Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. After a 10-game slate on Monday, we’re back to a full 15-game evening slate here on DraftKings. 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.
Cream of the Crop
Jacob deGrom @ Washington Nationals ($10,900)
The no-brainer, best pitching play of the night is Jacob deGrom. I say that with cash games in mind because he’ll likely be over-owned in tournaments because he’s so far and away the best play on the board. He’s been quite impressive this season (2.14 ERA/2.61 FIP), and his ability to dominate hitters on both sides of the plate (.267 wOBA vs. LH, .198 vs. RH) has elevated deGrom’s already lofty expectations.
Jason Hammel (2.86 ERA/3.05 FIP) checks all the major boxes.
An above average strikeout rate? Check. (9.12 K/9)
Better than average walk rate? Check. (1.56 BB/9)
Neutral splits that are better than league average to both LH (.281 wOBA) and RH (.249) bats? Check.
The Reds are a middle of the pack team offensively (94 wRC+), and Jason Hammel and his kick-ass change-up should be difficult for the Reds to handle tonight.
Michael Wacha @ Chicago White Sox ($8,700)
Michael Wacha (2.93 ERA/3.06 FIP) is nearly the statistical twin of Jason Hammel tonight, but he’s actually $600 cheaper. He faces the easier opponent of the two, but he offers slightly less strikeout upside (7.21 K/9) when compared to Hammel, but it’s good enough against the White Sox (84 wRC+). He has above average splits against both hands, and his 47.9% ground ball rate neutralizes the homer-friendly ways of U.S. Cellular.
Gerrit Cole @ Kansas City Royals ($10,500)
Gerrit Cole (2.30 ERA/2.73 FIP) is one of my favorite options when he pitches, but tonight’s going to be a bit of a challenge. I find myself rostering Cole because of his ability to limited base runners, big strike out totals (8.90 K/9) and his ability to get ground-ball outs (52.7%), but the Royals make it difficult on their opposition. They’re ultra-aggressive, with a league-low strikeout AND walk rate, sapping the upside that we want in our ace on a full slate. Most will just spend the extra $400 for deGrom though, and that alone makes Cole an intriguing tournament option.
Danny Salazar @ Milwaukee Brewers ($9,900)
If you like to sweat your plays, then Danny Salazar (3.74 ERA/2.93 xFIP) is not for you. If you set your lineups and then sporadically check them at night, perhaps even waiting until you wake up in the morning to see how you did, then give Salazar a run. He’s so difficult to trust in cash games, but his immense upside (10.58 K/9) is always appealing, and his ability to get more ground-ball outs this season is something that I really like to see. He’ll face a Brewers club tonight that’s hitting better lately, raising their wRC+ from 79 to 93 in just a month’s time.
Middle of the Pack
I like using right-handed pitchers against the Padres (87 wRC+) because they’re so right-hand-heavy on offense. They’re a lot less frightening when Justin Upton is out of the lineup as well, and if he’s out again tonight then I’ll be overweight on Heston tonight. He gets a ton of ground balls (56.3%) and he’s figured out how to keep right-handed hitters off balance all season (.268 wOBA). His strikeout upside isn’t quite what you’re looking for from an SP1, but there are enough strikeouts elsewhere to pair with Heston tonight.
Joe Ross vs. New York Mets ($5,000)
Joe Ross is up from AAA to take on the Mets and their dumpster fire of an offense (.290 wOBA/87 wRC+ vs. RHP). We’ve only seen 20 1/3 innings from Tyson’s brother this season, but they’ve been strong enough to get my attention. A 1.09 FIP and a 10.2 K/9 will do that, I suppose. Again, this is a ridiculously small sample size but we’re talking about the Mets here, people.
Matt Shoemaker vs. Minnesota Twins ($5,700)
This is an interesting game theory ying-and-yang discussion here with Matt Shoemaker tonight. One side will tell you that Shoemaker was an $8,000 starting pitcher just a few starts ago, and this price dip is so extreme that there’s value to be mined from it. Others will tell you that recent form, particularly when it comes to starting pitching, is more important than price discrepancies, and that Shoemaker is to be avoided. When layering in the matchup data, I think Shoemaker is nothing more than a high-risk GPP flier tonight because he’s pitched so poorly all season long.
