Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. It’s a full 15-game evening slate tonight, so options abound. 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.
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
“The sign says long-haired freaky people need not apply”, but the sign also says that deGrom is a stud. Last season’s Rookie of the Year has built on his successful debut and looks to keep rolling tonight against the Orioles. Pitching in Baltimore is a bit of a negative park shift for deGrom, but let’s not overrate that. deGrom has been able to handle both left (.261 wOBA) and right-handed (.197) hitters this season, his 9.33 K/9 is a great fit to exploit the Orioles (22.2% K-rate). He’s a great cash game play at this price, and likely a popular pivot to the higher priced Kershaw. Signs, signs, everywhere the signs.
Clayton Kershaw @ Oakland Athletics ($15,000)
This is a great spot for Clayton Kershaw, and it’s the same ole’ same ole’ when it comes to rostering him tonight. It’s just a matter of making his salary fit. He’s been so exceptionally consistent of late, it’s difficult to not try and build a lineup around him. The A’s (.299 wOBA/92 wRC+ vs. LHP) aren’t likely to present much opposition tonight either. A nearly 10 point difference in his K/9 to BB/9 is just insane. (11.39:1.67).
Francisco Liriano vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($10,300)
We’re getting Francisco Liriano (3.19 ERA/3.09 FIP) at a bit of a discount this morning after spending most of the past few months north of $11,000. He hasn’t been particularly sharp of late, but he’s been able to minimize hard-hit contact this season and get a ton of ground ball outs, which are always a good thing. Arizona is a neutral opponent (.319 wOBA/98 wRC+ vs. LHP), but Liriano should have some success against their right-handed bats, as he’s limited them to a .268 wOBA on the season. Arizona’s 2.9 implied run total is the second lowest of the night.
James Shields vs. Atlanta Braves ($8,600)
I haven’t touted James Shields that much this season. Typically, I shy away from starters that have extreme platoon splits like Shields .383 wOBA against left-handed bats but the Braves don’t have a lot of left-handed thunder in their lineup. Their .114 ISO score is 29th in the league against right-handed pitching, and it’s hard not to love Shields strikeout upside here (9.84 K/9). Atlanta doesn’t strike out a ton, but they strike out enough. Shields gets an added bump with pitcher-friendly ump Chris Guccione behind the plate.
Garrett Richards vs. Chicago White Sox ($9,800)
Garrett Richards (3.55 ERA/3.76 FIP) continues to be a bit of an enigma. His strikeout numbers are down this season despite a strong 11.0% swinging-strike rate, and he’s again one of the best pitchers in terms of limiting hard-hit contact. The carpet doesn’t match the drapes, in a sense. The White Sox have cooled a bit from the post-All-Star break tear, and are worth going after tonight (92 wRC+). Richards’ 52.7% ground ball rate plays well at home.
Middle of the Pack
Jake Odorizzi’s ability to neutralize left-handed bats (.261 wOBA) makes him a viable option today. He’s gone from a big-time swing-and-miss guy to a bit more of a ‘pitcher’ in a sense. He’s sacrificed a bit of his strikeout upside for improved control and a lower walk rate. My only concern with him tonight is that his leash is pretty short and Tampa Bay seems infatuated with limiting their starters to 100 pitches.
Lance Lynn vs. San Francisco Giants ($9,500)
It’s difficult to say anything nice about a starter that failed to get out of the first inning in his last start, but here we are. Lance Lynn has been incredibly consistent this season, and his spike in strikeouts have made him a viable option every fifth day. His .323 BABIP is a high for a pitcher with Lynn’s profile. The matchup against the Giants isn’t a good one, but I like Lynn for tournaments because I think recency bias will be strong here.
Hisashi Iwakuma @ Texas Rangers ($9,300)
We’re using recency bias as a reason to use Lance Lynn, and a reason to stay away from Hisashi Iwakuma, who no-hit the Orioles in his last outing. His price has actually dropped since that start so I’m assuming the algorithm doesn’t like the matchup in Texas, and I agree. Iwakuma’s an above average starter, but his 4.20 FIP and 7.22 K/9 isn’t enough to get my attention in this difficult matchup against the Rangers (.323 wOBA).
