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, but let’s finish strong and take advantage of the fact that most people are focusing less on baseball now that football is upon us. There’s an NL Central day game between the Cardinals and Cubs, so the evening slate will include the other 14 games. The deck is stacked with aces tonight, with five arms priced at or above $11,500, so let’s get started.
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 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.
Cream of the Crop
Madison Bumgarner vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($11,500)
Getting the cheapest ‘ace’ on the slate is an easy call, especially when he’s pitching in the best run-suppressing environment in the game. The Diamondbacks have a few studs that mash left-handed pitching, but on the whole they’re average against southpaws (98 wRC+). Bumgarner dominates left-handed bats and his .267 wOBA against righties is excellent for a lefty. Obviously he has the strikeout upside that we want here (9.65 K/9) and Arizona’s implied-run total of just 2.7 means Vegas is on board here too.
Chris Sale @ Cleveland Indians ($12,200)
Chris Sale was rocked last time out, but it was against the Twins and they’ve owned him, as strange as that sounds. I’m tossing that one out. Otherwise Sale’s strikeout rate (11.99 K/9) makes him an option tonight regardless of the contest type that you’re in. He’s been BABIP’d a bit this season (.326) and the Indians’ 20.6% whiff rate helps support what Sale does best. Pitching in Cleveland is a positive park shift for Sale as well.
Zack Greinke vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($12,300)
There aren’t many games on the slate tonight where both teams are still in contention for a playoff spot, but this is one of them. Zack Greinke looks to continue his amazing 2015 season and is a sizable favorite at home against the Pirates (-190). The Pirates are a neutral matchup against right-handed pitching (.312 wOBA/99 wRC+), and Vegas has them pegged with an implied-run total of just 2.7 runs tonight. Out of the ‘Big 5’ aces on the slate tonight, Greinke is the most expensive and has the lowest K/9 at 8.16, but his floor is so high for cash games.
Max Scherzer vs. Miami Marlins ($12,100)
Last time out against the Mets was the first time in nearly two months that Max Scherzer topped the 30-point plateau in a start. He’s been giving up a ton of home runs lately, including two against these light-hitting Marlins a few weeks ago. Miami has an implied-run total of just 3 tonight, and are last in the league in wOBA, ISO, and wRC+ against right-handed pitching. The ceiling for Scherzer doesn’t feel quite as high as it was earlier this season, but this is still a solid spot for him.
Jose Fernandez @ Washington Nationals ($11,800)
I’m happy that the Marlins are being smart with Jose Fernandez down the stretch. They have nothing to play for, and if that’s to ever change then they’ll need a healthy Jose Fernandez (1.67 FIP) leading that charge. The problem is that he’s not a great option in DFS right now because of it. He’s unlikely to work more than 5-6 innings tonight, capping his upside severely.
Middle of the Pack
Mike Fiers vs. Oakland Athletics ($8,700)
The A’s have been swinging it well of late, but the White Sox pitching staff had a lot to do with that. Their low 18.2% strikeout rate caps a bit of Mike Fiers upside tonight, but he’s still a solid option and a relatively large favorite (-190). His fly ball tendencies can be a problem for him at times, but Oakland isn’t a threatening slugging team and Fiers’ ability to limit damage done by left-handed bats (wOBA .281) should help.
Masahiro Tanaka @ New York Mets ($10,800)
Back to back 31+ point performances against the Orioles and Blue Jays have jumped Masahiro Tanaka’s salary up quite a bit. Both of those starts were at home, but he’ll be in a different New York borough tonight, and that’s Queens. Citi Field plays more favorably for a home-run-prone pitcher like Tanaka (16.3 HR/FB ratio), but it’s no secret that the Mets are swinging it well right now. There’s some tournament appeal with Tanaka because he’s shown the ability to work deep in to games and shut down top shelf offenses, but he’s too pricey and dicey for cash.
