Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. We’re back with a full 15-game evening slate here on DraftKings. There are so many ways to skin the cat tonight, so sharpen that knife and dig in. 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
Jake Arrieta @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($11,500)
I’m a huge fan of Arrieta in cash games because he typically has such a high floor. His price is down $600 from his last start, and while he hasn’t pitched quite like that ace that he is over the last two outings, he still checks all the major boxes tonight. His K-rate is elite (9.41 K/9), he can get out of jams with a 51.7% ground ball rate, and his matchup is plus (96 wRC+ vs. RHP for Pittsburgh).
Max Scherzer vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($13,500)
Typically when there’s a plethora of upper-echelon arms we see the top option have slightly suppressed ownership totals. That’ll likely be the case here with Max Scherzer tonight since he’s $1,500 more than the next closest option on the board. His matchup against the Diamondbacks is fairly neutral (96 wRC+), but their 20.9% strikeout rate supports Scherzer’s potential upside here, making him a great tournament play tonight.
Chris Sale vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($12,000)
The simple fact that Max Scherzer is $1,500 more than Chris Sale tonight will likely drive Sale’s ownership totals up by 5-10%, at least. The group-think is quite simple; I can save money and still get a big-time ace as my SP1. This logic is of course true, but if you’ve read my work before you’ll know that that’ll be enough for me to stay away. The price break is nice for cash, but my guess is that Sale will be owned in more than 30% of tournament lineups and that’s an issue. Tampa Bay has been strong against left-handed pitching this season (.321 wOBA/111 wRC+), but they do swing-and-miss a ton (21.7% vs. LHP) so they upside for a 10+ K game is strong.
Chris Archer @ Chicago White Sox ($11,700)
Chris Archer could be interesting tonight as a road dog against Sale and the White Sox. There’s some recency bias around the White Sox strong second half, but overall they’re a below average offense (90 wRC+ vs. RHP) and shouldn’t be feared, even if it’s a negative park shift for Archer. His 2.34 ERA is legit (2.50 FIP) and his 10.99 K/9 pairs well with the White Sox 20.4% K-rate.
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Boston Red Sox ($9,800)
Dongs have been an issue for Tanaka this season, and they’ve been the difference between good and great starts for Tanaka. His homerun-adjusted FIP is 3.17, more than a half of a run lower than his ERA. The strikeout and walks rates both come in above league average, and it’s not surprise that Tanaka has elite swing-and-miss stuff (12.3 SwStk%). The Red Sox have basically been an average offense against right-handed pitching (97 wRC+), but their .136 ISO is among the bottom third of the league, which modes well for Tanaka’s chances tonight.
Middle of the Pack
Matt Shoemaker vs. Cleveland Indians ($7,500)
We’re finally seeing the Matt Shoemaker that most were expecting to see all season long. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last two starts, limiting his opponents to five hits while striking out 17 over 13 1/3 innings. His price is climbing a bit, but it’s not prohibitive. The Indians don’t exactly move the needle either way, with a .306 wOBA and 97 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. They aren’t at full strength though, with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis on the DL.
Carlos Carrasco @ Los Angeles Angels ($10,200)
The Indians have the GPP-iest starting rotation that you can possibly have. It’s difficult to trust Carlos Carrasco because his starts are so up and down, but it’s difficult to look at him statistically and not consider him every time he takes the ball. A 2.84 FIP looks a lot better than his 4.03 ERA, and his strikeout and walk rates are both elite. With a 13.3% swinging-strike rate, Carrasco has even more K-upside than his 9.9 K/9 indicates. I just can’t trust that he’ll get through 5 innings without giving up 5 runs.
Patrick Corbin @ Washington Nationals ($8,900)
I featured Patrick Corbin prominently last week when he was $5,900, and he went out and struck out 10 Brewers and hung a 30 burger on them (30.2 DK points). While I do like the pitcher, I don’t like the price tag today, at least not for cash games. Tournaments are a different beast. I suspect most will be turned away by the price of Corbin, but the matchup is pretty favorable. The Nationals haven’t been very good against left-handed pitching (88 wRC+) and they have a fairly hefty K-rate (22.1%).
