DraftKings picks: Bautista, Strasburg, etc.
DraftKings participants will find plenty of terrific hitter options on Thursday, as there are several mediocre starters working in hitter-friendly venues. But with so few solid hurlers on the schedule, starting-pitcher choices will be important on this day. The following players deserve a close look when filling out DraftKings lineups.
Pedro Alvarez (Pirates): The lefty-slugging first baseman has posted a career .792 OPS vs. righties compared to a .588 mark against southpaws. He could be in for an excellent game against Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, who compiled a 6.27 ERA in 33 Major League innings last season.
Neil Walker (Pirates): Like Alvarez, Walker owns pronounced splits, with a career .803 OPS against right-handers and a .668 mark vs. lefties. On Thursday, the second baseman could rack up extra-base knocks in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
Gregory Polanco (Pirates): Polanco could be part of a successful stack of Pirates hitters vs. DeSclafani. The speedy outfielder with a career .727 OPS vs. right-handers (.466 against lefties) could swipe a base or smack a homer.
Danny Valencia (Blue Jays): The corner infielder has ridden a career .870 OPS vs. southpaws (.615 vs. right-handers) into a platoon role, so he should be in the starting lineup against lefty CC Sabathia on Thursday. The Yankees starter allowed 60 homers in 68 starts from 2012-14, and Valencia is a prime candidate to take him deep on Thursday.
Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): The third baseman owns a career .953 OPS vs. lefties (.744 vs. right-handers), making him one of the effective hitters in baseball in those matchups. Facing the homer-prone Sabathia, Donaldson -- who has ripped 30 homers in 432 career at-bats against southpaws -- could knock a ball out of hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
Jose Bautista (Blue Jays): The outfielder is yet another Blue Jays slugger who rakes vs. lefties, against whom he owns a lifetime .899 OPS. On Thursday, Sabathia could struggle to get through the heart of a Blue Jays lineup that is packed with right-hander power hitters.
Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays): Encarnacion completes my talented stack of Blue Jays power hitters for Thursday's games. His career .881 OPS against left-handers (.820 vs. righties) suggests that he could put one of Sabathia's offerings into the outfield seats.
Salvador Perez (Royals): With a career .852 OPS vs. left-handers opposed to a .712 mark against righties, the catcher is in a perfect position to excel against southpaw starter John Danks, who has posted an ERA higher than 4.70 for three consecutive seasons.
Alex Rios (Royals): Like his teammate Perez, Rios prefers to face lefties such as Danks. His career .800 OPS vs. southpaws exceeds his .749 mark against right-handers, and his blend of plate skills and speed give him potential to produce in multiple ways.
Brandon Moss (Indians): The Indians will face right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who will be making his Major League debut after posting a 4.74 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in Triple-A last season. Moss -- who has clubbed 79 of his 91 career long balls against righties -- could lead the charge against the rookie.
Jason Kipnis (Indians): The second baseman excels vs. right-handers, as 36 of his 44 career homers and 61 of his 88 lifetime steals have come in those matchups. From his prominent spot near the top of the lineup, Kipnis could score multiple runs if the Indians manage to spoil Wojciechowski's debut.
David Murphy (Indians): Murphy owns a career .803 OPS against right-handers (.651 vs. lefties), which could make him a key part of an Indians hitter stack against Wojciechowski on Thursday. The outfielder will likely hit lower in the order, so he may need to have his success before the Astros bring in a left-handed reliever to face him.
Chase Utley (Phillies): The second baseman will take on Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson, who is trying to bounce back from a 2014 campaign in which he posted a 5.88 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP. Masterson showed few signs of improvement in Spring Training, when he compiled a 1.35 WHIP and just 10 whiffs in 23 innings. Utley has compiled a career .872 OPS vs. righties (.827 vs. lefties), making him a potentially productive middle-infield option for DraftKings participants.
Ike Davis (A's): With a career .813 OPS vs. right-handers opposed to a .577 mark against lefties, Davis could be poised for success against the Rangers' Nick Martinez, who posted a 4.55 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP during his rookie season in 2014.
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): The right-hander -- who produced 242 K's in 215 innings last season -- is the kind of high-strikeout starter whom DraftKings participants should covet. Facing an underwhelming Mets lineup, Strasburg could come away with a win and double-digit strikeouts on Thursday.
Ian Kennedy (Padres): Working in his pitcher-friendly home park on Thursday, Kennedy -- who fanned 207 batters in 201 innings last season -- should fare well against a Giants lineup that will be missing Hunter Pence and could be without Brandon Belt.
Kendall Graveman (A's): Graveman will make first Major League start after posting outstanding numbers (0.36 ERA, 0.75 WHIP) during Spring Training. The right-hander should benefit from facing the Rangers at pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum.
*Stats current through Tuesday's games.