Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook daily pitcher rankings. It’s another full slate Friday, and we have some of the best starters in the game toeing the rubber tonight. 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
This looks like a great spot for Francisco Liriano tonight. He’s pitching great (2.92 FIP) and is facing one of the league’s worst offenses in the league at home tonight in Pittsburgh. The Braves are without their one true offensive threats now that Freddie Freeman is on the shelf, and even with him they struggled against LHP (29th in wOBA). Liriano can pile up the K’s that we need here too.
Max Scherzer @ Philadelphia Phillies ($14,000)
I was anxiously awaiting pricing for tonight because I was dying to see what silly number would be next to Max Scherzer’s name. $14,000 is crazy. He’s been the best pitcher in the game this season (1.96 FIP), he’s coming off of two amazing performances and he’s facing the league’s worst offense (73 wRC+ vs. RHP). It’s as simple as, ‘can you make him fit?’
Jake Arrieta @ St. Louis Cardinals ($9,800)
With all of the other options on the board tonight, I think Jake Arrieta will be terribly under-owned. The Cardinals are feisty (5th in wOBA vs. RHP) but they’re not a big slugging team with Matt Holliday out of the lineup, and St. Louis is a great place to pitch at night. Strong ground ball pitchers that don’t walk batters and strike out more than the league average? Yes please.
Corey Kluber @ Baltimore Orioles ($10,300)
Corey Kluber has been quite pedestrian of late, failing to register more than 15 DraftKings points in any of his past three outings. Hopefully that keeps people away today. He’s had quite a bit of bad luck on batted balls (.335 BABIP) and his 3.65 ERA is nearly a run higher than his FIP. The Orioles can hit for some power, but they whiff 22.6% of the time, which pairs well with Kluber’s huge swing-and-miss upside.
Johnny Cueto @ New York Mets ($10,600)
My only concern is how deep Johnny Cueto will work in to this one. The elbow still appears to be a minor issues, but apparently isn’t a long-term concern for the club since they’re rolling him out again. He was pushed back a few days, so he’s well rested, and he’s facing a scuffling Mets offense (.289 wOBA). It’s a positive park bump for Cueto here too, but there’s at least a tiny bit of risk due to the elbow.
Tyson Ross vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($9,100)
Tyson Ross has been on the wrong side of the BABIP battle (.352) this season, but he doesn’t help himself with an 11% walk rate. As fun as his huge 13.6 SwStk is, the walks limit his upside. The Diamondbacks are about league average in terms of wOBA and wRC+ against right-handed pitching, and whiff a bit above that at 19.7. I can get behind Ross on my of his starts, but I’d prefer he not be facing Paul Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks.
Middle of the Pack
I’m not a huge believer in home/road splits when they’re adjusted for park factor, so I’m going to attribute Taijuan Walker’s recent success to finding his stride more than pitching well at home. He’s strung together five consecutive strong outings, with just two walks in his past three starts. The Angels have been a major disappointment despite the revival of Albert Pujols, but I’ll be firing up some Walker shares tonight.
Noah Syndergaard vs. Cincinnati Reds ($8,100)
The big, young right-hander has been even better than advertised so far in his debut, but there have been some bumps along the way for Noah Syndergaard. He’s struggled with runners on, entering today’s action with a strand rate about 10% lower than league average. Everything else is plus. His FIP is just 2.93 despite his 4.03 ERA, and his K’s and BB’s are better than average. You’d rather face the Reds in Queens versus Cincinnati (95 wRC+) but they’re much better to attack with a right-handed starter than a southpaw. I really like Thor today.
Anibal Sanchez vs. Chicago White Sox ($8,700)
Anibal Sanchez has been quite puzzling this season. His strikeout numbers have begun to climb back up to what we’ve seen in the past after the took a nose dive last season, and he’s been able to improve on the free passes as well. He’s suddenly a big time fly-ball pitcher though, and it’s confusing as to why. Perhaps it has something to do with the lose of bite on his change-up. A previously elite pitch, it now grades out as 3.3 runs below average. The White Sox (23rd in wOBA) are not to be feared right now though, so Sanchez is a viable option.
I’m going to ride this Trevor May (4.03 ERA/3.09 FIP) bandwagon and I think there’s room for you to get on, let me check. Yup. There’s room. I wish this game were in Minnesota and not in Milwaukee, but it’s not enough of an issue to keep me off of May for just $6,300 against the Brewers (25th in wOBA vs. RHP). His strikeouts and walks are better than league average, and his 9.8% swinging-strike rate tells us that he has even more room to grow in terms of punch-outs.
John Lackey vs. Chicago Cubs ($7,800)
I know, I’m boring. I always say the same thing in regards to how I approach the Cubs (and Astros). They both slug it so well that I don’t chase their high strikeout rate unless the pitcher has an above average rate. It feels like a smart way to minimize risk, without chasing a general season-long stat. John Lackey’s 6.62 K/9 doesn’t move the needle for me.
Wei-Yin Chen vs. Cleveland Indians ($8,300)
You want a higher priced contrarian play? Knock your socks off. Wei-Yin Chen feels over-priced here against the Indians. Cleveland hits lefties well, entering play with a .318 wOBA and one of the lowest strikeout rates in the league. There are better ways to spend up today.
Matt Shoemaker vs. Seattle Mariners ($7,100)
The maker of shoes has been a real disappointment this season. I can’t even get excited about him as he takes on the Mariners and their 29th ranked offense (.287 wOBA). He’s had some batted ball issues, particularly his strand rate that’s lower than average, but his 4.71 FIP doesn’t make me feel like his 5.20 ERA is blown out of proportion. The strikeout and walk totals are slightly above average, but until he gets the dong issues under control I’m going to stay on the sidelines here.
