Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. We’re back with 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.
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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 difficult to have anyone ahead of Clayton Kershaw, but Madison Bumgarner’s price and matchup are just too good. The big left-hander’s price is down $800 from him last start, despite allowing just one run and striking out seven in seven innings against Oakland. Today he’s facing a Rangers team that’s struggled against left-handed pitching, and enters play with an 80 wRC+ and a hefty 23.1% whiff-rate against southpaws. He’s my favorite cash game pitcher tonight.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Los Angeles Angels ($14,500)
Clayton Kershaw (2.51 ERA/2.12 FIP) has been on an insane run of late, having scored at least 48 DraftKings points in each of his last three outings. 48. Good lord. He was originally scheduled to pitch on Wednesday against Oakland, but had his turn pushed back a day due to a sore hip. Is that enough rest? I guess we’ll find out. With his price tag continuing to climb in to uncharted territory, we’ll need Kershaw to continue to deliver 40+ point performances in order to validate his cost.
Johnny Cueto @ Toronto Blue Jays ($10,000)
With the recent moves by Kansas City and Toronto, we could very well be looking at an ALCS preview here. The Royals’ roll out their new shiny toy today, as Johnny Cueto takes the ball for Kansas City tonight. A debut against the Blue Jays is less than ideal, but I like him quite a bit in tournaments tonight. There are other ‘big’ name options here, and a matchup against the league’s top offense is going to be enough to keep the masses away. Rogers Centre isn’t playing like the hitters park that we’re accustomed to, either, coming in at 21st in park factor runs-per-game.
Matt Harvey vs. Washington Nationals ($11,200)
After a few up and down outings, Matt Harvey’s price is up over $1,000 here compared to his last time out. That one came against the Dodgers, which I’m sure had something to do with it, but a healthy Nationals team isn’t quite so favorable either. They enter play with a .315 wOBA against right-handed pitching (99 wRC+) but with Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon back in the lineup, they’re likely to be even better down the stretch. Harvey has some tournament appeal tonight though, because I expect Kershaw and Bumgarner to be very popular.
Gio Gonzalez @ New York Mets ($8,700)
Matt Harvey’s counterpart tonight is Gio Gonzalez. Gio has pitched better than his 3.83 ERA would indicate (3.17 FIP) and his propensity for ground balls (58%) helps keep the ball in the park. Some of those grounders are finding the holes though, as Gio’s BABIP (.339) is 47 points higher than his career mark. That’s bad luck and likely to regress closer to his career mark as the season winds down. The Mets (79 wRC+) are one of the league’s worst offenses’ against left-handed pitching, and Gonzalez should be able to exploit the Mets 24.4% strike out rate.
Middle of the Pack
Danny ‘GPP’ Salazar. That should be his name because I can’t, with good conscience, roster Salazar in cash. The outcomes are so unpredictable with Salazar, but the high-end upside is through the roof. He’s been more consistent this season due to his spike in ground balls and improved command, but homeruns are still an issue at times. Facing the A’s is a bit of a neutral matchup (100 wRC+), but it’s a positive park shift for Salazar, pitching on the road in O.co Stadium.
Michael Wacha vs. Colorado Rockies ($9,000)
Vegas really likes Michael Wacha and the Cardinals tonight. They’re huge favorites (-216), and they have Colorado pegged with a 2.7-implied run total. Wacha hasn’t been particularly sharp of late, be there’s nothing to be overly concerned about. He’s league average in terms of strikeouts (7.53 K/9), and his ability to limited the damage done by left-handed bats (.263 wOBA) will come in handy against Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and company.
Taylor Jungmann vs. Chicago Cubs ($7,500)
Taylor Jungmann (7.02 K/9) doesn’t have the huge strikeout upside that I like to see when choosing a starting pitcher who’s facing the Cubs, but their 24.4% strikeout rate does make everyone look a bit better. Jungmann has been able to keep hitters off balance though, limited right-handed bats to a .246 wOBA and his 24.8% hard-hit contact rate, according to FanGraphs, is one of the lowest marks in the league. The 52.5% ground ball rate makes pitching in home run haven Miller Park a bit more feasible too.
Jason Hammel @ Milwaukee Brewers ($8,100)
I really like this price and matchup for Jason Hammel, but I’m not sure he’s 100% healthy. He hasn’t been quite as sharp in his last few outings since straining his hamstring three weeks ago, and it’s clearly still an issue. The Brewers offense took a hit when they traded Carlos Gomez to the Astros yesterday, and the Brewers have a few other names that appear to be on the move before today’s trade deadline comes to pass. Unfortunately, I don’t advise trying to exploit the Brewers B Team with Hammel until we know the hamstring issue is in the rear-view mirror.
