty with some pop.
If Julio Teheran is starting against theSan Francisco Giants as expected, they could jump to the top of the list. Teheran hasn't made an MLB appearance since 2021, and he hasn't exactly been crushing it in Triple-A this year, logging a 5.33 xFIP over eight starts.
Even in his peak years, Teheran was someone we routinely attacked with left-handed batters (career 5.20 xFIP in the split), and it's hard to see him making any significant strides on the other side of 30 and following a layoff. LaMonte Wade Jr ($2,900), Michael Conforto ($3,100), and Mike Yastrzemski ($3,000) are the top lefties who should be in the lineup, and then righties like J.D. Davis ($2,900) and Mitch Haniger ($2,600) come in at value salaries, too.
While the aforementioned Sears has some appeal at pitcher tonight, the Seattle Mariners are still a top stack because of Sears' home run issues and that notoriously poor Oakland bullpen. The 27-year-old lefty may get strikeouts, but he's also allowed 2.03 dingers per 9 innings off a 56.5% fly-ball rate. It's another chance to roster the right-handed power from Julio Rodriguez ($3,400), Eugenio Suarez ($2,900), Teoscar Hernandez ($2,800), andA.J. Pollock ($2,600).
The Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, andBaltimore Orioles are other teams to consider having in your pool.
Dylan Dodd is getting called up to face the Phillies, and his first three MLB starts this year didn't exactly go swimmingly, as shown by an ugly 5.74 SIERA and 10.0% strikeout rate. Given that he's only managed a 4.87 xFIP, 22.8% strikeout rate, and 9.8% walk rate in Triple-A this season, it's hard to see a big turnaround coming.
Under normal circumstances, the Braves might be easy to cross off versus Nola, but the reality is that he's been a low-strikeout arm in 2023. While his track record suggests he'll come around, if he doesn't on this night, Atlanta should be able to knock a few out. Nola's allowed more home runs to right-handed batters this year, but a 4.66 xFIP versus lefties suggests that they should have a leg up.
And speaking of lefties, the Orioles' left-handed batters are the guys to target against Schmidt, who's recorded a 4.83 xFIP, 22.0% strikeout rate, and 11.0% walk rate in the split.