Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. It’s hard to believe that we have less than a month remaining in the regular season, and what better way to finish the season then taking down the million dollar top prize in tonight’s $2.5 Millionaire Maker?! Let’s go get it!
My goal is to help you make the right decisions when choosing your pitchers, but to also help you target the ones that are likely to struggle, making it easier for you to choose your bats. If you’re new or if you have any last-minute questions, please find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
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 ea ch 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.
Cream of the Crop
Tonight will be interesting in terms of ownership percentage among pitchers. We’ve seen some pretty large prices lately, but there’s no $14-$15K ace on the slate tonight. Jacob deGrom leads the way, both in price and expected performance. I’m not sure he’ll score the most point tonight, but he certainly has the highest floor. Pitching at home against the league’s worst offense versus right-handed pitching (81 wRC+), deGrom is a huge favorite and the Marlins have an implied-run total of just 2.7 tonight.
Stephen Strasburg @ Philadelphia Phillies ($9,800)
It’s almost as if Stephen Strasburg knows when he’s highly owned and buckles under pressure. We’ll be able to test this narrative tonight because I suspect Strasburg will be a very popular option. He’s on the right side of $10,000, against one of the league’s lighter-hitting offenses (85 wRC+) and has the strikeout upside that we so desire regardless of contest type (10.16 K/9). When you look at his BABIP and strand rate you easily see why his ERA is nearly a run higher than his 3.37 FIP.
Jon Lester @ Pittsburgh Pirates ($9,900)
Jon Lester takes the mound for the Cubs in Game 2 of a big NL Central double header. The Pirates are middle of the road offensively against left-handed pitching, but their 22% strikeout rate is on the high side, something that works favorably for Lester here (9.05 K/9). The Pirates can run though, and we know that creates havoc for Lester and the Cubs. If the wrong players get on base that could become an issue for Lester, but the solid expected strikeout totals help raise the expected floor for the southpaw. Vegas has the Pirates with an implied-run total of 3.8 tonight.
Felix Hernandez vs. Los Angeles Angels ($11,200)
After some less-than-King style outings in the second half, Felix Hernandez has strung together three straight gems, averaging 31.1 points per outing. His strikeouts are down a bit this season, but I love the spike in ground balls rate (56%). It’s the only acceptable outcome when strikeouts are down, but his swing-strike rate shows that he still has the same stuff. As is the case with most AL West opponents the Angels have faced him a bunch over the years, but more recently we’ve seen the Angels struggle (89 wRC+ over the past month). Vegas likes Felix here too, with Los Angeles coming in with an implied-run total of just 2.9.
What in the world do we do with J.A. Happ?? He’s been incredible since his move to the Steel City, and the sample size is increasingly trustworthy as he continues to dominate (yes, J.A. Happ and dominate in the same sentence) each time he takes the ball. He’s made seven starts for the Buccos, pitching 40 1/3 innings with a 42/7 strikeout to walk ratio during that time. Pair that with a 1.79 ERA and 0.99 WHIP and that’s a pretty solid run. His sudden rise in strikeouts should continue here, as the Cubs whiff 26% of the time against left-handed pitching.
Middle of the Pack
Tyson Ross @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($9,600)
The expected strikeouts raise Tyson Ross’ floor, making him a viable tournament option every time he starts. As pretty as his 9.35 K/9 is, his 3.84 BB/9 is that ugly. When he’s off it gets rough for Ross, but his 61.5% ground ball rate could help him stay out of trouble in the desert tonight. He’ll need it. Vegas has the Diamondbacks at 4.4 implied-runs tonight, a pretty high number when you consider Ross’ success against right-handed bats this season (.262 wOBA). Left-handed bats (.326 wOBA) could set the table here though, so if he can handle Arizona’s southpaws he should be in good shape.
Carlos Martinez @ Milwaukee Brewers ($9,300)
The Carlos Martinez that we’ve seen in the second half hasn’t been quite as sharp as the one we saw in the season’s first half. We haven’t seen a 20+ point performance in over a month, and while the walk totals haven’t been out of control, his command isn’t nearly as tight and we’re seeing a dip in strikeouts and swinging-strikes (a skill correlated to K’s). He has the upside that we want for a tournament, so he’s worth a look if you’re chasing the million, but he’ll need to skate past Milwaukee’s left-handed bats (.336 wOBA).