Jimmy Nelson vs. San Diego Padres ($8,200)
Jimmy Nelson has been a different pitcher since the All-Star break. He’s strung together four consecutive 22+ point performances and has seen his ERA drop from 4.64 to 3.76. He’s been getting a ton of ground balls in that time frame as well, something that’s important to do in Miller Park. Nelson faces the Padres tonight, and perhaps recency bias will keep players off of Nelson since the Padres bats are suddenly alive. For the season they’ve been below average offensively (90 wRC+) and swing-and-miss a ton.
Shelby Miller vs. San Francisco Giants ($9,400)
The ball can travel well in the Hot-lanta summer air as we saw last night. I don’t think we’ll see 17 combined runs here again, but Shelby Miller will need to lean on his nearly 50% ground ball rate here against a Giants club that’s been the best road offense in the league, and enters play with an 114 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. The pricing algorithm likes ERA quite a bit, and while Miller enjoys a 2.44 ERA I tend to trust the 3.23 FIP as a more accurate indicator of his skill level.
John Lackey @ Cincinnati Reds ($8,800)
John Lackey is another example of a pitcher who’s price is driven up by his sub-3 ERA (2.78) even those his FIP and xFIP are nearly a run higher. He throws a ton of first-pitch strikes (71.1%), making it easier for the veteran to work himself into favorable counts, but it’s not something that’s yielding even a league average amount of strikeouts right now (6.59 K/9). He can pile up the K’s occasionally. His last time out was against these Reds, and he two-hit them over eight innings with eight K’s. I’m a little leery of going back to the well with a pitcher who just faced the same team though.
Alex Wood @ Philadelphia Phillies ($7,400)
Alex Wood makes his Dodgers’ debut tonight, and Vegas is very much on board (-194) with a win for LA. I don’t value the win very much, and neither does DraftKings scoring, which I love. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae, but never chase the high probability of a win when making your pitching selections. The matchup against the Phillies is fairly neutral for the southpaw, as Philly has a 97 wRC+ and a .311 wOBA against left-handed pitching on the season (much better than how they’ve fared against RHP).
Andrew Cashner @ Milwaukee Brewers ($6,000)
Andrew Cashner has not been very good lately, but this $2,000 drop in price seems a bit extreme. His strikeout rate and walk rates have been going in the wrong direction of late, and I’m not weary of this new look Brewers club, since they traded both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gomez at the deadline. If you tend to play the hot hand and look for players that are trending up, then you’ll cross Cashner off of your list fairly quickly tonight. If you’re willing to look past that to exploit a pricing inefficiency in a decent matchup, you’ll likely give Cashner a long look tonight as your SP2.
Jake Peavy @ Atlanta Braves ($6,400)
The days of big-time strikeout totals are a thing of the past for Jake Peavy. His 5.72 K/9 just isn’t going to get it done, even against a less than stellar Braves lineup. He’s an interesting punt if they’re without Freddie Freeman tonight, but Atlanta can play well for hitters when it’s 95 degrees like it’s been for the past few weeks. Watch Atlanta’s lineup because he could be punt-worthy if they roll out their B team.
Henry Owens @ New York Yankees ($6,700)
The Red Sox are throwing prized prospect Henry Owens to the wolves tonight in his debut in the Bronx. Sink or swim, kid. Owens does have quite a bit of upside, with a plus fastball and curve ball that induces a lot of swinging strikes, but the Yankees have been hitting quite well lately and are a difficult matchup in the Bronx against left-handed pitching.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($6,600)
Anthony DeSclafani (3.75 ERA/3.96 FIP) has some pretty extreme L/R splits this season. He’s striking out right-handed bats, and holding them to a .280 wOBA, while left-handed bats are having a field day. Their .340 wOBA is above average, and the Cardinals get a nice park bump here at the Great American Ballpark.
J.A. Happ vs. Chicago Cubs ($6,500)
J.A. Happ is back in the National League and makes his debut for the Pirates tonight at PNC. Happ has shown poor splits to both lefties and righties this season, despite pitching in a friendly home park in Seattle. The Cubs have a fairly large K-rate against left-handed pitching (23%) but I don’t believe that Happ has the arsenal to fully exploit that.
