Every team is in action on the last Tuesday in April, but two games get started a little earlier than normal again, as the Royals and Indians along with the Blue Jays and Red Sox get things started at 6:05 PM EST. I’ll breakdown every pitcher here, but beware that the starters in these games aren’t available in the majority of contests today.
Rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings MLB salaries for that day. The ordering is not based on highest projected fantasy totals, but rather by value of each pitcher. To determine the best values in today’s rankings, I run projections that include opponent’s strength, betting situation, handedness, park factor, projected Game Score, power/finesse pitching tendencies along with ground-ball/fly-ball tendencies. We want to take everything into consideration when making our pitcher choices, because they’re the backbone of the lineup. If you have any last-minute questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
Johnny Cueto vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($10,400)
Johnny Cueto’s a stud. I could end my analysis there, but you, the DraftKings reader, deserves more. Cueto takes the bump today with a 1.92 FIP and a 29-percent strikeout rate. He’s matched up with a Brewers team that is beat up and struggling. Their -14.7 wRAA is one of the worst in the league. Essentially, they’ve scored 14.7 runs less than an average offense would in the same situations.
Clayton Kershaw vs. San Francisco ($12,400)
It’s difficult to pay up for Kershaw today, but that’s more so because we have solid fall back options and less to do with Kershaw’s start to the season. A closer look shows that he’s still been fantastic, despite his ‘slow start’. His strand rate and home runs allowed are much higher than average, and even higher when you consider Kershaw’s typical benchmarks for these statistics. There’s nothing to see here, except the best pitcher in the game.
Michael Wacha vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($8,300)
Michael Wacha has been a Houdini of sorts this season, consistently getting himself out of trouble when need be. All in all, he’s been a bit lucky to enter play with a 1.33 ERA, but his 0.93 WHIP indicates that he’s minimized base runners for the most part. He has the ability to get above average strikeout numbers, but we haven’t seen it yet. Luckily, tonight he takes on the Phillies and their anemic offense (.250 wOBA and a -24 wRAA).
Anibal Sanchez @ Minnesota Twins ($7,700)
The Twins will continue to be a popular target all season long. Only the previously mentioned Phillies have a worse wOBA against right-handed pitchers entering Tuesday, striking out 23.6-percent of the time. Sanchez has not been particularly sharp so far this season, but the facing the Twins can go along way to turning the tide for him. The elite strikeout upside is still here.
I may be overreacting a bit, but I’m a little nervous about Bumgarner. He looked better his last time out, but the velocity is down and his breaking stuff just looks flat and hittable. This is a BIG, young left-handed ace so it’s hard for me to believe that he’s fatigued based on his 2014 usage, but he’s had a propensity for getting out of the gates slow. Perhaps that’s just the case here again. I’m much more comfortable with Cueto for just $400 more.
Middle of the Pack
Tyson Ross vs. Houston Astros ($9,200)
The big strikeout upside here against the Astros will make Tyson Ross a popular play today. He’s worth a look in cash games, as the Astros do swing and miss quite a bit. Ross’ 26.7-percent strikeout rate is in line with what we saw from him and his devastating slider last season. He’s worth playing, just know you won’t be the only one on him.
As I mentioned at the top, Bauer and the Indians take on the Royals an hour earlier than the rest of the slate tonight, making Bauer persona non grata for the $1M Home Run and the other big contests tonight. It’s an interesting matchup here, as Bauer enters play with the best strikeout rate among starting pitchers, and leads the league in hard-hit rate against (meaning he’s been the most difficult pitcher to get a hard hit against). The Royals have been the best contact team in the league, striking out a league low 14.6-percent thus far. I might not get to use Bauer tonight, but I’ll be tuning in to watch.
Julio Teheran vs. Washington Nationals ($8,700)
This is a battle of disappointments so far in 2015. Julio Teheran was a stud last season, and entered 2015 as a lone bright spot for a Braves team that has little expectations. Well the Teheran we saw last season has yet to show up, as evident by his 5.77 FIP. The good news here is he’s facing a Nationals club that’s scuffling. Amazingly, they’re statistically among the Twins and Phillies when it comes to facing right-handed pitchers thus far.
Jake Odorizzi @ New York Yankees ($7,300)
Jake Odorizzi has gotten off to a nice start this season, but man, has he been lucky. His .169 BABIP is due for some correction, and he’s yet to give up a home run on the season. The K/BB ratio is encouraging here, and speaks well to his future development, but the regression monster will be rearing his head around these parts soon.
David Phelps vs. New York Mets ($4,400)
Let’s be honest, David Phelps isn’t a good pitcher and you’d be really anxious rostering him. I get it. With that mutually agreed upon, his price is just too low. The upside is what we saw his last time out, 7 innings of 3 hit ball against the Phillies.
Sonny Gray vs. Los Angeles Angels ($8,500)
I felt Sonny Gray was being overvalued in the preseason, and after seeing his first few starts in 2015 I’m not so sure I was wrong. The strikeout upside has always been limited, and we’ve seen a dip there to start the 2015 campaign. He’s carrying an extremely low BABIP again, and his HR/FB rate is another indicator of early season batted ball luck. He’s also using his best pitch, his curve ball, less than ever and thus missing fewer bats than ever as well. The Angels are a nice under the radar stack today.
