Ben Zobrist – The Rays are making a late season run at the Yankees, and Thursday night should be another step in the right direction. Zobrist has absolutely owned Bartolo Colon over his career, registering a .571 batting average and a plain silly 1.571 slugging percentage.He has more home runs off of the big righty than strikeouts, something that is very rarely done. The Rays figures to give Zobrist plenty of help, as the team is batting .344 as a team against Colon. The Rays utility man will not cost you an arm and a leg in salary cap fantasy baseball leagues, but will outproduce those middle infielders who do. There is not a better value play on the board for Thursday’s 8 pack of games.
Ryan Howard – The Phillies face Johnny Cueto (16-6 2.44 ERA) tonight, and while the Phillies offense has been anemic all season long, I like the potential for Howard in this matchup. He holds a .333 career average against the Reds lefty, with every single one of his hits going for extra bases. When rostering a slugger like Howard, you’re banking on his powerful upside, and he has just that against Cueto. With Juan Pierre (.333 average against Cueto) and Jimmy Rollins (batting only .214 vs the Reds starter, but has had all of his hits put him in scoring position) getting on base and Chase Utley (.300 average against Cueto) protecting Howard, he cannot be pitched around. He may not get you 3 hits, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get at least one hit that does some serious damage.
Players to avoid:
Toronto Blue Jays – They may rank 3rd in the MLB in HR’s, but they are a long shot to add to that total tonight against Justin Verlander. If you exclude Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, both still on the shelf, the Blue Jays are batting .123 against the Tigers ace, with only 1 home run. With that average, Toronto would have to have 32 players to the plate against Verlander to be mathematically likely to record 4 hits. Their one home run was hit by Edwin Encarnacion, his only hit in 12 career at bats against the flame throwing righty. There is virtually no upside to taking a chance on any of the powerful Canadians in daily fantasy baseball games.
Hunter Pence – If the Giants are banking on the former Phillie to pull them through the Melky Cabrera incident and lead to them the postseason, they have been sadly disappointed in August, a trend that is likely to continue tonight against the Braves Tommy Hanson. Pence’s batting average is hovering around the Mendoza line this month, and with 1.5 times as many strikeouts as hits against Hanson, his ceiling in daily fantasy baseball leagues is awfully low. He holds a respectable .250 batting average against Atlanta’s righty, but San Francisco is batting .161 as a team, indicating that Pence will rarely step into the batters box with runners on base. You can do better than a struggling batter who is playing in a pitcher friendly ballpark against a starter whom he has had little success against.
David Ortiz – The Red Sox disappointing season isn’t likely to get better, as C.J. Wilson and the desperate Angels come to town. The Angels ace has retired Ortiz on 12 of 13 occasions, ringing him up 5 of those times. Boston as a team has more strikeouts than hits against Wilson, leading me to believe that Wilson can get himself out of any jams he pitches his way into. Big Papi is slated to return “sometime this week”, but he should not be re-entering your lineup until “sometime after he has proven he is healthy”. The Red Sox are a mess, try not to go down with the sinking ship.