Friday’s main fantasy baseball slate has 14 games. Charlie Blackmon (calf) left Thursday’s game, and his status heading into the Rockies’ home game vs. the Orioles is in question. Christian Yelich (back) is a candidate to return to the Brewers’ lineup after missing time due to back spasms. Other notable players who are candidates to return to the lineup include George Springer (back), J.D. Martinez (illness), Ryan Braun (knee), David Peralta (shoulder) and Khris Davis (hip).
Fantasy owners can monitor the statuses of these players by downloading the DK Live app, where fantasy owners receive up-to-the-minute news, analysis and lineups. You also can follow DK Live on Twitter at @DKLive.
Here are five different pitchers fantasy owners can consider using Friday on DraftKings:
1. Blake Snell, TB at CLE ($11,400)
While Snell’s 3.31 ERA is not nearly as good as his 1.89 ERA from last season, Snell’s peripheral statistics have improved significantly in some key areas. Snell is limiting batters to a contact quality derived expected wOBA of just .239 based on the exit velocities and angles of their batted balls, an improvement from .273 last season and significantly better than the league average of .321.
Snell is generating eye-popping swing-and-miss numbers. Snell has generated a swing and a miss on 19.2% of his total pitches, almost double the league average SP rate of 10.6%, and easily the highest rate among starting pitchers in 2019. In fact, Snell’s swing-and-miss rate is so good it is smashing the best rate since this statistic began being tracked, eclipsing 2002 Randy Johnson’s 16.3% rate.
Snell has improved his swing-and-miss numbers by cutting down on fastballs and increasing his nasty curveball usage. Snell is using his curveball on 31% of his pitches this season, a boost from 20% last season. Snell’s curveball has generated a swing and a miss on a strong 24% of his pitches and enticed batters to chase it out of the zone 41% of the time, both better than his fastball rates of 14% and 36%, respectively, helping to fuel the boost in swings and misses.
Snell also has improved his control. Snell is walking just 6% of batters this year, an improvement from 9% last season. Snell has improved his control by throwing more first-pitch strikes, throwing a first-pitch strike on an excellent 69% of his pitches, an improvement from 57% last year and better than the league average of 61%.
So while Snell’s run prevention is not as impressive as it was last year, there is reason to believe his ERA will start to drop significantly going forward. Snell draws a good matchup Friday against the Indians, who have been a mediocre offense in May and have a bottom-third offense on the season. The Indians are projected to be a mediocre run-scoring offense for the rest of the season.
2. Chris Sale, BOS at HOU ($11,200)
After an early season dip in velocity set off alarm bells, Sale has straightened things out, striking out 10 or more batters in five of his past six starts, including each of his past four. In his most recent start, Sale sat roughly 95 mph with his fastball, roughly two mph higher than his average fastball velocity in previous starts this season.
Sale’s spike in strikeouts over his past six starts is due in part to a boost in slider usage. Sale has thrown his slider on a heavy 44% of his pitches over those starts, up from 35% last season. Over those starts, Sale has generated a swing and a miss on an elite 17% of his total pitches and struck out a ridiculously high 46% of batters.
While a matchup against the Astros is poor due to their highly productive offense and low strikeouts, Houston could be down one of their best hitters, as George Springer’s status is uncertain as he deals with a back injury. Download the DK Live app for up-to-the-minute news on Springer’s status Friday.
Even despite the tough matchup vs. the Astros, Sale is so good when he’s on top of his game he presents big upside. In his most recent start vs. Houston, Sale struck out 10-of-26 batters (39%) over 5 1/3 innings, but battled control problems, walking five and allowing three runs.
3. Robbie Ray, ARI at SF ($10,900)
The elevation and dry air of Chase Field can affect pitchers, and Ray has pitched significantly better away from Chase Field throughout his career. In 352 IP on the road, Ray has held batters to a .292 wOBA, significantly better than his .341 wOBA allowed in Chase Field. Ray has been less home run prone on the road and has struck out more batters on the road, with his strikeout rate sitting at a strong 29% on the road. The boost in strikeouts and drop in home runs has cut his career FIP to 3.42 away from Chase Field, with it at 4.28 in Chase Field.
Ray gets a huge park upgrade Friday as the Diamondbacks play in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, one of the best pitcher’s parks in the game. Not only is the park elite for pitching, the Giants’ offense has been impotent, ranking as the third worst offense by wOBA while being projected to score the second fewest runs the rest of the season. The park and opponent makes Ray an excellent candidate to prevent runs Friday.
Ray owns a strong 3.23 FIP on the back of an excellent 29.5% strikeout rate this season. His contact quality derived expected wOBA allowed of .313 is better than average, as is his isolated power allowed of .130.
4. Noah Syndergaard, NYM vs. DET ($10,100)
Syndergaard has struggled to prevent runs this year with a 4.50 ERA and has seen a degrading of his previously elite slider, which has lost about 3.5 mph of velocity, dropping from an average of about 92 mph in 2018 to 88.5 mph in 2019. Syndergaard has cited a difficultly gripping the ball at times, but the Mets’ field staff also bizarrely has encouraged Syndergaard to erode his slider velocity due to it having more velocity differential off his fastball.
The change to his slider has not worked out and significantly has impacted the outcomes against the pitch along with the swings and misses it has generated. Syndergaard has generated a swing and a miss on just 14% of his sliders this year, worse than the league average of about 16% on a slider and down from an excellent 25% rate last season. Batters have produced a .747 OPS against his slider in 2019, up from a minuscule .455 OPS last season. The degrading of Syndergaard’s slider has given him one less out pitch, and he barely has thrown it recently, sitting at a 7% slider rate in four May starts, including just 4% over his past two starts.
That said, even a diminished Syndergaard is still a strong pitcher with his elite fastball velocity, good changeup and good curveball. He draws a good matchup in pitcher-friendly Citi Field against the Tigers, who are projected to have a bottom-five run-scoring offense the rest of the season and rank as the second worst offense this year by wOBA. Detroit also has struck out in an elevated 26% of its plate appearances, the second highest rate. Syndergaard is in a strong spot for run prevention and strikeouts.
5. Jose Berrios, MIN vs. CWS ($10,200)
Berrios has struggled over his past two starts but is in a good bounce-back spot against the White Sox. Chicago has struck out at the third highest rate and has swung and missed at the sixth most pitches, giving Berrios some bat-missing upside. Chicago also has had a below-average offense, which should help Berrios prevent runs and baserunners.
Berrios has better than average numbers in several key peripheral statistics, including a 3.64 FIP and a contact quality derived expected wOBA against of .313. Berrios’ 23% strikeout rate is about league average, which should play up today against a strikeout prone offense.
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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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