Edinson Volquez @ Oakland Athletics ($7,000)
This is a strange matchup today. My interest is always piqued when the A’s face an average right-handed pitcher (6th in wOBA at .325) because they get so left-handed and don’t strikeout much. The interesting part here is that Volquez has been great against lefties (.264 wOBA) and has really struggled against right-handed bats with a 4.45 xFIP. I don’t advise playing Volquez, but I won’t be loading up on Oakland bats like I typically like to here.
Jesse Hahn vs. Kansas City Royals ($6,600)
It feels as though Jesse Hahn is intentionally being more conservative, which is better for him and the A’s than it is for us fantasy players. His K’s and walks are both way down (K’s down EIGHT percent!). He’s relying way less on his sick uncle Charlie, which induced huge swinging strike rates but perhaps wasn’t a pitch he could get over consistently. I rarely play elite pitchers against the Royals, so no Hahn for me tonight.
Jose Quintana @ Detroit Tigers ($7,400)
There are many factors working against Jose Quintana today. He’s facing a Tigers club that’s very familiar with him, and one that’s pounded left-handed pitching this season. They enter play with the 4th highest wOBA in the league against left-handed pitching, and will go extremely right-handed against Quintana today. That’s the other bad news. Quintana’s .351 wOBA against right-handed bats is one of the worst marks in the league.
Rest of the Field
Mark Buehrle vs. Texas Rangers ($6,500)
The Rangers fall in to the Cubs/Astros camp when they face a left-handed pitcher. Huge power upside but lots of swing-and-miss potential. The only issue is Mark Buehrle’s strikeout days are long, long gone. They barely ever were a thing, actually. He’s struggled against right-handed bats this season, but a .365 wOBA by left-handed bats against him is surprising for him.
Rick Porcello @ Tampa Bay Rays ($6,200)
I love the Rick Porcello that the Red Sox were getting from Detroit. Sadly, that’s not the guy who’s been on the hill for them this season. There’s a change in approach that’s resulting in less ground balls, and those fly-balls are turning into homeruns. His small gain in strikeouts has been accompanied by a spike in walks as well. Even against the Rays in Tampa, I’d rather spend $100 for Trevor May.
Robby Ray @ San Diego Padres ($6,100)
Pitching in Pecto isn’t enough to make Robby Ray an option today, and that’s really all he has working in his favor. His 1.78 ERA is nice, but his 3.43 FIP feels more like what you see when you watch him pitch, and even that may be generous. His strikeouts and walks are below average, which is too bad since San Diego whiffs 24.6% against lefties.
Brett Anderson @ Miami Marlins ($6,000)
Are the Marlins a sneaky stack tonight? They’re 2nd in wOBA against left-handed pitching, but Brett Anderson’s incredible ground ball inducing skills (67.3%) and the park play a factor in limiting the upside of Miami as a whole. Their success against lefties as a team, and Giancarlo Stanton all by himself, are two reasons to stay away from Brett Anderson.
Vincent Velasquez vs. New York Yankees ($4,600)
We’ve only seen 13 innings from VV but they’ve been decent. He can’t work deep in to games if he’s just either striking guys out or walking them, and it’s difficult to roster him against the Yankees today.
Chad Bettis @ San Francisco Giants ($5,900)
As is the case with Petco Park, don’t make a pitching decision that’s based solely on (or weighed heavily) park factor. Pitching in San Francisco at night is a plus for any starter, but there’s not enough upside to roll out Bettis on this full slate.
Tim Hudson vs. Colorado Rockies ($5,800)
There’s nothing good to say when a pitcher’s K/9 is identical to their ERA (4.52). Again, don’t fall in love here because of the park. It’s not going to be enough.
Justin Nicolino vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($5,700)
Justin Nicolino had a strong debut last time out, but his upside is limited because of his lack of strikeout upside. The Dodgers aren’t great against lefties, but they’ll be good enough tonight to avoid using Nicolino.
Aaron Harang vs. Washington Nationals ($6,400)
The worst xFIP in the league against left-handed bats belongs to…..
Aaron Harang. Oh, hey, Bryce Harper is left-handed. Cool.
Nick Martinez @ Toronto Blue Jays ($5,500)
Colby Lewis paid the piper yesterday, and now it’s time for Nick Martinez to do so, as well. His 4.85 xFIP against right-handed pitching is the second-worst mark in the league, but he has had some success against lefties (.273 wOBA). In Toronto against the Blue Jays (.331 wOBA) is bad news if you’re looking to ride the Nick Martinez train again.
Williams Perez @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($4,900)
There’s not enough K’s and too many walks to utilize Williams Perez (both of them!).
Alex Colome vs. Boston Red Sox ($5,400)
The Red Sox are alive, finally. They aren’t dominating, but they’re ninth in wOBA against right-handed pitching and their strikeout and walk rates are better than league average. No Colome today.
Nathan Eovaldi @ Houston Astros ($5,300)
Lefties are destroying Eovaldi this season (.421 wOBA). We’re good here.
Kyle Lohse vs. Minnesota Twins ($5,200)
A few Friday’s ago, the slate forced me into making a case for Kyle Lohse (6.30 ERA/4.97 FIP). If you played him that day, I’m sorry. It did make some sense, but I won’t go there again. He’s just not a good, or even average pitcher.