With a month behind us, things start to get a little easier to figure out. Some of the key statistical benchmarks will begin to stabilize, making it a bit easier to figure out who’s in over their heads or visa versa. The first Friday in May has one day game, in Chicago were the Cubs play host to the Brewers at 2:20PM EST. The rest of the Friday slate takes place under the lights. Let’s dig in and break things down from a starting pitcher prospective here.
Rankings below are based on a mixture of expected output and DraftKings MLB salaries for today. 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
Last night was the exception to the rule, but you typically are best suited to pay up for the top tier pitching in your cash games. Matt Harvey is the best play today, coming in at an $800 discount in comparison to his counterpart, Max Scherzer. Neither team is particularly proficient against right-handed pitching, but the price break that Harvey offers plus the Nationals propensity to strike out more than the Mets (22.4% vs. 18.7%) breaks the tie.
Max Scherzer @ New York Mets ($12,000)
Max Scherzer was able to come back quickly, missing just one start with the thumb injury he suffered last week. I spoke about Scherzer’s matchup above, and while I think Harvey is the better play, I think his ownership levels will be much higher than Scherzer’s which makes Max an interesting GPP pick today. He has 15-strikeout upside every time he takes the ball.
Scott Kazmir @ Texas Rangers ($7,400)
Arlington, Texas is rarely a place I want to target when looking to roster my starting pitcher, but I really like Kazmir here. The ballpark doesn’t play as favorably to hitters now as it will when the weather heats up, so it’s nothing to fear. The Rangers are middle of the road against lefties, and Kazmir can pile up the strikeouts when he’s sharp.
Carlos Carrasco vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($7,900)
I love Carlos Carrasco for GPP’s tonight. The Blue Jays are a team that typically gets stacked, not targeted. They aren’t quite as dangerous when they’re outside of the Rogers Centre, and they are susceptible to high strikeout pitchers like Carrasco. He hasn’t been the same pitcher that we saw at the tail-end of 2014, but the skill set is still there.
A.J. Burnett @ St. Louis Cardinals ($8,100)
Truth be told, there just aren’t that many starting pitchers that I like today. A bad mix of matchups/pricing lands A.J. Burnett in the top tier today. The Cardinals are an above average contact team against right-handed pitchers (just a 16.2% strikeout rate), but when he’s on Burnett is legit.
Middle of the Pack
Jon Lester vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($9,200)
The Cubs and Brewers play a day game, taking Lester out of the mix for this evening’s slate. His 2.27 FIP shows us that he’s pitched better than his 6.23 ERA suggests, plus his struggles with throwing to first have become a narrative that’s superseded his true performance. I’d give Lester a look if you’re playing the day slate.
Lance Lynn vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($8,300)
Lance Lynn has improved on his strong 2014 season, raising his K-rate while lowering his walks below three per nine innings (2.82). The Pirates offense is much better than it’s shown so far, with Andrew McCutchen off to a sloooooow start. There might not be a better time than now to take on the Pirates.
Ian Kennedy vs. Colorado Rockies ($8,200)
Ian Kennedy struggled in his first two outings this season, as he’s yet to make it in to the fifth inning. The Rockies are clearly a different team at home than they are in San Diego, but they’re healthy and can stack plenty of left-handed hitters in the lineup to get to Kennedy. I wouldn’t overrate the park factor here.
C.J. Wilson @ San Francisco Giants ($7,500)
The steady decline of C.J. Wilson is real. His velocity continues to drop, so his SwStk% and strikeout rate are going with it. The good news here is that he’s in the friendliest park for fly-ball pitchers in all of baseball, and the Giants predominately left-handed lineup is another boon for Wilson here. Unfortunately the upside here is 6-7 strikeouts, max.
For a lot of the same reasons that Wilson is an option today, Heston is in play too. He’s nearly $2,000 cheaper, and his fly-ball tendencies fare well in San Francisco as well. While he is cheaper, he’s facing a much better lineup than C.J. Wilson.
Jose Qunitana @ Minnesota Twins ($7,200)
We saw the Twins knock around Jose Quintana’s fellow southpaw teammate Chris Sale last night, so we have to pause a little bit with what looks to be a plus-matchup for Quintana. He’s been so hit or miss so far, but I like the skill set here. Quintana is in play today because he offers the strikeout upside that’s worth pursuing.
Anthony DeSclafani @ Atlanta Braves ($7,700)
The Braves have been a lot better than anyone would have anticipated back in March, and they’ve hit right-handed pitching really well so far (wOBA of .409). With that said, Reds rookie Anthony DeSclafani has gotten off to a great start in 2015, keeping right-handed hitters in check to the tune of a .108 wOBA. I expect a lefty-heavy Braves lineup today.
