Cash: James Paxton, SEA vs. MIN ($11,900) -- With Max Scherzer sitting at $14,000, Paxton is slightly easier to work with on a slate that features a game at Coors Field. If the cheap bats fall in a way where you can spend up for Scherzer, by all means, do it, it’s just going to be tough to pull off. The recent return of Miguel Sano gives the Twins’ lineup a nice power boost, but the Twins have been a slightly below average team against left-handed pitching this season (97 wRC+) while striking out at a pitcher-friendly 24.6% clip. With a 45:8 K:BB, 1.70 ERA and 0.73 WHIP over his last five starts, Paxton is pitching at an elite level similar to his second-half performance from 2017, which included a 9.29 K/BB, 2.63 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.
Also consider: Max Scherzer, WAS at MIA ($14,000), Corey Kluber, CLE vs. HOU ($10,800), Luis Severino, NYY vs. LAA ($11,200), Noah Syndergaard, NYM at MIL ($10,500).
Cheap 2nd SP Consideration: Ross Stripling, LA vs. SD ($7,200) -- From my Barometer column earlier this week: Stripling has increased the use of his slider since the start of 2017, and the result has been an increase in strikeout rate. It’s worth noting that he’s split time between the bullpen and the rotation as a spot starter for the Dodgers -- six of his 63 appearances since the start of last season have come as a starter -- so it will be worth monitoring his velocity in the coming weeks to see if he falls off. I’m more than willing to take the chance with Stripling on Friday if the budget doesn’t allow two of the top-five pitchers to fit in my lineups, as the Padres continue to struggle against righties with a 25.5% K% and 82 wRC+ this season.
Also consider: Dallas Keuchel, HOU at CLE ($8,200)
Tournaments Only: Mike Minor, TEX vs. KC ($4,400) -- Minor is on the short list of pitchers near the salary price floor that you might consider as a way of getting a lot of exposure to Coors Field bats. Three of his first nine starts for the Rangers have led to single-digit scoring output on DraftKings, which is a huge part of the reason he’s available this cheap. The upside he’s flashed on occasion includes a pair of 20-plus point efforts, the latest of which came last time out when he had a season-high nine strikeouts against the White Sox. Even with the low price, there is a lot of risk here -- the hot and humid conditions at Arlington are very hitter friendly and the over/under sits at 9.5 as of Friday morning -- but Minor could prove to be the rare bargain-basement arm that provides a nice return.
Joe Musgrove, PIT vs. STL ($4,000) -- Musgrove has been slowed by shoulder injuries this season, so the risk here is even greater than it is with Minor. Stil, we’re looking at a home favorite, with decent skills when healthy, against a middle-of-the-road St. Louis offense.
Kurt Suzuki/Tyler Flowers, ATL at BOS ($3,200) -- My belief in the talent of Eduardo Rodriguez is no secret, but the Braves-Red Sox matchup has an over/under of 10.0, and the price is fair for two right-handed hitting catchers with very strong splits against left-handed pitching since the start of last season, and Rodriguez’s occasional struggles usually come in the form of righties doing damage against him with the long ball (1.37 HR/9 vs. RHH since the start of 2016).
Robinson Chirinos is $3,000 vs. Kansas City lefty Eric Skoglund, and John Ryan Murphy would have a righty-lefty matchup against Sean Manaea in the Arizona-Oakland matchup at $3,500 if he gets the start behind the plate Friday, though Murphy is more of a tournament-only consideration for me.
Paul Goldschmidt, AZ at OAK ($3,900) -- Sean Manaea is having a difficult time missing bats recently, and Goldschmidt appears to be heating up at the plate with a road trip sending him away from the humidor at Chase Field for a stretch. Goldschmidt has always pummeled lefties and that hasn’t changed at all in his otherwise disappointing 2018 (1.108 OPS, five of his six homers have come against southpaws).
