Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. It’s a full 15-game evening slate tonight, and it’s always more fun when all 30 teams are in play. When I wrote up Tuesday night’s 15-game slate, just seven pitchers were priced above $7,500. Tonight we have 19, including eight north of $10,000. It’s a bit of a different beast, to say the least. When pitching is this plentiful I worry less about pin pointing tournament ownership because everyone’s ownership levels will be suppressed slightly do to the huge number of viable options at our disposal.
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
Same ole’ song and dance with Clayton Kershaw. He’s an elite-elite option, but his price tag makes it difficult to finish your roster with other high upside contributors. On paper it’s a great spot for him though. The Cubs’ 24.5% whiff rate against left-handed bats is a dream for a pitcher who’s striking out 11.29 batters per nine innings with an insane 15.4 SwStk %. Vegas is all in on Kershaw too, as the Cubs opened with a 2.5 implied-run total. I suggest at least TRYING to build a team around Kershaw and see if you like it.
Max Scherzer vs. Miami Marlins ($12,500)
It hasn’t been quite as easy for Max Scherzer (2.99 ERA/2.69 FIP) of late. He only has one 30+ point performance in his last 10 outings, and that was all the way back in early July. With that said, I don’t think you can pass up on Scherzer tonight. After spending most of the season in the $13,500-$14,600 range, we can roster Scherzer tonight for just $12,500 against the league’s worst offense against right-handed pitching (81 wRC+/.290 wOBA). Saving $2,000 by rostering Scherzer instead of Kershaw will be a popular cash game play.
Francisco Liriano vs. Colorado Rockies ($10,000)
Rarely will you have a slate where seven pitchers are priced higher than Francisco Liriano, but here we are. I’m interested to see what the public does with Liriano tonight. He’s had a few bumpy outing lately, but his matchup at home against the Rockies is luscious. Colorado’s 65 wRC+ against left-handed pitching is the worst in the league, comfortably, and their .289 wOBA isn’t adjusted for Coors so it shows you how poorly they’ve done in these spots. They strikeout 23.4% of the time as well, making Liriano a great play tonight.
Michael Wacha got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but he’s been outstanding lately. He’ll get a nice solid park bump tonight as he takes the ball in AT&T Park against the Giants. San Fran opened with a 3.2 implied-run total, which is surprisingly low for a strong offense like the Giants (109 wRC+). Perhaps Vegas is trying to tell us something here. Wacha has shown the ability to miss bats, and he’ll need it here. His floor feels high but I worry about his upside for tournaments.
Masahiro Tanaka @ Atlanta Braves ($10,200)
The worry in rostering Masahiro Tanaka is usually around home runs, as they’ve plagued him since coming state-side. Atlanta reliefs a bit of that issue since they struggle against right-handed pitching (86 wRC+) and have little to no power. Pitching on the road is a plus for Tanaka as well, but his strikeout upside is curtailed slightly because Atlanta makes solid contact (17.8% K-rate).
Middle of the Pack
Cole Hamels vs. Baltimore Orioles ($9,800)
Cole Hamels hasn’t been great since moving to Texas, and home runs have continued to be an issue for Hamels all season. Tonight, he faces a Baltimore club that’s loaded with sluggers. They’re a little worse for the wear without Adam Jones in their lineup, so wait and see because without him the dynamic of their lineup changes quite a bit. The don’t take a way (5.4%) so Hamels command issues won’t be a problem tonight, and perhaps his 9.27 K/9 will be useful in tournaments tonight. I may be crazy, but I think it will.
Matt Harvey vs. Boston Red Sox ($11,300)
Matt Harvey is priced up due to his 2.57 ERA, but the carpet hasn’t matched the drapes at times this season. His FIP is nearly a run higher (3.43), and he’s benefited from a .255 BABIP this season. When he’s on there’s little doubt that Harvey is one of the best pitchers in the game, but his 8.24 K/9 leaves a bit to be desired at this price, and the Red Sox have one of the lower strikeout rates in the league against right-handed pitching (16.8%). I like Harvey, but he’s a bit too expensive tonight.
Danny Salazar vs. Los Angeles Angels ($10,800)
After a string of strong outings, Danny Salazar took it on the chin in the Bronx his last time out. He’s looking to bounce back tonight against an Angels club that’s struggled since the break. Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have slowed down quite a bit, and as a team, their 99 wRC+ is not intimidating. Salazar’s upside is immense, and his 10.1 K/9 will always make him a viable tournament option. Vegas has the Angels at 3.4 runs tonight.
When you’re either missing bats (11.2% SwStk rate) or inducing soft contact (just a 25% hard-hit contact rate) then you have my attention. Rasiel Iglesias hasn’t given up more than 3 hits in any of his last 4 starts, and the 5th start saw him allow just 4 hits. He’s on a roll. After striking out 13 Diamondbacks last time out, I suspect he’ll see his highest ownership totals of the season. The matchup against the Brewers is favorable, as well (89 wOBA vs. RHP).