Nathan Karns @ Philadelphia Phillies ($7,800)
Any time that the Phillies are on the slate, it’s wise to explore the starting pitcher that gets to face them. Nate Karns is the recipient of that honor tonight, and he’s worth a look. Karns has some strong strikeout upside (8.57 K/9) carrying one of the best K-rates in the league when he’s facing a left-handed hitter (27.3%). Don’t expect huge numbers here, but Karns is a viable option tonight against the Phils.
Brett Anderson @ Atlanta Braves ($7,400)
Brett Anderson : Worm Destroyer. A 66.6% ground-ball rate is insane, I only wish there was a tiny bit of strikeout upside here to go along with it. Sadly, there’s not, but the Braves are so bad against southpaws (76 wRC+) that I’m willing to look past that tonight and roster Anderson as a safe SP2. Pair him with a high-strikeout SP1 and you could be on to something.
Aaron Nola vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($5,300)
The Phillies have called up top prospect Aaron Nola, and why not? The seventh overall pick in last season’s draft has three solid pitches, mixing in a curve with his fastball and change. The Rays are weakened by the lack of DH here, and their 90 wRC+ against right-handed pitching leaves a lot to be desired. It’s easy to stay away from the unknown though.
Taijuan Walker @ Detroit Tigers ($7,200)
The skill set is strong and promising, but in the case of Taijuan Walker, we’re currently seeing a bit of the inconsistencies that typically come along with a young pitcher. His fly-ball tendencies can be dangerous, especially against a strong slugging team like Detroit (3rd in wOBA and wRC+). There’s GPP appeal here because the K/BB numbers are above average, which is why I’m bullish on Walker moving forward, particularly in home starts.
Alex Wood vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($6,500)
Alex Wood has made an efficient trade, but it’s sucked away most of his DFS appeal. Fewer free passes has also meant fewer strikeouts for Wood, and that sad song is doubled up with a horrible matchup against the Dodgers. Now L.A. isn’t nearly as good against left-handed pitching as they are against right-handers, but there’s enough pop in this lineup to keep me away. Wood is too good to have a .343 BABIP-against all year, but I’ll wait until he’s facing a worse lineup the the Dodgers to bet on that regression.
Vincent Velasquez vs. Boston Red Sox ($6,400)
Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. That’s the appeal of Vincent Velasquez (8.72 K/9), but that 26.1% ground ball rate scares me to death. The Red Sox have one of the lowest strikeout rates in the game against right-handed pitching, essentially popping the only balloon that Velasquez (3.94 ERA/3.65 FIP) has here.
Kyle Gibson @ Los Angeles Angels ($8,600)
The pricing algorithm here on DraftKings seems to be leaning heavily on a pitcher’s ERA, and that’s something I’ll be looking to exploit over the upcoming months. I’ll be looking for huge differences in a pitcher’s ERA and FIP, something similar to what Kyle Gibson (2.85 ERA/4.00 FIP) is showing us right now. I prefer FIP over xFIP just because I think it’s a bit of a stretch to assume all pitcher’s should have the same HR/FB ratio (10%), which xFIP assumes. Gibson’s 54% ground ball rate is strong, but he’s way over-priced here.
Wei-Yin Chen @ New York Yankees ($8,500)
Another example of this is Wei-Yin Chen (2.78 ERA/4.19 FIP). He has benefited from a .255 BABIP-against so far, and his slight fly-ball lean makes him difficult to roster in the Bronx tonight. The Yankees have handled left-handed pitching well all season long (5th in wOBA and wRC+).
Kendall Graveman vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($6,600)
There’s so much fire power on the Blue Jays roster that it’s difficult to use a pitcher against them unless that pitcher has bit-time swing-and-miss stuff. Kendall Graveman (3.38 ERA/4.21 FIP), you are not him. A 5.55 K/9 won’t get it done, not even in the pitcher-friendly O.co Stadium.
Mat Latos @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($6,300)
Mat Latos has been decent this season (4.90 ERA/3.48 FIP), but he’s becoming more and more fly-ball reliant this season, and some of those are leaving the park. Pitching in Arizona tonight, instead of the spacious confines of Marlins Park, is a bad shift for Latos.
