I’m back with a look at today’s starting pitcher options, and boy is it a loaded slate. We have a plethora of starting pitching options tonight, almost too many, actually. It’ll be an interesting night because there are truly more viable options than there are dicey ones, so you’ll need to read up and find out who to target, who to fade, and who to stack against tonight.
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. If you have any last-minute questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
It’s quite a feat to be the top play on the board tonight, and that honor belongs to Dallas Keuchel. It’s a combination of skill, matchup and price, and Keuchel has all three in spades here. Lefties can’t hit him (.146 wOBA) but he’s almost just as good against righties (.241 wOBA is the 12th best in all of baseball). Add to the fact that the White Sox are dead last offensively against left-handed pitchers, with a 40 wRC+. Essentially, they’re 60% worse than league average. Woof. When you can save 2-3 thousand dollars by rostering Keuchel instead of the top dogs, that’s a huge advantage.
Corey Kluber vs. Seattle Mariners ($10,900)
The ‘Klubot’ is a dominant, barely human version of the pitcher once referred to as Corey Kluber. A five-game run where he’s averaged 36.6 DraftKings points per game is just that; barely human. He has way out-pitched his current 3.61 ERA. I present you with his 2.23 FIP, one of the best marks in the game. The whiff upside here is huge as well, with Seattle striking out 23.6% of the time against right-handed pitchers, most of which are far less dominant than the ‘Klubot’.
Sonny Gray vs. Texas Rangers ($10,100)
The increase usage of Sonny Gray’s slider sure seems to be working, huh? He’s used it to shut down batters from both sides of the plate, particularly left-handed hitters who are really struggling against him this season (wOBA .226, second best in the league). The curve-ball is still a weapon to induce swinging strikes against right-handed hitters, and the results are playing out in Gray’s strikeout rate. He gets the Rangers at home, a negative park shift for Texas, who’s .312 wOBA and 95 wRC+ land them in the middle of the pack.
Francisco Liriano vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($9,700)
The Brewers aren’t just terrible against lefties (.267 wOBA/63 wRC+), they’re also terrible on the road. Playing at PNC Park is a negative park shift for them, and a big strikeout lefty is even worse news. Strikeouts are what Liriano does best, and the Brew Crew’s 23.3% strikeout rate is among the highest in the league against southpaws. The only bats that scare me on Milwaukee are right-handed, but fear not! Liriano handles them well. Right-handed bats are hitting just .168 against him, validated by a .248 wOBA, good for 18th best in baseball. The Brewers counter with Taylor Jungmann tonight, making Liriano and the Pirates a strong favorite.
Max Scherzer @ New York Yankees ($12,000)
With so many viable options tonight, it’s difficult to spend up on a pitcher that’ll eat 20% of your budget, but Scherzer is always an option. First the good: Max Scherzer is an elite, high strikeout pitcher with no platoon splits to worry about. He’s top-10 in wOBA-against versus both right and left-handed hitters.
The caveat here is the negative league and park shifts for Scherzer. His fly-ball tendencies could be an issue in the 60,000-seat little league park known as Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees enter play with the fourth best wOBA against right-handed pitching (.325). With a loaded slate I’d be interest in Scherzer as a GPP play, but he’s a tough cash game sell tonight.
Middle of the Pack
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Washington Nationals ($10,400)
We’ve only seen 29 innings from Masahiro Tanaka this season, but they’ve been good despite all the hubbub around his starts. Everyone’s waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by shoe I mean his arm. He needed just 78 pitches to go seven innings in his last start against the Mariners, a start that saw him limit Seattle to just three hits while striking out nine. His upside is curbed if he can’t work deep into games, but if he’s that efficient then that shouldn’t be an issue. I’ll be watching his SwStk% closely as the season goes on; it’s currently 3% lower than last season, and if that continues it’ll sap his huge strikeout upside.
Knowing that Mike Foltynewicz’s ownership totals will be low is just part of the appeal of the young right-hander tonight. He has big time strikeout stuff, what you might call ‘easy cheese’. He’ll work in the mid to upper 90’s all game long, and his off-speed stuff is plus, too. The Padres are just 26th in the league against right-handed pitching (wOBA .295) and their 21.8% K-rate will help Foltynewicz collect the strikeouts that we’re looking for tonight. His fly-ball skills play well at home, too.
James Shields @ Atlanta Braves ($9,500)
In March, there was a lot of discussion around how frequently DFS’ers would be targeting the Braves offense when making their SP selections each day. Funny how things have played out. Obviously the Braves aren’t a team that you need to avoid because of their ability to slug and score (13th in wOBA at .314), but they’re just feisty enough to avoid on a full slate like this one. James Shields fantasy value has been tied to his strikeouts this season, something that the Braves don’t do very often (just 16.9% vs. RHP).
