Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. Mother Nature has given us more baseball tonight, we two days games that are each game 1 of a day/night double-header, along with a full 15-game evening slate! 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 vs. Houston Astros ($11,200)
With two of the games best on display today, I have to give the edge to the one who’s $3,000 cheaper, and that’s Corey Kluber. His matchup is better than Scherzer’s as well. This is the type of pitcher that can really exploit the Astros swing-and-miss lineup (25.9% K-rate), and as good as Kluber has been at times, he’s due to be better moving forward. His 3.64 ERA is more than a run higher than his FIP (2.45) and he’s not going to carry a .341 BABIP-against all season long. Look for the Astros to go predominantly left-handed today, and that shouldn’t be an issue for Kluber (2.65 FIP vs. LHB’s).
There’s no doubt that Max Scherzer has been the game’s best pitcher in the first half, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. He’s been completely dominant this season, and it’s must-watch TV every time he takes the ball. The Max we’re seeing today is so vastly different than the one that we saw in Arizona and even that first season in Detroit in 2010. That season, Scherzer improved his command, driving his walk rate down to 3.22 BB/9. That’s still a bit higher than most elite starters, and it prevented him from working deep into games. This season, he’s sitting at 1.06 walks-per 9, an absolutely elite mark that when combined with his 10.54 K/9, oh boy. He’s a great play again today, and should be able to neutralize the Reds left-handed bats (1.95 FIP vs. LHB’s.)
Francisco Liriano vs. San Diego Padres ($10,300)
This is a great spot for Franciso Liriano, who’s can sing a similar song to Max Scherzer when we’re talking about command. Liriano has seen his walk rate dip from 4.49/9 all the way down to 2.99/9 this season. That’s a huge improvement. It’s helping him work deeper into the game, and with a strikeout pitcher like Liriano, that’s huge from a DFS perspective. He’s also limited the damage that right-handed bats have done against him this season (.247 wOBA), and he’s likely to see a right-handed heavy Padres (26th in wOBA vs. LHP) lineup tonight.
Jake Arrieta vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($10,400) (DAY GAME)
Jake Arrieta is the best pitcher going in the early slate today, and a must-play if you’re getting in on the All-Day slate. I love the combination of elite swing-and-miss stuff (9.34 K/9) and ground ball outs (51% GB-rate). The predictable nature of these aces is a huge asset in our game. There’s going to be less variance in their performance due to the make up of their skills, and the lack of variance in heavy ground ball pitchers. The Cardinals hit right-handed pitching well (104 wRC+) but they’re not a big ISO/SLG team.
Johnny Cueto @ Washington Nationals ($10,100)
Johnny Cueto isn’t an elite strikeout pitcher, but he’s a tick above average and his swinging-strike rate of 11% shows that he’s capable of being elite. He does a good job of limiting hard-hit contact though, and has shown a repeatable skill of pitching well with runners on or in scoring position. That has a lot to do with why he consistently out-pitches his FIP (2.84 ERA/3.26 FIP). When you do this year-in and year-out, I have to give credit to it being a skill. The Nationals are a middle of the road team offensively against right-handed pitching (100 wRC+), but don’t bank him being able to maintain a .210 BABIP-against vs. left-handed bats.
Middle of the Pack
Something’s got to give here. The Tigers are raking, but there may not be a hotter pitcher right now than Taijuan Walker. Over his last 7 outings he’s 6-1 with a 1.68 ERA and has a 51/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those 48 1/3 innings. He looks more like the much-hyped prospect that was dominating this spring than the struggling young starter who couldn’t get out of his own way in April. The matchup with the Tigers has him priced down; he’s $1,000 cheaper than he was in his last appearance. His fly-ball tendencies play well at home in Safeco, and pitcher-friendly Kerwin Danley is behind the plate tonight, too.
Sonny Gray @ New York Yankees ($9,600)
Salmonella is real, guys. It’s been about the only thing that’s given Sonny Gray trouble this season. Gray is back on the hill today after missing some time due to salmonella poisoning, and he’s facing the Yankees (4th in wOBA vs. RHP) in the Bronx. It’s a negative park shift for Gray, but he does have the skill set to succeed in the Yankee Stadium. He keeps the ball on the ground (54.2 GB rate) and he’s better than he’s ever been against right-handed bats (3.05 FIP). My concern here is more about Gray’s stamina after being sick than it is about the Yankees.
