MLB Pitcher Rankings: April 6th

We have a really nice 14 game slate to open the MLB daily fantasy season. There is one game on Sunday night to kick it off, but since it is not included in the opening day slate on DraftKings, we will skip over that one for today. Fantasy baseball season is kicking off with a bang. DraftKings has a $500,000 prize pool with a $20 buy in for it’s opening day SLUGFEST. They have offerings at every price point, to fit every budget, so get on over to the Lobby and check it out.

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.

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Cream of the Crop

1. Clayton Kershaw vs. San Diego Padres ($12400) – This guy is not only the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, but he’s also the reigning MVP. That should tell you how good of a pitcher he is. He routinely goes 8 innings or more, striking out 10+ batters, and allowing 3 runs or less. He pretty much is a lock for 30-40 fantasy points almost every time he toes the rubber. San Diego made a lot of moves in the off season to bolster that line up. I really like what they were able to get done, but they run into a buzzsaw on opening day, in his home stadium, and coming off a banner season. His cost is really high, so there’s very little room for error, but he is the best pitcher in baseball, so the price is justifiable.

2. Max Scherzer vs. New York Mets ($11,500) – One of the best pitchers in the American league last year gets an opening day start for his new team, in a friendly match up, at home, and against one of the league’s worst offenses last season. He gets a bump up for moving to the national league and getting to face a pitcher instead of a DH. He gets another bump up for pitching in the Washington National’s cavernous ball park that is very pitcher friendly. He gets a further bump up for pitching against a Mets team that lacks quality left handed bats to really make him uncomfortable, and finally he gets a bump up for being a -209 favorite and the most likely winner on the day. Scherzer is one of the top 5 pitchers in the league and has a lot of positives in his corner for his first start on a new team. This is a really solid spot to start him in.

3. Felix Hernandez vs. Los Angeles Angels ($11000) – In 118 ABs against Felix last year, the Angels hit .118 with 48 strikeouts and only 5 runs scored. He also has one of the lowest run totals and is a -$135 favorite for the win. I have no doubt that King Felix will be able to keep the Angels offense in check. With the discounted price, I would have ranked him #1 if I had more faith in his offense to get him some runs. He is generally tough everywhere, but especially dominant at home in his pitcher’s park. While the Angels do have a few bats that are scary, I would not want to face King Felix to start off my season if given a choice of almost any other pitcher. His innings and strikeouts will be there with very few baserunners or runs scored. Again my biggest concern is his chances for the win. While Vegas still likes him to take it home, they like the chances of the top two guys a lot more.

4. David Price vs. Minnesota Twins ($10400) – Price is now the Ace for the Tigers with Scherzer moving on to Washington. The Lefty has been dominate at times and has pitched well against the weak hitting Twins. His -190 for the win is one of the highest on the day. Last year the Twins managed to hit just .198 against him with 35 strikeouts in 116 ABs. Those kind of numbers, if repeated, could translate into a 30+ point fantasy score even before factoring in the likely win.

5. Corey Kluber vs. Houston Astros ($9800) – Kluber burst onto the scene in a big way last season. The Indians ace proved to be one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game. He routinely throws over 110 pitches, which allows him to go deep into games. This is something we rarely see anymore from high strikeout pitchers. In his last three games of the 2014 season, he struck out 11, 14, and 14 again. The last number was against this same Astros team. While I do not expect a 7 inning, one run, two hit, 14 strikout performance like he had in mid September against this team, I do expect him to pitch well and rack up some K’s and innings. Despite the fact I think Houston’s line up has more talent than does the Indians, the Tribe are still favored on the road in this one. I think Kluber is the main reason for that today and will look to save a few bucks over the top options by rolling him out in my GPPs.

6. Johnny Cueto vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($9600) – The Pirates are no strangers to Cueto as the division rivals met many times last season. Cueto pitched to 170 Pirates batters with 39 strikeouts and a .194 Batting Average Against (BAA). The game has one of the lower totals with 6.5 runs expected and Cueto is a -130 favorite for the win. The Pirates do have a solid line up and Cueto has seen his strikeouts dip some, but I think he should pitch another solid game against his divisional foe and have a solid, if unspectacular debut that includes about seven innings of 2 runs or less and a win.

Middle of the Pack

7. Madison Bumgarner vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($9800) – Maddy Bum gets the start on the hill for the Giants in their season opener and it’s probably a good thing they are on the road. Despite pitching in a park that is friendly to pitchers, he struggled at home through parts of last season. The big lefty saw his strikeout numbers dip a tad last year and this game has a 7.5 total with Bum as a decent favorite at -140. He gave up 11 runs in 98 ABs on 26 hits against the Diamondbacks last season, so this is not a team he has owned in his recent past. Due to the high number of hits and runs and the low strikeout totals against this team, I had to move him down to the second tier for his first start of the season.

