The majority of tonight’s contests will use the 14-game night slate, with the Royals and Cubs getting the day started earlier in the day, taking one of the games best (Jake Arrieta) out of contention for the main slate. This is a middle tier heavy group, with very few ace-quality arms on the bump. Let’s dig 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
Francisco Liriano @ San Diego Padres ($9,200)
Out of all the top options today, Francisco Liriano has the best price and park factor bump since the game’s in San Diego. His always-elite K-rate is up over his career mark, and he’s facing a Padres club that whiffs nearly 21% of the time against lefties. It’s a solid price increase over his last time out, but he’s still worth it today in San Diego (93 wRC+ vs LHP).
Cole Hamels vs. Colorado Rockies ($10,200)
Without factoring in price, Cole Hamels is my favorite starter today. After dealing with some early season fly ball/walk issues, he’s back to what we’re accustomed to when forecasting a typical Hamels start. His strikeouts are up a bit over season’s past (9.09/per 9) and no one strikes out more against left-handed pitching than the Rockies (25.4%) do. Their .296 wOBA is the 8th worst mark in the league, and they’re even worse in ISO-against. I like Hamels for both cash and GPP’s today.
Any news with Matt Harvey is big news, and that’s what we’ve seen with the multitude of discussions around Harvey’s dead-arm phase. This is a non-story, in my opinion. Fire away here on Harvey today, who’s priced dipped $900 after his shaky outing in Pittsburgh. I like the strikeout upside here, with the Marlins striking out 22.2% of the time against right-handed pitching.
James Shields vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($9,800)
James Shields early season issues are very similar to what ailed Cole Hamels; dongs. We know enough about who these players are, and since we aren’t seeing a diminishing skill set here we know that there’s some positive regression on the way. Shields enters play with a 3.75 ERA, but his xFIP is just 2.79. We’re also seeing a 12% spike in his strand-rate, something that will correct itself as the season moves along. The strikeout upside here is huge, with Shields getting 11.84 per 9 so far this season. Hello, National League.
Sonny Gray vs. New York Yankees ($9,400)
The Yankees hit right-handed pitching well (.323 wOBA/104 wRC+) but it’s a negative park shift for them and they’re facing one of the games hottest starters. Sonny Gray has been a pleasant surprise this season, elevating his game and solidifying his spot among the league’s elite. We’re seeing a lot more swings and misses against Gray, who’s leaning on his slider a lot more than season’s past.
Middle of the Pack
Jake Arrieta vs. Kansas City Royals ($9,500)
I’m glad I won’t be tempted to start Arrieta tonight, since he’ll only be available in the all-day slate. I’m a huge Arrieta fan, and a quick look at his numbers makes it easy to understand. Strong strikeout skills, minimizing walks and getting ground balls at a 50%+ clip. The Royals are an aggressive team, with the lowest walk and strikeout totals in the game. They swing and put the ball in play a ton, always eliminating the strikeout upside of pitchers they face.
Anibal Sanchez @ Los Angeles Angels ($8,400)
I like Anibal Sanchez tonight, I just don’t love this price. After a mediocre start, he’s up $1,400 here today compared to his last time out. The Angels are scuffling, and while Sanchez’s 6.12 ERA is dicey, his 3.75 xFIP makes it a bit more tolerable. The typically ground-ball-heavy Sanchez is giving up quite a bit more fly balls, and they’re leaving the park at a higher than average rate. I trust the stuff though, as his strikeout totals and walk-rate are still above league average marks.
Stephen Strasburg @ Cincinnati Reds ($8,900)
Man, I don’t know. There’s more than a season’s worth of data now that shows Strasburg is struggling with runners on. His strand rate is way too low and his BABIP-against is high, but he’s giving up hard-hit contact that tells you it’s not a fluke. Perhaps he’s hurt? He hates throwing from the stretch? I’m not paying to find out today.
We’ve seen three straight really strong outings from Trevor Bauer after a bit of a rough patch to start May. It’s a positive park factor bump for Bauer, and Seattle is just 23rd in the league against right-handed pitchers (.293 wOBA). I love Bauer in GPP’s tonight.
Rubby de la Rosa @ Milwaukee Brewers ($6,400)
Rubby de la Rosa has pitched well in May, and still he’s at the lowest price point that he’s been all month. The Brewers have hit better of late but they’re propensity to strikeout a lot (22.7% vs. RHP) makes Rubby an interesting play today. It’s basically a neutral park shift from pitching in Arizona, but if he can continue to keep his ground ball rate high he’s going to have success.
Mike Foltynewicz @ San Francisco Giants ($7,100)
I was on Folty last time he pitched, and he delivered a 30.3 DraftKings points outing against the Brewers. He’s facing a better offense here tonight (Giants 4th in wOBA at .326), but this is the best park for a fly ball pitcher, and that’s exactly what Foltynewicz is. While the Giants have a strong, deep lineup, they don’t have a dearth of power bats that strike fear into the opposition.
Mike Bolsinger @ St. Louis Cardinals ($7,200)
A tidy little 0.71 ERA will do wonders for your perception, apparently. So will 8 innings of 2-hit, 0-run ball, which is what Mike Bolsinger did last time out against the Padres. The strikeouts are here too, so he’s intriguing, but a .210 BABIP-against and a 97% strand rate tells us that there’s been a little bit of batted ball luck so far. $7,200 feels like you’re paying full price, and the Cardinals offense is good enough at putting the ball in play that you’d expect to see the correction begin tonight.
