Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. It’s a full 15-game evening slate tonight, but note that there’s a double-header in Colorado today. Game 1 of the double-header is the lone day game, so I’ll be breaking down the 15-game evening slate.
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
Gerrit Cole is back down in his $10-$11K sweet spot after dipping his toes in the big-time $12K+ waters last time out. This checks out as a value for him tonight. He doesn’t have the huge strikeout totals of some of the other aces on the docket tonight, but his 8.82 K/9 is good enough and gets a small bump with Milwaukee’s slightly higher than average K-rate (20.7%). The Brewers are a below average offense (90 wRC+) but as is the case with most clubs, are a tick better at home than they are on the road. If I’m thinking about cash games, saving $1,500-$2,000 without losing much upside or floor is appealing.
Madison Bumgarner @ Los Angeles Dodgers ($12,400)
The Human Sequoia, Madison Bumgarner, has been absolutely incredible since the All-Star break. He’s struck out 71 hitters in 56+ innings of work, compiling a 7-1 record in that time. The Dodgers season totals are advantageous against left-handed pitchers (112 wRC+), but on the whole they’ve been scuffling of late, including being on the receiving end of two no-hitters in the past 11 days. MadBum is a viable option in both cash and tournaments tonight, and only grades out a hair behind Gerrit Cole for tonight’s top spot.
Johnny Cueto hasn’t been particularly sharp during his last two outings, but I don’t believe this is a trend we can expect to continue. He’s one of a handful of pitchers that continuously ‘out-pitches’ his FIP and maintains a low BABIP-against year-in and year-out. A matchup against the Tigers, combined with his last two lackluster performances will likely keep his ownership levels in check, making Cueto my favorite tournament ace tonight. Vegas has the Tigers at just 3.2 implied-runs tonight.
Chris Sale @ Minnesota Twins ($13,900)
Chris Sale is our top priced option tonight, taking the ball in Minnesota against the Twins. We’ve seen this matchup a few times already, and despite how well Sale is throwing at that time, the Twins seem to get to him. It’s strange, that a league average club (97 wRC+ vs. LHP) would appear to have the number of one of the games best, but the Twins get to him like no one else has this season. At the end of the day I still trust that Sale will have a decent outing, but just not one that’s worth his price tag when you factor in the other options on the slate. In a tournament though? Yes, please.
Zack Greinke vs. San Francisco Giants ($12,500)
Zack Greinke has been incredibly consistent this season, and is a strong option again tonight despite a challenging opponent in San Francisco (109 wRC+ vs. RHP). Greinke’s strikeout upside is a notch below some of the other options tonight, but just barely. His 8.23 K/9 is solid, but it’s backed up with a 12% swinging-strike rate. He’s been lights-out with runners on, too, something that helps explain his ERA-FIP split, crazy-low BABIP (.236) and super-high strand rate (86%). Vegas likes the Dodgers in this matchup (-132) and has the Giants at 2.8 implied-runs tonight.
Middle of the Pack
Justin Verlander @ Kansas City Royals ($9,700)
Good for you, Justin Verlander. All signs point to a full revival for the former Cy Young Award winner, after four consecutive strong outings. He’s keeping the free passes in check, and his strikeout rate is climbing after a slow start. I’m encouraged by his 10.5% swinging-strike rate, which will lead to more K’s than we’ve seen so far (7.43 K/9). The difficulty in rostering him tonight is that he’s facing the Royals, perhaps the league’s most aggressive offense. They have the lowest walk (6.4%) and strikeout rate (15.5%) in the league, mitigating a bit of Verlander’s upside here tonight.
Joe Ross @ St. Louis Cardinals ($9,200)
I love the skill set that Joe Ross has shown us to date. I’m a huge fan of big swing-and-miss guys (12.9% SwStk rate-8.78 K/9) that get a ton of ground balls (50%) and don’t walk anyone (1.49 BB/9). It’s quite simple math, really. Ground balls almost, ALMOST, never turn in to home runs. Neither do strikeouts if we’re getting specific. Ross’ run prevention has been solid as well, entering play with a 3.24 ERA and 3.12 FIP. He has actionable splits, with left-handed bats entering play with a .343 wOBA against him, but I like him quite a bit tonight in St. Louis.
Carlos Martinez vs. Washington Nationals ($9,000)
Martinez has been scratched from tonight’s game. LHP Marco Gonzales ($6,400) is starting in his place.
In this Ross vs. Carlos Martinez matchup, I expect we’ll see higher ownership totals on Carlos Martinez, and that’s understandable. He’s a decent favorite (-146) at home, and Vegas has the Nationals at just 3.1 implied-runs. In a lot of ways, he and Ross are quite similar. They’re hard-throwing, ground-ball-inducing right-handed starters who miss a ton of bats. My slight edge, despite Vegas’ take, goes to Ross because Martinez shoots himself in the foot with walks at times (3.30 BB/9).
