We have every team and starting pitcher at our disposal today, with 15 night games on the docket for this first Tuesday in May. Let’s crack open a cerveza or three, and break down the options on the bump for tonight’s slate.
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
Zack Greinke @ Milwaukee Brewers ($9,800)
The Brewers have begun to wake up a bit, but they still offer a team worth targeting today. Zack Greinke hasn’t been quite as sharp as his sub-2 ERA would indicate, but he’s still a top shelf arm who’s capable of piling up the K’s we need. The Brewers help here too, as they’re striking out 22.7% of their at-bats against right-handed starters.
Stephen Strasburg vs. Miami Marlins ($10,200)
The slight price break gives Greinke the edge over Stephen Strasburg today, but they’re both worthy of the top spot. Strasburg has been better than his 4.60 ERA, and he’s been the victim of a .402 BABIP-against thus far. This is making it difficult for Starsburg to work deeper into games, failing to see the 7th inning in three of his last 4 starts. He may not be the Strasburg of 3-4 seasons ago, but he’s still an upper-echelon starting pitcher.
Michael Pineda @ Toronto Blue Jays ($7,600)
Early returns on a healthy Michael Pineda are really encouraging if you’re a Yankees fan. Pineda, sans pine tar, has been electric at times this season, and he’s worthy of consideration today despite facing an above average offense in a favorable run scoring environment, both of which will keep people away from rostering him today. Pineda’s strikeout rate is up and his walks are down, and he’s inducing elite ground ball numbers season-to-date. On top of that, the Blue Jays are whiffing 21.7% of the time when facing a right-handed pitcher. Don’t be scared of Pineda today; he’s a great GPP play.
The stuff has always been there, but we haven’t seen it come to fruition until now for Andrew Cashner. He has the swing and miss stuff that rivals the best in the business, and he’s starting to put it all together. His 10.45 K/9 is the ninth best mark in the league, and he’s taking the hill in one of the best pitching environments in the game tonight.
Garrett Richards vs. Seattle ($9,500)
Garrett Richards has been slow to find his groove since coming back from the leg injury that ended his 2014 and delayed the start of 2015 season, but make no mistake about it, this is a stud. He led all of baseball in ISO-against last season (just .261) and he was second to Chris Sale in hard-hit rate according to ESPN’s Stats and Info Department. Nelson Cruz is mashing, but the rest of the Seattle lineup is a bit slow out of the gate.
Middle of the Pack
Rick Porcello vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,600)
The thought’s always been that Rick Porcello has the stuff to strike hitters out, but it’s just not his ‘thing’. Well, we may be seeing that a bit here, as his strikeout rate has jumped up above 8.20 per nine so far in 2015. We’re not seeing the elite ground ball totals that we’re accustomed to, but his arsenal is still the same so I anticipate that returning to where we’re used to see him sit in terms of 50%+ grounders. Only the Cubs and Astros are swinging and missing more against righties than the Rays.
Jesse Chavez @ Minnesota ($6,300)
Jesse Chavez was fantastic during the first half of 2014 for the A’s, but he fizzled out after throwing nearly twice as many innings as he ever had before. He started the season working out of the bullpen, but some early injuries have moved him back in to the rotation for now. Using Bill James’ Game Score metric, Chavez is the fourth best starting pitcher option today. I’m worried about him working deep into the one, but he’s quite a value at $6,300.
Danny Salazar @ Kansas City Royals ($8,600)
Through the first 19 innings this season, Danny Salazar has struck out 35% of the batters he’s faced. 35!!! Ok, I know it’s a small sample size, but this is what we’ve seen from Salazar in flashes, and it’s hard to not fall in love with his ‘stuff’. He can throw himself out of games when he’s generous with the free pass, driving his pitch count north rapidly, but he’s capable of delivering a 10-strikeout performance in just six or seven innings of work. He struck out seven Royals’ in his last outing, his only time not reaching double digits so far.
Drew Smyly @ Boston ($7,800)
You can make a great case for Drew Smyly as the left-handed Danny Salazar. Great arsenal, huge strikeout ability, but walks can be a problem at times and hinders his ability to work deep into games. The Red Sox enter play with a below average .312 wOBA against left-handers, and are likely to be without Hanley Ramirez tonight.
Jeff Locke vs. Cincinnati Reds ($6,100)
Moving primarily to a two-seam fastball has been very good for Jeff Locke. He’s working down in the zone, getting huge ground ball numbers and striking batters out at a career-best clip. I don’t love the matchup against the Reds, who are slight above average against lefties, but it’s in Pittsburgh which is favorable and the price point is attractive.
Bartolo Colon vs. Baltimore Orioles ($7,500)
The Orioles aren’t a very patient team, but the don’t need to be against Bartolo Colon because he’s always in and around the zone. He doesn’t walk anyone, which makes him appealing in the right setting, but this isn’t that time. The Orioles are mashing right-handed pitching so far, to the tune of a .346 wOBA which is the second best clip in the league so far.
