Friday’s fantasy baseball slate has 14 games. Christian Yelich is dealing with a back injury and his status for the Brewers’ game against the Rangers is uncertain. Nelson Cruz (wrist) left Thursday’s game with an injury and the Twins are calling him day-to-day. Anthony Rendon (toe), Gleyber Torres (core), Lorenzo Cain (knee) and A.J. Pollock also have statuses that are uncertain.
Here are five different pitchers fantasy owners can consider using Friday on DraftKings:
1. Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($11,500)
Buehler has been one of baseball’s best at generating strikeouts and limiting walks, posting a 25% strikeout minus walk rate, tied for seventh best among qualified starting pitchers. His 2.99 FIP, which takes into account strikeouts, walk and home runs allowed, is sixth best. Buehler has showcased gigantic strikeout upside at times, eclipsing the 15-strikeout mark in two games this season, peaking at 16 strikeouts.
Buehler has a home matchup against the Diamondbacks on Friday. While home/road splits can sometimes be misleading, Dodger Stadium is pitcher-friendly, and Buehler has dominated in that park this season, holding batters to a minuscule .224 wOBA while posting an elite 2.39 FIP, both improvements from his .304 wOBA allowed and 3.62 FIP away from Dodger Stadium. Buehler’s strong home FIP is fueled by an elite 34% strikeout rate while walking just 1.6% of batters, both substantial drops from his 25% strikeout rate and 6% walk rate away from Dodger Stadium. In Buehler’s most recent home start against the Diamondbacks on July 3, he struck out nine of 30 batters (30%) over seven innings in a 22 DKFP outing.
2. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals at New York Mets ($11,000)
Strasburg was having a strong season until a disastrous nine-run start in his most recent outing shot his 2019 ERA up from 3.26 to 3.72. Despite the poor start, Strasburg always carries fantasy upside with his filthy curveball/changeup combo, which has him striking out a heavy 30% of batters. Strasburg has generated a swing and a miss on 13.8% of his total pitches this season, the best rate of his career. The spike in swings and misses is in part due to expanded curveball usage, as Strasburg has boosted his curveball rate to 30%, up from 20% in previous seasons.
Strasburg has a matchup in pitcher-friendly Citi Field against a suddenly surging Mets team, who have won 13 of their past 14 games. While an extended winning streak of that degree is impressive regardless of opponent, the Mets have been beating up on some poor ball clubs, and Strasburg and the Nats represent a big step up in competition. On the season, the Mets’ offense has ranked around the middle of the pack, and the matchup is unimposing despite the recent hot streak.
3. Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins ($10,700)
Bieber’s breakout season has been fueled in part due to a surge in bat-missing. Bieber has struck out 31% of batters, eighth best among starting pitchers and significantly better than the SP league average of 22%, which represents a sizable boost from 24% last season. Bieber has generated a swing and a miss on 14.2% of his total pitches, also much better than average and a boost from 11.4% last season.
While Bieber leads all pitchers in average DKFP on Friday’s slate with 21.3 DKFP per game, a matchup against the Twins is tough, given the Twins’ rank as the best offense in baseball by wOBA and have posted the fourth lowest strikeout rate. That said, Bieber has performed well against the Twins this season, striking out 29% of Twins batters while holding them to a .211 batting average with a .274 OBP and .368 SLG. The Twins might also be without their best hitter, Nelson Cruz, who left Thursday’s game with an injury.
4. Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds ($9,200)
Darvish got off to a poor start to 2019 as he battled heavy control problems, but a mechanical tweak has resulted in him dramatically cutting down his walk issue. After walking 15% of batters in his first 13 starts, Darvish has walked just 3% of batters over his past 10 starts, including a minuscule 1.4% walk rate over his past six starts. Darvish has maintained heavy strikeout output during that stretch, striking out 31% of batters while preventing runs at a high level with a 2.78 ERA. A matchup in Cincinnati’s park is generally favorable for run-scoring, but the Reds’ offense ranks in the bottom third by team wOBA, giving Darvish a solid matchup. Darvish also carries strikeout upside to further his fantasy value.
5. Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers ($9,800)
Ray historically has pitched better on the road away from Chase Field, as the dry air can make the baseball slick. Ray has held batters to a strong .296 wOBA in his career away from Chase Field, compared to a below average .340 wOBA in Chase Field. Ray’s 3.57 FIP away from Chase Field is an improvement from a 4.33 FIP in Chase Field, as is his 1.24 WHIP on the road, compared to a 1.46 WHIP at home. Ray’s run prevention also has been better on the road with a 3.40 ERA, compared to a 4.76 ERA at home.
Ray is getting a big park upgrade on the road in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium on Friday against a Dodgers offense that isn’t the same against left-handed pitchers. The Dodgers rank as the fourth best offense vs. RHPs by wOBA, but fall to 13th against LHPs. Ray has struck out a strong 31% of batters this season, including a heavy 35% of Dodgers batters faced, giving him strikeout upside.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is timfinn521) 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.
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