Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. After a few days off due to the All-Star Game, it’s time to get back on the saddle today. Aces abound tonight, this first game back from the break, so choose wisely. 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 when choosing 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.
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Cream of the Crop
Jose Fernandez @ Philadelphia Phillies ($10,200)
I’m not sure we can expect many complete games from Jose Fernandez in the second half, but he’s likely to give us 7+ innings of dominance on most nights that he takes the ball. One of the game’s best, Fernandez has been all that he’s supposed to be since he returned from the elbow injury and subsequent T.J. surgery that cost him most of last season and the beginning of this one. He fired 7 innings in his last start, striking out nine and walking none. It’ll be interesting to see how often he goes to the slider, but I suspect we’ll see an even better Fernandez as the season goes along. Tonight he’s facing the league’s worst offense against right-handed pitching (30th in wOBA at .284), Fernandez is a great play.
Few pitchers have surprised me this season as much as Sonny Gray has. He had a strong debut in 2014, but some of the underlying stats, along with a pedestrian strikeout rate, left a lot to be desired heading into 2015. The increased use of his slider (in place of his curve) has lead to tremendous success for Gray this season. He’s keeping the ball on the ground (55.6% ground ball rate) and he has been exceptional against hitters on both sides of the plate (.238 wOBA vs. LHB’s; .233 vs. RHB’s). The Twins are a middle of the pack team offensively against right-handed pitching (.309 wOBA) and should have their hands full against Gray tonight in Oakland. Vegas has the Twins implied run total at just 2.9 tonight, the lowest total on the board.
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Seattle Mariners ($9,500)
Facing the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka in New York is a positive park factor shift for the Mariners tonight, but don’t let park factor cloud your judgement here. This is a great spot for Tanaka, with extended rest off the break against a Mariners team that can swing-and-miss with the best of them (22.1% strikeout rate against RHP’s). Tanaka has been strong this season in his nearly 70 innings, but has been victimized by the long-ball at times. He’s kept lefties in check though, with just a 2.31 FIP and .281 wOBA against southpaws.
Lance Lynn vs. New York Mets ($9,200)
Lance Lynn (2.90 ERA/2.80 FIP) has been the ace of the league’s best team so far this season. Think about that for a second. Sure, Carlos Martinez has been exceptional at times, but the steady gains made by Lance Lynn this season have softened the burden left behind when St. Louis lost Adam Wainwright for the season back in April. He’s increased his strikeout rate by nearly 1.5 per nine, and has been one of the best starters in terms of limited hard-hit contact. The Mets are 29th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, so there’s not much to fear here.
Noah Syndergaard @ St. Louis Cardinals ($9,300)
Don’t expect many runs to be scored in St. Louis tonight. Lance Lynn’s counterpart tonight is the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (3.11 ERA/2.61 FIP). Thor’s ability to miss bats (9.72 K/9) and minimize walks (1.89 per nine) has been better than anyone anticipated this early in his career, and he’s facing a Cardinals team that’s strong, but has been sliding a bit offensively. They’re 11th in wOBA, with a .318 mark against right-handed pitching, but that mark is down nearly 10 points over the past month. The good news for St. Louis is that Matt Holliday is likely back in the lineup tonight, after missing a few weeks with a strained quad. Lynn is $100 cheaper and a slight favorite (-125), so look for a Syndergaard to be slightly under-owned tonight, making him a worthwhile GPP play.
Middle of the Pack
Jordan Zimmermann vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($8,900)
The Dodgers 117 wRC+ is the league’s best mark against right-handed pitching, and they are rarely a team that I want to target unless the pitcher has big time swing-and-miss stuff. Jordan Zimmermann (6.53 K/9) is just not that guy. When you can’t miss bats it caps your scoring upside and increases the batted ball variance against you. With a top heavy slate, there’s little reason to roll out Zimmermann when you can get better upside in the same pricing tier.
Jake Odorizzi @ Toronto Blue Jays ($8,700)
After missing some time due to an oblique strain, Jake Odorizzi returned just before the All-Star break and had a strong showing against the Astros. Taking the ball in Toronto tonight should present a new set of challenges for Odorizzi. At first glance it appears that Jake Odorizzi has given up a little strikeout upside in exchange for working in the zone more frequently. I’ll take it. Over time it’ll allow him to work deeper into games, and he still possesses the punch-out upside that we’re looking for (10.0% swinging-strike rate). This is a difficult spot, but there’s some GPP appeal here because he’ll be way under-owned.
Kyle Hendricks @ Atlanta Braves ($7,600)
The Braves are a team to target from here on out, with the news that Freddie Freeman is out until August. They just don’t have a ton of upside, and need to string together a bunch of hits due to their lack of offensive fire power. Kyle Hendricks has been sneaky good this season, with a strong ground ball rate (49.5%), enough strikeouts to be worth a look (7.18 per nine) and one of the lowest BB/9 in the game (1.55). He’s a strong cash play tonight.
