Temper: LHB's James Loney 1B ($2700, +124 OPS and +.039 ISO vs. RHP), John Jaso C ($2500, +268 OPS and +.103 ISO vs. RHP), Kevin Kiermaier OF ($3000, +247 OPS and +.124 ISO vs. RHP) and Grady Sizemore OF ($2000, +177 OPS and +.065 ISO vs. RHP) against RHP Chris Tillman ($5300, -37 OPS and -.047 ISO career vs. LHB)
Tillman would seemingly be a solid stack today given his general struggles this season (4.58 ERA, K-to-walk under 2.0), but excitement is tempered by the Rays' team-wide struggles with hitting right-handers (a difference of 96 points of OPS) combined with Tillman's reverse platoon split. He has been tougher on lefties through his career, and this season the numbers are particularly disparate, with an OPS difference of 151 points as left-handed batters are left with a .258/.328/.342 slash in 292 plate appearances. Tampa just lacks clout from that side of the plate, but the cost to roster a lefty-swinging Ray is light enough and the size of the batter's platoon splits are large enough to justify rolling the dice without hurting the bankroll. Be wary of Kiermaier, though, as he is day-to-day after hobbling his ankle on a first-inning robbing of a home run, so be sure to check if he's in the lineup should you choose to look in his direction. Warning number two: the Rays tend to pull Sizemore as soon as a southpaw appears in the game, so he could have a short day.
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The volume of steals against Cole puts him fifth in the game on the list of swipes surrendered, and though his opponents' 73.3-percent success rate isn't too shabby, it's still above the break-even point where those steals recoup value. He gave up three steals against the Giants two starts ago, a season high, and the total of 22 thefts cracks last year's total of 21 to establish a new career mark for Cole, albeit one that he would like to avoid. Segura hasn't attempted a steal in seven games, but he had four steals in five attempts over the previous eight games. Braun has an even longer drought, having attempted just one steal (unsuccessfully) in his last 14 ballgames, but the fact that Cole allows so few baserunners will encourage the Brewers to run when they have the chance, in order to make the most of their few opportunities to score tonight against the right-hander.
It has become customary for Bumgarner to line up with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw – the two southpaws have gone head-to-head several times over the last five years, including three times in 2015 – this time he faces the challenge of the majors' ERA leader, Zack Greinke. Bumgarner has struck out 12 or more batters in three of his last four starts, shutout the Nationals with 14 K's and just four baserunners a couple starts ago, and has mastered the strike zone with just one game on his 2015 resume with as many as three walks. He typically rises to the challenge against Kershaw, including this year's 1.31 ERA and 21-to-5 ratio of K's to walks in 20.3 innings. Bum has earned the W in each of his last five starts, has only given up five extra-base hits combined over those games (four doubles and a triple), and his domination of the strike zone was Kershaw-like for the entire month of August. The Dodgers are a formidable opponent but they lose the explosiveness of Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal (as well as that of Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier) with an opposing southpaw on the mound, and the Dodger lineup is further thinned by the DL stints of Yasiel Puig, Howie Kendrick, and Kike Hernandez.
Target: RHB Adam Jones OF ($3800) against LHP Drew Smyly ($6900)
Jones is in a bit of a mini-slump, hitting .160 with a double being his only extra-base hit in the last seven games, but the price drop feels like an overreaction to a bad week. Prior to that small sample he had hit seven homers in the previous stretch of 14 games. Jones doesn't receive much of a personal boost for the platoon advantage, with a career-long split that actually favors right-handers by 42 points of slugging, but that is easily covered by Smyly's immense split (+219 OPS vs. RHB) and the southpaw's tendency towards short outings, as Smyly has failed to complete the fifth inning in two of his three starts since coming off the disabled list.
I like Brantley as much as the next guy and his .322/.395/.483 slash and league-leading count of 40 doubles substantiates the legitimacy – or at least the repeatability – of last season's breakout, but there is little to justify the third-highest cost among non-Denver hitters today. He's $100 cheaper than Josh Donaldson and $100 more than Jose Bautista, and though Brantley is probably worth the $4500-$4900 that he usually commands, he will have a tough time proving his worth so high on the list. I also dislike Estrada more than the next guy, having given him the rare “F” grade for his mechanics in the last couple of Starting Pitcher Guides, thanks to an exaggerated over-the-top delivery with low momentum and below-average torque that he struggles to repeat with consistency, so it's not like this assessment sees Estrada through rose-colored glasses. Throw in Estrada's strong season with Brantley's good-not-great recent performance, and I would have a hard time justifying that cost with better options available for less costly investment.
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