Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. It’s a full slate Friday, with a single day game on the docket as the Cubs and White Sox dial up round 2 of their Cross Town Classic. That means our main slate tonight will be the remaining 14 games, but we’ll discuss all of today’s starters here.
My goal is to help you make the right decisions when choosing your pitchers, but to also help you target the ones that are likely to struggle, making it easier for you to choose your bats. If you’re new or if you have any last-minute questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan. Tonight’s pitching slate is interesting. We have 12 pitchers priced below $6,000, not all of which are useless, but that’s a high mark. Let’s get to it.
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.
Cream of the Crop
Corey Kluber @ Minnesota Twins ($10,600)
Of all the $10,000+ aces tonight, Corey Kluber has the best matchup of the bunch. The Twins have some pop, but their .302 wOBA and 90 wRC+ are in the bottom third in the league. Kluber is coming off of a 3-hit, complete game 10 K performance and it’s hard not to like him at this price today. He’s the top cash game play today, and will likely have big-time ownership totals, so beware in tournaments.
I’m not sure it’s ever a bad idea to roster Max Scherzer, it’s always just a matter of whether or not you’ll be able to construct a viable offense when you factor in his salary. After a few less than stellar outings and a now with a $1,400 jump in price, I think we’ll see lower than normal ownership on Scherzer tonight. The Giants are obviously not slouches either, with a strong 114 wRC+ vs. RHP this season. Scherzer’s had trouble with the long ball of late, but AT&T Park is the best pitcher’s park in terms of both runs and home runs allowed.
David Price vs. New York Yankees ($12,300)
The Blue Jays MIGHT not lose again. They’re on the fence about it, really. The haven’t lost since acquiring the services of David Price, who faces the Yankees again, this time at home in the Rogers Centre. Price threw well last time out in the Bronx, and the Yankees have been struggling a bit offensively of late and have just a 3.3 implied-run total tonight. For the season, they’ve handled left-handed pitching well (.334 wOBA/112 wRC+), but what Price and the Blue Jays having going right now is pretty impressive. Vegas has Toronto as a heavy favorite (-240).
Dallas Keuchel has a difficult matchup as well, as the Tigers have continued to smash left-handed pitching (.339 wOBA/116 wRC+) despite the loss of Miguel Cabrera. He’s a huge favorite tonight though, (-220) and it’s hard to argue with Vegas here. He limits base runners and hard contact in such an elite way that you can handle the league average K-rate. His 63.7% ground ball rate is incredible, and his 24.1% soft-hit contact rate is one of the highest marks in the league. He induces weak ground ball after weak ground ball, and has no platoon split to exploit.
Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Oakland Athletics ($7,800)
The middle tier priced starters aren’t very appealing tonight, but Ubaldo Jimenez grades out well here against the A’s. He pitched well last time out, pitching eight innings of two-hit ball against the Angels. I love seeing just 1 walk in that outing too, something that plagues Jimenez when he’s off. The A’s were a sneaky, fun offense to use earlier this season, but they’ve been disappointing of late and have dipped all the way down to 22nd in team wOBA against right-handed pitching after being a top-10 team for the first three months. A 8.29 K/9 is more than enough for Jimenez at his price point tonight.
Middle of the Pack
Jaime Garcia vs. Miami Marlins ($9,800)
As we’ve seen a lot lately, the DK pricing algorithm really likes ERA, so it’s no surprise that Garcia and his 1.77 ERA are nearly $10,000 tonight. There are definitely a few red flags here though. First, his 3.27 FIP gives you a better idea of how he’s pitched, and his 6.27 K/9 doesn’t exactly fire me up. He gets a ton of grounders (66.9%) which I love, but a .218 BABIP shows a ton of batted ball luck in his 66 innings. Let’s not forget the opponent here, as the Marlins are fourth in wOBA and wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season.
Robbie Ray @ Atlanta Braves ($7,500)
I’m not sure Robbie Ray is worth $7,500 tonight, but I do like his chances to have a solid outing here. His in Atlanta, a positive park shift away from Arizona, and a place that fits his fly ball tendencies as well. His 8.23 K/9 is intriguing, and the Braves have struggled against left-handed pitching all season (75 wRC+). Ray’s 38.5% hard-hit contact rate shows that he’s been hit hard at times this season, but he’s a solid SP2 tonight.