Nate Karns vs. Baltimore Orioles ($5,900)
Nate Karns is an interesting starter, but he’ll need to get his command in place before he’s a consistent pitcher in this league. The Orioles can strikeout with the best of them, but they can mash at home, and enter play with a .321 wOBA against right-handed pitching. There are better options today.
Lance McCullers vs. Houston Astros ($5,100)
Lance McCullers has pitched well so far. He’s facing a White Sox team that’s 19th against right-handed pitchers with a wOBA of .303 and an 89 wRC+. Not the world beaters that some had projected them to be in the preseason, but they have a lineup of slow starters. At such a depressed price, McCullers is in play as a SP2 in GPP’s.
Jimmy Nelson vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($6,800)
While Jimmy Nelson isn’t pitching quite as well as he has a points early this season, he’s still worth a look. He’s minimzing hard-hit contact, and he can pile up the K’s that we want when finding upside in our starters for tournaments. I wouldn’t use him in cash against a Diamondbacks club that can rake, and I’m a bit concerned about Nelson’s propensity to string together walks and drive up his pitch count.
Miguel Gonzalez @ Tampa Bay Rays ($6,700)
The Rays hit lefties well, but are below average against right-handers like Miguel Gonzalez. The problem with Gonzalez is that his upside is limited by his command issues. He’s like Jimmy Nelson, but older and not as good. Ok, so he’s not a lot like Jimmy Nelson, but you get my point.
John Lackey vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($7,600)
It’s all well and good that John Lackey has been the victim of bad run support of lately, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not really pitching well. Perhaps I’m overstating it a bit, but Lackey is in a difficult spot against the league’s best offense, and we’ve seen a sizable dip in Lackey’s strikeout totals this season. I’ll take the Dodgers bats > Lackey tonight.
Taijuan Walker vs. Cleveland Indians ($6,500)
The upside is tantalizing, but I don’t want to be on the Taijuan Walker roller coaster tonight. Pitching at home is an advantage, but the Indians will roll out a pretty lefty-heavy lineup tonight and should get to Walker, if he doesn’t do himself in with walks. With a wRC+ of 110 against righties, we know the Indians are 10% better than league average in these spots.
Carlos Rodon @ Houston Astros ($5,200)
There’s nothing worse for a DFS pitcher than walks, in my opinion. At least Carlos Rodon offers us some strikeout upside here too, but a 7.66 BB/9 is a huge number, making it difficult to keep runs off the board and it drives his pitch count up and knocks him out of the game early.
Hector Santiago vs. Detroit Tigers ($6,900)
Hector Santiago has pitched well this season, but this is a bad spot for him against a Tigers team that destroys left-handed fly ball pitchers (.346 wOBA/121 wRC+). Just don’t.
Chad Bettis @ Philadelphia Phillies ($4,400)
We’ve only seen 19 innings from Chad Bettis, but they’ve been decent (2.51 FIP). It’s definitely not for everyone, but there’s some GPP appeal here with you look at the price and his opponent. The Phillies are a DFS punching bag, with a league-worst .274 wOBA against right-handed pitching.
Rest of the Field
Tim Hudson vs. Atlanta Braves ($6,200)
The park factor bump for Tim Hudson at home is nice, but not enough to make him a viable option tonight. If I’m spot starting guys in season-long, maybe I think about Hudson at home, but in daily I need some K’s. 4.23 per 9 is not going to get it done against anyone.
Dan Haren vs. New York Mets ($7,000)
Don’t buy the 3.09 ERA that Dan Haren’s posted to date. His FIP is 4.25 and his BABIP-against is 36 points lower than his career mark. The Mets lefties are an intriguing group today.
Edinson Volquez vs. Chicago Cubs ($6,600)
This is the matinee game today, and I wouldn’t bother getting in all-day contests to get a share of Edinson Volquez. He’s pitched well this season, but he doesn’t have the punch out upside that we want if we’re taking on the Cubs head on.
Yovani Gallardo vs. Boston Red Sox ($6,300)
Yovani Gallardo is getting a decent amount of ground balls, which is key to his success. The Red Sox struggles are real, but they’re too talented offensively to muddle around the bottom third all season. I’m not afraid to target pitchers against Boston, but I don’t like Gallardo enough to roll him out at his price right now.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Washington Nationals ($6,100)
The early season strikeout totals continue to fade, and the walks are going the wrong way too. I don’t want any piece of a young right-handed pitcher against Bryce Harper right now, and you shouldn’t either. We have better ways to spend $6,100 today.
Trevor May vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($5,800)
Trevor May has a sneaky-good 2.99 FIP, but he’s struggled with runners on. The 7.42 K/9 is good enough, but not good enough for a spot in my lineup today. The Blue Jays lead the league in runs scored, and their power plays well regardless of the park.
Steven Wright @ Texas Rangers ($4,100)
Trying to forecast how a team will fare against a knuckleballer is daunting, so I won’t bother. I just know that the Rangers are too good offensively to be shutdown two nights in a row.
Chris Capuano @ Oakland Athletics ($4,200)
We’ve only seen 7 innings from Capuano this season, but we’ve seen enough throughout his career to know who he is. The A’s struggle against left-handed pitching, but Capuano isn’t the type of arm that can exploit this matchup.
Mark Buehrle @ Minnesota Twins ($6,000)
The Twins are hitting left-handed pitching well this season, and Mark Buehrle doesn’t have the swing-and-miss stuff that can give them fits. He’s going to get hit hard tonight.
Good luck tonight!