Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation for Thursday’s six-game afternoon slate on DraftKings as well as the best teams to use for stacks. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, and we have rankings of the top plays at each position. And at the bottom of the post we have some brief thoughts on Thursday’s three-game late slate.

Before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about handling a short slate. In general, I’m not inclined to play much, if at all, when the slate isn’t close to full. On short slates there aren’t as many wrong options for other players to choose, and ownership percentages on the smart plays will be high. So you either have to roster sub-optimal players or use players everyone else is using as well. That makes GPPs especially precarious on short slates. You can still play some cash games, but it’s probably best not to put as much money in play as you normally would.

Pitching Perspective

Here are our projections for today’s starters. You’ll see each starter’s salary, some information about the quality of his opponent, the average number of fantasy points the starter is projected to score per game and how far above or below average his projection is compared to his salary in the value column. As for the colors, they rank as follows from good to bad: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy.

Looking at the afternoon pitching options might make you say “woof.”  I don’t see how you can get around paying up for one of the options in the elite pitching matchup between Stephen Strasburg ($10,500, SP) and Matt Harvey ($8,800, SP). With all the hype around Harvey and at that price point, I expect him to be heavily owned. I’m not a fan of paying up for pitching if it can be avoided, but Strasburg may be unavoidable today.

Of the two mid-price options, A.J. Burnett ($8,000, SP) and Trevor Bauer ($7,200, SP), I probably prefer Burnett against Cincinnati. However, it looks like the rain will still be around in Cincy tomorrow, and possible rain delays make starting pitchers dicey. Bauer at Houston is a fine matchup given the strikeout potential against the Astros.

Of the cheaper guys, I probably like Shane Greene ($6,000, SP) against Minnesota the most. The Twins are actually a sneaky decent offense, but the pickings are obviously a little slim on this short slate. Greene was above average in both strikeout rate and groundball rate last year, so there are things to like. He struggles a bit with left-handed hitters, but Joe Mauer and Oswaldo Arcia will be his main potential foils today in that regard, which isn’t enough to totally scare me off.

And then I could maybe stomach Kendall Graveman ($5,100, SP) at home against Texas. Graveman is an extreme groundball pitcher with excellent control. He doesn’t seem to have swing and miss stuff, but he does have the skills and is in the right situation to be decent in terms of run prevention. Texas was 19 percent worse than league average against right-handed pitchers like Graveman last year, though the presence of Prince Fielder and and Shin-Soo Choo should help in that regard. Still, the matchup may be better than average.

Stack Options

If weather wasn’t an issue, I’d be pimping Detroit and Pittsburgh here. Alas, it looks like rain may be persistent in Detroit all day long with wind blowing in from right. If you’re taking a look at things in the morning and the forecast has softened, try to find a way to pay up for the heart of the Detroit order. That’s Miguel Cabrera ($5,200, 3B), Victor Martinez ($4,500, 1B), J.D. Martinez ($4,400, OF) and Yoenis Cespedes ($4,500, OF). They may be able to give it a go at some point in Cincinnati tomorrow. If they do, the middle of the Pittsburgh order from Gregory Polanco ($4,000, OF) to Pedro Alvarez ($4,100, 3B) is in play. That also includes Andrew McCutchen ($5,300, OF), Neil Walker ($4,200, 2B) and Starling Marte ($4,700, OF).

Thankfully, Cleveland won’t have to deal with any weather inside Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Tribe will face off against Asher Wojciechowski, who will be making his major league debut. The rookie posted a FIP in the mid-4.00s in over 200 Triple-A innings. The Indians were seven percent better than league average against right-handers last year, so they could make this debut a rough one. From the Tribe I like Jason Kipnis ($4,300, 2B), Michael Brantley ($4,600, OF), Carlos Santana ($4,300, C) and Brandon Moss ($4,500, OF). Michael Bourn ($3,800, OF) is a cheaper option if you need one.

Editor’s Note: Brantley was a late scratch on Wednesday, so double check his availability on Thursday.

Assuming you have to stay away from Detroit and Pittsburgh, the other team I’d look to stack is Kansas City against John Danks and his projected ERA of 5.45 according to ZiPS. The wind in Kansas City is forecasted to be blowing out strongly to right field. Against a left-handed starter, I like what should be 3-6 in the lineup: Kendrys Morales ($3,700, 1B), Alex Gordon ($4,300, OF), Alex Rios ($4,100, OF), and Salvador Perez ($3,800, C).

Here are our hitter projections for the day, which can be downloaded here.

Player Rankings

Catcher

  1. Carlos Santana – $4,300 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Joe Mauer – $4,000 – Minnesota Twins
  3. Salvador Perez – $3,800 – Kansas City Royals

First Base

  1. Victor Martinez – $4,500 – Detroit Tigers
  2. Joey Votto – $4,600 – Cincinnati Reds
  3. Kendrys Morales – $3,700 – Kansas City Royals

Second Base

  1. Jason Kipnis – $4,300 – Cleveland Indians
  2. Neil Walker – $4,200 – Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Daniel Murphy – $4,000 – New York Mets

Third Base

  1. Miguel Cabrera – $5,200 – Detroit Tigers
  2. Lonnie Chisenhall – $3,900 – Cleveland Indians
  3. Pedro Alvarez – $4,100 – Pittsburgh Pirates

Shortstop

  1. Billy Hamilton – $4,400 – Cincinnati Reds
  2. Danny Santana – $3,900 – Minnesota Twins
  3. Jose Ramirez – $3,400 – Cleveland Indians

Outfield

  1. Andrew McCutchen – $5,300 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Yoenis Cespedes – $4,500 – Detroit Tigers
  3. Adam Eaton – $3,900 – Chicago White Sox
  4. Gregory Polanco – $4,000 – Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Alex Rios – $4,100 – Kansas City Royals
  6. Oswaldo Arcia – $4,200 – Minnesota Twins

Starting Pitcher

  1. Stephen Strasburg – $10,500 – Washington Nationals
  2. Trevor Bauer – $7,200 – Cleveland Indians
  3. Shane Greene – $6,000 – Detroit Tigers
  4. Kendall Graveman – $5,100 – Oakland Athletics

Late Slate

Just quickly, Boston and the Yankees look like the teams to stack in the evening slate, and the Padres are a third option. On the mound, Ian Kennedy ($7,800, SP) and Tim Hudson ($6,200, SP) is where I’d go with Justin Masterson ($6,700, SP) being a third option.

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