Chris Heston @ New York Mets ($5,500)
So many sexy names on the slate tonight. You know who’s not sexy? Chris Heston. I mean, I don’t know, I’m just referring to his name value in terms of DFS. You might find him sexy, that’s between you and….maybe just keep it to yourself.
In terms of skills, Heston is fairly average. His strikeout rate and walk rate are both hovering around league average, but he’s out-pitched his ERA (4.29) by nearly a full run (3.38 xFIP) when adjusting for his home run rate. He’s facing a Mets team that recently lost one of it’s best hitters to injury (Daniel Murphy), and even with him in the lineup, were just 25th in wOBA against right-handed pitching. He should be at least $1,000 more today.
Anibal Sanchez vs. Chicago Cubs ($7,800)
We’re starting to see the above average strikeout arsenal that we’ve grown accustomed to with Anibal Sanchez, and the Cubs’ free-swinging ways are well documented. They’re 20th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, and their 25.8% strikeout rate is difficult to ignore when they’re facing a starter with swing-and-miss stuff like Sanchez. I’d be all-in on Sanchez if he were still inducing ground balls, but he’s not. His GB% is down nearly 10% which is a huge jump, one that is playing itself out in his rising HR/FB ratio.
Noah Syndergaard vs. San Francisco Giants ($8,700)
If we didn’t have so many choices tonight, then I’d have a difficult time deciding whether or not to roster Syndergaard. The fact of the matter is, I don’t have to make that choice, I’m just staying away. Syndergaard has been even better than advertised in his early season debut, entering play tonight with a 2.42 FIP through his first 28 2/3 innings. His K/9 (10.05) is a bit deceiving when you look at his fairly pedestrian 7.9 SwStk%, but I’m more concerned with his opponent tonight, the Giants. The Giants are the best offensive road team in the league, and are fifth overall in wOBA against right-handed pitching. I think San Francisco makes for a nice under-the-radar stack tonight in tournaments.
Eduardo Rodriguez @ Baltimore Orioles ($7,100)
The Kid is the real deal. It’s been quite a major league debut for Eduardo Rodriguez who’s work at least seven innings and striking out seven in each of his first two starts. Obviously, we can’t expect him to continue to average 30+ DraftKings points per outing, but tonight is another plus matchup for him. The Orioles are middle of the road offensively against left-handed pitching right now, but they’ve been on the receiving end of a few huge strikeout performances of late. If we’re fading the top dogs, then it has to be for strikeout upside in the mid-tier, and that’s exactly what Rodriguez offers.
Jon Lester @ Detroit Tigers ($8,400)
Jon Lester offers that strikeout upside that we’ll need tonight, but he’s facing one of the league’s best offenses against left-handed pitchers in Detroit. The Tigers had lost eight straight until facing lefty John Danks on Saturday, and their .335 wOBA against left-handed pitching reeked havoc against yet another southpaw. The amount of reasons to fade Lester outweigh the reasons to use him tonight.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($6,300)
Anthony DeSclafani could be on the verge of busting out a bit. At first glance, his K/9 (5.68) and FIP (3.94) leave a lot to be desired, but a closer look shows an underlying skill set that’s encouraging. His SwStk% is 8.5%, which typically yields a K/9 that far exceeds his current 5.68. He’s also entering play with the eighth-best wOBA (.235) against right-handed hitters so far this season. The Phillies and their league-worst offense are always ripe for the picking.
Carlos Rodon vs. Houston Astros ($5,700)
I’m encouraged by Carlos Rodon’s ability to limited the free passes of late, but it’s still likely to be an issue for the young left-hander as we move forward. If he can continue to pitch like he has the last two times out (14/3 strikeout/walks) it’ll allow him to work deeper into games, something that’s been difficult for Rodon to do with his inflated pitch counts. The ‘stuff’ is worth a lot more than $5,700, and we know the Astros can help pile up the whiffs due to their 24% K-rate, but the walks cap his upside. Remember that he just faced the Astros last week, so they’re not seeing him for the first time.
Trevor May vs. Kansas City Royals ($7,000)
He’s not a great play tonight, but Trevor May is someone to watch as the season progresses. His 4.45 ERA is deceiving (2.80 FIP) and his strikeout and walk rates are both slightly above average. Unfortunately, the Royals are a difficult matchup. They’re aggressive, entering play with the lowest strikeout and walk rate against right-handed pitching, minimizing any upside that Trevor May would have tonight.
