Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. Our last Friday before the All-Star break gives us a full slate, including a cross-town day game between the Cubs and White Sox. That makes tonight’s main slate 14-games. 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
It’s an interesting slate, price-wise, when we look at the top options on the board. No one grades out as a plus value in their matchup, and the top four pitchers are all facing another top option. The most appropriately priced of the group is Madison Bumgarner (3.34 ERA/3.22 FIP) at home against the Phillies. Any time the big lefty takes the ball at home he’s worth a look, but note that the Phillies are much better suited to face left-handed pitching (15th in wOBA) than they are against right-handed starters.
Gerrit Cole vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($10,000)
Gerrit Cole is the least expensive of tonight’s aces in his NL Central matchup against the Cardinals. Cole’s transition from heavy fastball/curve to fastball/slider has been a positive one to say the least. It’s allowed him to neutralize left-handed hitters (.258 wOBA, 2.31 FIP) while maintaining his elite ground ball (54.2%) and strikeout rate (9.22 K/9). The Cardinals fare well against right-handed pitching on the season, but their .319 wOBA is down nearly 15 points over the past month.
Lance Lynn @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($10,200)
Lance Lynn (2.53 ERA/2.72 FIP) has really taken a step forward in the first half of the season, taking over as a legit top of the rotation starter. His K/9 rate is up from slightly above average (8.0 per 9) to elite levels (9.45). He’s had success in limiting left-handed bats to a .280 wOBA, and his numbers against right-handed hitters will improve as his .370 BABIP-against regulates itself. There’s some definite bad luck in that total.
Cole Hamels @ San Francisco Giants ($10,700)
Cole Hamels gets a park factor bump here as he moves from Citizen’s Bank Park to AT&T, but he and the Phillies are decent sized underdogs (+144) on the road against MadBum and the Giants. Hamels (3.02 ERA/3.53 FIP) has been consistently good this season, and is a safe bet for 20+ points when he takes the hill. I’m just not sure there’s a ton of upside here against the pesky Giants offense.
Danny Salazar vs. Oakland Athletics ($8,900)
It’s so difficult to trust Danny Salazar (4.10 ERA/3.52 FIP). He’s capable of ANY outcome when he pitches, making him extremely difficult to roster in cash games. His upside makes him appealing in GPP’s though, and that rings true here again today against the A’s. Salazar will have his hands full against an A’s team that’s hit right-handed pitching well all season (.320 wOBA), and they don’t strike out nearly as often as most other teams do (just 17.5%). With that said, Salazar’s 10.8 K/9 and huge spike in ground balls this season make him a tournament play tonight at home.
Middle of the Pack
Uncle Cleatus Clay Buchholz (3.27 ERA/2.54 FIP) is coming off of a dominant complete game performance against the Astros and has strung together a nice little run here to end the first half. The matchup against the Yankees isn’t great on paper (5th in wOBA at .328), but Buchholz (8.51 K/9) price is down, $1,600 compared to last time out, and I think that’s too steep. He’s been able to keep hitter’s on both sides of the plate in check (.268 wOBA vs. LHB; .310 vs. RHB), making his slight reverse splits a sneaky way to exploit his value. His .353 BABIP-against versus right-handed bats tells us that he has even more room to improve there, as well.
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Houston Astros ($5,600)
My favorite discount play tonight is Erasmo Ramirez. He has a few things working in his favor here. He’s been dynamite against left-handed bats (.249 wOBA) so the sneaky nature of his reverse splits will keep him off of most people’s radar. He’s about league average in terms of strikeouts (7.49 K/9), but his 12.7% swinging-strike rate is elite, which should lead to higher strike out numbers moving forward. It’s no secret that Houston can swing and miss with the best of them (25.9%).
Noah Syndergaard vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($8,200)
The Diamondbacks are a much different ball club outside of the cozy confines of Arizona, and Noah Syndergaard will look to take advantage of that tonight. His above average strikeouts (9.05 K/9) and walk rate( 1.84 BB/9) will lead to success and we’ve seen that in spades early for Thor. He’s been tough on left-handed bats too, allowing just a .265 wOBA to left-handed hitters.