Drew Hutchison vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,700)
Drew Hutchison is severely under-priced tonight, but with all the other top options on the board tonight, I don’t many owners will take advantage of it. He’s been better than his 5.33 ERA (3.65 FIP), and his .358 BABIP-against and 65.2% strand rate are both among the ‘unluckiest’ marks in the league in each category. He misses enough bats (9.6 SwStk%) and keeps his walks in check, making it possible to work deep into games when he’s on. The Rays have been tough on lefties this season, but much more susceptible (26th in wOBA at .291) against right-handed pitchers.
James Shields vs. Colorado Rockies ($9,100)
James Shields has been so hit or miss this season. As in, he’s either getting hit hard, or he’s missing bats. He’s really benefited from the move to the NL, increasing his strikeout rate (10.1 K/9) to elite levels. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to keep the ball in the park (17.9 HR/FB rate) and left-handed bat have destroyed him (.390 wOBA). Petco isn’t playing as pitcher-friendly has it has in years past either, so don’t be mesmerized by the lure of Petco Park. It’s no surprise that the Rockies are quite different away from Coors, but their .338 wOBA against right-handed pitchers is the top mark in the game.
Calling someone a GPP play is some times a cop out in my opinion, but when I say that it typically means one of two things. First is that the player is likely to be under-owned due to either their matchup or perceived skill level, so rostering them gives them you a leg up on your competition if they perform well. Second is when a player has strong skills but is just difficult to trust in cash games. I present to you, Trevor Bauer. There’s a ton of upside with Bauer, but a fly-ball pitcher in a park like Cincinnati is challenging, and his 3.67 BB/9 caps his ability to work deep into games. He’s been able to keep lefties in check (.267 wOBA) though, so be careful stacking against him here.
Anibal Sanchez vs. Baltimore Orioles ($8,200)
I don’t love the move from extreme ground ball pitcher to fly-ball pitcher, and that’s what we’ve seen from Anibal Sanchez (4.63 ERA/4.33 FIP) this season. The strikeouts are on the rise (8.04 K/9) after seeing them dip a bit last season, and the Orioles (22.7% K-rate) have been on the receiving end of some pretty big strikeout games this season. Due to the Orioles pricing, power, and ability to hit right-handed pitching I suspect Anibal Sanchez’s ownership totals will be suppressed in relation to the upside that he possesses.
Collin McHugh vs. Texas Rangers ($7,700)
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 (7.18), and right-handed bats have feasted on him as well (.349 wOBA). The Rangers have enough pop on both sides of the plate to give McHugh trouble tonight.
Mike Fiers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($7,900)
Mike Fiers has a lot of Trevor Bauer in his game. There’s big time strikeout upside (8.91 K/9) but walks and home runs are a problem at times. Being a fly-ball pitcher in Milwaukee’s Miller Park is not a good thing, making Fiers a better play on the road then at home, as his is today. The one thing that greatly varies for him versus Bauer is how they handle left-handed bats. As mentioned earlier, Bauer has been strong against them, but they’ve pounded Fiers (.342 wOBA).
Ubaldo Jimenez @ Detroit Tigers ($7,600)
Ubaldo Jimenez has been a pleasant surprise this season. He’s been able to limit free passes while still missing bats at the elite level that made him a viable option earlier in his career. This is a difficult matchup for him though, as the Tigers are 3rd in wOBA against right-handed pitching, with some big boppers in the middle of their lineup that hit right-handed pitching even better than they hit lefties.
Jorge de la Rosa @ San Diego Padres ($6,800)
Pitching outside of Coors is good news for any pitcher, and Jorge de la Rosa has thrived outside of Colorado’s thin air so far this season. For his career he’s has no home/road splits, with the same ERA and wOBA-against at home as on the road. This season though he’s fared much better on the road, and faces a Padres team that’s struggled against left-handed pitching (.289 wOBA/24.6% K-rate).
Julio Teheran vs. Chicago Cubs ($8,100)
I can’t get behind Julio Teheran right now, but my hope is that people chase him here due to the Cubs high strikeout rate against right-handed pitching (24.5%). I’m willing to be wrong, but with Teheran’s profile, I don’t think I will be. His ERA (4.56) and FIP (4.65) are in line, he’s barely league average in terms of strikeouts and his walk rate is higher than average. Left-handed bats have owned him too (.375 wOBA), really taking away any upside that he’d have here against the Cubs.
Ervin Santana @ Oakland Athletics ($7,000)
We’ve only seen 12 innings from Ervin Santana so far in 2015 after he missed most of the first half due to due suspension, and they’ve been quite up and down. I’m not drawing any conclusions from his early season performance, and leaning on what we know of Santana heading into the season. He’s essentially a league average starter, offering little upside on most nights. The Athletics are feisty against right-handed pitching (14th in wOBA at .314) but they don’t strike out often which limits the already minimal upside here.
