h2. Cream of the Crop
Clayton Kershaw vs. San Francisco Giants ($14600) – I love Kershaw, but man this is a ton of money to spend on one starting pitcher. He is at home, where he has averaged over 30 fantasy points per start. He faces a Giants team that actually struggles against left-handed pitching. That was a big reason the Giants went out and got a bat like Marlon Byrd who can hit lefties. Kershaw has 236 strikeouts already this year and even though the Giants are not normally a high strikeout team, they also do not normally face Clayton Kershaw so I expect those numbers to be above season averages. Kershaw needs to get about 40 fantasy points to be a good value. That seems like a ton, but he did it last out and had been closer to 50 per start the whole month of July, so it’s not out of his norm.
Matt Harvey vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($11,900) – Harvey has been much better at home and lately I’d rather use a right-handed pitcher to face the Phillies. Citi Field is a very friendly pitcher’s park and Harvey has looked really sharp lately. In his last five starts he has only allowed 20 hits and 2 earned runs over 34 innings of work. Those are some pretty sick numbers. He has 33 strikeouts and only two walks for an average fantasy score of just under 30. Thrown in that he has an offense behind him that has been putting up runs and they have a good matchup with the young Aaron Nola and there is a high probability of adding in the win. The price is not cheap, but he should be good for a high 20s or low 30s fantasy score which would be fine for cash and useful in tournament play as well.
Cole Hamels vs. San Diego Padres ($10800) – Hamels snapped out of his funk with a 8 inning gem against the Orioles last time out. He faces a weak hitting Padres team in San Diego for this one. The Padres do not have a lot of bats with good numbers against left-handed pitching this season and Pet Co is one of the best pitcher’s parks in the league, so Hamels should be able to throw a good game here. He has been going about 7 innings per start and striking out about a batter per inning while doing so. The Padres do have a lot of strikeouts this year, so that plays into Hamels hands. He has been walking a few more guys than normal, which is a concern, but against a national team in a good pitcher’s park and at a discount in price and ownership, I think he is worth every penny.
Middle of the Pack
Yordano Ventura vs. Detroit Tigers ($7700) – Ventura has been a stud in his last four starts and still is pretty cheap. He has over 100 fantasy points in those games with an average of about 6 innings and 7 strikeouts with only about a run per game. He has been limiting the opposition and getting through his innings. The Royals bullpen is so solid, that Ventura can concentrate on shutting down teams over six and handing it off. It’s not ideal for fantasy as the innings help, but as long as he does it with the strikeout stuff he has shown lately, he will have a nice floor and upside at the price. Detroit is a solid offense, so this is no easy task, but the discount on him from the top arms today makes it a viable swerve.
Kevin Gausman vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($6200) – Gausman has been really good lately, despite the clunker in his last start. He faces a Rays team with a high K% and low batting average against right-handed pitching, so he has a great matchup today. Gausman has some strikeout upside as he has flashed recently, so that gives him a great floor at $6200. He has 20-25 point upside which is great value at that price too, which is why I am so high on him today. He is at home where his ERA is 2.19, his WHIP is 0.89, and he has a batting average against under .200. Overall he has a lot going in his favor and is easily my favorite salary saver at starting pitcher for a tournament or cash game is you go that route.
Scott Kazmir vs. Seattle Mariners ($9300) – Kazmir has looked really good in his last two starts. He faces a Seattle team that is not great against left-handed pitching outside of Cruz and the red hot Franklin Gutierrez. Kazmir needs to continue to keep the walks down. When he gets through seven innings, he tends to strike out about a batter per inning and get over 20 fantasy points, which is what we need out of him here. He has limited the damage lately, which has helped and you can always count on him for a few strikeouts to give a nice floor. I think he can go 7 here and strikeout a few guys which would make him a viable option for cash or tournaments.
Ian Kennedy vs. Texas Rangers ($8600) – Kennedy is starting to put it together again.The righty has now throw three straight great games. He has gone just under 7 innings per start has averaged 8 strikeouts and only one run allowed per. He faces a Texas team here that loses the DH and gets a huge park downgrade. They do still have a lot of solid left-handed bats that could give Kennedy trouble, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t see him going past 7, but if the strikeout numbers ( 7, 10, 8 in last 3 games) are there again, he can certainly return nice value for cash and have some upside in tournaments.
Max Scherzer vs. St. Louis Cardinals ($12100) – The price is my main concern here, especially when in conjunction with his recent performances. Scherzer has only scored over 2 points per thousand of cost once in his last 8 games. He has been consistently in the low 20s, but at $12100 that is not enough to be a good value for him. The Cardinals are not the best hitting team in the league, but they do have a decent average, good OBP, and a lower strikeout rate. none of those things are positive for an opposing pitcher’s fantasy score. The matchup between Scherzer and Wacha should be a duel, so there is also no certainty of a win. Too many questions and roadblocks exist for him to be in the elite class today, but there is no doubting his talent and ability, so he is still a fringe option for tournaments. I just do not like him as a cash option unless 20-24 points for $12100 is something you can live with.
RA Dickey vs. Cleveland Indians ($6000) – Dickey has been good lately. When the Knuckler is dancing, he can be tough to hit. When researching his prospects, I lean heavily on BvP. He is one of the few guys left who throws the pitch and it’s such a different dynamic, that other stats tend to matter less to me when he is on the mound. Brantley is 2 for 7, but Gomes, Santana, and Kipnis are all really bad so far in their careers vs. Dickey, so I do not expect them to hit him hard. I like the offense behind Dickey and the fact he can pitch deep into games. At a square price of $6K, I can definitely see him returning good value with a 15-20 point performance.