Taijuan Walker @ Minnesota Twins ($6,600)
Homeruns have been an issue for Taijuan Walker all season, driving up his ERA (5.03). He’s really pitched well at times and has shown quite a bit of promise. His 8.20 K/9 is above average and makes him a viable option tonight against the Twins. He’s had difficulty against right-handed bats (.365 wOBA) though, and the Twins have some right-handed pop in their lineup. At this point, you just hope that when Walker gives up a homerun that it’s a solo shot and not a 3-run bomb.
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($7,700)
This is a tough spot for Eduardo Rodriguez (4.26 ERA/4.15 FIP) because the Rays have hit left-handed pitching well all season long (111 wRC+). They do strike out a lot still (22.2%) which works with what Rodriguez does best, but he’s been hit hard at times and the Rays .171 ISO against left-handed pitching is the third best mark in the league. He’s been able to keep right-handed bats in check (.292 wOBA), but something’s got to give in this one.
Drew Hutchison vs. Kansas City Royals ($5,600)
There’s definitely a benefit to rostering a player with a suppressed price, and that’s clearly the case with Drew Hutchison here today. The pricing algorithm heavily weighs ERA (5.42), but Hutchison hasn’t been quite that bad (3.99 FIP). His .351 BABIP is one of the highest marks in the game, and his 65% strand rate is about 8% higher than league average. These marks should improve over time, and will help bring Hutchison’s ERA closer to his FIP. I’m always cautious in starting a pitcher against the Royals due to their ultra-aggressive approach offensively, but Hutchison is too cheap to completely ignore.
Hector Santiago @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($9,300)
I never let the likelihood of a pitching win factor in to my decision on whether or not to roster a pitcher. It’s just such a small piece of the puzzle at the end of the day. I’m staying away from Hector Santiago because of the matchup, not because he’s going head-to-head with Clayton Kershaw. It’s just not likely for a pitcher to be this lucky with batted balls and runners on-base all season long. Santiago’s FIP (3.84) is nearly one and a half runs higher than his 2.43 ERA, but when your BABIP is .259 and strand rate is 87% (both way above league average) that’ll happen. It comes down to whether or not you believe that having a BABIP that’s 40 points lower than league average (strand rate 15% better than average) is a skill, or a bit of good fortune. My ranking of Santiago today tells you which side I fall on.
Williams Perez @ Philadelphia Phillies ($4,000)
I’m surprised that the ERA-loving algorithm has Williams Perez and his 2.88 ERA as a min-sal play today. Perhaps it has something to do with Perez’s recent stint on the DL with a foot injury, but he worked his way back and now looks to take the rotation spot of the recently traded Alex Wood. The Phillies haven’t been quite as awful here in the second half, but they’re still last in the league against right-handed pitching (80 wRC+) and rostering Perez would free up a ton of money if you believe that he can keep his head above water tonight. I believe he can.
Tommy Milone vs. Seattle Mariners ($6,400)
Tommy Milone (3.58 ERA/4.87 FIP) has your prototypical lefty/right splits, only to the extreme. He’s been death to left-handed bats (.204 wOBA) but right-handed bats have had their way with him (.368 wOBA). The Mariners haven’t been good against left-handed pitching this season (90 wRC+) but they have enough right-handed thunder to take advantage of Milone’s extreme splits.
David Phelps vs. San Diego Padres ($5,300)
It’s difficult to know what the Padres lineup will look like tonight, as most of their club appears to be on the trade block. Offensively, they’ve struggled against right-handed pitching all season long (88 wRC+) and their right-handed heavy lineup is likely going to be without some of their top offensive threats tonight against David Phelps (3.72 FIP). Phelps doesn’t have huge strikeout upside (6.10 K/9), but he has been excellent against right-handed pitching this season (.298 wOBA). He’s a cheap, but useful SP2 tonight.
Carlos Rodon vs. New York Yankees ($6,500)
The walks (5.14 BB/9) scare me here. Carlos Rodon will need to figure that out before he becomes a consistent, viable option and the Yankees will likely make that difficult for him tonight. They’ve destroyed left-handed pitching this season (.333 wOBA/110 wRC+) and they have the best ISO mark in the league, as well. Their ability to draw a walk (9.0%) is going to be Rodon’s undoing tonight, limiting his upside and ability to work deep in to this one.
