Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily MLB Pitcher Rankings. We’ll be taking a look at the early slate here, and I’ll be back later this afternoon with a look at tonight’s 9-game 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
Max Scherzer vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($12,600)
Fresh off of a 60.1 point performance in his last start against the Brewers, it’s going to be difficult to fade Max Scherzer today. Spending 25% of your budget on one player is always a difficult way to build a roster, and even more so on a limited 6-game slate, but I think you have to find a way to build around him. He has thrived in the move to the NL. He’s dominating hitters on both sides of the plate, while improving on his strikeout totals and limiting walks at an elite level. The Pirates are essentially a neutral lineup against right-handed pitching (.306 wOBA), but Max is matchup proof right now.
This may be the best that Francisco Liriano has pitched in his career, which is quite a feat. He has really improved his command, and it shows in his 3.67 K/BB rate (2.16 last season). Liriano has always been an above average strikeout guy, but he’s even better this season, due in part to an improved SwStk% and an increase in first-pitch strikes. A right-handed dominate lineup is probable here for the Nationals with Bryce Harper likely out again, but that’s not a platoon advantage due to Liriano’s success against right-handed hitters (.235 wOBA). According to Vegas, the Nationals have the lowest implied run total of the slate at 3.5 runs.
Jesse Hahn vs. Los Angeles Angels ($6,200)
It’ll be extremely difficult to build a lineup with both Scherzer and Liriano today, so you’ll need a solid value starter and Jesse Hahn is the best of the bunch. He’s not going to break the bank here at $6,200, and he’s facing the Angels at home at O.co. The Angels have been better of late offensively, but they’re being carried by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and lack the depth that scares you away from a team when choosing a pitcher. The good news for Hahn here is that he’s been extremely effective against right-handed bats (.223 wOBA). His difficulties have come against lefties, but I don’t see that being an issue for him against the Angels.
Jon Lester @ Minnesota Twins ($9,000)
Most touts were expecting to see an increase in strike outs for Jon Lester as he transitioned to the National League, but that hasn’t been the case so far. His numbers are down slightly from his strong 2014 campaign, but for the most part this is the same pitcher. His 3.28 xFIP isn’t off much from the 3.10 that he posted last season, but his inability to hold runners on has become magnified, and he’s losing that National League bump here today in Minnesota.
Middle of the Pack
I don’t think Trevor May is the next big thing, but I think he can be slightly better than average from here on out. His 3.16 FIP is more than a run lower than his 4.26 ERA, and he’s been able to limit the damage against left-handed hitters (2.84 FIP), something that young pitchers often struggle with. He’s league average in terms of strikeout rate and walks, but his 9.2% SwStk rate leads me to believe he can be a tick better than average with strike outs. As noted here often, the Cubs are worth attacking when you have a pitcher on the mound that can generate K’s, due to their hefty 25.3% whiff rate.
Carlos Rodon vs. Texas Rangers ($5,500)
Carlos Rodon has faced the Rangers already this season, and he was able to mow down 10 in just six innings of work. His skills, paired with the Rangers propensity to strikeout often (23% vs. LHP), are a nice mix here if you’re looking for a GPP play. The Rangers do have higher than average walk rate though, so just temper expectations with Rodon who can walk the park when he’s not sharp.
Jered Weaver @ Oakland Athletics ($7,200)
Jered ‘Wet Noodle’ Weaver get the A’s in Oakland today, and I want no part of it. I’m not a Weaver guy though, and will continue to bet against him due to his lack of velocity and inability to miss bats. I’m validated in this matchup here against the A’s, who are fourth in wOBA (.323) against right-handed pitchers this season.
Nick Martinez @ Chicago White Sox ($5,900)
Nick Martinez is another pitcher that’s worth targeting when you’re selecting bats, just because he’s pitched so far over his head so far this season. The White Sox aren’t hitting well, but playing in U.S. Cellular is always an issue for middle of the pack type starters like Martinez. He’s managed to carry a 2.76 ERA in to play here tonight despite a .371 wOBA to right-handed hitters. Steamer projections has Martinez with a 4.94 ERA from here on out, so it’s almost midnight for Cinderella.
Rest of the Field
Mark Buehrle vs. Baltimore Orioles ($6,600)
We know what Mark Buehrle is at this point in his career, and so do the Orioles. Buehrle can be effective for the Jays, but he’s not a fantasy options. He doesn’t miss bats, and he’s starting to let lefties hit him (.388 wOBA) which is a bad sign moving forward.
Kevin Gausman @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,100)
Kevin Gausman is given a difficult task here against Toronto and the Blue Jays offense. Gausman is returning to the rotation after a shoulder injury knocked him on to the DL for a few weeks. There’s a ton of upside here still long-term so I hope the Orioles keep him in the rotation, but you can leave Gausman on the sideline today.
Chad Bettis vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($5,200)
The Brewers are just 27th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, plus are one of the worst offenses on the road this season….
Oh, who am I kidding? Coors Field cures all that ails, as we saw last night.
Kyle Lohse @ Colorado Rockies ($4,700)
Fire up any and all Rockies here. Kyle Lohse is giving up the dongs in a big way so far this season, and right-handed hitters are crushing him this seasond (.387 wOBA).