Sonny Gray @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($10,700)
Since missing a few days with a bad back, Sonny Gray hasn’t been quite as sharp. He’s had back-to-back 15 point fantasy outings, and will look to get back on track against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. Gray’s 54.7% ground ball rate will help negate that desert air, but I’m worried a bit about Gray’s back and how well the Diamondbacks are swinging it right now. Good pitchers can often out-pitch their FIP and carry a below average BABIP, but there’s no doubt that Gray has had a bit of luck in his 2015 season. (2.10 ERA/3.22 FIP .238 BABIP). Of all the $10K+ starters, Gray’s opponent has the highest implied-run total (3.7).
Jason Hammel @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($8,400)
Vegas likes the pitching matchup in L.A. tonight, as Jason Hammel has the Dodgers at just 3.6 runs. That makes him a sizable underdog against Clayton Kershaw, but let’s forget about the win. Hammel finally looked like the pitcher that we saw in the first half during his last start against the Braves, and he’ll look to keep things rolling tonight. A 1.91 BB/9 is tidy and helps prevent big blow up innings, and the 9.13 K/9 is the type of upside that we want in both cash and tournaments.
Scott Kazmir @ Minnesota Twins ($9,500)
Scott Kazmir has a pretty sizable ERA/FIP split, with his ERA more than a run lower. ERA, and not FIP, are factors in his price point, and so it makes sense that I have Kazmir as being overpriced tonight. Good pitchers make their own luck though, as Kazmir’s .264 BABIP is validated by a minuscule 24.3% hard-hit contact rate. The matchup is neutral, as the Twins are 15th in wOBA against left-handed pitching, but Kazmir gets a bump away from the Juice Box in Houston.
Taylor Jungmann vs. Cincinnati Reds ($8,700)
I’m a fan of the Jungmann. I’d like to see Taylor Jungmann throw more first-pitch strikes, but he’s minimized hard-hit contact this season and it’s allowed him to keep the ball in the park. I like the strikeout upside he’s shown (8.29 K/9) and Reds have not exactly been tearing the ball off of the cover lately (89 wRC+ vs. RHP).
Aaron Nola vs. San Diego Padres ($8,000)
Here’s another price correction, as Aaron Nola was just $6,500 his last time out. His first 42 2/3 innings have been solid, with a 3.59 ERA and 4.04 FIP. He has a strong arsenal and more strikeout upside than he’s shown (7.17 K/9). The Padres don’t scare anyone (21.6% K- rate; 26th in wOBA), and Nola’s handedness splits matchup well with a typical right-handed heavy Padres squad.
Edinson Volquez @ Tampa Bay Rays ($7,900)
Right-handed pitchers who are facing the Rays in Tampa definetley get a boost, but on a night with so many good pitching options, it’s hard to drum up a case for Edinson Volquez. He’s solid, but unspectacular, with both strikeout and walk totals that are on the wrong side of league average. The Rays (92 wRC+) aren’t very good against right-handed pitching, but their 28th ranked .298 wOBA isn’t enough to make me selected Volquez here.
Mike Leake vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($7,400)
Pitching in San Francisco is never a bad thing, as it’s far and away the best pitcher’s park in the league. Outside of that, I don’t see a lot of signs that make me want to roster Mike Leake tonight. I like the ground ball rate, but he’s benefited from a .260 BABIP so far this season and it’s played out in his ERA/FIP splits (3.44/3.95). He’s priced as a 3.44 ERA-type pitcher, but I can’t pay up when the strikeout upside isn’t there (6.10 K/9).
Taijuan Walker @ Chicago White Sox ($8,200)
I’m not a huge fan of rostering a pitcher who’s making his second consecutive start against the same opponent. I’m not a fan of it when the pitcher threw well, but I like it even less when the pitcher was hit around a bit. Taijuan Walker was hit around a bit, to the tune of five runs over five innings of work. The park is more favorable this time around, making Walker an easy fade for me tonight.
Henry Owens @ New York Mets ($7,700)
The unenviable task of facing the Mets smoking hot offense belongs to Red Sox rookie, Henry Owens. Owens heavy fly ball profile doesn’t feel like a good fit against the Mets, who seem to hit 4-5 dongs every night. Owens can struggle with his command, but he’s been fairly steady in his initial run through the league. I anticipate some fairly large ownership totals for the Mets bats here, despite some of their better hitters having more neutral/reverse splits (Cespedes, d’Arnaud).