Jason Hammel vs. Detroit Tigers ($8,400)
Jason Hammel hasn’t been the same since straining his hamstring in June, and there’s little reason to think things have changed. He was a 20 point lock at a time, with a strong K-rate and above average walk rate. He’s not working deep in to games lately, either. It appears as though Joe Maddon is limiting his workload a bit without actually just shutting him down. The Tigers are strong offensively against right-handed pitching as well, with a .322 wOBA and 103 wRC+.
Trevor Bauer @ Boston Red Sox ($7,700)
Multiple times in this space I’ve railed on the Indians staff for being the GPP-iest staff in the league. I trust no one, but they’re all capable of going out and shutting down their opponent while striking out 10+ batters. There’s no greater example than Trevor Bauer. It makes rostering him in cash games extremely difficult, but his volatility keeps his ownership levels in check for tournaments. The strikeout upside (8.77 K/9) is strong if he’s able to limit his walks and home runs (14% HR/FB ratio).
Edinson Volquez @ Cincinnati Reds ($7,400)
Edinson Volquez (3.27 ERA/3.77 FIP) is about as safe and un-sexy as they come. He’s a pretty safe bet for 12 DraftKings points but he’s rarely going to top 22-25, even in the best of matchups. Returning to Cincinnati is a fairly neutral matchup for Volquez, but a 6.60 K/9 limits the upside that we’re seeking here.
Scott Feldman vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($5,900)
There’s not a ton of upside when it comes to rostering Scott Feldman (5.06 K/9) but he does a good job at keeping hitters off balance and limiting hard-hit contact (just 22%). His handedness splits are a tad bit on the reverse side, but nothing that’s actionable from the Rays side of things. I’d really like Feldman as a punt if this game were in Tampa, but he’s still a decent SP2 if you’re looking to play it safe for cheap.
Kevin Gausman vs. New York Mets ($5,100)
Kevin Gausman is the other side of the Feldman equation; cheap but with a large variance of outcomes. He has legit strikeout upside (7.76 K/9) and induces a ton of soft-hit contact (27.7%). His reverse splits could be a bit of an issue with the Mets right-handed lineup (.339 wOBA vs. RHP) but he should be able to keep the lefties in check (.277).
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Cleveland Indians ($6,300)
Eduardo Rodriguez had no business being $9,900 for his last start, but dropping to $6,300 feels like a mistake as well. The huge dip in price comes on the heels of getting shelled by the Marlins in his last outing, something that’s surprisingly common for left-handed pitchers against Miami. Cleveland is a bit more neutral against left-handed pitching, and will likely run out a pretty right-handed heavy lineup against the Red Sox rookie. Rodriguez has handled right-handed bats this season, with a better than anticipated .302 wOBA against them thus far.
Anibal Sanchez @ Chicago Cubs ($7,300)
My projection model likes Anibal Sanchez more than I do today. He’s barely above average in terms of strikeouts and while the Cubs whiff a ton (24.1%), I think rostering him his a risky proposition. The Cubs can slug it, and Sanchez has shifted from an extreme ground ball pitcher to a fly ball pitcher this season. It’s resulted in a spike in home runs, especially from right-handed hitters (.372 wOBA). I think there are better ways to allocate your funds today.
Jordan Zimmermann @ Colorado Rockies ($7,200)
It takes some stones to roster a pitcher in Coors, that’s for sure. I’m not advising that you do so here either, as Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t have the swing-and-miss stuff that’s needed to neutralize the impact of Coors Field. His ability to limited damage done by right-handed hitters (.256 wOBA) is worth noting when considering a Rockies stack, but I’d be a bit gun-shy about rostering Zimmermann here.
R.A. Dickey @ Philadelphia Phillies ($7,000)
I can’t see or think about R.A. Dickey any more without thinking about the absolute haul that the Mets got back from Toronto when that trade went down. Whew…
With that said, you can safely avoid Dickey today and you won’t be missing much. It’s difficult to pay $7,000 for a starter who doesn’t miss bats and gives up a ton of hard-hit contact.