Collin McHugh @ Texas Rangers ($8,300)
The Rangers haven’t been swinging it well of late, but they’re a strong offense on the whole at home. After running in to some struggles earlier this season, Collin McHugh has been much better lately. His 7.42 K/9 is about league average, so his upside is capped, but he’s a solid cash game option tonight, even in Texas. If you aren’t on him though, notice that he has reverse splits this season, handling left-handed bats (.274 wOBA) much better than right-handed batters (.343).
Joe Kelly @ Baltimore Orioles ($6,300)
We now live in a world where Joe Kelly is consistent. What a time to be alive. Ok, perhaps I’m overreacting to a small sample size, but Kelly has scored between 18.1 and 23.9 in seven straight outings. He fell in love with high 95+ mph fastball, relying on it nearly 71% of the time through the first 4 months, but he’s incorporated more of his off-speed stuff of late and the results speak for themselves. He’s struggled against power-hitting right-handed bats all season (.338 wOBA), but his league average strikeout rate gets a bump against the Orioles and their 22.2% whiff rate.
Josh Tomlin vs. Kansas City Royals ($10,400)
Our sample size on Josh Tomlin is still relatively small this season (41 innings), but it’s safe to say he’s been quite lucky. A .167 BABIP and 100% strand rate have a lot to do with his sub-3 ERA. He has a strong 8.34 K/9 so far, but the Royals have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball, sucking up any upside that Tomlin might have at his $10,400 price point. If you think the Tomlin bubble bursts tonight then the Royals might present some value in a tournament.
Jake Odorizzi vs. New York Yankees ($10,000)
The fact that Jake Odorizzi has only pitched in to the 7th inning once in his past 10 starts makes him difficult to roster at this price. He can miss bats, but his whiff rate has been down (walk rate, too) all season too. Pitching against the Yankees at home is a sizable park factor boost when compared to pitching in the Bronx, but they still can present problems for the fly-ball-heavy Odorizzi.
Brett Anderson vs. Colorado Rockies ($6,500)
Attacking the Rockies against left-handed pitching is about as this season and a 23.2% strikeout rate. Brett Anderson’s 5.92 K/9 leaves a ton to be desired, part of why he’s ranked this low, but he has a strong chance at keeping the runs in check. Colorado is much worse outside of Coors, and has been scuffling a bit over the past month (80 wRC+).
Chris Heston vs. Cincinnati Reds ($6,800)
Chris Heston hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was earlier this season, but pitching at home gives him a huge boost tonight as he takes on Cincinnati (.309 wOBA/91 wRC+). His 53.6% ground ball rate plays well everywhere, so pitcher-friendly AT&T Park is no different. His 6.76 K/9 isn’t exciting, but Vegas likes his chances at keeping the Reds in check today (3.3 implied-runs). He has struggled a bit with left-handed bats, but again, the ball park helps his cause here. He’s a solid SP2 tonight.
Derek Holland vs. Houston Astros ($9,500)
Derek Holland takes the ball for the Rangers tonight at home against the Astros. Holland has pitching 37 1/3 innings this season, and they’ve been strong. He’s benefited from a low BABIP in that time frame, but his strikeout and walk totals have been favorable. He’s a bit over his head at $9,500 though. The Astros strikeout 22.1% of the time against left-handed bats, so there’s a bit of upside here for tournaments, but I suspect he’ll be passed on for other more trustworthy options in his pricing tier.
Kris Medlen @ Cleveland Indians ($4,700)
It feels like Kris Medlen is touted as a value play every time he takes the ball because he’s priced below $5,000. The truth is he just hasn’t pitched very well. He definitely feels more like a $6,500 pitcher and not a $4,700 pitcher, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to get him in your lineup. His strikeouts and walks are right about league average, and his 52.4% ground ball rate is a plus, but his matchup against the Indians is neutral and Vegas has Cleveland at 4.3 runs.
Jeff Samardzija vs. Oakland Athletics ($7,000)
The A’s offense has been quite disappointing lately. After starting the season with some promise they’re down to 24th in wOBA against right-handed pitching this season and have very little power in that lineup. That bodes well for Jeff Samardzija, who’s struggled with home runs and a spike in fly balls all season long. Left-handed bats have handled him well with a .358 wOBA, and his 6.97 K/9 leaves a lot to be desired. I’d be interested in him as an SP2 if this game was in Oakland, but in Chicago I’ll pass.
Julio Teheran vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($6,900)
There’s nothing ‘contrarian’ about using Julio Teheran tonight against the Jays. Sure, he’ll be owned in less than 5% of leagues, but that’s because he’s not very good and the Blue Jays are. Teheran’s ERA and FIP are both about 4.50, his strikeouts are average and his walk rate is high. He has some name value because he pitched well last season but this season has been a different story. Left-handed bats have feasted against him this season, entering play with a .385 wOBA against him. Don’t get cute.