Andrew Heaney @ Cleveland Indians ($7,500)
Andrew Heaney is finally coming back down to earth a bit, and it’s reflected in his price tag. I wouldn’t consider him a value tonight at $7,500, he was just exceptionally overpriced at $9,000. He gives up too many fly balls and too much hard-hit contact (35%) for me to consider him here, especially with the lack of elite swing-and-miss stuff. Vegas agrees with me, as the implied-run total opened at 4.2 runs.
Ian Kennedy @ Philadelphia Phillies ($9,000)
It’s usually a good thing when a starter has similar handedness splits. It’s a problem when they’re both way above league average. That’s Ian Kennedy, folks. His .347 wOBA is split evenly be left-handed (.346) and right-handed batters (.347), but for some reason he’s $9,000 tonight. Go for it.
Rest of the Field
Kyle Gibson vs. Houston Astros ($6,200)
I like Kyle Gibson’s ability to induce ground balls (53%) but is that enough to survive the power potential of Houston? We know their weakness is strikeouts, but Gibson doesn’t miss a ton of bats (6.32 K/9), and he’s struggled against right-handed (.330 wOBA) bats this season. The bats I fear the most from Houston (Altuve, Gomez, Correa, Gattis) are all right-handed.
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Kansas City Royals ($6,000)
I would love to see Erasmo Ramirez, or any Rays pitcher, work deep in to a game, but I just can’t trust that Ramirez will see the 6th or 7th inning. That limits his upside. He worked 7 innings last time out, but it was a bit of an anomaly as he typically gets pulled earlier. His fantasy appeal was tied to his early season strikeout totals, but they’ve dwindled of late. The Royals present a difficult matchup as well, striking out less than any other team in the league (15.5%), and it’s worth noting that Ramirez has faired much better against left-handed bats (.238 wOBA) than right-handed (.347).
R.A. Dickey vs. Detroit Tigers ($5,800)
Don’t be fooled by a few good starts, people. R.A. Dickey isn’t good anymore. It happened, it was brief yet glorious for R.A. and the whole Dickey family I imagine, but it’s over. He doesn’t strike anyone out (5.39 K/9), walks too many guys (3.02 BB/9) and the Tigers mash right-handed pitching (4th in wOBA vs. RHP). I know the knuckle ball needs to be handled as a different beast, but when R.A. Dickey was at his best it’s because his secondary offerings were strong too and that’s just not the case right now.
Chase Anderson vs. Oakland Athletics ($5,700)
Chase Anderson is a much better real life pitcher than fantasy asset, and he’s not even that great of a pitcher. The young Diamondbacks’ right-hander lacks the strikeout upside that’d make him a viable option against the scuffling A’s offense (22nd in wOBA vs. RHP). His ERA, FIP and even xFIP suggest that he’s a 4.10 ERA pitcher who doesn’t miss bats. No fun for fantasy.
Kevin Gausman @ Texas Rangers ($5,600)
I’m rooting for Kevin Gausman to put it all together because he has exciting skills. He’s shown flashes of it since returning to the rotation. He’s keeping walks in check (2.09 BB/9) and he has elite swing-and-miss stuff that’s resulting in a 8.10 K/9 so far. The matchup in Texas is not ideal though. The Rangers play well at home, with a .319 wOBA against right-handed pitching, and Vegas has this at 4.6 implied-runs for the Rangers. Keep tabs on Gausman but I wouldn’t risk it tonight.
John Danks vs. Seattle Mariners ($5,300)
John Danks can survive at times in the right setting, but his home park is a bad fit for his skill set (or lack thereof). The Mariners have a tendency to whiff a ton against left-handed pitching (22.1%) but that doesn’t fit Danks either. He’s striking out just 6.32 batters per nine innings. Pass the Danks.
Williams Perez vs. New York Yankees ($4,500)
A 56.4% first-pitch strike rate isn’t going to get it done. That’s Williams Perez’s biggest issue right now. He’s working from behind too often and those free passes (4.42 BB/9) are turning in to runs.
Jonathan Gray @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($4,300)
It’s been a pretty solid debut for Jonathan Gray thus far. His 5.94 ERA doesn’t show it, but a 4.08 FIP along with league average strikeout (7.56 K/9) and walk rates (2.70 BB/9) is serviceable, and gets a bump outside of Coors Field. I’d stay away tonight though. Even though he’s cheap at just $4,300, the Pirates are playing well and Gray is a huge underdog against Francisco Liriano.
Adam Conley @ Washington Nationals ($4,200)
After finally playing a few games with what was supposed to be their 2015 lineup, a few more Nationals went down with injuries last night. With that said, there’s still enough pop in the lineup to give Adam Conley fits tonight.
Matt Boyd @ Toronto Blue Jays ($4,000)
Oh boy-d. This one should get ugly in a hurry. Vegas has the Jays at 5.8 runs tonight, and I’d take the over.