Tom Koehler vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($5,800)
Tom Koehler isn’t a great pitcher, but he’s a decent option today on a slate that doesn’t provide many alternatives. He doesn’t strike many hitters out, but he’s facing the Phillies in one of the best pitching environments in all of baseball. You can spend a lot more money today, and get a lot less production than I believe Koehler can provide.
C.C. Sabathia @ Boston Red Sox ($7,300)
The Red Sox offense is better than what we’ve seen thus far, but their early season struggles have come against right-handed pitchers more so than lefties. The Red Sox have a lot of experience against C.C. Sabathia, and I believe they’ll get to him today in what should be a high scoring affair.
Chris Tillman vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,100)
Chris Tillman is off to a rocky start this season, as his walk rate mirrors his strikeout rate. That’s…..not good. Even in Tampa, this isn’t a pitcher that I think you should be considering today.
Mark Buehrle @ Cleveland Indians ($6,200)
The Indians do as good of a job at exploiting handedness splits as any team in baseball, so look for a very left-handed heavy lineup for Cleveland here against Mark Buehrle. The upside isn’t here, so I’d avoid.
Rest of the Field
Alex Colome @ Baltimore Orioles ($5,500)
Fresh off of a bout with pneumonia, Alex Colome comes off the DL to take the ball against the Orioles today. I can’t envision a scenerio where Colome works very deep into this game, hindering his upside right off the bat.
Wily Peralta @ Chicago Cubs ($6,500)
Where have the strikeout gone, Wily? The only way I’ll use a starter against the Cubs right now is if that pitcher can miss bats. The sample size is small after just one month, but it’s enough to give me pause and wait for a bit of the strikeout growth to come back.
Justin Masterson vs. New York Yankees ($6,000)
Early 2015 handedness splits for Masterson mirror his career numbers. He has a difficult time putting left-handed hitters away (wOBA .348) and the Yankees are a very lefty dominant team. I’m stack Yankees bats way before I’m rostering Masterson, even with his strikeout upside.
Kyle Lobstein @ Kansas City Royals ($5,900)
The Royals are not only hitting left-handed pitching well right now, but they also aren’t striking out very often. Their 13.6-percent strikeout rate against southpaws is the lowest in all of baseball, making Lobstein an easy fade today.
Kyle Gibson vs. Chicago White Sox ($5,300)
When Kyle Gibson is going well he’s able to keep the ball on the ground and minimize damage by his opponent. The bad news here though is the White Sox have been one of the league’s best teams against right-handed pitchers. Their wOBA of .436 and wRC+ of 177 shows their prowess as one of the top offenses in baseball against righties.
Colby Lewis vs. Oakland Athletics ($6,300)
Colby Lewis hasn’t been good this season (4.32 FIP) but he hasn’t been as terrible as I expected him to be, mostly because his fly balls haven’t left the yard quite as frequently. Don’t mistake this as an improved skill, but rather just a bit of luck. Give me the A’s bats, and you can have Colby Lewis.
Roenis Elias @ Houston Astros ($6,800)
The Astros are middle of the pack against lefties, but they’re exploitable because of their propensity to strikeout a lot against them. While Roenis Elias has shown the ability to strikeout his opponents at a decent clip, I don’t think he’s someone to roster today at his nearly $7k price tag.
Chris Young vs. Detroit Tigers ($4,500)
While the Tigers have a mostly right-handed dominant lineup, Chris Young doesn’t have glaring splits when you look at handedness advantages. He’s a big time fly-ball pitcher, and that something that should make you nervous if you’re a Royals fan.
Mike Foltynewicz vs. Cincinnati Reds ($5,900)
Braves rookie Mike Foltynewicz is replacing the struggling Trevor Cahill in the rotation, and his gift is a Reds team that’s mashing right-handed hitters (wOBA .492) to start the season. The young righty doesn’t have the ability to miss bats, but he can pile up the walks too. I’d avoid using him in his debut against a patient Reds team.
Jerome Williams @ Miami Marlins ($4,500)
So far this season Jerome Williams is limiting the free pass, so there’s that. Let’s not kid ourselves here, this isn’t someone that you need to be considering today.
Carlos Frias vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,600)
There are enough ‘cheap’ options on the board that you don’t need to roll the dice here on Carlos Frias. The Diamondbacks can hit right-handers, and Arizona is the best place to hit that’s not named Coors Field.
Eddie Butler @ San Diego Padres ($4,800)
I wonder how long into the season we’ll go before we have some sort of strikeout and walk differential for Eddie Butler. His terrible strikeout rate mirrors his awful walk rate, 5.32.
Rubby de la Rosa @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($7,000)
Why is Rubby de la Rosa $7,000? I’m not sure I have the answer to that, but do not spend up here to see if there’s something that you’re missing.