Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. We’re winding down here with the end of the regular season in sight. That means we only have a couple more weeks to make some cash on MLB games, so let’s get to it. There’s an NL Central day game between the Pirates and Cubs, so the evening slate will include the other 14 games. The main slate misses out on Gerrit Cole and Jon Lester, but we’ll make due with what’s available. Both players are viable options if you’re playing in the All-Day contests.
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
Here we are again with the Royals. We get one of the best strikeout pitchers on the slate tonight, taking on a team that’s displayed some of the best contact skills that we’ve ever seen for an entire season. The Royals rarely strike out (15.9%) and never walk (6.4%), limiting the upside of the opposing pitcher and putting extra pressure on their opponent’s defense. Carrasco has had some success against them this season though, striking out nine Royals just 1o days ago. There’s a lot of capped upside in the slate tonight, but I like Carrasco because he doesn’t appear to be on a pitch/innings limit at all.
Jordan Zimmermann vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($8,600)
Jordan Zimmermann has pitched well of late, accumulating some often-nowhere-to-be-found strikeout numbers. His K/9 was under 7 for much of the season, but has climbed up to a serviceable 7.41 over the past few weeks. He’s home against the Phillies who have been especially terrible of late (.277 wOBA/71 wRC+). We’re also getting Zimmermann for $600 less than he was in his last start. He feels like a solid cash game play for $8,600.
Carlos Martinez vs. Milwaukee Brewers (9,800)
All in all it’s been a pretty strong debut season for Carlos Martinez, as far as being a starter goes. He’s been able to shoulder a full workload after working primarily out of the bullpen over the past 18 months, and has flashed the buzz-worthy stuff that he showed on his way up to the bigs. Walks can still be an issue at times (3.22 BB/9), but he induces a ton of ground balls (54.7%) for a pitcher with a strong strikeout rate (9.23 K/9). Milwaukee has been solid of late, 101 wRC+, but nothing that we should be shying away from. Their low walk rate (6.9%) helps minimize Martinez’s glaring weakness.
Jose Fernandez vs. Atlanta Braves ($12,700)
One of the game’s best pitchers against one of the league’s worst offenses is an easy play, but not when that pitcher isn’t allowed to work past 6-7 innings or 100 pitches. The Marlins are being extra cautious with Jose Fernandez (2.18 ERA/1.93 FIP), limiting his work after his recent bicep strain. I don’t have to go on and on about how he’s a great play against the Braves, but he’ll be hard press to reach 25-30 DraftKings points if he can’t work deep in to the game.
The Mets have gone out of their way to conserve their young rotation, limiting their workload down the stretch and even using a 6-man rotation at times. Noah Syndergaard can return value in limited innings, but can he return enough for his $10,900 price tag? That might be a stretch. Outside of the occasional home run, Syndergaard has been outstanding this season (3.39 ERA/3.34 FIP) and is facing a Reds team that’s been slightly below average against right-handed pitching all season long (92 wRC+).
Middle of the Pack
Rich Hill vs. Baltimore Orioles ($4,300)
What in the world is going on with Rich Hill? Yes, THAT Rich Hill. The one that was a sneaky fantasy pick and up and coming starter nearly 10 seasons ago with the Chicago Cubs. Despite striking out 10 batters in both of his starts this season, his price only jumped a little, up to $4,300. His 20 strikeouts have come against two of the best left-handed hitting teams in the game as well, the Blue Jays and Rays. Tonight’s matchup against the Orioles is much more favorable given the O’s propensity to swing and miss (23.2% K-rate). I’m not sure I trust Hill a ton, (why should we?) but he’s definitely in play here.
Garrett Richards vs. Seattle Mariners ($9,500)
I’m still amazed at how a pitcher with stuff like Garrett Richards has is able to go through nearly 200 innings with a league average strikeout rate. Richards still gets a ton of swinging strikes, but a 7.41 K/9 is down nearly 2 full K’s off of last season’s numbers. He has his hands full today with a Mariners club that’s been hitting well of late, with a .354 wOBA and 129 wRC+ over their past 30 outings. They strikeout enough to give Richards some tournament appeal, but that’s about it.
Sonny Gray vs. San Francisco Giants ($9,300)
Is Sonny Gray wearing down? Something is up here and I’m worried about how he’ll finish this season. Often times I want to jump on this type of variance, when an elite arm has a rough patch and sees his price drop, but this may be something more. He’s finished with negative DraftKings points in three of his last four outings, striking out just 33 batters in his last 9 starts. A .254 BABIP is difficult to maintain when you don’t miss a ton of bats.
Jake Odorizzi @ Toronto Blue Jays ($8,100)
I’m not sure when the last time I rostered a starting pitching against Toronto was, but I’m pretty sure it was a long time ago. That trend will continue today. As good as Jake Odorizzi can be at times, I don’t want to roll the dice on a fly ball pitcher against the Jays in Toronto. Odorizzi has handled left-handed bats all season (.271) so I’m not sure I’d stack against him, but their right-handed power bats are always viable options.
Scott Kazmir vs. Texas Rangers ($7,900)
Scott Kazmir has had an excellent season, just not quite 2.73 ERA type of excellent. A .262 BABIP definitely helps, and his 3.76 FIP feels like a better indicator of his true skill. He’s handled right-handed bats this season (.276 wOBA) so I’d be hesitant to stack Rangers here, but they’ve been hitting well over the past month (.338 wOBA) so I wouldn’t shy away completely.
C.C. Sabathia vs. Chicago White Sox ($6,600)
C.C. Sabathia has had some of the most actionable splits this season, allowing right-handed bats to pound him to the tune of .368 wOBA this season. The nice part for C.C. here is that the White Sox have stumbled against left-handed pitching all season long, and enter play with a .282 wOBA and 75 wRC+ against them. I can make a case for a bit of Sabathia here because he’s pitched well lately and the matchup is plus.