Adam Warren @ Tampa Bay Rays ($5,000)
I think Adam Warren has some viability as a punt SP2 option tonight. His matchup and ball park are favorable, pitching against the Rays (94 wRC+) in Tampa, and his 3.29 ERA is supported by his 3.79 FIP. There’s nothing too sexy here, and I worry a little bit about how deep he’ll work in to this game after pitching out of the ‘pen lately, but he’s as low as I’ll go tonight.
Mark Buehrle @ Atlanta Braves ($6,100)
If wins were worth 10 points then maybe, MAYBE, I’d consider Mark Buehrle. Since they aren’t he’s an easy fade for me. The 4.13 K/9 isn’t going to cut it tonight, while he’s unlikely to give up a ton of runs against the Braves, the box score will be void of fantasy points.
Jhoulys Chacin vs. San Diego Padres ($5,700)
I thought Jhoulys Chacin had some potential when he was in Colorado, but few survive that situation and come out on the other side. Chacin has and he’s now in Arizona, the second friendliest hitter’s park in the league. Woof. He’s only pitched 13 innings so far this season, and there’s little reason to expect he’ll fair much better than his 4.12 FIP.
John Lamb @ San Francisco Giants ($7,900)
John Lamb’s price is definitely impacted by his 10.64 K/9 through his first 33 innings, but I expect that to dip here down the stretch. Pitching in San Francisco is favorable, but Vegas has the Giants as a full run favorite tonight, with an implied-run total of 4.3. There’s no reason to pay nearly $8,000 for John Lamb right now.
Rest of the Field
Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Boston Red Sox ($7,400)
Ubaldo Jimenez saw some early season success with keeping his walks down and keeping the ball in the park. Those days are over apparently. Jimenez’s walk rate is back up above 3 per nine and his HR/FB rate is at 14.4. Yikes. The Red Sox have been hitting well in the second half and enter play with a .321 wOBA against right-handed pitching.
Tom Koehler @ New York Mets ($7,200)
The Mets are stupid hot. They’ve had an unbelievable second half, with a .370 wOBA and 140 wRC+ over the past 30 days and Yoenis Cespedes has been putting up video game numbers. Koehler’s walks and strikeouts are on the wrong side of average this season, something that’s not worth paying $7,200 for regardless of his opponent.
Nick Tropeano @ Seattle Mariners ($6,000)
Nick Tropeano’s fly ball profile has got him in trouble with the long ball in his first 20 2/3 innings this season. It could hurt him a bit less since he’s pitching in Seattle tonight, but he doesn’t have the strikeout potential that I’d want to see to make him viable.
Alfredo Simon @ Minnesota Twins ($5,900)
The Twins have one of the highest implied-run totals of the night at 5.1, so that’s about all we need to know about Alfredo Simon’s prospects this evening. Left-handed bats have mashed the Big Fettuccine this season, entering play with a .366 wOBA.
Chris Rusin @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,500)
Southpaw Chris Rusin takes the ball for the Rockies tonight, but you can look at the Dodgers left-handed and right-handed bats tonight. Rusin has struggled against both, with a wOBA north of .365 against everyone. A .342 BABIP is at fault there, but that’ll happen to bad pitchers.
Phil Hughes vs. Detroit Tigers ($5,800)
Phil Hughes is on the mound for the Twins tonight after an extended DL stint with a sore back. He’s an easy fade tonight against a Tigers team that’s had a ton of success against him in the past.
Aaron Brooks @ Chicago White Sox ($4,300)
The Southside of Chicago is not a place that you want to pitch when you give up the amount of fly balls that Aaron Brooks does. His 37.3% ground ball rate is only over a 33 inning sample size, but he profiles as a fly ball pitcher so I’m confident that this is actionable data. The White Sox could be a sneaky low owned stack tonight.
Ariel Pena vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($4,200)
When your BB/9 is nearly the same as your K/9 that’s never a good thing. Obviously an 8 inning sample is not a lot to go off of, but against a Cardinals team that’s fighting for playoff positioning I’m comfortable passing on the unknown Pena.
Dave Buchanan vs. Washington Nationals ($4,000)
The good news: David Buchanan’s FIP is nearly 4 runs lower than his ERA! So he’s not THAT bad!
The bad news: His FIP is 5.69. So yeah, he’s bad still.