Tyson Ross @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($9,300)
We look at guys like Chris Davis and Joc Pederson and tab them as ‘three true outcome’ hitters. They essentially either strike out, walk, or hit a home run. There isn’t a clear linear example of that for a pitcher, but if there were it’d be Tyson Ross this season. His strikeout totals are up (8.97 per 9 in 2014 to 9.83 this season) but so are his walks (3.31 to 4.69). The strikeout’s are strong, always making him an option regardless of the matchup, but the walks are so prohibitive and really cap his upside, making him difficult to play in cash games. He’s stuggled against left-handed bats this season, as well (.357 wOBA).
Brett Anderson vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($7,600)
The mid tier options are not strong tonight. I feel like the top of the slate is strong but I’m not loving any of the sub $8,000 pitchers tonight. With Chad Billingsley on the mound for the Phillies, Anderson is a strong favorite according to Vegas. His 68.4% ground ball rate is exceptional, and keeps him out of trouble more times than not. The K’s are below average though (6.47 per 9), making it difficult to get excited about rostering him. Paired with a big strikeout pitcher though, he’s a decent SP2.
Bartolo Colon @ San Francisco Giants ($7,700)
Pitching in San Francisco is a plus for anyone, particularly someone with a strong fly-ball profile like Bartolo Colon. He’s constantly in the zone, which makes him susceptible to hard-hit contact, but he doesn’t walk anyone which gives him a chance to work deeper in the game. He’s too expensive for my taste today, and given the way the Mets have hit of late, it’s difficult to feel good about their chances to give Colon enough run support to win.
Kevin Gausman @ Minnesota Twins ($5,800)
I’m bullish on Kevin Gausman moving forward, and would love to see the Orioles give him the ball every fifth day. There’s some strikeout upside here because he throws gas, and he looked strong last start against the Rangers, punching out seven in 6 1/3 innings without allowing a run. Facing the Twins on the road is also a nice bump for Gausman here, as the Twins are just 23rd in wOBA (.298) against right-handed pitching. Gausman is my favorite punt play today.
Vincent Velasquez @ Cleveland Indians ($5,500)
Vincent Velasquez is the perfect GPP SP2 so far this season. He’s risky, due to his huge fly-ball rate and propensity for walks, but discounted strikeouts are the bees knees. He’s only thrown 25 2/3 innings this season, but a 9.12 K/9 is fun, plus Cleveland plays better for his skills than his home park in Houston does. There’s a ton of risk but he needs to be on your radar if you’re looking to spend below $6,000.
Manny Banuelos @ Milwaukee Brewers ($5,900)
After being hyped as the next great Yankees prospect, Manny Banuelos dealt with some injuries that derailed his train to New York but now he’s healthy and looking to carve out a role in the Braves rotation. He has strong swing-and-miss stuff, but walks can be a problem as well. I don’t expect he’ll be able to keep his pitch count down enough here to work deep into this one, which is too bad since Milwaukee has struggled against southpaws (28th in wOBA at .277).
Matt Cain vs. New York Mets ($7,000)
Matt Cain’s return to the rotation was a bit of a letdown, as he was only able to work 5 innings against the Stanton-less Marlins in Miami. He was throwing batting practice, essentially. He gets another cozy matchup here against the hapless Mets (29th in wOBA), but I’m reluctant to give Cain the green light here. I may be selling him short, but Steamer projects a fairly average starting pitcher from here out (3.84 ERA/3.93 FIP), so don’t fall in love with the past performance.
Yovani Gallardo vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($7,200)
This is not your older brother’s Yovani Gallardo. The former Brewers ace has transitioned from a high-strikeout flyball pitcher to a ground ball pitcher with minimal K-upside. His ground ball rate has improved every season, and it seems to be working for him this season. The lack of K’s makes him a borderline DFS option at best, though. He has been good against right-handed bats though (2.78 FIP), so be careful here when choosing your bats.
Wade Miley vs. Miami Marlins ($6,200)
The Marlins have handled lefties well this season (4th in wOBA) but the dynamics of this lineup are much different without Giancarlo Stanton in it. I wish I felt better about Wade Miley’s ability to take advantage of them, but he’s lost all of the strikeout gains he made last season, and his 6.25 K/9 is down nearly 2 K’s per 9 versus last seasons mark. Right-handed bats have treated him poorly as well (.351 wOBA).
Edinson Volquez vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,100)
Edinson Volquez is perfect for this slate. He’s about as average as average gets. He’s slightly below average in terms of strikeouts, and his walks are just high enough to limit any potential upside that he’d have versus the right opponent. There’s nothing that moves the needle here, even against the Rays (25th in wOBA vs. RHP’s).
Andrew Heaney @ Colorado Rockies ($6,300)
You can’t start a lefty in Coors against the Rockies, especially one who’s as fly ball prone as Andrew Heaney has been in his young career. The Rockies, surprisingly, are not very good offensively against left-handed pitching (27th in wOBA), but Coors is a different animal and needs to be treated with caution.