Matt Shoemaker @ Oakland Athletics ($6,700)
Matt Shoemaker is a bargain tonight, and likely a popular one at that. He dazzled in his return to the rotation last week, nearly shutting down the Tigers for 7+ innings of one-hit ball. His matchup is even more favorable here as he takes on the A’s in Oakland (22nd in wOBA and wRC+ vs. RHP). Shoemaker has shown signs of the 2014 pitcher that had many pundits and Angels fans excited heading into 2015, and he’ll look to build on that tonight.
Michael Pineda @ Boston Red Sox ($8,300)
I don’t reference xFIP very often because I think it’s a bit presumptuous to assume everyone should have the same home run/fly ball rate, and that’s what xFIP does, it regulates a players’ expected home run rate to 10%. I think it does have value though, when contextualized correctly. I bring this up because Michael Pineda’s ERA (4.19), FIP (3.09) and xFIP (2.83) all tell a story about Pineda’s 2015 season. He’s been dominant at times, but has struggled with the home run ball at times and has been BABIP’d (.339) quite a bit, as well. Pair that with a below average strand rate of 68.2%, and it’s fair to say that Pineda struggles out of the stretch. He’s an interesting tournament arm because of his high ground ball rate and 8.83 K/9, but that’s as far as I’d go.
Jimmy Nelson vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($7,700)
Jimmy Nelson is firmly in the GPP-Only zone, because I feel like any outcome is possible when he takes the mound. It’s not unusual to see inconsistencies from a young pitcher, and that’s what Nelson has done all season. He’s dazzled at times, with a solid 7.73 K/9 and his ability to shutdown right-handed bats (.246 wOBA), but his splits against lefties (.375 wOBA) make him hard to trust against better than average offenses.
Yovani Gallardo @ San Diego Padres ($7,500)
In season’s past Yovani Gallardo would be a viable option due to pitching in San Diego, but those days appear to be over. Petco’s offseason construction has resulted in a change in wind patterns that have made the park much more hitter friendly this season. Now that we’ve solved that, we have to evaluate Gallardo solely on skills, and that’s not going to be pretty. I like the 50% ground ball rate but 5.76 K/9 isn’t enough to wet my whistle.
Tyler Duffey vs. Chicago White Sox ($7,400)
We’ve only seen 21 innings of Tyler Duffey this season, and some times that works in a pitcher’s favor. He’s not going to be able to last very long if he’s just walking and striking everyone out, which is pretty much what he’s done so far.
Marco Estrada vs. Cleveland Indians ($7,000)
Marco Estrada isn’t good enough to maintain a .234 BABIP all season long. That’s translated in to a FIP that’s nearly a run higher than his 3.19 ERA. He’s curtailed his propensity for home runs this season, something that a 50.0% ground ball rate will do more times than not. That’s not enough reason to consider him as an SP2 tonight, though.
Drew Smyly @ Baltimore Orioles ($6,900)
Drew Smyly’s 9.39 K/9 should have everyone’s attention, and at his sub-$7K price tag it’s good enough to make him a cheap tournament play tonight. Without the K’s though, there’s little that we’ve seen from Smyly this season that makes me trust him. I worry about how long he’s able the Rays will let him work, and his hard-hit and heavy fly ball tendencies don’t play well in Camden Yards. The Orioles aren’t great against left-handed pitchers (88 wRC+) and they whiff a lot (22.1%), but Smyly has been walking on a tight rope all season long.
Jon Niese vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($6,500)
Jon Niese was $8,800 for his last start, also against the Phillies, and he struggled. Most of the damage was limited to one inning, but he walked five and that’ll be a problem no matter who the opponent is. Niese is inconsistent and his overall lack of K-upside makes him difficult to roster on a full slate. The fact that Philly just saw him five days ago doesn’t help here either.
Anthony DeSclafani @ Chicago Cubs ($6,800)
There aren’t a lot of compelling reasons to roster Anthony DeSclafani tonight against the Cubs. He has a bit of K-upside and that’s obviously appealing against the Cubs (24.0% strikeout rate), but he’s struggled with left-handed hitters this season (.342 wOBA) and the Cubs roll out some of the best left-handed bats in the game.
Scott Feldman vs. Seattle Mariners ($6,600)
There’s very little upside to rostering Scott Feldman because his pedestrian 5.03 K/9 leaves you hoping for run prevention if he’s going to score double-digit fantasy points. He does limited hard-hit contact (22.9%), but I’d be more interested in him on the road than at home. Feldman also has some actionable splits, but they’re reverse splits, with right-handers (.350 wOBA) hitting him harder than lefties (.279).
