We have a full, 15-game slate on tap tonight so let’s get in in! 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
Sonny Gray @ Houston Astros ($10,100)
I was among the many ‘touts’ that were a bit down on Sonny Gray heading in to this season, but I love what we’re seeing from Gray right now. The marginal K-rate was part of my issue with him, and the walk rate wasn’t elite either, but early returns have seen him improve in both areas. His strikeout rate is up to 8.52 per 9, and his 7-percent hard-hit contact rate is the third lowest mark in the league. (per ESPN Stats and Info, league average is roughly 16%). He enters play with a cFIP of 73 (anything below 100 is above league average), and he faces an Astros club that can swing-and-miss with the best of them.
I don’t love taking pitchers against the Cubs, but at Petco against a suddenly big-time strikeout pitcher is a scenario that makes sense to attack them. The Cubs fall in the middle of the pack in terms of wOBA against RHP’s (.309), but their strikeout rate is the highest in the league. I think Shields is enjoying the National League; his K-rate has gone from 19.2% all the way to 30.9%! His cFIP of 77 tells us better days are ahead too, since he’s been unlucky with batted balls (BABIP and strand-rate above career marks).
Jason Hammel @ San Diego Padres ($8,700)
If Jason Hammel keeps this up (and I think he will) it’s going to be quite an interesting summer in Chicago. He’ll benefit from a ball park bump here in San Diego tonight, and the Padres’ .306 wOBA against right-handed pitching is among the bottom third of all teams. Hammel also shows well on the previously mentioned hard-hit contact metric; his 9.2% is good for the 9th best mark in baseball.
Johnny Cueto @ Kansas City Royals ($9,900)
The Royals put the ball in play at an elite clip, taking away some of the strikeout upside that makes Cueto so appealing here on DraftKings. They only strikeout 15.5% of the time, and Cueto’s whiff numbers are down a bit as well. The Royals have the third best wOBA when facing a right-handed pitcher, so on a full slate I’d look elsewhere in cash games.
Francisco Liriano vs. Minnesota Twins ($9,300)
Francisco Liriano is having a nice start to the 2015 season, limiting hard-hit contact as he often does. His 8.1% rate is the fourth best in the league, and his 82 cFIP is encouraging when forecasting his rest of the season output. The Twins are slightly above average against lefties in terms of wOBA, but they’re slugging just .118 against left-handed pitching which is one of the lowest marks in the league.
Middle of the Pack
Carlos Frias is just too cheap tonight. This game is essentially a pick em’ according to Vegas, and the Dodgers bats have a nice matchup that we’ll get to later. On top of that, Frias has pitched well so far this season. He’s getting an elite ground ball rate (62.5%), and has enough strikeout upside to make him very appealing. His 2.89 ERA is validated by a 2.94 FIP.
Anibal Sanchez vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($8,100)
We’re seeing a little bit of fluctuation in Anibal Sanchez’s strikeout totals, but they aren’t far off from season’s past. The interesting piece here is his sudden fly-ball tendencies. His ground ball rate was 45.7% last season, and it’s only 35.1% so far this season. It’s worth watching as the season goes on, but his 85 cFIP tells us not to worry too much. (cFIP, from Jonathan Judge of Hardball Times and Baseball Prospectus, has a predictive element to it, so it’s more than just a past performance metric like ERA and FIP).
Gio Gonzalez vs. New York Yankees ($9,000)
Gio Gonzalez is the anti-Anibal, apparently. We’ve seen a nice jump in ground ball rate from Gio so far, increasing his mark by nearly 6% compared to last season and his career mark. He’s pitched better (2.75 FIP/91 cFIP) than his 4.25 ERA would lead you to believe at first glance, but this isn’t an exciting matchup to target him at this price despite the Yankees being middle of the road against lefties.
Michael Wacha @ New York Mets ($8,300)
We finally saw a few strikeouts last time out, but Wacha is still way below the other top pitchers here tonight in terms of strikeout upside. It’s a decent matchup, as the Mets have the third lowest wOBA against righties, but I don’t like the 109 cFIP unless I have massive strikeout upside.
Jose Quintana vs. Cleveland Indians ($8,200)
Jose Quintana has quietly put together a few strong outings in a row after getting off to a slow start this season. He’s been on the receiving end of a high BABIP-against (.345), and his 3.15 FIP and 84 cFIP feel more in line with his skill set than his current 4.39 ERA. We did this same lefty song and dance last night as Quintana’s teammate Chris Sale faced the Indians, and we saw that’s nothing to fear.
Trevor Bauer @ Chicago White Sox ($6,800)
We’ve seen both good and bad Bauer this season, and you just never know what you’re going to get. His strikeout upside is tantalizing, and the White Sox are fresh off of a 12-strikeout, 9 inning performance at the hands of Corey Kluber. They’re middle of the pack offensively, but the negative park factor shift and his propensity to extend innings with the free pass gives me pause.
Jon Niese vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($7,500)
The Cardinals are susceptible against good left-handed pitching, but unfortunately Jon Niese isn’t very good. His 5.61 K/9 is just not enough to justify his price tag here, and he’s more of the 4.14 FIP guy than the 2.49 ERA. The one silver lining here is the Cardinals 22.4% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching keeps him in play for tournaments.