C.C. Sabathia vs. Minnesota Twins ($6,000)
Home runs have been a major issue for C.C. Sabathia this season, giving up 18.5% HR/FB so far this season. It’s been right-handed hitters who are primarily responsible for the damage, as Sabathia’s .385 wOBA against righties is a huge problem for him right now. He has continued to dominate lefties (.220 wOBA), but pitching at home with his home run issues is a difficult spot to trust him right now.
Rest of the Field
Raisel Iglesias vs. Kansas City Royals ($6,800)
Raisel Iglesias has been a viable punt play recently because of his strikeout upside. Unfortunately, his price has gone up quite a bit lately and he’s facing a Royals team that doesn’t strikeout (just 15.7%). Also not that Iglesias has your standard platoon splits, handling right-handers well while getting lit up but left-handed bats.
Chase Anderson @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($5,800)
There’s a lot to like about Chase Anderson, but he’s a better pitcher than fantasy commodity. We need K’s in fantasy and Anderson’s 6.08 K/9 just isn’t going to get it done against the Pirates. He throws a lot of strikes and gives up very little soft-hit contact (12.3%).
Aaron Nola vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($6,900)
It’s difficult to find a reason to use any starter against the Blue Jays right now. I like Aaron Nola quite a bit moving forward, but I have to pass today. He’s shown more strikeout upside than his 6.98 K/9 would indicate, and he’s stingy with the free pass.
John Danks @ Los Angeles Angels ($6,500)
John Danks has been able to get by with smoke and mirrors at times this season, but he’s done a better job this season than year’s past at getting ahead of hitters early in the count. His 63.3% first-pitch strike mark is solid and allows him to attack hitters differently and he’s having success with it. His fly ball tendencies and inability to handle right-handed bats (.368) always make him a target when selecting bats though.
Mike Pelfrey @ New York Yankees ($4,900)
Mike Pelfrey is another pitcher that’s been frustrating for the DFS community at times this season, because he’s been able to pitch well when few have expected him to do so. His ability to induce ground ball has been vital to his success this season (53.7%) and it’s resulted in a surprisingly low hard-hit contact mark. His 4.33 K/9 is enough to prevent him from being a viable option on most nights though.
Matt Wisler @ San Diego Padres ($5,600)
Big-time lefty sluggers have been a problem for Matt Wisler this season but luckily for him the Padres are essentially void of any left-handed power. There’s still not enough upside for the former Padres prospect as he returns to face the team that drafted him. His 5.84 K/9 isn’t appealing.
Ryan Vogelsong @ St. Louis Cardinals ($5,600)
Ryan Vogelsong takes the ball for the Giants today as they await the return of Mike Leake who was supposed to come off of the DL today to start. There’s no reason to start Vogelsong here. He doesn’t miss enough bats, isn’t likely to work past the 6th inning even if he’s pitching well and has some pretty sizable L/R splits this season.
Chi Chi Gonzalez vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,500)
What Chi Chi Gonzalez has done so far this season is quite impressive. He’s managed to enter play with 4.22 ERA and 4.99 FIP despite a .228 BABIP. That’s hard to do! Also, having a K/9 nearly 1 full point below his BB/9 is also extremely impressive. And terrible.
Felix Doubront vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,300)
Felix Doubront is a sizable underdog tonight, facing the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. Independent of Kershaw, this is still a bad spot for Doubront. The Dodgers right-handed bats are likely to run Doubront from this one early.
Tyler Cravy vs. Miami Marlins ($4,200)
I’m likely headed up to Milwaukee for this electric Cravy/Conley battle tonight. Man, what’s wrong with me?
Tyler Cravy’s heavy fly ball approach doesn’t fit well in Milwaukee, and his 40.3% hard-hit contact mark is scary-high. Look for Miami’s left-handed bats to do some damage tonight.
Adam Conley @ Milwaukee Brewers ($4,100)
The Brewers are difficult to project against left-handed pitching, with the league’s worst wRC+ yet a top-10 ISO score. I’ve been using their ‘best’ players in these spots but avoiding a full 5/6 man stack. I think that rule still applies today against Adam Conley.
David Hale vs. Washington Nationals ($4,400)
The Nationals are struggling right now, but there’s nothing that can break a slump quite like Coors Field. David Hale has been extremely homer prone this year, as well.