Rubby De La Rosa @ Colorado Rockies ($6,400)
Rubby De La Rosa in Colorado. That’s not a great combination. Rubby has struggled with home runs this season, with a 17.4 HR/FB ratio this season, and Coors is not that place to go when you’re looking to correct that number. Rubby has shown signs of promise this season, but his splits are impossible to ignore. He has dominated right-handed bats all season long (.258 wOBA) but lefties have ate well (.405 wOBA). This makes me a little hesitant to run a full five or six-man stack with the Rockies, but you’ll definitely want some exposure to some of their left-handed bats.
Andrew Cashner vs. Texas Rangers ($6,100)
At this point, you’re only rostering Andrew Cashner for the name value. There’s nothing here that reminds me of previous Andrew Cashner seasons, or even early April Andrew Cashner. His strikeouts are down (7.75 K/9) but his 7.9% swinging-strike rate is depressing when he consider his ‘stuff’. Left-handed bats crush him (.383 wOBA) and that’s bad news for a pitcher who’s taking the ball in Arlington.
Rest of the Field
Dan Haren vs. Cincinnati Reds ($6,200)
Dan Haren’s 3.90 ERA has been boosted by his .254 BABIP and 80.3% strand rate. His 4.90 FIP tells a different story. He doesn’t miss many bats these days (6.28 K/9) and when they square him up, they hit him hard (32.5% hard-hit rate). The wind at Wrigley can really impact Haren’s viability here, but for me it’s more about using the Reds than using Haren.
Roenis Elias @ Houston Astros ($6,300)
The Astros are vulnerable when they’re facing a strong-armed strikeout pitcher. They whiff a ton (23.1% vs. LHP) but Roenis Elias isn’t the guy to exploit that flaw. When a pitcher can’t take advantage of that, they often fall victim to Houston’s strong slugging skills, particularly when the game is playing in the Juice Box. Elias is a mid-4’s ERA lefty with a below average strikeout rate. Keep moving, people.
Rick Porcello vs. New York Yankees ($5,700)
The Sox gave him how much money? Good grief. The Yankees managed to strand 31 runners last night, which is impressive in so many ways. My guess is that Rick Porcello will give another 31 runners the opportunity to be stranded tonight as well, but some are likely to score. Left-handed bats have been his biggest weakness this season (.373 wOBA), but he’s been generous to everyone.
Chris Tillman vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($5,300)
The Orioles were hoping that Chris Tillman would be the pitcher that Jake Arrieta has become. Whoops. Looks like they traded the wrong guy. Tillman is essentially a mid-4 ERA guy with limited strikeouts and a propensity to give up the long ball. His reverse splits are interesting this season too, allowing right-handers to tally a .350 wOBA so far this season. BvP truthers will all start Evan Longoria today, so be advised.
Aaron Harang @ New York Mets ($5,100)
Aaron Harang is still taking the baseball every fifth day, so good for Aaron Harang and the rest of the Harang family. It’s also good news for the Mets tonight. The Mets are so vastly different offensively than they were a month ago, it’s really incredible. On 7/24, a week before the trade deadline, the Mets had a .290 wOBA and an 87 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Tonight, they enter play with a .304 wOBA and 95 wRC+. To improve that drastically in just 5+ weeks is quite impressive.
Cody Anderson @ Toronto Blue Jays ($5,300)
Cody Anderson makes Justin Nicolino look like Max Scherzer in terms of strikeouts. In terms of the rest of the league though, Anderson’s 4.13 K/9 is not going to get it done long-term. In the short-term, Anderson is facing the Blue Jays in Toronto and that’s bad news for Anderson and the Indians. I expect that they’ll make a dent in Anderson’s .244 BABIP tonight.
Justin Nicolino @ Atlanta Braves ($4,500)
It’s difficult to believe but Justin Nicolino has managed to strike out just 2.92 batters per nine in his debut season. That’s remarkable. And also terrible. The Braves are not a good offense against left-handed pitching though (84 wRC+) so there’s little upside in their lineup to exploit Nicolino’s struggles.
Kyle Kendrick vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,200)
There’s nothing quite like a home start by Kyle Kendrick. Everyone is in play for the Diamondbacks, both left-handed (.422 wOBA) and right-handed (.368) bats. Quick reminder that he started for the Rockies on Opening Day. Rockies Baseball, everybody!! Catch the fever!!
Manny Banuelos vs. Miami Marlins ($5,400)
Manny Banuelos fills in for the Braves musical chairs of pitchers tonight. After dealing with an elbow injury, Banuelos is back but on a pitch count that’s likely to limit him to three or four innings tonight.