Wei-Yin Chen vs. Detroit Tigers ($8,200)
The Tigers could have some bats on the move today, but as currently constructed they’re likely to roll out a strong offense against left-handed pitching (.334 wOBA/113 wRC+). Wei-Yin Chen is another example of ERA-impacted pricing (2.88) despite a 4.27 FIP, and he doesn’t miss enough bats to justify this price, either.
Erasmo Ramirez @ Boston Red Sox ($5,500)
Erasmo Ramirez has some pretty extreme reverse splits, so be careful if you’re looking to stack the Red Sox tonight. Ramirez has been an average starter against right-handed bats (.320 wOBA), but he’s been able to dominate left-handed bats (.254 wOBA) and has huge strikeout upside against southpaws, as well. He just doesn’t work deep into the game very often, capping his upside here, but his price is worth a look if you’re looking to work a cheap SP2 in your lineup.
Nathan Eovaldi @ Chicago White Sox ($6,200)
Look for the White Sox left-handed bats to keep the good times rolling tonight. Nathan Eovaldi has struggled to keep lefties in check all season (.374 wOBA) and he doesn’t miss enough bats to be a viable SP2 tonight. He’s pitched much better of late, but the matchup against the white-hot White Sox isn’t quite as favorable as some of his past matchups have been.
***Editors Note: Kennedy has been scratched to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Despaigne will take his spot tonight***
Ian Kennedy @ Miami Marlins ($6,900)
Ian Kennedy is one of the many names that’s being tossed around in trade rumors, so it’ll be interested to see if he’s still on the Padres to take the ball tonight. If he is, I’d stay away. He just hasn’t been good this season, giving up a ton of hard-hit contact to hitters on both sides of the plate. There really is no silver lining here if you’re looking for SP2 upside, and that’s difficult to do when your opponent is the Marlins (81 wRC+).
Rubby de la Rosa @ Houston Astros ($7,400)
I can’t trust a pitcher with such extreme splits, and that’s the case with Rubby de la Rosa. He’s been borderline dominant against right-handed bats (.258 wOBA) with huge strikeout upside, but lefties have been a different story. His .394 wOBA is one of the worst marks in the league, while the Astros have huge strikeout upside for the starter facing them, they have big-time power upside as well.
Rest of the Field
Scott Feldman vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($5,400)
There’s no upside to starting Scott Feldman today against the Diamondbacks. He’s a league average pitcher at best (4.25 ERA/4.54 FIP), and his struggles against right-handed bats (.344 wOBA) make his a dicey SP2 option against Paul Goldschmidt and company.
Kendall Graveman vs. Cleveland Indians ($5,200)
If you’re looking for strikeout upside from your SP2, a 5.72 K/9 won’t get it done. The Indians will likely be left-handed up and down their lineup tonight, and the A’s rookie hasn’t quite figured out left-handed bats this season, and righties have been an issue too. There are options in Graveman’s price tier that make a lot more sense.
Jeff Locke @ Cincinnati Reds ($6,000)
The Reds offense exploded last night, and recency bias will likely lead to some pretty high ownership (.315 wOBA/98 wRC+). They have huge ISO upside too, and they’re familiar with the NL Central counterpart, Jeff Locke.
Nick Martinez vs. San Francisco Giants ($4,900)
I’m going to continue to ring the Nick Martinez bell, waiting to cash in on the long-awaited regression that’s due to come in bunches. He’s another pitcher with reverse splits, keeping left-handed bats in check (.287 wOBA) while pitching batting practice to right-handed bats (.396 wOBA).
Michael Lorenzen vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($4,300)
Michael Lorenzen’s .454 wOBA to left-handed hitters is one of the league’s worst marks, and a 5.03 BB/9 throws cold water on any potential thought someone may have if they’re considering Lorenezen as an SP2. Just don’t.
Buck Farmer @ Baltimore Orioles ($4,500)
We’ve only seen a few Buck Farmer starts this season, but they haven’t been good. He’s been victimized by both right-handed (.423 wOBA) and left-handed (.497 wOBA) bats, and he’s not worth your attention today against the hot-hitting Orioles.
Kyle Kendrick @ St. Louis Cardinals ($4,000)
The Cardinals are swinging it well right now, with a revived Matt Carpenter leading the charge. That’s bad news of r Kyle Kendrick and the Rockies tonight.