The list of alternatives at first base is slightly shorter than usual for a 14-game slate, and even Joey Votto at Coors draws Jon Gray ($4,800), but Tyler Austin ($3,400) against Andrew Heaney is a nice cheap option for those looking to save cash here in order to spend up elsewhere. One likely low-owned bat to consider is Cody Bellinger ($4,000) in a lefty-lefty matchup against Clayton Richard and the Padres. Bellinger’s splits against lefties since the start of 2017 aren’t bad, especially in the power department (.254/.322/.516), and the Dodgers should be able to scratch out four or five runs against Richard and company Friday night.
Matt Carpenter, STL at PIT ($3,600) -- Assuming you’re not taking the bait on Pirates starter Joe Musgrove at the extremely low price ($4,000), Carpenter shapes up to be one of the better values on the board on a night where prices are very high on the top options at the keystone. It appeared as though Carpenter may have been playing through an injury for a significant portion of April, as he was struggling to make consistent hard contact, particularly in the first half of the month. Since getting a pair of days off in the series against the Padres nearly two weeks ago, Carpenter has been stinging the ball, hitting .361/.410/.639 in his last nine games. Ownership rates are likely going to jump again Friday with the recent production, and my similarly-priced pivot to consider for those worried about Carpenter’s ownership rate is Jonathan Schoop at $3,700, facing Sergio Romo and likely Ryan Yarbrough to begin Friday’s matchup against the Rays.
Justin Turner, LAD vs. SD ($4,000) -- Until his price jumps to the point where he’s at “market” value, Turner continues to be a useful top-end bat at a second-tier price. The appeal Friday night soars since the Dodgers are facing San Diego lefty Clayton Richard, and Turner’s obscene splits against southpaws since the start of last season include an 1.178 OPS. Kyle Seager ($3,600) against Twins rookie Fernando Romero is another interesting option for $400 less, but Turner is the clear-cut best option for cash games, and fading him in tournament hinges on how you’re attacking other positions.
Jurickson Profar, TEX vs. KC ($3,700) -- While Profar is unlikely to ever live up to the lofty prospect grades he received before shoulder injuries derailed him for a prolonged stretch near the outset of his big-league career, he’s shaping up to be a very good option against left-handed pitching when those matchups arise. Since the start of 2017, Profar is hitting .286/.400/.571 against lefties. Eventually, things will get more complicated with his playing time when Elvis Andrus gets healthy, but if he turns into a utility option who mostly plays against lefties and mashes when he gets the call, we’ll continue to slot him into the mix in this situations like the one he’s got Friday. In each of his last 10 starts, Profar his hit in the heart of the order for the Rangers, falling between third and fifth in the lineup.
Odubel Herrera, PHI vs. TOR ($4,200) -- The Jays are starting Sam Gaviglio on Friday night, and in addition to my lack of faith in his ability to continue getting big-league hitters out effectively in a starting role, this matchup is taking place on the third most homer-friendly park for left-handed hitters on Friday’s slate. Herrera has been outstanding this season, posting a .343/.406/.535 (.941 OPS) while cruising along as a split-neutral hitter. To this point, Herrera has also been showing his best plate discipline to date, whittling his strikeout rate to a career-best 17.2% while drawing walks at a steady 8.9% clip.
Teoscar Hernandez, TOR at PHI ($3,800) -- Hernandez has maintained a lofty place on the Statcast Barrel Rate Leaderboard to begin 2018, something he managed to do while playing at a very high level down the stretch after his callup last season. It’s a righty-righty matchup for Hernandez against Phillies starter Zach Eflin, whose increased effectiveness this season is likely the result of increased fastball velocity. Nevertheless, Hernandez might fly under-the-radar in tournaments Friday, and his power against right-handed pitching thus far as a big-league hitter (.268/.318/.580) has pushed him to an .897 OPS split.
Mitch Haniger, SEA vs. MIN ($4,100) -- Haniger has posted an .875 OPS against righties since the start of last season, and like Hernandez, he may get slightly less attention than he deserves as a result of a righty-righty arrangement against Twins rookie Fernando Romero. While I like Romero as a talented young starter on a good team, going on the road in what is only his fifth major league start, and with a walk rate north of 4.0 BB/9 makes him a target for now. Whether is a mini-stack or even a potential full one, I’m interested in getting some of the top-end Seattle bats into my lineups Friday (Nelson Cruz is an affordable $4,000 as well).