Vidal Nuno @ Colorado Rockies ($4,200)
This one is not for the faint of heart. Using a below average starting pitching in Coors is a death sentence, but I’ll give you a case for Vidal Nuno as a punt play tonight. The first is obviously his reduced ownership. As in, no one else will be using him. Second is that the Rockies, even at home, have been terrible against left-handed pitching. Their 62 wRC+ is the worst mark in the league and even their .282 wOBA is far below what you’d probably expect. Nuno’s upside is capped a bit since he’s been working primarily out of the bullpen this season so it’s not fair to expect him to work deep in to this game even if he were to avoid trouble.
Marco Estrada vs. Minnesota Twins ($6,300)
The Twins haven’t been very good overall against right-handed pitching (89 wRC+), but they have huge power upside with a .150 ISO against them. Marco Estrada has been homer-prone in the past, but has managed to avoid major damage despite leaning on fly-balls to get the majority of his outs. He’s had some useful starts this season in the right park against the right team, but I don’t think either of those scenarios are in play here.
Miguel Gonzalez @ Oakland Athletics ($6,900)
The A’s were a sneaky stack back in April and May, but haven’t been quite the same of late. They’ve sold off some assets (Ben Zobrist), struggled with injuries (Josh Reddick) and have even gone ice-cold (Stephen Vogt). All that considered, I can’t recommend using Miguel Gonzalez (4.81 FIP). There’s really no upside here, with his below-average strikeout rate and his generosity to batters from both sides of the plate.
Phil Hughes @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,800)
Of all the pitchers available tonight, only Danny Duffy has a higher hard-hit contact rate than Phil Hughes. He’s been particularly terrible against right-handed bats (.368 wOBA), and the Blue Jays are loaded with those. The strikeout upside that Hughes showed last season is long gone, and his HR/FB rate has doubled this season, as well.
Rest of the Field
Justin Verlander vs. Kansas City Royals ($6,200)
It’s amazing how the mighty have fallen. Verlander is one of the worst plays tonight, and that’s a far fall from where we were just a few seasons ago. He’s pitched 50 innings so far this season, and that’s enough to feel confident that his pedestrian 6.3 K/9 is who he is at this point. If you’ve read anything I’ve written here before, you know I advise staying away from the Royals. It’s not that they’re world beaters, but they don’t strike out very often and we love the K’s here on DK, especially if we’re looking for a cheap SP2. Stay away.
Jon Niese @ Miami Marlins ($6,100)
The Marlins have maintained their spot among the best hitting clubs in the league against left-handed pitching despite the month-long absence of Giancarlo Stanton, as their .328 wOBA is good for fourth in all of baseball. When people gush about the future of the Mets rotation, they aren’t talking about Jon Niese. Sorry, Jon. The 54.6% ground ball rate is nice, but there’s no real meat on the bone outside of that. I don’t want to overrate the park factor here, and neither should you when you’re considering Niese.
Chris Bassitt vs. Baltimore Orioles ($4,400)
Chris Bassitt is a bit under-priced tonight, especially since the pricing model should love his 3.10 ERA, but the Orioles are running hot right now. There’s not enough upside here with Bassitt’s sub-6 K/9.
Yovani Gallardo vs. Houston Astros ($5,800)
Now that we’re in the middle of the summer, it’s time to avoid pitchers in Arlington. It almost needs to be treated like Coors Field, because it plays so favorably to hitters when it’s that hot and humid. Even without the humidity, Gallardo is a below average strikeout pitcher who doesn’t have the ability to take advantage of Houston’s huge K-rate.
Danny Duffy vs. Detroit Tigers ($5,500)
Danny Duffy and John Danks have been annoying at times, pitching better than anticipated in less than stellar matchups, but I’ll still lean on their overall track record and the stats that I trust. Duffy has the largest hard-hit contact rate on the slate tonight, and the Tigers have the second best wOBA and wRC+ mark on the season against left-handed pitching.
Jon Gray vs. Seattle Mariners ($5,000)
The Rockies are rolling out their prized pitching prospect tonight, Jon Gray, and he’ll begin to see first hand that pitching in the thin air in Colorado can be no fun. He’s worth a look, but on T.V. more so than in your lineup.
Jerome Williams vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,100)
Big Jerome has some reverse split action going on this season, but the reality is that he’s just all around terrible, regardless of the batters’ handedness. There’s no reason to consider him a viable option.
Brad Hand vs. New York Mets ($4,000)
The Mets are playing their best baseball of the season right now, by far. Their lineup is energized by the presence of Yoenis Cespedes and a rejuvenated Lucas Duda.