Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. I’m looking to give you a leg up on the competition as you start to build your lineup(s) for tonight’s 11-game slate. 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 helpful when you’re 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.
Cream of the Crop
Corey Kluber @ Cincinnati Reds ($11,500)
How can someone be this good, and still have room to get better? That’s the case here with Corey Kluber. His second half roll begins tonight, in Cincinnati against the Reds (93 wRC+ vs. right-handed pitching). He’s improved on some of his ridiculous 2014 numbers, but he’s been a bit unlucky with batted balls, particularly against left-handed bats (.371 BABIP). That’s not going to continue. His 2.51 FIP is more indicative of his skill level than his 3.38 ERA, and his 13.4 SwStk% is one of the best marks in the game. Roster him with confidence tonight.
Jon Lester @ Atlanta Braves ($9,800)
You have to love this matchup for Jon Lester (3.59 ERA/3.15 FIP) tonight. The Braves are starting to hit like we thought they would when the season began, and have really struggled against left-handed pitching all season (.286 wOBA/80 wRC+). Lester has started to pitch more like the top shelf starter that the Cubs expected when the acquired him this off-season, and he’s in line for a solid second half. His strike outs are up over the past month, and his 10.3 SwStk% is up over the past few seasons, something we all expected as he shifted to the more favorable National League.
Tyson Ross checks the majority of the major boxes when it comes to selecting a starting pitcher in DFS. He has huge strikeout upside (9.63 K/9), gets a ton of ground balls (62.9%) and pitches in a favorable park for suppressing runs. The only issue here is his walk rate (4.49 BB/9). As I have preached all season, walks limit a pitchers’ upside. It’s quite simple. It drives up pitch counts which impacts his ability to work deep into games, and adding extra base runners is an obvious flaw if we’re looking to prevent runs. The good news for Tyson Ross tonight is that the Rockies have one of the lowest walk rates in the league (6.1%).
Francisco Liriano @ Milwaukee Brewers ($10,200)
I’ve been really impressed with Francisco Liriano this season, and the gains he’s made will be vital to the Pirates playoff chances down the stretch. His walks are still a bit higher than average (3.06 per 9), but last season that mark stood at 4.49, and we’re seeing what a difference it’s making overall. His strikeout totals are still elite (9.81 K/9) which isn’t always the case when a pitcher starts to throw more first-pitch strikes to avoid walking batters like Liriano has done this season. The Brewers have struggled against left-handed pitching (.289 wOBA/79 wRC+) and Liriano has dominated right-handed bats all season long (.254 wOBA), eliminating any platoon split advantages against him.
David Price vs. Baltimore Orioles ($11,200)
I like David Price (2.38 ERA/2.85 FIP) for tournaments tonight. Sitting at $11,2oo, most players are likely to either spend the extra $300 for Corey Kluber, or save and drop down the the guys listed above in the $9-10K range. He’s also facing the best offense of the elite options, and that alone is enough to suppress ownership totals. The Orioles are great against right-handed pitching, but just middle of the road against southpaws (.310 wOBA/96 wRC+), and Price will take advantage of their high swing-and-miss players (21.1% K-rate). Price’s 8.28 K/9 is down a bit from last season’s mark, but his 11% swinging-strike rate is right in line with last seasons gains, so fear not.
Middle of the Pack
The Mets are the drum and strong starting pitchers are making sweet, sweet music against them. John Lackey isn’t elite, but this matchup is. The Mets have really struggled to score runs of late (.286 wOBA/86 wRC+) and Vegas has them with an implied run total of just 3.2 tonight, one of the lowest totals on the slate. John Lackey’s 6.6 K/9 leaves a lot to be desired, but a 9.0% SwStk rate shows that there’s upside here when need be, making him an ideal SP2 when paired with a top shelf option listed above.
Scott Kazmir vs. Minnesota Twins ($9,600)
The Twins have reeked havoc against some strong left-handed pitchers this season (go look at Chris Sale’s numbers against the Twins this season) so that gives me pause when looking at Scott Kazmir (2.49 ERA/3.18 FIP) tonight despite his strong season totals. He’s someone that I’m going to be hesitant to roster, and roster bats against.
Garrett Richards vs. Boston Red Sox ($8,200)
Garrett Richards is a lot like Scott Kazmir tonight, in the sense that I don’t want to use him or run out bats against him. His ability to miss bats (11% SwStk rate) isn’t playing itself out in his 6.98 K/9 this season, but the bad news for Richards tonight is that the Red Sox don’t strike out very often either (16.4%). I love a pitcher who can miss bats and induce elite ground ball totals (53.5%), but this isn’t the spot for him to get back to his 2014 form.
Jimmy Nelson vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($7,000)
Jimmy Nelson (4.21 ERA/4.26 FIP) has some fairly extremely splits so far this season, making him difficult to roster most times that he’s on the mound. When he’s on, he’s able to keep the ball on the ground (49.5% ground ball rate) and miss enough bats to work out of trouble when need be (7.55 K/9) He’s really been difficult on right-handed hitters, limiting them to just a .272 wOBA so far this season.
Oh, but left-handed bats….oh boy. He’s homer-prone against left-handed bats, allowing a .379 wOBA and 5.39 FIP when facing lefties this season. If he’s able to work around lefties, or hopefully in time develop an out-pitch against them, he’s s promising young power arm.
