There have been a few MLB slates this week suffering from what I would call underwhelming options at pitcher. Nights that featured more Triple-A call-ups, bullpen game, and gas cans than I can remember happening in seasons past. Still, whether that’s a random occurrence, a product of the definitely juiced baseballs, or systematic of so many teams willingly operating as non-contenders this season, I’m not sure I can say. In any case, that’s not an issue we have this evening, with eight different All-Star-caliber starters set to take the hill with a price tag of more than $9K. That’s not even mentioning one-time Cy Young candidate Jake Oddorizzi ($8,400) and super rookie Brendan McKay ($8,700), either.
So, which stud pitcher should you be building around? Let’s break it all down.
StudShane Bieber, CLE vs. KC, $10,400 – If you’re looking to play a cash game tonight, I’d advise finding the extra $600 to play Hyun-Jin Ryu ($11,000) at home; but Bieber’s the exact archetype of pitcher I’m looking to trot out in a GPP. His upside might be the highest of any pitcher of this slate, something I don’t say lightly with Justin Verlander ($11,400) and Jacob deGrom ($10,600) also set to toe the rubber Friday. Just take a quick look at Bieber’s past six outings: Across 41 1/3 innings, the right-hander has pitched to a 1.42 FIP and has struck out 34.8% of opponent hitters all while carrying a massive 13.5 K/BB ratio. Plus, specific to this matchup, the Royals aren’t exactly blessed with much left-handed power — Bieber’s one huge weakness. In fact, Kansas City’s lefty bats have managed just a .291 wOBA versus RHPs in 2019. That’s the third-lowest mark in baseball. Other Options: Hyun-Jin Ryu ($11,000), David Price ($9,300)
ValueTyler Mahle, CIN vs. STL, $6,000 – Speaking of teams that don’t produce much left-handed pop: the St. Louis Cardinals. Mike Shildt’s bunch actually have the league’s lowest overall ISO across the past 30 days (.144) — along with its second-lowest wRC+ (83) — but its their lack of consistent hitting from the left-hand side that has been their most notable flaw in 2019. The Cardinals don’t have a single LHB with a wOBA of over .330 against right-handed pitching, and the team’s most notable lefty, Matt Carpenter, is on the IL. Why is this so important? Well, if you’re not going to get to Mahle with lefties, you’re not going to get to him at all. Pitching versus RHBs this year, Mahle sports a 3.04 FIP and a 29.2% strikeout rate. That’s a whole lot of ceiling for $6K.
Other Option: J.A. Happ ($6,400)
StudGary Sanchez, NYY vs. COL, $4,600 – Sanchez is still in the midst of a pretty daunting slump, but the circumstances of tonight’s matchup with Kyle Freeland ($4,900) should help. The backstop simply loves facing a left-handed pitcher at Yankee Stadium. In the 42 plate appearances he’s been able to do such a thing in 2019, Sanchez owns a .359 ISO and a .417 wOBA. Really, the only flaw has been the fact Sanchez has struck out in a third of these opportunities, but that shouldn’t be an issue with Freeland setting down just 15.6% of right-handed opponents on strikes so far this season. Other Options: Christian Vazquez ($4,700), Roberto Perez ($4,100)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Severino is not in tonight’s starting lineup.
Other Option: James McCann ($3,700)
StudJosh Bell, PIT vs. PHI, $4,900 – Bell has been at his most dangerous facing right-handed pitchers at PNC Park in 2019. In fact, within those circumstances, the All-Star first baseman sports an eye-popping .476 ISO and a 194 wRC+. Jake Arrieta ($6,600) has been at his worst facing left-handed batters away from Citizen’s Bank Park in 2019. LHBs have combined to muster a .428 wOBA against the former Cy Young Award winner under these conditions, with Arrieta surrendering 2.88 home runs per nine within the split. All of these things are happening tonight. I’ll be sure to take advantage. Other Option: Nate Lowe ($4,200)
ValueJose Abreu, CWS at TB, $3,900 – You couldn’t ask McKay to pitch any better in his first three career appearances, yet seeing Abreu under $4K against a left-handed hurler feels like a slight. Abreu has crushed LHPs so far in 2019, compiling a .355/.388/.559 slash line in his 98 plate appearances within the split. The veteran also possesses a 54.1% swing rate going back to the beginning of May, so you know he’ll be aggressive in the batter’s box this evening. I’m in no way suggesting a White Sox stack, but Abreu on an island is a perfectly acceptable option.
