We have a massive 13-game fantasy baseball slate ready to go Tuesday night and oddly no traditional “ace” pitchers. That makes this a very interesting set of games from a pitching perspective. So who are the best options? Let’s do our best to uncover exactly that.
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Here are five different pitchers fantasy owners can consider using on DraftKings:
1. Zack Wheeler, NYM vs. PHI ($7,900)
This is a rematch for Wheeler against a Phillies team he just faced in his last start. In that game, Wheeler recorded 14.95 DKFP while giving up three runs over seven innings with five strikeouts. While that may not exactly inspire confidence in fantasy gamers, the change in venue is significant going from Citizen’s Bank Park in Philly to Citi Field in New York. In 2018, Citizen’s Bank ranked 12th in park factor for runs scored, while Citi Field ranked 30th. Citizen’s Bank was fourth in park factor for homers, and Citi Field was 22nd. These wide differences should help keep runs off the board for Philly.
The Phillies also appear to be a quality matchup for Wheeler. Yes, they have hit right-handed pitching fairly well this season, ranking 11th in wRC+, but they are also very righty-heavy in the lineup, which plays into Wheeler’s hands. The young Mets righty has allowed just a .261 wOBA and 0.086 ISO to right-handed batters since the start of 2018. His strikeout rate against all batters in that time frame is 23.8%, with a fly-ball rate under 35%. This price is simply too cheap for a pitcher of Wheeler’s caliber at home.
2. Jeff Smardzija, SF at TOR ($7,800)
After an injury-riddled 2018, Smardzija has gotten off to a great start to the 2019 season. In his first four starts, he has a 2.91 ERA while striking out 20 batters in 21 2/3 innings. Smardzija struggled with control in his first start, walking four batters, but has given just four batters a free pass since then. Those improvements in control will certainly make for better performances.
While Smardzija has pitched well, the real reason to use him is the matchup. Toronto has been one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, and it is looking more and more likely that Vlad Guerrero Jr. will not be making his debut on Tuesday as was previously reported. The Blue Jays rank 20th with an 87 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. More importantly, they strike out 27.6% of the time against righties, good for second worst in Major League Baseball.
This pitching slate is brutal, which forces us to focus more on the matchups than pitcher quality. There is nobody on this slate who stands out as an obvious play from a talent perspective, so we will need to rely of the Smardzijas of the world to bring us home.
3. Patrick Corbin, WAS at COL ($8,800)
We don’t typically target pitchers at Coors Field, but on this slate it is fair to make an exception for Corbin, who has been excellent this season. He has a 2.36 ERA through four starts, with 33 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. Every outing has been a quality start. Corbin has struck out over 30% of batters faced since the start of 2018, with a fly-ball rate of just 29%.
The matchup is also very appealing for the lefty. Colorado has been pitiful this season against left-handed pitching. The Rockies rank 28th in wRC+ at 61, and have struck out 27.6%, fifth most frequently. The Rockies have been better when playing at home due to the park factors, but still have not been as good as you would expect. Their overall wRC+ at home sits at just 82.
Corbin has been priced at $10,000 or above for each of his first four starts. Despite his performance and the overall quality of the matchup, he finds himself priced way down at $8,800. Typically a Coors pitcher would be a tournament play only, but I think we can give Corbin some cash game consideration based on the rest of the slate.
4. Chris Stratton, LAA vs. NYY ($5,800)
Stratton is #NotGood. He has an ERA of 7.00 to open the year and has struck out just 11 batters in 18 innings. His xFIP from the start of the 2018 season to now is 4.73. However, he has been very good at limiting power from opposing hitters. His fly-ball rate is 30.8% in that time frame, and he has given up an ISO under .180 (lower than you’d expect for a pitcher of Stratton’s quality).
After such a ringing endorsement, you’re probably wondering why I’d be recommending Stratton as an option. The answer is the Yankees lineup. New York has been decimated with injuries, and could field a legitimate playoff lineup using the injured list:
C: Gary Sanchez
1B: Greg Bird
SS: Troy Tulowitzki and Didi Gregorius
3B: Miguel Andujar
LF: Giancarlo Stanton
CF: Aaron Hicks
RF: Aaron Judge
As a result of all of these injuries, the nightly five to nine in the order is going to be filled with outs. This gives Stratton an elevated chance of recording a quality start, which would be very valuable at his cost.
5. Trevor Williams, PIT vs. ARI ($8,300)
At the time of this writing, it is the Diamondbacks who have the lowest team total on the main slate, sitting at just 3.6 runs. Arizona has been average against righties, with a wRC+ of 96, but will be taking a big park hit going on the road to play the Pirates. In 2018, Chase Field was 11th in park factor for runs, while PNC Park was all the way down at 25th. The Diamondbacks also strike out 24.7% of the time when facing righties.
Williams has also been very consistent so far in 2019. He has recorded four straight quality starts, making him a reliable hurler for fantasy purposes. His biggest issue has been with recording strikeouts, as he has just 17 in 24 1/3 innings, but when he can get batters to fan, it can result in some high-scoring totals. In his first start of the season, Williams struck out six batters and scored 27.1 DKFP.
The Pittsburgh righty strikes out 22.4% of right-handed batters versus just 13.1% of lefties. The Diamondbacks usually have four or five righties in the lineup, plus the pitcher. That makes this a decent lineup for him to face. Williams is essentially the inverse of the kind of play that Stratton is. He has a safer floor, but probably doesn’t pose the same kind of salary-based upside. Perfect for cash games if your risk tolerance is low.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is amicsta) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.