Jeff Samardzija vs. Detroit Tigers ($8,700)
Jeff Samardzija has always had a tendency to give up the long ball at a higher than average rate, especially when you consider how good his arsenal is. This problem has been mitigated by both his high ground ball rates, and his favorable home parks. Early 2015 returns show that neither of those perks are on his side any longer. His home park on the South Side of Chicago plays poorly for fly-ball pitchers and he’s not inducing grounders like we’ve been accustomed to seeing from him in seasons past. There are better ways to allocate your budget today.
Shelby Miller vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($8,200)
I want to like Shelby Miller here, but I just can’t get behind him as a real option today. The price is prohibitive, and his strikeout upside doesn’t off-set his walk numbers. It’s a bad mix for a starter north of $8,000 despite the plus matchup against the Phillies.
James Paxton is interesting today, but unfortunately his opponent destroys left-handed pitching. The Angels are one of the best teams in the league so far when facing a lefty, but let’s keep an eye on Paxton. He’s been unlucky so far, with a strand rate of 55% (league average is about 72), and he’s improved both his walk rate and strikeout rate while keeping the ball on the ground when it’s put in play. I’m hesitant to roster him today, but I’m encouraged by what we’re seeing.
Shane Greene @ Chicago White Sox ($6,500)
The magical slipper has fallen off a bit for Shane Greene, but he’s still a decent value today. The White Sox are off to a slow start offensively, but they fare better at home in the bandbox that is U.S. Cellular, as most teams do. If I’m going to take a risk like this, I need to have strikeout upside and that’s something that Greene doesn’t possess.
Kyle Hendricks @ St. Louis Cardinals ($7,100)
I may be undervaluing Kyle Hendricks here a bit, but I’d rather be an outing or two late, especially on a full slate. I’m encouraged the what I’ve seen so far, but I’m worried about the top of the Cardinals lineup here.
Bud Norris @ New York Mets ($6,900)
Well the good news is Bud Norris is better than his 12.18 ERA would indicate. The bad news is; barely. There used to be strikeout upside here that made the high walk totals palatable, but that’s no longer the case. I’d look to stack against Norris way before I’d consider rostering him.
Matt Garza vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($6,700)
In a sense, Matt Garza resembles Bud Norris. We used to see strong punch-out totals that gave him the upside that’d like to see when looking for a SP2 here, but those days are long gone. We’ve already discussed a few viable options around this price point.
Rest of the Field
Mat Latos @ Washington Nationals ($7,200)
Mat Latos left a bad taste in a lot of DFS’ers mouths when he got blown up in his season debut, and it’s skewed his season totals. With that said, it all counts. There are better options today.
Josh Collmenter @ Colorado Rockies ($5,900)
Josh Collmenter has been really strong this season. He’s difficult to roster here since he doesn’t punch many batters out, but he’s efficient with his stuff and better than his current reputation in fantasy circles. He’s persona non grata today, as he’s taking the hill in Colorado.
Chad Billingsley @ Atlanta Braves ($7,300)
Chad Billingsley is priced like it’s 2006. I’m not sure why, but there’s no reason to start him today to find out.
Scott Feldman vs. Texas Rangers ($5,900)
Scott Feldman’s below average strikeout rate continues to drop, year after year. Give me Porcello for just a few hundred more.
Michael Lorenzen @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($4,400)
There could be a time down the road where Michael Lorenzen is a serviceable starting pitcher, but that time is not now. He gave up three dongs in five innings during his major league debut against the Brewers last time out, so keep an eye on him but look elsewhere today.
Jason Vargas vs. Cleveland Indians ($5,600)
There’s nothing exciting about rostering Jason Vargas, and he offers little in return.
Trevor May vs. Oakland Athletics ($6,000)
Trevor May has been decent so far this season, and has been lucky with keeping the ball in the yard. It’s just not likely to continue, and he’s facing one of the best offenses in the league when it comes to facing right-handed pitchers.
Ryan Vogelsong vs. San Diego Padres ($5,300)
It’s a great setting to pitch, but I can’t advise rostering Ryan Vogelsong just because he’s home in San Francisco. He’s been terrible this season, with a league worst FIP and little upside. No thanks.
Tyler Lyons vs. Chicago Cubs ($5,100)
Tyler Lyons was pitching well in AAA this season, but he’s been underwhelming in his limited major league action. The Cubs are a team that I’m avoiding unless it’s a top shelf starter.
Wandy Rodriguez @ Houston Astros ($5,000)
The hot hitting Astros against Wandy Rodriguez? Yes, please.
Marco Estrada vs. New York Yankees($5,700)
The Blue Jays have truly had some bad luck to start the season, and that pitching staff has not gone unscathed. Now we’re to the point where batting practice pitcher Marco Estrada is taking the ball at home against the Yankees. Estrada always had intriguing upside, but it’s just never come together for him.
Tyler Matzek vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($5,600)
Lefty in Colorado against Paul Goldschmidt…nah.
Good luck today!