Michael Pineda @ Boston Red Sox ($8,100)
The Red Sox limit Michael Pineda’s upside, striking out just 16.3% of the time against right-handed pitchers, one of the lowest marks in the league. There’s always some tournament appeal with Pineda though, and that’s the case as he returns to Fenway tonight (hopefully with less pine tar on his neck). His 3.79 ERA doesn’t match the eye test like his 2.57 FIP does, and he’s really been tough on right-handed hitters this season (1.95 FIP).
Gio Gonzalez @ Baltimore Orioles ($8,500)
Gio Gonzalez’s propensity to walk batters has always been his downfall. His 3.35 BB/9 is tolerable, but only if he’s striking out batters at an above average clip, and he barely is. His 7.92 K/9 pairs well here against Baltimore, who’s whiffing 21.2% of the time against lefties. The one encouraging part of Gio this season is his elite ground ball rate. A 56.5 GB% is huge, and is up 12% over last season and his career marks. He’s going to have some strong days ahead (.345 BABIP), but I worry about his difficulty with right-handed bats here today (.339 wOBA).
Mike Bolsinger vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($6,600)
Mike Bolsinger has a good mix of strike outs (8.46 K/9) and ground balls (56.6%), an ideal set of outcomes for any pitcher. The Brewers are a middle of the road matchup for Bolsinger (18th in wOBA at .310), and Vegas likes Bolsinger and the Dodgers quite a bit tonight (-151).
Chase Anderson @ New York Mets ($5,800)
Pairing Chase Anderson with a upper tier starter tonight makes a lot of sense. The Mets offense has been on a historically bad run (tied for last in wOBA against right-handed pitching), and with the struggles of Lucas Duda, the Mets really have no one to fear in their lineup. Chase Anderson doesn’t miss many bats (5.57 K/9), but he’s been able to limit both right-handed bats (.318 wOBA) and left-handers (.291) this season. He’s a slight underdog here against Syndergaard (+127), but he’s a good cheap SP 2.
Collin McHugh @ Tampa Bay Rays ($8,700)
Someone fix Collin McHugh’s slider, please? It was one of his best pitches last season (17.7 runs-above average) so it makes sense that he’d start to throw it more, which he has this season. He’s using it 7% more this season, but it’s been way less effective (-4.1 runs-above average). His K/9 is down nearly 2 per nine innings (7.15), and right-handed bats have feasted on him as well (.350 wOBA). The matchup in Tampa against the Rays looks appealing at first glance, but I’d proceed with caution.
Kyle Hendricks vs. Chicago White Sox ($6,900) (DAY GAME)
Kyle Hendricks takes the ball for the Cubs at home this afternoon against the White Sox. The day game will take him out of the mix unless you’re dabbling in the all-day slate just to get exposure to these Chicago players. Hendricks has pitched well for the Cubs, and his minuscule 1.66 BB/9 is a huge piece of his success this season.
Ervin Santana vs. Detroit Tigers ($7,800)
Twins fans had to be happy to see 8 strong innings from Ervin Santana in his season debut, but the sledding is a bit more difficult in this one. The Tigers have a bit of what Bill Simmons dubbed ‘The Ewing Theory’ going on of late. Since Miguel Cabrera went on the DL, the Tigers bats have stepped up and are mashing. On the season they’re the third best team in terms of wOBA against right-handed pitching, and I expect Santana will have his hands full tonight.
Hector Santiago @ Seattle Mariners ($7,700)
Hector Santiago is out a bit over his ski’s here, with a 4.11 FIP and a 2.40 ERA. His dominance against fellow southpaws has a lot to do with it, as he’s been virtually untouchable (.198 wOBA). Right-handed bats, especially those with pop, have been Santiago’s issue. He’s allowed 12 home runs to right-handed bats in just 68 innings this season. Pitching in Safeco is a plus, but pitching against Nelson Cruz is not.
Mike Montgomery vs. Los Angeles Angels ($7,500)
After a pair of dominant starts against Kansas City and San Diego, Mike Montgomery came back to earth a little bit last time out against Oakland. He has an unsustainable .221 BABIP and 86.6% strand rate, and his ERA is almost 2 full runs lower than his FIP. The late blooming former top prospect is a good story, but there will be bumps in the road here shortly.