Jeff Samardzija @ Baltimore Orioles ($8,900)
Jeff Samardzija has always had a tendency to give up the long ball at a higher than average rate, especially when you consider how good his arsenal is. This problem has been mitigated by both his high ground ball rates, and his favorable home parks. Early 2015 returns show that neither of those perks are on his side any longer. His home park on the South Side of Chicago plays poorly for fly-ball pitchers (as does his venue today, Camden Yards) and he’s not inducing grounders like we’ve been accustomed to seeing from him in seasons past. There are better ways to allocate your budget today.
Clay Buchholz vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($6,600)
What in the world as gotten in to Clay Buchholz? I like what I’ve seen so far, and his price point is low enough that he may be worth a shot to see if this is real. He’s struck out 29 batters through his first 22 innings this season, and his 2.72 FIP shows that he’s pitched much better than his 4.84 ERA indicates. I’m cautiously optimistic, and today’s contest against a full strength Blue Jays club will be a strong indicator to validate the early returns.
Chase Whitley vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($4,100)
Chase Whitley gets a spot start for the Yankees today, and he’s way undervalued here. I’m not going to pretend that he’s a great pitcher, but he fared well in limited action last season with a 3.77 xFIP in his 12 starts. He has a decent slider that can get him the occasional punch out, and he’ll cost you next to nothing today.
Archie Bradley vs. Colorado Rockies ($6,100)
The pedigree is strong for Archie Bradley, and it’s predictably been an up and down start for the young right-hander. He’ll need to boost up his strikeouts and limited his walks before I consider rolling him out against the Rockies.
Jered Weaver @ Oakland Athletics ($7,500)
When your K/9 rate is nearly identical to your FIP, that’s not a good thing. And here lies the artist, formerly known as Jered Weaver. Actually, I believe he’s still referred to by his name, but he bares no resemblance to the pitcher we once knew by that name. He’s someone to target, not someone to start.
J.A. Happ @ Texas Rangers ($6,300)
I’m not sure what to make of J.A. Happ so far, but I know enough about his batted ball profiles to avoid him in Texas. His strikeout are way down this season, but it’s early so I’m not overly concerned yet.
Rafael Montero @ Miami Marlins ($6,500)
The Mets organization depth at starting pitcher is quite impressive. Rafael Montero fails to receive the accolades bestowed upon his peers, but he’s a pretty solid prospect. He’ll need to keep the free passes in check as he transitions to the majors, but he showed flashes of his upside with a 10-strikeout start last September.
Rest of the Field
Kyle Lohse @ Cincinnati Reds ($7,000)
I don’t love this spot for Kyle Lohse. He’s been victimized by the long ball early and often this season, and the Reds offense is swinging it pretty well over the past week. There are much better values available tonight if you’re looking to save money.
Chris Tillman vs. Chicago White Sox ($6,400)
I’m not a huge fan of guys that operate with a 1/1 strikeout to walk ratio. You shouldn’t be either. No starter has a worse FIP, 6.50, has thrown more than Tillman’s 19 innings so far this season.
Drew Hutchinson @ Boston Red Sox ($6,700)
There was quite a bit of preseason helium around Drew Hutchinson, but it hasn’t quite come to fruition early in the season. I like him long-term, but not in this spot against the Red Sox.
Jeff Locke @ Chicago Cubs ($6,000)
Jeff Locke faces the Cubs, the same team that he labored through five innings of work last time out. He doesn’t have the arsenal to fool this team twice.
Travis Wood vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($6,200)
It could be a high scoring affair in Chicago tonight. The Pirates have struggled against left-handed hitters so far, but some of their bats have been a bit quiet to start the season. I don’t expect this to continue.
Kyle Kendrick @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,300)
If you’re looking to punt here, then David Phelps and Chase Whitley are much better options at a similar price point. Vegas has this opening with an over/under of 9.
Roberto Hernandez @ San Diego Padres ($5,100)
Even in Petco, I can’t recommend rolling out Roberto Hernandez. You’re looking at a ceiling of 12 fantasy points, and that’s being generous.
Jeremy Guthrie @ Cleveland Indians ($5,500)
If you’re a fan of the ever-controversial BvP data, then you’ll be staying away from Jeremy Guthrie. The Indians have numerous hitters with varying degrees of plate appearance totals against Guthrie, but most have fared quite well. No need to go here.
Severino Gonzalez @ St. Louis Cardinals ($4,800)
Severino Gonzalez gets the call for the Phillies today, so there’s that. Sev (I like to call him Sev) only struck out nine batters in his 17 2/3 minor league innings this season. That does not bode well for Sev’s chances today.
Ross Detwiler vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,000)
Regardless of innings pitched, who has a worse FIP than Ross Detwiler?
Mike Pelfry vs. Detroit Tigers ($4,200)
The Tigers burned me yesterday, but I think they get back on the saddles today against Mike Pelfry. Start Pelfry in your head-to-head’s and then invite me to play (RyanFix).
Good luck today!