Matt Shoemaker @ Tampa Bay Rays ($8,000)
I’m trying to find the silver lining in Matt Shoemaker’s rocky start to the 2015 season, and it’s needle-in-a-haystack hard. His walks are up, K’s and SwStk% are down, dongs are way up (that reads poorly), and even when adjusted for home runs, his FIP (3.89 xFIP) leaves a lot to be desired. The Rays are just 24th in wOBA against right-handed pitching, but I want to see Shoemaker string together a few decent outings before I roster or recommend him.
Rest of the Field
Miguel Gonzalez vs. Boston Red Sox ($6,900)
Miguel Gonzalez has been the ultimate boom-or-bust this season. He’s either pitched like a top of the rotation arm, or been knocked around early and scored negative DraftKings points. He’s had some success in limiting damage done by left-handed hitters, and the Red Sox still haven’t gotten their bats going yet. Despite the lack of run production, the Sox have the best walk rate and rarely strikeout, so crossing Gonzalez off of the list today is quite easy considering the dearth of options here.
Roenis Elias @ Cleveland Indians ($7,600)
The “Indians at home against a lefty” is a positive bump for them, in both instances. They have one of the lowest strikeout rates (15.8%) along with the best walk rate (11.3%) against southpaws. This is enough to mitigate any upside that Roenis Elias might possess tonight.
Michael Wacha @ Colorado Rockies ($7,400)
Michael Wacha’s strikeout are finally starting to return, but not to a point where he’s a viable option in Colorado. In case you can’t avoid the ‘Park Factor Crack’ that is Coors Field, I’d try and avoid the Rockies’ right-handed bats tonight. Wacha has limited righties to a .218 BA and a .239 wOBA, good for 11th best in baseball. If you’re going to target Colorado bats, make it their left-handers.
Nate Karns vs. Los Angeles Angels ($6,500)
Nate Karns can bring it, but walks are an issue at times. As you know, walks extend innings and drive up pitch counts which is a no no in DFS. We want our pitchers to work deep into the game, something Karns can’t do when he’s walking nearly 4 batters per 9.
Aaron Harang @ Cincinnati Reds ($6,800)
If you just keep targeting Aaron Harang, you will be rewarded. His xFIP is more than two runs higher than his ERA because he’s been lucky with fly balls so far. Actually, he’s been lucky with basically any batted ball. His .253 BABIP is 50 points below his career mark, and he’s not doing anything that makes you believe there’s a newly developed skill here at 37-years old. I’m betting on some homerun regression here tonight.
Mark Buehrle vs. Miami Marlins ($6,700)
Mark Buehrle is another ‘oldie’ that’s been effective lately, but the Marlins are sneaky-good against left-handed pitching, entering play with the second best wOBA against them (.339). It’s also a fairly large park factor shift for the Marlins in Toronto, making Buehrle an easy arm to fade.
Dan Haren @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,700)
The Blue Jays lead the league in runs scored, and the Rogers Centre is very homerun friendly. A bad mix for a fly-ball pitcher like Dan Haren. It’s a difficult matchup, and a poor price.
Chris Young @ Minnesota Twins ($4,800)
A heavy fly-ball pitcher like Chris Young could fare well in Minnesota, against a Twins team that struggles against right-handed pitching (29th in wOBA at .290). Again, at this point there’s no reason to risk it with Chris Young tonight.
Jorge de la Rosa vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($6,100)
I don’t think Jorge de la Rosa will have a bad night, and I’m writing this as Matt Holliday falls on his face in left field, making it likely that he’s out of the lineup here for de la Rosa. The Cardinals are very average against lefties, but they strikeout at a much higher rate, and that’s with Matt Holliday. I still don’t know how you roster Jorge de la Rosa tonight, even if you’re looking for a contrarian tournament play.
Nick Martinez @ Oakland Athletics ($5,800)
Hey! The regression monster finally came around a bit Nick Martinez in the be-hind. The fact that he avoided damage for as many starts as he did to start the season was impressive. I’m not going to completely ignore the fact that Martinez is young and has made some improvements, but his .361 wOBA against right-handed hitters is one of the worst marks in the league. Don’t bank on a return to glory quite yet.
Carlos Frias vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,300)
The Diamondbacks may not be a very good team, but they can hit. They’re better against lefties, but Carlos Frias is far from a dominant right-handed pitcher. Don’t overrate park factor here, the Diamondback power can play anywhere.
Robbie Ray @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($5,000)
You’re not starting Robbie Ray tonight, even though the Dodgers struggle against left-handed pitching (.299 wOBA ranks 22nd) when compared to how they rake against righties. Still, there’s no need to go here tonight.
Taylor Jungmann @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($4,000)
Taylor Jungmann gets the call up from AAA to start for the Brewers tonight, but the big right-hander is a big underdog against Francisco Liriano and the Pirates. Jungmann has shown some strikeout upside on his way up, but walks have been an issue as well. No need to consider him here.