Drew Smyly vs. Baltimore Orioles ($9,400)
I feel like I write the same thing about Drew Smyly each week, and the story never changes. He’s in a great spot at home against an Orioles club that’s struggling against left-handed pitching lately (85 wRC+). Their weakness (23% strikeout rate) plays in to the hands of what Smyly does best (10.36 K/9). BUT…Tampa Bay refuses to let Smyly pass the 100 pitch mark, something that limits a big strikeout pitcher to no more than 6 innings on most nights. This is a great matchup and he can still score 25-30 points, but he’s a high risk tournament option only.
Steven Matz vs. New York Yankees ($8,200)
Steven Matz’s situation is very similar to Drew Smyly’s, but he has a worse matchup. Matz has pitched well, though not quite 1.88-ERA-type-well, but he’s not likely to work deep in to this one as the Mets try and save some of his bullets for a playoff run. The Yankees also present issues for Matz since they rake against left-handed pitching (.334 wOBA/111 wRC+). The upside is there with his 8.25 K/9, but I think 20 points would be asking a lot for the young lefty.
Justin Verlander vs. Kansas City Royals ($7,800)
After a dominating stretch that saw Justin Verlander limit his opponents to just one run over four starts, the slipper has fallen off a bit. Overall I believe that Verlander has turned the corner a bit, learning how to be effective without throwing 99 mph for eight innings, but the Royals are a tough target in daily because their low strikeout and walk rates. They put the ball in play, limiting their opponent’s strikeout upside and putting added stress on the defense.
Rick Porcello @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,900)
Rick Porcello’s season-long ratios aren’t pretty, but he’s been a much different pitcher lately. The return of his two-seamer and sinker that brought him success in Detroit have helped spring him back in to relevance down the stretch. Obviously a matchup against the Blue Jays (112 wRC+) is less than ideal, but I don’t mind Porcello if you’re looking to go contrarian in a tournament, he could get you 20 points.
Johnny Cueto @ Detroit Tigers ($7,700)
What in the world is wrong with Johnny Cueto? He has reeled off five straight duds, three of which saw him score negative points. The American League has not been kind to Cueto, as he enters play with a 5.43 ERA in his nine starts since joining the Royals in July. Vegas is calling for more of the same with a 4.4 implied-run total for the Tigers (100 wRC+) here. He’s way too talented to be $7,700 so if you believe his recent perfromance is variance and not fatigue etc., then perhaps there’s an opportunity to buy here for cheap.
Andrew Heaney @ Minnesota Twins ($7,400)
Andrew Heaney has managed to skate by with an ERA and FIP under 4 despite giving up a ton of fly balls and hard-hit contact this season. The Twins are a neutral matchup overall against left-handed pitching, but as we’ve seen when they’ve faced Chris Sale this season, they have some thunder that makes life difficult for some lefties. Heaney’s below average strikeout rate limits his upside too.
Rubby De La Rosa @ San Francisco Giants ($6,800)
I’d love to give Rubby De La Rosa a bump due to the park shift here, but pitching in San Francisco isn’t enough to overcome his massive platoon split issues. He continues to be exceptional against right-handed bats (.266 wOBA) but lefties are destroying him consistently (.365 wOBA). AT&T Park isn’t a great place for left-handed power, but overall the Giants offense is a difficult matchup (109 wRC+).
Brandon Finnegan @ Milwaukee Brewers ($4,100)
If I enter a bunch of GPP lineups tonight then I’ll likely use Brandon Finnegan in one of them. There aren’t a ton of pitching options outside of the top tier but you’ll need to save some money somewhere if you’re going to afford exposure to some of the slate’s top offenses. The prize of the Reds/Royals trade for Johnny Cueto, the former first-round pick faces a Brewers team that has struggled a bit at times against left-handed pitching (82 wRC+).
Jeff Locke @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($6,200)
Jeff Locke is just not an option on a full slate. His 6.91 K/9 is below average and he’s a 4+ ERA/FIP guy with minimal upside. For a left-handed pitcher he’s done well against right-handed bats with a .307 wOBA against him, but for some reason he’s really struggled against fellow lefties (.352). The Dodgers have rolled out some strange lineups lately, but they should be good enough tonight.