8. Masahiro Tanaka vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($9700) – The Yankee’s ace opted not to get Tommy John surgery in the off season and worked on strengthening his elbow so he could pitch through it. When he is on, he is a seven inning guy with 10+ strikeout potential. He lands in the second tier because he rarely goes beyond 7 and tends to give up a few more base runners than some of those above him. He has a high run total of 8 for his opening day start although he is expected to win as a -150 favorite. I have mixed feelings on him today, but would not be surprised if he gives the Yanks a quality start right out of the gate.

9. Cole Hamels vs. Boston Red Sox ($9900) – Despite the fact that the Red Sox line up got better, Hamels still is favored at -115 to pick up the win on opening day. I do not like the Phillies line up this season, and the fact he is favored is a testament to how good he really is. He is not a huge strikeout guy and rarely goes past the seventh inning. Throw in the fact that he faces a pretty solid line up today, and while I like him, his price seems a tad high in this first match up. I would not be surprised if he gets the win and pitches well, but I would be shocked if he puts up the highest fantasy score on the day.

10. Chris Archer vs. Baltimore Orioles ($7600) – Archer gets the nod against his divisional rival on opening day in his home park. Tampa is a pitcher friendly place and this Orioles line up is a tad weaker than it was last season. Archer struggled early in the season last year, but by the end of it he was putting up about 25 fantasy points per start. He is a pretty hefty favorite at -145 in a game where 7 runs are expected. He had some big strikeout games last year and this Orioles team has a few free swingers who tend to miss alot, so he could be in line for a high strike out game. Archer does have a problem of going deep into counts and that often leads to a few walks and a lot of games where he does not make it through 7 innings. I like the upside of him today and the discounted price, but it does come with some risk as the Orioles knocked him around a little bit in 2014. This is definitely more of a GPP play, but I like his upside more than other cheaper pitching options.

11. Sonny Gray vs. Texas Rangers ($8300) – The young ace of the A’s staff gets the nod on opening day in a game with a total expected of only 7 and him as a -150 favorite for the win. Gray pitched to a 1.19 Whip last year with an ERA slightly over 3. He had over 180 strikeouts in 210+ innings and was better at home in his pitcher friendly park. This Texas line up got healthy in the offseason and should have more depth and pop than they showed at times last year. Still I think Gray is a solid option, especially for your GPPs with his lower price point.

12. Jeff Samardzija vs. Kansas City Royals ($9100) – The Shark got hot to end last season as his strong string of 25-35 fantasy point performances in a row pushed his price up to almost $11000. For comparison sake, that is what they are asking for Felix Hernandez today. He had a WHIP of 1.07 last year and an ERA under 3. He added 202 strikeouts in 219 IPs and is now the unquestioned Ace of that White Sox staff. He gets a team that is hungry for another deep playoff run and is an underdog in his first start of the season. I like his profile for K’s and pitching deep into the game more than I do for his opponent, and that is why he is listed higher despite being the underdog.

13. Phil Hughes vs. Detroit Tigers ($8100) – Hughes pitched really well last year in his first season outside the Bronx. He had 186 strikeout in 209 innings and a 1.13 WHIP with an ERA of 3.50. He was solid in two starts against the Tigers last season as he only allowed 12 base runners in 52 ABs with 9 strikeouts and only 2 runs scored. He has a tougher match up on paper than his counterpart David Price does against his line up and that is one of the reason I have him down on this list. He is a solid option in fantasy this season, but this is not the best spot to roll him out as an underdog on the road with a weak lineup behind him against a really good pitcher.

14. Julio Teheran vs. Miami Marlins ($8800) – At one point early last season Teheran was a must start guy. Today he finds himself as an underdog to Henderson Alvarez. He saw 97 batters last year from Miami and struck out 29 of them. That high K rate is one of the reasons I do like him today. He also allowed one out of every four Marlin hitters to reach base against him and gave up 7 runs in 23 innings of work in 2014. Miami is not exactly a hitters ballpark and he is a solid pitcher. My concern is his lineup scoring enough runs to get him the win. I think the strikeouts and IP will be there, so he could surprise if he limits the runs and gets a little support.

15. Yordano Ventura vs. Chicago White Sox ($7600) –  The young fireballer from KC gets the nod on opening day. He has electric stuff with a fastball that hits triple digits and good movement on all his pitches. He has flashed brilliant upside and then came back and put up a clunker next time out. Hopefully another year will help the youngster take another step forward. He is favored in this game today, but his lack of consistency has me concerned. He has the ability to go out and K 10 batters in 7 innings of work, but he does tend to drive his pitch count up fast and he has not shown himself to be trustworthy. He is favored for the win today, but I do not trust him enough to move him up from the middle of the pack.