Michael Wacha vs. Washington Nationals ($10100) – Wacha has been uber consistent this year which makes him a guy I like to use in cash games. His price has come up and he faces a matchup where the win is not certain, so he is lower on my list today. Normally Wacha goes deep into games, limits damage, and gets a few strikeouts, all of which I think he can do today. He is not a huge strikeout guy though, so that hurts his chance for a big return. He also has the tough pitching matchup with Scherzer, so the win is no certainty for him either. Overall they are in the same boat to me. Both guys should pitch solid and get a fantasy score in the low 20s. If that is enough for you to roll with in cash, than choose which you like better. The fact both are in play though is why I have not been using wither for cash and bumped up the other three top priced pitchers ahead of them.
Aaron Nola vs. New York Mets ($7300) – Nola is fresh off of two absolute gems. The problem here is that he faces a red hot Mets team, has a tough matchup opposite MAtt Harvey and has only reached 100 pitches once. I don’t expect him to be as lights out as he has been, but I could easily see him reaching two to three points per thousand of cost anyway. The win is less likely, but the ballpark is a bump up for him and he has been real tough. I think 6 innings with 5 strikeouts and 2 runs or less is a reasonable expectation here and that would return right around twenty points and good value for him at the price. I love him as a cheap option for cash, the innings and pitch count limits make me less of a fan in tournaments.
Carlos Rodon vs. Minnesota Twins ($7500) – The kid has been really good lately and I have been one of his biggest fans, but the Twins hit left-handers well and put some runs up against Chris Sale last night. If they can get to Sale, I think they can get to Rodon which makes me very weary of using him. He does have strikeout upside, but he also has blow up potential. He has not been pitching very deep into games either, so I think I am good with staying away from him today, but would not be shocked if he did overcome and pitch a solid game.
Trevor Bauer vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($8000) – This is a tournament only play. Bauer has strikeout upside and a discounted price today, so if he is on he can return a nice number. He also is homerun prone which is a bad quality to have against the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre. Toronto is better against lefties, but they have mashed righties as well. Bauer has had some great starts and some absolute clunkers too, so there is very little room for error. The price is enticing given his floor with the strikeouts, but he is just as likely to get knocked around, so I’d stay away from him in cash game play.
Randy Wolf vs. Kansas City Royals ($4500) – The Royals are a very tough matchup for any pitcher, but Randy Wolf has looked good enough that he did not belong on the bottom rung here. His price is very cheap and he has already returned three and four points per thousand in his first two starts, so he has been outperforming his price all along. I’m not expecting or even seeing a way he gets you 20-25 fantasy points today, but 15-18 at this price is useful. He has a great offense behind him as well, so it’s not out of the question he pitches another 7 innings and gets a win. How much he can limit damage and how many Ks he can add will ultimately decide the rest of this.
Jeff Locke vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($5700) – Locke is a solid option on most days. He tends to give you a decent days work with a few innings, a few Ks, and limiting the damage. He also never goes deep, has massive strikeout numbers, or really keeps the other team from scoring at all, so there is no real upside. The Brewer’s do not hit lefties particularly well outside of Braun, but they do have a righty heavy lineup which might be tough on Locke. At the price he is not the worst guy to take a shot on, but it’s more a tournament option for me.
Rest of the Field
Mike Leake vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($6900) – The price and the opposing pitcher have me really down on his prospects today. Leake has been ok all season. He scores like 14-20 fantasy points in most of his starts. Lately it’s been more towards the low side with his strikeouts and innings both down a little. The Dodgers have a lot of left-handed bats they will throw at him, so I do not see him dominating here. Against Kershaw the chance for a win is also very low, which means with all those negatives he will not have an easy time reaching up to his value threshold.
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Baltimore Orioles ($5500) – Erasmo has actually been a pretty solid pitcher this season in real baseball. He has given the Rays about 6 strong innings per start and limited the opposing team to two or three runs. He does not strike out a ton of batters and he does not usually g very deep, so those things hurt his fantasy score. Guys who come out early also tend to have less decisions in the W/L column due to the leads changing hands more often if you need 3 or 4 more innings from a bullpen.
Tommy Milone vs. Chicago White Sox ($5900) – Milone has not been good lately, but he also gets a weak hitting team in this matchup. The left-handed has really struggled with right-handed bats and there are a few guys on Chicago who do better against left-handed pitching. Milone has struggled to get through 6 innings in most of his recent starts and he rarely strikes out over 3 batters. Those things are the positive side of the equation for him and are still pretty low. Even if he did not give up any negative events, which is highly unlikely, he would not have enough to make value.
Zach Davies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($4000) – The youngster was part of the recent Gerrado Parra trade and has a 5 ERA since coming over to the Brewer’s system in AAA. He does play in that Pacific Coast league where everyone has a 5 ERA though, so take it with a grain of salt. He likely will not go deep into the game and Pittsburgh has some good bats and are getting a park bump with the game being in Milwaukee. It’s not the easiest spot for a debut, so I think the smart move is to play the wait and see game.
Chase Anderson vs. Colorado Rockies ($5200) – Anderson has had an up and down year. He was god for a stretch, really bad for a stretch and inconsistent the rest of the time. He may have a 20-30 point gem one day and then completely blow it the next time out. He has had some trouble with left-handed bats, so against a lefty heavy Rockies team in Coors field, I’m not expecting his best performance.
Jon Gray vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($4000) – Gray actually has some talent and could be a decent pitcher down the road. He faces one of the league’s hottest offenses here though in the best hitter’s park in all of baseball. He is so cheap that asking him to get you 10-12 fantasy points is not being too optimistic, but it’s a risky place to roll him out as there is a lot of blow up risk involved and very little path to a big upside game.