Other Option: Justin Smoak ($3,700)
StudMike Moustakas, MIL at ARI, $4,800 – Let’s just say the Diamondbacks probably wish they had someone other than Taylor Clarke ($5,200) available to make this start. The rookie RHP will come off the IL to face the Brewers this evening, but it’s difficult to say his narrative will improve with the return of his health. Clarke’s allowed opponents to hit 3.66 home runs per nine over his past five outings, a trend that has led to the young pitcher owning an ugly 8.24 ERA within that span of time. With that all being the case, I’d expect Moustakas to extend his eight-game hitting streak in a big way tonight. Other Options: Keston Hiura ($5,200), Eric Sogard ($4,300)
ValueCavan Biggio, TOR at DET, $3,900 – With how often Charlie Montoyo switches up the Jays’ lineup it’s hard to know where Biggio will be batting this evening with any certainty; however, the past two times he’s started versus an RHP, he’s hit clean-up. That alone, at this price, is enough to make Biggio viable against Jordan Zimmermann ($4,600). The veteran has pitched to an atrocious 9.35 ERA going back to April 14, and there’s no reason to think that will change with Zimmermann having surrendered 14 earned runs across his two July starts heading into tonight. Plus, Detroit still owns the second-worst bullpen FIP in baseball at 5.35, so it’s not like things get any better when Zimmermann hits the showers.
Other Option: Adam Frazier ($3,800)
StudJose Ramirez, CLE vs. KC, $4,500 – It’s rare we see an implied team total well above six runs in a contest that doesn’t involve the Rockies, but that’s where we are this evening with Cleveland. As Kansas City prepares to start Mike Montgomery ($5,000) — who hasn’t exceeded 61 pitches all season — anticipation for this game to get a little weird and one-sided is completely understandable. So, in such a script, I want the switch-hitting Ramirez. It helps that the former All-Star has been on fire since June 21, too. In that span, Ramirez is slashing .347/.392/.639 with a .421 wOBA. In that form, in this matchup, Ramirez is well worth his salary. Other Options: Nolan Arenado ($4,600), Scott Kingery ($4,600)
ValueColin Moran, PIT vs. PHI, $3,900 – As mentioned above in regards to Bell, Arrieta has had his issues in 2019 with left-handed batters. Moran isn’t quite to the caliber of his teammate, but he still has been pretty useful from the left-hand side of the box going back to the beginning of May. Over 198 plate appearances versus RHPs in that span, Moran is hitting .299 with a .209 ISO. That’s not going to set off any alarms, but rest assured Moran is a solid piece at this price.
Other Option: Jake Lamb ($4,000)
StudTrevor Story, COL at NYY, $5,500 – If there were ever a ball park that could quell concerns about the Rockies playing away from Coors, it’d be Yankee Stadium — especially with how J.A. Happ ($6,400) has pitched at home in 2019. The veteran lefty has surrendered 2.45 home runs per nine to RHBs in his starts in New York, one of the major reasons his ERA within that split is a whopping 5.98. Story consistently has produced against lefties throughout his career and owns a 52.1% hard contact rate off of southpaws so far this season. He’s expensive, but in a very nice spot this evening. Other Option: Francisco Lindor ($5,100)
ValueAndrelton Simmons, LAA at SEA, $4,000 – All I should have to say here is Mike Leake ($7,000) is pitching for Seattle. Sure, he’s been better when getting the chance to start at home in 2019, but he also has surrendered four more barrels than any other pitcher in all of baseball (38). Simmons, who was hitting second for the Angels in the absence of Mike Trout, hit clean-up for the team Thursday night when the multiple-time MVP returned. With nine hits since the All-Star break, if Simmons is in the top-half of Los Angeles’ lineup again, he’s a viable option at a shallow position.
StudBryce Harper, PHI at PIT, $4,500 – I’m sure Phillies fans would find a way to dispute this, but Harper’s been heating up since the end of June. Across his past 62 plate appearances, the $330 million man is slashing .346/.435/.596 with a .423 wOBA. However, it’s not just Harper’s form that makes him an interesting play this evening; it’s the fact Jordan Lyles ($5,600) is scuffling like few pitches we’ve seen this season. Going back to May 23, Lyles has surrendered a mind-numbing .489 wOBA to LHBs with a 14.66 ERA within the split. Those numbers are so bad, I legitimately had to check them three times. That’s a bad sign. Other Options: Mike Trout ($5,800), J.D. Martinez ($4,700)
ValueJesse Winker, CIN vs. STL, $3,600 – Winker hasn’t broken out like some expected in 2019, but he still owns a .291 ISO and a .390 wOBA against right-handed pitchers at Great American Ball Park. Adam Wainwright ($8,200) has struggled with left-handed bats and pitching on the road in his age-37 campaign; two things he’ll have to do when facing Winker this evening. If the former top prospect is hitting in his customary leadoff spot Friday, make sure to slot him into a few lineups.
Other Options: Justin Upton ($3,900), Randal Grichuk ($3,700)
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) 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.