16. Jered Weaver vs. Seattle Mariners ($7500) – Weaver has learned to pitch more as he has gotten older. He used to try to strike out everyone and was run from the game before the end of the sixth inning because of it. He profiles to me as a guy who goes 6 or 7 innings with about a K per inning and a WHIP slightly under 1.20. I really like his chances to have a solid game today in a pitcher friendly park, but drop him down due to the fact he faces Felix Hernandez. In another match up, on another day, against a weaker opposing pitcher, I would think about rolling him out there. For GPPs he could be a sneaky good play if the Angels can manage to get to King Felix. Notice I said GPP only here as that is a big IF.

17. Drew Hutchinson vs. New York Yankees ($7200) – Hutch is not really the ace you want your team to be starting on opening day, but he has flashed some decent upside. He pitched against the Bronx Bombers last August and shut them down over 7 IP with 9 K’s. He picked up the win and 33 fantasy points that day, which would put him over 4.5 points per thousand of cost if he repeats that gem today. He is a risky play, but does have potential and upside. He is an underdog on the road as well, so it’s not safe by any means, but could be a low owned swerve with a chance to pay itself off.

18. Dallas Keuchel vs. Cleveland Indians ($6900) – Keuchel relies on his sinker to induce a ton of ground balls. He tends to try to get double plays when he has runners on base and rarely racks up huge strikeout numbers. This will obviously hurt his fantasy score as Ks are a big part of a pitchers upside. Still he is cheap today and does pitch deep into games when he is able to induce a lot of those grounders. My biggest reason for keeping him this low on the list is Kluber on the mound opposite him. Kluber has the ability to shut down an offense and might not allow Dallas to pick up a win.

Rest of the Field

19. Clay Buchholz vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($6900) – Red Sox choose to throw Clay to start the season. He is not a great fantasy option as he rarely strikes out more then 6 batters and rarely goes past 7 innings. He is also the under dog today so there’s not a ton of upside to him.

20. Henderson Alvarez vs. Atlanta Braves ($6200) – I do not really like the upside on Alvarez at all today other than to say the Braves line up must be bad this year. He is a low strikeout guy who had a nice run of starts to end the year and boost his numbers. He does not pitch deep into games and his strikeout numbers are extremely low, so the only real saving graces for him today are his low price and status as the favorite.

21. James Shields vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($8900) – There is no real way I can justify his price today when he has not pitched like Big Game James in a really long time and he also goes up against Clayton Kershaw today. To take him at that price I think you have to be crazy. You would be banking on Kershaw having an off day and the entire Dodgers line up not being able to touch Shields as well. Both of those things are highly unlikely.

22. Fransisco Liriano vs. Cincinatti Reds ($8300) – The underdog in a solid opening day pitching match up has been up and down his whole career. When Liriano is on, he can strike out 12+ and keep a team off the board. When he is not on though, he can give up 12+ and struggle to get through three innings. I do not think he gets shelled on opening day, but I like Cueto better for the win and more strikeouts in this game.

23. Josh Collmenter vs. San Fransisco Giants ($5900) – Collmenter had some solid starts late last season, but he neither goes deep into games, nor strike out a lot of batters. Maddy Bum is a heavy favorite against him, so he likely does not get a win bonus. That pretty much covers all the ways a pitcher scores points in fantasy so you can see why he is off my radar.

24. Kyle Lohse vs. Colorado Rockies ($7100)  – The good news is he probably is opposite the worst option for pitchers tonight. The bad news is he is not a guy who puts up a ton of fantasy points. Lohse typically scores somewhere in the high teens or low 20s for fantasy purposes and is not an innings eater or a strikeout guy. He gives up a lot of walks, hits, and runs, but will have the upside of the probable win as a heavy favorite.

25. Chris Tillman vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($7100) – Tillman is another guy who gets about 15-20 points a game depending on the win bonus. He is the underdog here and without a win bonus should return under 20 fantasy points on the day. Not much to get excited about.

26. Yovani Gallardo vs. Oakland Athletics ($6600) – Gallardo is a feast or famine kind of guy. He had a couple of games in the 20-30 fantasy point range sandwiched around 6 of ten starts where he did not reach double digit fantasy points. He’s a heavy underdog in this one and probably will fail to reach 15 points today.

27. Bartolo Colon vs. Washington Nationals ($6800) – Bartolo had an insane start to last season then came back down to earth. He has a weak lineup and is one of the biggest dogs on the day opposite Max Scherzer. I see little chance for the win and a big chance for the Nat’s bats to light him up if he makes any mistakes with his 88 MPH fastball.

28. Kyle Kendricks vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($4200) – There’s a reason he is one third the price of Clayton Kershaw today and it has as much to do with his talent level as it does with his opponent. A five or six inning outing with 9 base runners, 3 runs, and four strikeouts actually seems like an upside game for him. He is a guy I would recommend targeting against as he has no business being an opening day pitcher in the major league’s.