Mike Bolsinger @ Washington Nationals ($7,000)
After struggling in his last start prior to the break, Mike Bolsinger (3.08 ERA/2.79 FIP) has now failed to get out of the 6th inning in his last five starts. That’s just not going to cut it. There’s not enough upside to return any value in 5 1/3 innings here, as it appears the league may be figuring out Bolsinger. I love the ground ball rate (58.6%) but I’m going to lean on the recent struggles here and pass on Bolsinger.
Matt Cain @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($8,100)
Matt Cain pitched well against the Mets in his last start prior to the break, but that start made his price jump up over $1,000 here today. I want to see a bit more from Cain before I use him, and that’ll likely be in a home start and not in a place like Arizona where the ball can fly out at ease.
C.J. Wilson vs. Boston Red Sox ($8,100)
After a strong run in late May/early June, C.J. Wilson has returned to earth a bit of late. His ERA/FIP (and even xFIP) tell us that he’s a 3.85 ERA pitcher, and we shouldn’t expect that early season boom to be anything more than just a nice string of starts. He has cut down on the walks, but they still cause him problems at times. This is a difficult matchup for him since the Red Sox are one of the more patient teams in the league and have one of the highest walk rates (8.8%) against left-handed pitchers.
Rest of the Field
Robbie Ray vs. San Francisco Giants ($5,900)
Through 50 innings this season, Robbie Ray (2.16 ERA) has been a pleasent surprise for the Diamondbacks. The introduction of a slider to Ray’s arsenal has been a welcomed addition, and one that’s lead to a lot of Ray’s early season success. With that said, he can’t maintain a 3.1% HR/FB rate while missing less bats than league average (6.84 K/9), and his fly ball tendencies will be an issue for him in Arizona as the summer moves along.
Mike Leake vs. Cleveland Indians ($6,500)
Mike Leake went into the break with a full head of steam, nearly no-hitting the Marlins his last time out. I don’t think he’ll fare quite as well here today at home against the lefty-centric Indians lineup. Left-handed bats have been Leake’s weakness this season (.342 wOBA) and the Indians will likely roll out a mix of left-handed bats and switch-hitters. Don’t chase recency bias here.
Charlie Morton @ Milwaukee Brewers ($6,400)
Charlie Morton was able to get it down with smoke and mirrors for a little while, but that honeymoon is clearly over. He’s been able to keep the ball on the ground this season (61% GB-rate), and that’ll always work out well in the long term, but there’s little fantasy upside here with Morton’s 5.77 K/9.
Mike Montgomery @ New York Yankees ($6,400)
The Mariners have to be encouraged with the early season returns on former first round pick Mike Montgomery. He has some outstanding starts this season, none better than his performance against the Royals (the team that drafted him). What made that all the more impressive was his ability to strike out 10 Royals that night, a number that matches his strike out totals from his last three starts since that outing. He makes sense at home against the right opponent, but not against the Yankees (5th in wOBA vs. LHP) in the Bronx.
Chris Young @ Chicago White Sox ($5,100)
The White Sox have been one of the biggest disappointments season-to-date, and get to start their second half fresh against Chris Young and the division leading Royals. This is a bad spot for Young as he leans heavily on the fly-ball to record outs and few parks are as home run friendly as U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Adam Morgan vs. Miami Marlins ($4,400)
I’ve used Adam Morgan a few times since he’s been called up, but I’m going to stay away here. The Marlins are a sneaky play when facing a left-handed pitcher, as the enter play with the 3rd best wOBA against southpaws. That number has actually gone up a slight bit (.322 to .326) since Giancarlo Stanton went down. It’ll interesting to see how the lineup is constructed with the recent loss of Dee Gordon as well, but take a wait-and-see approach instead of rolling out Morgan tonight.
Wade Miley @ Los Angeles Angels ($6,300)
My Mom taught me that if I don’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything at all. That lesson makes it extremely difficult to write anything about Wade Miley here. The Angels have some left-handed mashers, and Miley has left any strikeout upside that he may have had in the National League behind him when he moved to Boston. You’re using Angels tonight, not Wade Miley. This isn’t contrarian, it’s just a bad play.
John Danks vs. Kansas City Royals ($5,100)
The league’s most aggressive offense against perhaps the league’s worst starting pitcher. Not a great spot for Danks. The Royals have a few bats that feast on bad left-handed pitching, and they get a plus park shift here on a warm Chicago night.
Martin Perez @ Houston Astros (Not in the player pool)
Martin Perez makes his return to the Rangers rotation after missing most of last season with an elbow injury. He’s not in the player pool, but let’s keep an eye on this young southpaw has he makes his return tonight against the Astros in Houston.