Rest of the Field
Jose Quintana vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($7,400)
This is not a good spot for Jose Quintana to get back on track. He gets the league’s best offense, particularly against left-handed pitching (.377 wOBA/141 wRC+) in a very hitter-friendly environment on Chicago’s Southside. The Jays will be extremely right-handed, and Quintana has really struggled retiring right-handed bats this season (.353 wOBA).
Kyle Gibson vs. Baltimore Orioles ($6,600)
The Orioles can hang a crooked number on anyone, and Kyle Gibson is definitely due for some regression to his career norms. He offers little upside in terms of strikeouts (5,81 per 9) and his 3.04 ERA is more than a run better than his 4.19 FIP. His batted ball data shows he’s been lucky as well (.267 BABIP-against and an 80% strand rate). Don’t be fooled by that pretty little ERA, folks.
Tyler Cravy vs. Atlanta Braves ($4,600)
The Braves showed us yesterday that they can score runs without Freddie Freeman in the lineup, but that’s because Kyle Lohse is terrible at pitching. I’m not sure we know enough about Tyler Cravy yet to feel confident in starting him, plus there’s a few other punt plays in his price range that have more upside. Pass the Cravy.
Robbie Ray @ Texas Rangers ($5,300)
I strongly advise against starting a fly-ball pitcher in Texas during the summer. It’s just not a +EV play. There’s not enough strikeout upside here to roll the dice either, making Ray an easy ‘no-go’ today.
Tyler Lyons @ Chicago Cubs ($6,000) (DAY GAME)
Tyler Lyons pitches the matinee game in Wrigley today against Jake Arrieta. We’ve seen a bit of K-upside through Lyons’ first 23 innings, but the Cubs handle lefties well and Lyons is a sizable underdog in this afternoon tilt.
Tim Cooney @ Chicago Cubs ($4,400)
Tim Cooney gets the ball for the Cards in game 2, and the story is very similar to the aforementioned Tyler Lyons. He’s an easy avoid tonight with better cheap options available.
Nathan Eovaldi vs. Oakland Athletics ($6,400)
The A’s are a much better offense against right-handed pitching, and they get a solid park factor bump here in New York. Eovaldi has been a mess against lefties, allowing a .413 BABIP and a .396 wOBA. His below average strikeout rate is a problem as well, so stack against him before you start him.
Dan Haren @ Boston Red Sox ($6,200)
Dan Haren can make his magic work in Miami’s spacious park, but a 31.9 ground ball rate won’t work in Fenway, and his inability to miss bats is a problem against the Red Sox. Despite their early season struggles, the Red Sox don’t strike out a lot, and Haren is nowhere near the pitcher he was 5 years ago when he could occasionally induce swinging strikes. Look out for the Red Sox left-handed bats, with Haren’s 5.03 FIP versus lefties being his undoing.
Matt Moore @ Kansas City Royals ($7,000) (DAY GAME)
A healthy Matt Moore is like a left-handed Tyson Ross lite. Ok, that’s a stretch I suppose. My point is, there’s some K’s in that arm but walks are often an issue and curtail his upside, even when he’s at his best. The Royals are a terrible matchup for him because they don’t strike out. Again, this is a day game play, so he’s off of the radar tonight anyways.
Chad Bettis vs. Los Angeles Angels ($5,300)
A below average starter in Coors is an easy fade. Bettis has shown signs of being useful at times though he’s not an option tonight if you want to win money. That’s the goal, right?
Chris Young vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($5,000) (DAY GAME)
Chris Young is the ultimate fly-ball pitcher. His BABIP looks super low, but he always carries a low BABIP-against because of the extreme fly-ball numbers. He’s limited the damage that right-handed bats have done against him this season though, with a nifty little .232 wOBA in those spots. I wouldn’t run out and sign up for the early slate though just for the sake of getting Chris Young shares. C’mon, people.
Dallas Beeler vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($5,000)
The Dallas Beeler’s Club, amirite? Sorry that was terrible.
We’ve only seen 11 major league innings from Beeler, but his 6.33 ERA in AAA this season shouldn’t fill us with hope and confidence here.
Matt Andriese @ Kansas City Royals ($4,500)
Matt Andriese is back up from AAA to start tonight’s game against the Royals. Andriese has been serviceable this season, but not from a DFS perspective. The below average K-rate against the above average contact skill of Kansas City are a bad mix.
Chad Billingsley @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,300)
Chad Billingsley homecoming narrative alert!!! Ok, nevermind.