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Here are five different pitchers fantasy baseball owners can consider using on DraftKings for Friday’s eight-game slate:
Gerrit Cole, HOU at TB ($11,200)
Of all the pitchers on Friday’s slate, Cole’s 34.5 percent strikeout rate was highest last year. Cole dramatically increased his strikeouts in his first year with the Astros on the back of a huge increase in backspin rate on his four-seam fastball. Cole’s average four-seam spin rate rose from a below-average 2,164 RPM with the Pirates in 2017 to an excellent 2,379 with the Astros in 2018. The extra backspin on Cole’s four-seamer gives it more life and more rise, which helps it miss bats above the barrel.
Cole will take on a Rays team that is projected to score less runs than average this season, and the matchup takes place in Tropicana Field, one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the American League.
German Marquez, COL at MIA ($9,200)
Marquez gets a massive park upgrade on the road in pitcher-friendly Marlins Park to take on a Marlins club that is projected to be one of the lowest run scoring teams with one of the worst run differentials this year, putting him in good position to prevent runs and get the win.
Marquez was dominant over the final stretch of his 2018 season, posting an outrageously good 1.98 FIP with a 2.24 ERA over his final 12 starts. Marquez’s strikeout rate shot up to an elite 35 percent over those final 313 batters he faced, up from 24 percent previously. The strikeouts were fueled by a large spike in swings and misses on a per-pitch basis, with his swinging strike rate rising from 10 percent prior to August to just under 17 percent over his final 12 starts, also an elite number.
Marquez enticed batters to chase pitches out of the zone significantly more often down the stretch, with his chase rate rising to 35 percent from August on, up from 28 percent previously.
Robbie Ray, ARI at LAD ($10,100)
Ray has had significantly more success away from hitter-friendly Chase Field. Last year, Ray held batters to a .194 batting average with a .312 OBP and .295 SLG (.276 wOBA) away from Chase Field, a marked improvement from his .233 AVG, .342 OBP and .452 SLG (.344 wOBA) at Chase Field. Those numbers are in line with how Ray has performed on the road in his career, posting a better-than-average .290 wOBA against in 318 road innings, 55 points better than his .345 wOBA against in 298 career innings at Chase Field. Ray also has had more strikeout success away from Chase Field, with his career strikeout rate sitting at 29.5 percent against 1,327 batters on the road, an improvement from 26 percent across 1,321 batters faced at Chase Field.
Ray faces the Dodgers, who are projected to score more runs than average, but the park upgrade in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium combined with Ray’s performance on the road and high strikeout potential make Ray an option.
Joey Lucchesi, SD vs. SF ($7,900)
Lucchesi has a soft matchup in pitcher-friendly Petco Park against a Giants club that is projected to be one of the lowest run scoring teams in baseball.
Lucchesi struck out 26.5 percent of the batters he faced last year, five percentage points better than the starting pitcher average strikeout rate of 21.5 percent, and 21st overall among all starting pitchers to throw at least 130 innings last year.
Charlie Morton, TB vs. HOU ($8,700)
Morton’s first start of the year is against his former team, the Astros. While a matchup against a strong Houston offense is not particularly appealing, Morton’s bat-missing skills gives him some upside. Morton struck out 29 percent of the batters he faced last year, ninth best among starting pitchers. Tropicana Field is also one of the better pitcher’s parks in the American League.
The downside with Morton is depth into the game. Morton is an excellent sprinter, who is most effective the first time through the order. Morton held batters to an incredible .504 OPS with a 34 percent strikeout rate the first time through the order last year but saw his OPS against rise to .733 and .786 the second and third times through, respectively, with his strikeout rate dipping to 26 percent between the second and third times through the order. The Rays are very aggressive with yanking their starting pitchers and could have a fast trigger on Morton.
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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.