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MLB Daily Fantasy Helper: Thursday 7/28/16

Aaron Nola has a mouth-watering matchup with the Atlanta Braves, which could make him a great value play. What other players should we target tonight in MLB DFS?

The beauty of daily fantasy baseball is that the top targets are different each and every day. Whether it's the right-handed catcher who destroys left-handed pitching or the mid-range hurler facing a depleted lineup, you're not going to find yourself using the same assets time after time.

While this breaks up the monotony, it can make it hard to decide which players are primed to succeed on a given day. We can help bridge that gap.

In addition to our custom optimal lineups, you can check out our batting and pitching heat maps, which show the pieces in the best spot to succeed on that slate. Put on the finishing touches with our games and lineups page to see who's hitting where and what the weather looks like, and you'll have yourself a snazzy looking team to put up some big point totals.

If you need help getting started on that trek, here are some of the top options on the board today.

Pitchers to Target

High-Priced Pitchers

Jose Fernandez ($11,800 on FanDuel): There is no such thing as a bad matchup for Jose Fernandez. On paper, the St. Louis Cardinals would appear to be one, ranking third in wRC+ against righties with an above-average 8.9% walk rate. However, Fernandez has a sickly 2.55 SIERA this year thanks to his 36.8% strikeout rate. Additionally, most of the Cardinals' big sticks are right-handed batters, and Fernandez has whiffed 46.0% (yes, that first number is correct) of the righties he has faced. He's not of this world. If he's on the slate, you use him without hesitation.

Johnny Cueto ($10,700): The Washington Nationals' offense is better than their 93 wRC+ against righties would tell you, so this isn't an easy matchup for Johnny Cueto. Even still, with how well Cueto is pitching, we shouldn't necessarily avoid it, either. Cueto's season-long SIERA is stout at 3.50, but during his four starts this month, it's 3.08 with a 27.8% strikeout rate. Cueto's 9.6% swinging-strike rate over that span indicates his strikeout numbers will come down, but his excellent control should allow him to remain a quality pitcher when that happens. With the best park on the slate in his favor, Cueto's a safe pick with decent enough upside.

Value Pitcher

Aaron Nola ($8,000): Nobody would blame you for being a bit scared of Aaron Nola when you consider that he has allowed at least four earned runs in six of his last seven starts. A deeper look at his numbers, though, should help show why he's still a force. In that seven-start span of awfulness, Nola's SIERA is 3.79 with a 21.5% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate. He would be an above-average pitcher if we look only at his worst time of the season, and that omits the first 12 starts of the year when he had a 2.95 SIERA. Nola is still a really good starter, and against the team that ranks 30th in wRC+ against righties, he's a rock-solid option.

Hitters to Target

High-Priced Hitters

Mookie Betts ($4,500): It's hard to justify using a player this highly-priced at a below-average offensive park, but Mookie Betts is far from your ordinary dude. Over the past month, he has increased his hard-hit rate to 41.0% with a 43.4% fly-ball rate, and he was excelling in the past without the assistance of other-worldly batted-ball stats. Today, he'll face Jered Weaver, who allows hard contact to righties 38.2% of the time, making Betts a one-of-a-kind.

Max Kepler ($3,200): Here's the thing we've got to accept about Max Kepler: he's really freaking good. He has a 38.9% hard-hit rate this year, and it's only moving up with a mark of 41.3% over the past month. Ubaldo Jimenez has largely been a mess this whole season with a 5.06 SIERA, and he allows hard contact to lefties 36.2% of the time. He's not prohibitive to righties, so Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier, and company are all in play, but Kepler's the object of our affections tonight.

Chris Davis ($4,000): Before diving too much into Chris Davis, it's important to make clear that Kyle Gibson is really a pretty good pitcher. His SIERA the past month is 3.74, and he has only allowed hard contact 25.0% of the time. That said, he's still (usually) a below-average-strikeout arm, and that's a tough formula for matching up with Davis. Against finesse pitchers this year, Davis has 10 home runs in 162 plate appearances on his way to a .254/.370/.530 slash. Gibson is good and showing improvements, but Davis can still exploit his one weakness.

Value Hitters

Joey Gallo ($2,200): You can get one of the league's most prodigious sluggers tonight for just $2,200 on FanDuel. That should seal the deal right there. But Joey Gallo has other things working in his favor, too. Yordano Ventura's strikeout rate against lefties dips to 16.0%, and he induces soft contact only 13.3% of the time. Gallo isn't in the soft-contact business. He's in the mondo dong business, and he could get the sales a-pumpin' tonight.

Jurickson Profar ($2,300): These two players here should be screaming at you that there is going to be value in the Texas Rangers' batting order today. They'll be a godsend to those of you attempting to squeeze Jose Fernandez into your lives. With Jurickson Profar, the pros are simple: he has been hitting leadoff recently against right-handed pitchers, and his price doesn't come close to reflecting that. Profar's peripheral stats are wholly uninspiring, but they all improve when he's swinging from the left-hand side, as he will tonight. Add Nomar Mazara to this list, and you can have a team full of decent, cheap options when the Rangers take the field.

Ryan Howard ($2,100): Ryan Howard is not a good baseball player anymore, and it's always a crapshoot about whether or not he'll be in the lineup. If he plays today, though, you should use him. Atlanta Braves starter Matt Wisler only has a 14.5% strikeout rate against lefties, and they tattoo him for a 36.6% hard-hit rate. Even with the reduced playing time, Howard is still posting a 44.1% hard-ht rate this year. If he doesn't play, then these same heavenly splits would also apply to Cody Asche and Odubel Herrera.

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