Kyle Hendricks @ Chicago White Sox ($7,400)
Today’s lone day game pairs the next two pitchers against each other. We’ll start with the road starter, Kyle Hendricks. I love his nifty little 1.90 BB/9. It makes his 7.59 K/9 even more impressive, and he’s a young kid that can get better. I’m not sure I’m so excited about him that I’m going to jump in the day game just to get exposure though.
Tyson Ross @ Colorado Rockies ($8,400)
It’s unlikely that Tyson Ross’ slider will slide much in the thin air of Colorado, and that’s a problem. He relies heavily on his breaking stuff and while he is able to get a ton of ground balls (63.6%), he’ll likely be squared up a lot more with less break. The K’s and grounders are great, but the 4.09 K/9 and the ballpark make me a little hesitant tonight.
Trevor May vs. Cleveland Indians ($5,800)
I’m a huge Trevor May fan, and I’m excited to have him back in the rotation. It was a shame that he lost his rotation spot earlier this summer because he pitched better than his 4.09 ERA has indicated. His 3.16 FIP is strong, and his strikeout rate (8.08 K/9) leaves some upside here for under $6,000. He has strong command as well (1.90 BB/9) and has been BABIP’d which I don’t believe will continue (.342). He’s my favorite cheap SP2 tonight.
Nathan Karns @ Texas Rangers ($7,700)
Nathan Karns has been incredibly consistent of late. The ceiling isn’t that high here today in Arlington, but there’s always some strikeout upside with Karns. He’s whiffed 8.69 batter per nine so far this season, and the Rangers strike out at a slightly higher than average rate. Pitching in Texas during the summer months is a dicey proposition though, and the Rangers have fared well against right-handed pitching this season (.321 wOBA).
Alex Wood vs. Cincinnati Reds ($7,600)
Alex Wood makes his Dodgers home debut tonight against the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are a fairly neutral matchup against lefties (98 wRC+) but I’m not in love with Wood here. The strikeout potential that we saw in years past has all but disappeared. His 7.09 K/9 is below average, but he’s still slightly above average in terms of free passes (2.82 BB/9). Right-handed bats have been a problem for Wood as well, carrying a .348 wOBA in to play tonight against him.
Jeff Samardzija vs. Chicago Cubs ($7,100)
Where have the K’s gone? Jeff Samardzija’s strikeout rate has shrunk to just 6.56 K/9, comfortably below the league average mark. I only want to attack the Cubs with a high upside whiff guy, and that is not Samardzija right now.
Bartolo Colon vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($6,400)
Bartolo Colon has been getting drilled lately. He’s mixed in a few decent outings, but he’s just as likely to get you a -1 as he is to get you 18 points. I’d ride a roller coaster starting pitcher if the strikeout rate is appealing, but Colon’s 6.57 K/9 is not enough.
Julio Teheran vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($7,000)
The 2015 season has felt like a step back in terms of growth for Julio Teheran (4.57 ERA/4.38 FIP). A 56.7% first-pitch strike rate isn’t going to get it done, and speaks to his 3.26 BB/9. There are occasional sprinkles of strikeout upside, but his season mark of 7.57 is essentially league average. The Diamondbacks have the bats to do damage here, and their left-handed bats have a plus matchup against Teheran (.368 wOBA).
J.A. Happ @ New York Mets ($6,600)
J.A. Happ is super generous. He lets lefties and righties have their way with him. His .351 wOBA against southpaws is surprising as a left-handed starter, but it is what it is. The Mets season long numbers are skewed since their lineup looks completely different than it did a few months ago. We’ve seen a much better offense than the 84 wRC+ that they have on the season.
Tom Koehler @ St. Louis Cardinals ($6,500)
A below average right-handed pitcher in St. Louis against the Cardinals? Nah. I’m good. You can make a case for Tom Koehler at home in the right matchup, but I’m not a fan. He’s another guy that’s on the wrong side of league average strikeout and walk marks, and the Cardinals have handled right-handed pitching well at home all season. Koehler’s .263 BABIP is not sustainable.