Mike Foltynewicz vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,400)
Tampa Bay enters play with the 9th worst wOBA against right-handed pitching, and that’s with a DH, something that won’t be available to them tonight in Atlanta. I worry about Foltynewicz’s ability to throw enough strikes to capitalize on his big strikeout upside, but he’s an interesting prospect to watch here.
Jimmy Nelson @ Detroit Tigers ($6,900)
I’ve been all over Jimmy Nelson early this season. His high strikeout totals and his ability to minimize hard-hit contact is appealing. What’s not appealing is a matchup against Miguel Cabrera and one of the best offenses against right-handed pitching in the league. I like Nelson long-term, but not tonight.
Taijuan Walker @ Baltimore Orioles ($6,000)
The Orioles can overwhelm right-handed pitching, but they’re not quite as scary when you’re attacking them with a big, power arm. I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen from Taijuan Walker lately, and his .357 BABIP-against and 60.1% strand rate tell us that Walker has been just as unlucky as he’s been bad a times. He’s really cheap today, but on a full slate I don’t think I’ll ride this roller coaster.
Rest of the Field
Per usual, the Rest of the Field is essentially a list of players that I wouldn’t consider viable options today. Sure, you can make a case for some of the next few arms, but there are better ways to allocate your funds today.
Nathan Eovaldi @ Washington Nationals ($6,500)
There just isn’t enough upside to Eovaldi’s game. The K’s are low (6.75/9) despite the fact that he throws gas, and I’ve already outlined a few options around his price point.
Tim Hudson vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($6,200)
The Dodgers mash right-handed pitching to the tune of a .367 wOBA and a 133 wRC+. AT&T Park is a nice bump typically, but Hudson has been terrible to start. He won’t continue to give up dongs at such an incredibly high rate, but his 125 cFIP doesn’t have me buying a major turn around here for the veteran right-hander.
Miguel Gonzalez vs. Seattle Mariners ($6,200)
All of these arms lack the upside that I’d want if I were ‘rolling the dice’ in a sense. There’s minimal strikeout upside here, and it’s a positive ball park shift for the Mariners as they head to Camden Yards.
Yovani Gallardo @ Boston Red Sox ($6,100)
The Red Sox (.308 wOBA against right-handed pitching is just 19th in the league) aren’t quite firing on all cylinders yet, but let’s not get greedy here.
Yordano Ventura vs. Cincinnati Reds ($6,600)
Yordano Ventura would rather face the Reds in Kansas City than in Cincy, but the ball park isn’t enough to be encouraged. Ventura can’t get by with just heat, and until he learns to put hitters away (6.69 K/9), he’ll just be a hard thrower with potential that never develops.
Hector Santiago @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,700)
Hector Santiago is pitching well so far. His 102 cFIP is serviceable, and his 11.5% hard-hit contact is inside the top-30. This is just a terrible matchup for him. The Blue Jays crush left-handed pitching (.373 wOBA!) and his extreme fly-ball tendencies won’t play well in the Rodgers Centre.
Jeremy Hellickson @ Miami Marlins ($5,200)
We’ve seen some abysmal performances from the Marlins lately, and that’s not just a cheap shot at their front office meanderings. I don’t think Jeremy Hellickson is going to be able to exploit their weaknesses. He gets in trouble with walks, and his strikeout upside just isn’t there like it once was. He’s better than his 5.92 ERA, but not by much.
Wade Miley vs. Texas Rangers ($6,300)
Smoke and Mirrors. That’s how Wade Miley got through his last outing against the Athletics, where the A’s seemed to strand four, yes four, runners each inning. Miley scattered 55 hits. Okay, but you get my point. The strikeout gains he made last season in Arizona didn’t make the trip with him to Boston, and his walk rate has ballooned on top of it. Miley faces a Rangers team that’s hit lefties to the tune of a .341 wOBA (5th best mark in the league).
Aaron Harang @ Colorado Rockies ($6,200)
I had a successful Monday night in both cash and GPP’s with Cole Hamels in my lineup, but I’ll stop there. I won’t make it a habit to roster starters in Coors, and neither should you.
Tom Koehler vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($5,900)
Tom Koehler is filling in for Jerred Cosart, shortly after his recent demotion to the bullpen when Henderson Alvarez returned from the DL. You could argue that Koehler isn’t the worse starting pitcher in that rotation, but if he team doesn’t trust him than we shouldn’t either. It’s unlikely that Koehler works deep in to this game.
Ricky Nolasco @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($5,900)
Ricky Nolasco has managed to avoid giving up a home run so far this season, but my not-so-hot-take calls for an end to that tonight. You aren’t rostering Ricky Nolasco on a full slate. If you are, RyanFix is my handle here. Find me.
Erasmo Ramirez @ Atlanta Braves ($5,100)
The Braves don’t strikeout enough, and Ramirez isn’t going to change that tonight. Give me some Freddie Freeman.
Aaron Sanchez vs. Los Angeles Angels ($5,500)
Aaron Sanchez has potential, but it’s hard to believe it when you look at that astronomical walk rate (6.87 BB/9!).
Roberto Hernandez vs. Oakland Athletics ($4,500)
A strikeout rate just north of 4 per 9 isn’t going to get it done against the league’s fourth best offense against right-handed pitching (wOBA .330/wRC+ 114).
Chad Bettis vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($4,000)
Chad Bettis get the start for the Rockies in Colorado tonight. Who, you ask? Chad Bettis, he of the 7.20. That’s ERA and BB/9.
Good luck tonight!