Mark Buehrle @ Oakland Athletics ($8,100)
Mark Buehrle is the older, left-handed version of Doug Fister. He’s more effective for his team (or even season-long players) than he is in DFS. We need strikeout here on DraftKings, and while I appreciate Buehrle’s ability to get the job done at this point in his career, 4.52 K/9 ain’t gonna cut it.
Carlos Rodon vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($6,200)
This feels like a 90-pitch, four inning outing for Carlos Rodon. The Cardinals have struck out a lot against left-handed pitching this season (24.0%), and that definitely plays in to the hands of what Rodon does well (9.23 K/9). The only problem with that is, they also have a hefty 9.7% walk rate, one of the highest totals in the game. That’ll be Rodon’s undoing tonight. A 5.56 BB/9 will not get it done, and will prevent him from returning the upside that’s possible here.
Jeremy Hellickson vs. Miami Marlins ($6,000)
It’s difficult to get excited about rostering Jeremy Hellickson because he’s right around the wrong side of league average starting pitcher. His strikeout’s and walks are about average, and his 4.04 FIP feels right, despite his 5.04 ERA. Lefties (.367 wOBA) have hit him well this season, and he’s worth a look on the road but rarely, if ever, at home.
Brian Johnson @ Houston Astros ($4,500)
The Red Sox are handing the ball to their 2012 first round pick, left-hander Brian Johnson tonight in Houston. The Astros are always interesting because they strike out so often. Johnson struck out 8.5 batters per nine in AAA this season, but a wait-and-see approach is probably for the best here.
Raisel Iglesias vs. Chicago Cubs ($4,300)
Raisel Iglesias has shown glimpses of potential in his 29 innings this season, and his swing-and-miss arsenal (8.38 K/9) pairs well against the free-swinging Cubs. My issue with Iglesias as a GPP play is that he’s a big-time fly-ball pitcher against a strong ISO/SLG. team in a hitter-friendly park. Proceed with caution.
Rest of the Field
Shane Greene vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,100)
Shane Greene has run the gamete in terms of fantasy relevancy this season, and currently finds himself in the no-thank-you pile of starting pitchers. The Mariners (91 wRC+) don’t exactly strike fear in their opposition, but Greene has failed to handle hitters from either side of the plate this season.
Jason Vargas vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($5,900)
I can’t envision a scenario in which I’ll roster Jason Vargas on a full slate. He’s a below average pitcher (4.10 ERA/4.28 FIP) with little, to no strikeout potential to speak off. Even against a Pirates club that strikes out often against lefties (23.4%), it’s not enough to expect Vargas (5.40 K/9) to leverage that in this start.
Nathan Eovaldi vs. Baltimore Orioles ($5,800)
A pitcher who lacks strikeouts and has extreme platoon splits is an easy pitcher to avoid. A below average 6.52 K/9 doesn’t make sense when you look at this big right-hander that can pump it up to 95+, and his .385 wOBA against left-handed bats makes him unrosterable (new word!), even as an SP2.
Odrisamer Despaigne vs. San Francisco Giants ($4,700)
The Giants are the best offense on the road this season (.332 wOBA/111 wRC+) and while Odrisamer Despaigne (4.64 ERA/4.48 FIP) can keep the ball on the ground, he doesn’t miss enough bats to be a viable SP2 on a full slate.
Matt Garza vs. Cleveland Indians ($4,600)
Matt Garza doesn’t discriminate! He’s terrible against everyone. Playing in Milwaukee is a nice little ballpark bump for the Indians here, and they face Garza who’s struggled against both left-handed bats (.367 wOBA) and right-handed bats (.350).
Kyle Kendrick vs. Texas Rangers ($4,000)
Fire up your Rangers here, especially their left-handed bats. Kendrick is terrible and lefties have destroyed him (.398 wOBA) which is no surprise.
Matt Harrison @ Colorado Rockies ($4,200)
It was a short season debut for Matt Harrison, who lasted just four innings against the Diamondbacks and shouldn’t expect to fare any better tonight in Colorado. The Vegas line here can’t be high enough.