Matt Cain vs. Washington Nationals ($5,100)
Matt Cain has been awful lately. If you add up his DraftKings point totals from his last three starts it’s a whopping -0.1 points. Combined. The range of outcomes has been small too, he’s just been steadily terrible. After peaking at $8,200 his price has fallen all the way down to $5,100, so I do think he’s ripe for the picking, I just haven’t seen anything that makes me feel like he’s a great buy-low, even at this price. Pitching at home is a boon for him, but it’s a high-risk play.
Rest of the Field
Ivan Nova @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,900)
I don’t want to skip out on the analysis here, but are you really going to start a pitcher against the Blue Jays in Toronto right now? You’re not. The quick analysis here is there aren’t enough K’s, too many walks, and he’s benefited from a .266 BABIP in his 46 innings so far this season.
Mike Montgomery @ Boston Red Sox ($6,800)
You need to be a pretty damn good starter to survive in Fenway, and I’m not sure Mike Montgomery is there yet, if ever. His 4.17 FIP is about a run higher than his 3.25 ERA, so don’t fall for that, and he’s on the wrong side of league average in both strikeouts (6.72 K/9) and walks (3.47 BB/9). His 3.25 ERA has been helped by his .260 BABIP, a mark that’ll likely work it’s way closer to .300 as the season winds down.
Jered Weaver @ Kansas City Royals ($6,000)
There’s a high possibility that Jered Weaver pitches tonight and strikes out no one. Zero. His 4.96 K/9 is abysmal and the Royals have the lowest strikeout rate in the league at 15.9%. He gives up a ton of fly balls, so the Angels’ outfielders will have a busy night. If the ball travels well tonight, Weaver could have an early shower in his future.
Joe Kelly vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,900)
If I’m ever able to compete in a home run derby, I’m calling Joe Kelly up to see if he’ll pitch to me. He loves giving up the dong. The long ball is really at the heart of his struggles this season, and has resulted in a 35.2% hard-hit contact rate. He has some major reverse splits this season, keeping lefties in check for the most part but getting crushed (.383 wOBA) by right-handed bats. He can miss bats (7.78 K/9) but it’s just not enough.
Martin Perez vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($4,200)
It’s been a pretty busy 26 innings for Martin Perez this season. He’s better than a near-minimum salary starter but he’s priced according to his 5.81 ERA. I don’t like the matchup for him though, as Tampa Bay has been one of the better offense’s in the league against left-handed pitching this season. I’ll need to see more than a 5.47 K/9 before I consider him.
Alfredo Simon @ Houston Astros ($5,700)
The Big Fettuccine takes the ball for the Tigers tonight as they square off with the Astros down in Houston. Simon has some pretty large platoon splits, so I’m not sure I like a full Astros stack here, but their left-handed bats should fare well (.387) You aren’t using Simon, you’re using bats against him. Just be careful with the right-handed ones (.269 wOBA).
Danny Duffy vs. Los Angeles Angels ($5,200)
So many fly balls in Kansas City tonight. Just like his counterpart Jered Weaver, Danny Duffy gets a lot of fly ball outs, something that’s quite dangerous if you don’t have big-time swing-and-miss stuff. Duffy doesn’t. His 5.46 K/9 is not going to cut it, and right-handed bats have squared him up well all season (.347 wOBA).
Wily Peralta vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($5,000)
There’s not enough upside with Wily Peralta (4.48 ERA/ 4.69 FIP) tonight. I can’t use 5.37 K/9 against anybody, even the Phillies. Philadelphia could be a nice contrarian stack, as Peralta has allowed both left-handed (.365 wOBA) and right-handed (.344) bats to eat this season.
John Lamb @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($5,200)
I want to go back and track the data in regards to how rookie pitchers have fared in the debut’s this season. I think we’ve seen a higher than normal success rate in terms of expected fantasy production from these rookies. I’m not sure it’s actionable data, more just my impressions of how it’s gone down, but I’m not necessarily using the Dodgers here against lefty John Lamb in his debut.
Adam Morgan @ Milwaukee Brewers ($4,500)
Miller Park is one of the best parks for home runs, not something that Adam Morgan wants to hear. He’s been an extreme fly ball pitcher so far this season, and while the Brewers have had their struggles against left-handed bats (71 wRC+), I’m not going to risk using Morgan here. Brewers right-handed bats are my target here (.371 wOBA).
Yohan Flande vs. San Diego Padres ($4,000)
Yohan Flande will need a ton of ground balls to survive this one, but no one’s rostering him so let’s not pretend you are.