Chad Bettis @ San Diego Padres ($6,300)
Chad Bettis is a strong tournament play tonight. He’s a fairly sizable underdog (+143) and his opposition on the mound, Tyson Ross, is likely to be quite popular tonight. Pitching on the road is a nice park factor bump for Bettis, as well, though his ability to keep the ball on the ground (49.1% ground ball rate) works in his favor no matter where he pitches. Walks can be an issue at times, but the Padres 6.6% walk rate is below league average which helps minimize the risk here. Bettis’ 7.75 K/9 is solid enough, but there’s upside here with a 10.0 SwStk%.
Bartolo Colon @ St. Louis Cardinals ($7,700)
The Cardinals are getting healthy again, and the return of Matt Holliday is a huge boost to their lineup. Bartolo Colon (4.46 ERA/3.57 FIP) should have his hands full with the Cardinals lineup tonight. There’s good and bad in a pitcher like Colon, who’s constantly in the zone, and can struggle against teams that are aggressive early in the count like the Cardinals tend to be.
Chase Anderson vs. San Francisco Giants ($5,800)
The Giants are the best road offense in the league, and get a huge park factor shift here in Arizona when compared to their home games in San Francisco. The Giants have handled right-handed pitching all season (.325 wOBA/112 wRC+), and Chase Anderson (3.91 ERA/4.27 FIP) doesn’t miss enough bats to put him on the radar tonight. He has a slight reverse platoon issue too, struggling against right-handed bats (4.55 FIP).
Manny Banuelos vs. Chicago Cubs ($4,700)
There’s a bit of punt upside here with Manny Banuelos, mostly due to his ability to miss bats. We’ve only seen 12 innings from him this season, but looking at Steamer projections for him, we see a highly volatile upside arm. They like him to carry an above average strikeout rate (8.33 per 9) along with a high walk rate (3.73 BB/9). I can’t envision Banuelos working deep into this one.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Cleveland Indians ($6,600)
Anthony DeSclafani (3.65 ERA/3.79 FIP) has some long-term upside and is an intriguing name to watch during the second half. With that said, he’s not a viable option here tonight. He’s a huge underdog against Corey Kluber, making it unlikely that he gets any run support. He’s also been much better on the road than he’s been at home, and the Indians are patient enough to make him work (3.65 BB/9).
Tom Koehler @ Philadelphia Phillies ($7,200)
Pitching against the Phillies is always a plus, but that’s all I can really say is working in Tom Koehler’s favor today. His FIP (4.49) is more than a run higher than his 3.40 ERA, and Koehler has never been a pitcher who’s managed to out-pitch his FIP. He’s had quite a bit of batted-ball luck thus far, as well. His current .260 BABIP-against is more than 30 points lower than his career mark, and left-handed bats (5.64 FIP) will be his undoing when the dam breaks.
Rest of the Field
Phil Hughes @ Oakland Athletics ($6,900)
Phil Hughes has been quite disappointing this season. His strikeouts (5.40 K/9) are way down versus last season’s numbers, and his home run rate has more than doubled (13.3 HR/FB rate). The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, as he’s likely not as bad as he is this season, but it was unfair to expect him to be as precise as he was in 2014. This season, he’s failed to control hitters on either side of the plate. Left-handed bats (4.83 FIP) have always given him problems, and his .353 wOBA versus right-handed bats is one of the worst marks in the league right now.
Scott Feldman vs. Texas Rangers ($5,700)
At the time, Scott Feldman was the big name in the trade that sent Jake Arrieta from Baltimore to the Cubs. That was fun, huh?
Feldman is back from a DL stint to take on the Rangers, and he’s an easy fade tonight. There’s no meat on the bone here from a DFS perspective. A 5.55 K/9 won’t move the needle, and he’s unlikely to work deep into this game since he’s returning to the rotation after missing time with a knee injury. He topped out at 87 pitches in his last rehab start, and that’s probably his ceiling here tonight.
Colby Lewis @ Houston Astros ($6,100)
I don’t advise targeting a below average fly-ball pitcher in Houston, unless we’re talking about targeting them with bats. Colby Lewis’ (4.77 ERA/3.97 FIP) fly-ball tendencies won’t play well in Texas heat, and he’s not going to miss enough bats to take advantage of the Astros big swing-and-miss holes.
Jake Peavy @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($5,000)
Jake Peavy can have some occasional DFS value at home in the second half, but in Arizona, I advise that you pass. His slight fly-ball lean plays well in the Bay, but on the road in one of the league’s best run scoring environments he’s an easy ‘pass’.
Rick Porcello @ Los Angeles Angels ($5,600)
Rick Porcello (5.90 ERA/4.47 FIP) doesn’t have any platoon splits!
Everyone destroys him…
He’s been a huge disappointment this season, abandoning his heavy ground ball inducing arsenal in exchange for more swings and misses, but it’s not working. The strikeouts are still average at best (7.06 K/9) and his ground ball rate is down more than 10% versus season’s past. He’s been someone to exploit with both left-handed (.350 wOBA) and right-handed (.354 wOBA) bats this season.
Chad Billingsley vs. Miami Marlins ($4,000)
If you’re young or new to the sport, you might be surprised to know that Chad Billingsley (6.75 ERA/5.05 FIP) used to be a dominant, big-time strikeout pitcher. That guy is long gone. Through 11 2/3 innings this season, Billlingsley has compiled a minuscule 3.66 K/9, and has allowed a .492 wOBA to left-handed bats. Just say no.
Chris Tillman @ Detroit Tigers ($4,100)
Chris Tillman (5.40 ERA/4.39) has showed some slight reverse split trends throughout his career, but they’re even more exaggerated this season. He’s allowed right-handed bats to due the most damage, to the tune of a .404 wOBA so far this season. The Tigers (.333 wOBA/111 wRC+) have feasted on right-handed pitching this season, and their right-handed-centric lineup should have a field day tonight against Tillman.