Marcus Stroman vs. Boston Red Sox ($7,000)
I imagine that the Blue Jays will continue to play it safe with Marcus Stroman, their projected #1 starter when spring training opened. He’s battled back from an ACL injury quicker than anyone could have imagined, and it’s unlikely that Toronto pushes him too much as they head in to a playoff race to end the season. A cap of 5 or 6 innings really limits any upside that Stroman may have.
James Paxton @ Texas Rangers ($6,000)
The Mariners are likely to limit James Paxton’s workload as he works his way back from a finger injury that cost him more than 3 months of his 2015 season. There’s no way that he works deep in to this one, a common theme tonight which again, will limit him upside and viability as a SP2 tonight. The Rangers have been hitting left-handed pitching really well of late too, so be careful here.
Yovani Gallardo vs. Seattle Mariners ($5,900)
Yovani Gallardo used to miss bats, but those days are over. A sub-6 K/9 isn’t something I’m interested in, and his high walk rate drives him pitching count up and prevents him from working past the 5th inning in most starts. There’s little reason to consider Gallardo a viable option tonight.
Rest of the Field
Ian Kennedy @ Colorado Rockies ($6,500)
Ian Kennedy in Colorado, oh boy. While Kennedy has been able to pile up the strikeouts this season (9.10 K/9) he gives up a ton of fly balls and most of those are leaving the yard this season. Ok, perhaps ‘most’ is a stretch, but a 17.5 HR/FB ratio is a huge number, and is a scary proposition in Coors. He hasn’t discriminated either, allowing both left-handed (.340 wOBA) and right-handed (.355) bats to do damage.
Cody Anderson vs. Chicago White Sox ($6,100)
There’s no way that I’m starting a pitcher with a 4.06 K/9 under any circumstance. Pair that with a FIP north of 4 and there’s little reason to believe in Cody Anderson from a fantasy point of view. He allows way too much contact and is a sizable underdog against Chris Sale and the White Sox tonight.
Chad Bettis vs. San Diego Padres ($5,800)
It’s easy to fade a pitcher at Coors, even if he’s good. Chad Bettis makes it easy for us because he’s not very good. In fact, his difficulties against right-handed bats (.359 wOBA) makes him a terrible matchup for a right-handed heavy Padres lineup. Bettis is at his best when he’s able to keep the ball on the ground, but I don’t like his chances tonight.
Zachary Davies vs. Cincinnati Reds ($5,000)
There will likely be better days, or months, for Zachary Davies but he’s struggled since getting called up. A 4.28 FIP is much better than his 6.60 ERA shows, but you can’t survive in the majors with a 4.8 BB/9 and Cincinnati is one of the more patience lineups in the game.
Adam Morgan @ Atlanta Braves ($4,600)
Adam Morgan’s extreme fly ball rate is an issue, especially since he doesn’t miss many bats. That means he gives up a ton of hard-hit contact and the lefty has really struggled against right-handed bats (.357). The Braves offense doesn’t scare anyone, but they’ll offer some values tonight that are worth a look due to the upside that Morgan brings them.
Felix Doubront @ Houston Astros ($4,300)
Below average left-handed pitchers haven’t fared well in Houston this season. The Astros have a tendency to strikeout a lot, but Doubront’s 6.71 K/9 isn’t something to be scared of, and his inability to control right-handed bats are going to be an issue here tonight. With an implied-run total of 5 tonight, you can expect the Astros to be a popular alternative to the game in Colorado.
Mike Pelfrey vs. Los Angeles Angels ($4,200)
Mike Pelfrey hasn’t found himself anywhere other than this bottom tier this season. A lot of that has to do with his 4.56 K/9. There’s just no meat on the bone here from a fantasy perspective.
Tyler Wilson @ Tampa Bay Rays ($4,500)
Wei-Yin Chen was originally scheduled to start, but he’ll be pushed back to Saturday (so roster Rays bats on Saturday!). Tyler Wilson is stepping in and taking the ball for Balitmore, and there’s no need to consider him here, with just seven strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings this season from Wilson.
Williams Perez vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($4,000)
Not even the Phillies can help Williams Perez’s cause. For some reason he continues to take the ball for the Braves every fifth day, and continues to take a beating in the process. Go ahead and stack Phillies here for cheap, with a focus on their left-handed bats (.385 wOBA).