Carlos Rodon @ New York Yankees ($7,700)
I love watching Carlos Rodon, for 5 minutes at a time and then he’s infuriating so I have to turn the channel to another game. He’s maddeningly inconsistent but his stuff is electric. His K/9 (9.11) and BB/9 (4.46) tell you his story pretty quickly. The Yankees had their way with him back in July, and have done much of the same to left-handed pitching all season long (.329 wOBA/107 wRC+). As always, Rodon is no more than a tournament option, and a shaky one at that.
Rubby De La Rosa @ San Diego Padres ($7,400)
Pitching in San Diego is not quite the coup that it used to be for visiting starters. It’s an upgrade from pitching in Rubby De La Rosa’s home park in Arizona, but park factor should never be more than a small piece of your decision making process. Left-handed bats have a .404 wOBA against him this season, but there aren’t many lefties that scare me on San Diego. They’re very right-handed and he’s had a lot of success against them (.262 wOBA). I wish he were a little bit cheaper, but he’s a viable tournament play for me tonight.
Jerad Eickhoff @ Washington Nationals ($7,600)
Back to back strong outings have driven up Jerad Eickhoff’s price quite a bit here tonight. His heavy fly ball tendencies against a team like the Nationals (114 wRC+ over their last 30 games) is a bad mix. I wouldn’t stack Nationals here because Eickhoff’s been able to neutralize right-handed bats this season, but lefties are worth firing here (.382 wOBA). Hello, Mr. Harper.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. New York Mets ($7,500)
We’ve seen some significant flucuation to both Anthony DeSclafani’s performance and subsequent DraftKings salary. He’s been all over the map of late. After back to back strong outings, he was rocked by the Brewers his last time out and the matchup tonight against the Mets is much less favorable than that one was. Some times we see both huge ground ball totals AND strikeouts from DeSclafani, and some times we see neither.
Edinson Volquez vs. Cleveland Indians ($7,300)
Edinson Volquez is the type of pitcher that rarely, if ever, finds his way on to one of my rosters. He’s inconsistent and even when he’s ‘good’, it’s really not that good. With a 6.76 K/9 there’s no strikeout upside, and his 3.24 BB/9 can get him in trouble in a hurry. He’s never such an amazing discount that you have to roll him out either. Pass.
Vidal Nuno vs. Los Angeles Angels ($5,800)
If the Mariners aren’t big believers in Vidal Nuno then it’s difficult for me to be on board. He’s had some exceptional spot starts including a dominant performance against the red-hot Rangers a few weeks ago, but he’s often relegated to working out of the ‘pen. The Angels have been a bad offense against left-handed pitching all season though (86 wRC+) so there is a bit of tournament upside here.
R.A. Dickey vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6,300)
Every so often R.A. Dickey sprinkles in a gem that baits people in to thinking that he’s a viable option at times. He’s really not, folks. A 5.38 K/9 will not get it done, not even against a Rays team that has struggled against right-handed pitching all season (21.4% K/9). He might get a win, but he’s not going to prevent the runs from flowing in.
Yovani Gallardo @ Houston Astros ($5,900)
Yovani is a cheaper version of Edinson Volquez. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not. He’s ok, but there’s no upside and the walks can make the night blow up in a hurry. You’re not using him here tonight against the Astros.
Rest of the Field
Mike Bolsinger @ Colorado Rockies ($5,700)
Getting a ton of ground balls (53.2%) helps any pitcher, especially one at Coors Field, but that’s not enough to put Mike Bolsinger on your radar tonight. I’d only consider using a left-handed power arm in Colorado against the Rockies because they’re terrible in that spot, but targeting pitchers in Coors is about as far from +EV as it gets.
Mike Leake @ Oakland Athletics ($5,600)
With little to no upside and some recent arm issues etc, Mike Leake is an easy fade tonight. Even against a team like Oakland, who have struggled against right-handed pitching this season after getting off to a hot start, there’s little to no silver lining here for Mike Leake’s viability.
Casey Kelly vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($5,300)
Proof that not every top-of-the-rotation prospect is a can’t miss, Casey Kelly is going to get a chance to finish the season in San Diego’s rotation. He has been far from stellar in his 27 minor league starts this season, but the former Red Sox ace-to-be is not worth our attention tonight when we’re picking our starting pitchers.
Mike Pelfrey @ Detroit Tigers ($4,800)
When you’re K/9 is barely higher than your ERA. That’s a problem. Both are in the mid-4’s, something that fails to elicit excitement from any DFS, or Minnesota Twins fan, for that matter.
David Hale vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,600)
We haven’t seen a lot of innings from David Hale this season, but we haven’t seen a lot of success either. A wOBA-against that’s in the .370 range to both right and left-handed bats isn’t going to cut it, especially at Coors Field.
Ryan Weber @ Miami Marlins ($4,500)
Braves’ right-hander Ryan Weber takes the mound tonight, but he’s not a viable option. He’s only thrown 19 innings to-date, but there’s little to no strikeout upside here right now and we’d need that in spades to consider him at $4,500.
Ariel Pena @ St. Louis Cardinals ($4,400)
Brewers’ righty Ariel Pena has shown himself as a fly ball pitcher this season, and even though the sample size is small that’s a data point that stabilizes fairly quickly, along with strikeout and walk rates. He’s struggled against left-handed bats as well, something that’s worth your attention.
Matt Boyd vs. Minnesota Twins ($4,700)
Matt Boyd, the Santa Claus of DFS. He’s always giving things away. He gives up runs and hits like they’re going out of style, and he doesn’t discriminate, he’s generous to both left-handed (.482 wOBA) and right-handed bats.