Ian Kennedy @ Texas Rangers ($7,400)
A big negative park shift here for the fly-ball friendly Ian Kennedy as he takes the ball for the Padres down in Texas tonight. The Rangers and their left-handed bats (.321 wOBA) should be a difficult challenge for Kennedy tonight, who’s had some struggles keeping left-handed bats in check so far this season (.346 wOBA). I like Kennedy at home when the matchup makes sense, but those things aren’t in play today.
Jimmy Nelson @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($7,200)
It’s Jimmy Nelson da…errrr, never mind. The young Brewer right-hander has struggled after getting off to a good start in April. He can’t get lefties out (.381 wOBA) and he’s been more lucky than good against righties (.263 BABIP-against). The Dodgers have hit right-handed pitching better than any other team in the league (.339 wOBA), making Nelson someone to target, not roster.
Shelby Miller @ Colorado Rockies ($7,100)
No need to roster a starter at Coors on a full slate.
As far as Miller goes though, I like seeing his ground ball rate spike (up 12%) and he’s commanding his fastball better this season after struggling with it at times last season in St. Louis. He’s been quite lucky against right-handed bats (.216 BABIP-against) but if he keeps the ball down in the zone tonight he might be able to survive a huge blow up tonight at Coors.
Mike Leake @ Miami Marlins ($6,800)
Pitching in Miami is a great park shift for Mike Leake (4.39 ERA and FIP) tonight, taking on the Stanton-less Marlins. When Leake is on, he does a good job at keeping the ball on the ground (52.2% GB rate), but the 5.82 K/9 just isn’t going to cut it on most nights. The Marlins struggle against right-handed pitching (.290 wOBA), but their top of the order left-handed bats could be a problem for Leake (.344 wOBA vs. LHB’s).
Carlos Rodon @ Chicago Cubs ($5,700) (DAY GAME)
The future is bright for Carlos Rodon, but until he figures out his command issues (5.22 BB/9) he’s difficult to trust. The strikeout upside is appealing (9.25 K/9), but these factors combined really drive up Rodon’s pitch count each time out, limiting his upside since he’s rarely seeing the 6th or 7th innings.
Rest of the Field
Marco Estrada @ Kansas City Royals ($6,200)
Marco Estrada’s success against left-handed bats (.289 wOBA) is quite surprising, but I can suggest rolling him out today against the free-swinging Royals. I seem to write this every time when discussing the pitcher who’s facing the Royals but they’re so aggressive, putting the ball in play more than any other team in the league. That’s not a good mix for a fly-ball pitcher in the humid air of Kansas City.
Kendall Graveman @ Cleveland Indians ($6,200)
There’s not enough strikeout upside here for Kendall Graveman tonight (5.26 K/9) against the Indians. His ERA is more than a run lower than his FIP (3.16 ERA/4.35 FIP), and the Indians are likely to be extremely left-handed tonight, something that’s caused Graveman problems at times this season ( decent .323 wOBA).
David Phelps vs. Cincinnati Reds ($4,300)
David Phelps is fairly neutral as far as splits are concerned, and while he’s under-priced at just $4,300, I’d rather pay just a bit more for Erasmo Ramirez or Chase Anderson.
Justin Verlander @ Minnesota Twins ($6,100)
We’ve seen 22 1/3 ugly innings from Justin Verlander (7.05 FIP) so far this season. There’s no strikeout upside right now (4.76 K/9) and he’s allowing an insane amount of hard-hit contact. Just 9.9% of his contact allowed would be classified as soft contact.
Wandy Rodriguez vs. San Diego Padres ($5,400)
Good strikeout lefties have been a problem for the Padres this season, but Wandy Rodriguez is right about league average, and San Diego has some right-handed pop that could give Wandy fits tonight in the hot air of Texas. There’s not enough upside to make it worth the risk.
Chris Tillman vs. Washington Nationals ($5,300)
A fly-ball pitcher who struggles against left-handed bats who’s facing Bryce Harper and the Nationals?
We’re good here, right?
Danny Duffy vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($6,100)
This could get ugly. The league’s best offense against left-handed pitching (.365 wOBA) against a fly-ball pitcher that’s struggling to get right-handed hitter’s out (.367 wOBA). This could be a short outing for Danny Duffy.
David Hale vs. Atlanta Braves ($4,000)
Just say no to below average pitchers at Coors, guys.