Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook Daily Pitcher Rankings. We have another Chicago Cubs matinee on the slate, but the rest of today’s games take place tonight, making our main slate 14 games. Of the 28 pitchers that are starting tonight, just 9 of them are priced above $7,100. It’s a bit bottom-heavy, but there are a few viable options that’ll free you up to spend on bats tonight.
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
Jacob deGrom @ Miami Marlins ($11,400)
Jacob deGrom is far and away the top option on the board tonight. He and Corey Kluber are the only pitchers who are priced above $11,000, but deGrom matchup is far more favorable than Kluber’s. There’s no pitcher on the slate tonight who’s more consistent than deGrom either. He’s met his expected point output in 70% of his outings this season, (relative to price) which is one of the top marks in the league. Facing the league’s worst team against right-handed pitching. (81 wRC+) the Marlins present little opposition to deGrom tonight, who should be your #1 cash game option. As a big favorite with an opponent’s implied run total of just 3, expect deGrom’s ownership levels to be through the roof.
Editors Note: CLE SP Corey Kluber has been scratched from his start tonight. Right-hander Josh Tomlin will start in his place.
Ignore the Corey Kluber write up below, he’s been scratched for Josh Tomlin, who’s $12,000 tonight (!) so you can ignore him, as well. He’ll likely be extremely under-owned though, so if that’s your thing….
Corey Kluber faces off against a familiar opponent tonight, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have been one of the better offense’s all season long, with a .320 team wOBA and 102 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Corey Kluber is, at worst, a tournament option every time he takes the ball and that’s no different tonight. His 9.84 K/9 and ability to dominate right-handed bats (.220 wOBA) gives him a chance every fifth day. The Tigers have an implied run total of 3.6 runs tonight, so Vegas doesn’t expect it to be a Cy Young-esque performance tonight. At $1,200 cheaper than his last time out, Kluber presents some relative value in this spot.
James Shields vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($8,700)
The Dodgers have been extremely average over the past month-plus. Their season totals (.322 wOBA/104 wRC+) have been dragged down by their performance over the past 30 days. In that time frame, their wOBA is .309 with a 97 wRC+. James Shields has been in the $9,500-$10,000 range most of the season, so he’s coming to us at a bit of a discount today. His splits against left-handers are still an issue (.368 wOBA), but the NL has done wonders to his K-rate (9.67 K/9). There’s more risk here than I’d like, especially considering that he’s one of the top options on the slate, but his strikeout upside is enough for me here.
Jon Lester vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($9,600)
John Lester won’t be available tonight because the Cubs play during the day. Lester is a huge favorite here (-205) against a Diamondbacks team that can hit lefties well and can run, something that’s plagued him all season. On the whole, the Diamondbacks have just a 95 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, but Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock have mashed lefties all season long.
Carlos Martinez vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($10,100)
Carlos Martinez was originally scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Nationals, but was pushed back to today due to some back soreness. Prior to being scratched, Martinez was priced at $9,000, so I’m struggling to understand why he’s $1,100 more today. I love Martinez in tournaments because his strikeout upside (9.08 K/9) is outstanding and he keeps the ball on the ground (55.6% ground ball rate). I worry about his command though, because when he’s off, he’s really off. Vegas has Martinez as a slight favorite (-135) and has the Pirates with an implied run total of 3.5.
Middle of the Pack
This version of J.A. Happ is really interesting. Since the trade to Pittsburgh from Seattle, Happ has a 1.98 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 27 1/3 innings of work. What’s also impressive is his 24:7 K:BB ratio in those five starts. We’ve also seen a spike in his ground ball totals as well. Of course, there’s some small sample size theater here, but I’m willing to bet on it for just $6,600 tonight. The Cardinals have struggled against left-handed bats this season, with an 88 wRC+ and a very high 22.4 K%. Happ isn’t a big-time strikeout pitcher (7.01 K/9) but can miss enough bats to take advantage of that heavy K-rate.
Luis Severino vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($9,400)
Yankee fans must be excited about the first 29 innings of Luis Severino’s debut season, and rightfully so. He’s a strong favorite tonight (-155) against the Rays in the Bronx, but $9,400 is a bit rich for my blood. He’s yet to pitch past the 6th inning in any of his starts, capping his upside every time he takes the ball. His 9.0 K/9 might be a bit higher than I’d expect to see with a 9.4 swing-strike rate, but not completely fluky. It’ll be good enough when facing the Rays, who’s 93 wRC+ and 21.5% K-rate set up well for Severino here. The apparent innings/pitch cap make it difficult to spend up here though.
Mike Bolsinger @ San Diego Padres ($8,100)
With the acquisitions of Mat Latos and Alex Wood at the deadline, the Dodgers had too many arms and Mike Bolsinger was the odd man out. He’s making his first major league start in over a month, and it’s a solid spot to do so, on the road against the Padres (.299 wOBA/91 wRC+). Bolsinger keeps the ball on the ground (55.7%) which lead to a bit of HR/FB luck earlier this season. You can’t bank on that continuing, but he can miss some bats (7.89 K/9) and the Padres 21.4 strikeout rate can help as well. Vegas has San Diego with an implied run total of just 3.5.
Collin McHugh vs. Minnesota Twins ($9,100)
With an 11.0% swinging-strike rate, you’d expect to see a higher K/9 than Collin McHugh has shown us this season (7.40). That 11% mark is better than his 10.4% from last season, which yielded a 9.1 K/9. Safe to say that there’s some hidden strikeout upside in McHugh’s game. He’s a strong home favorite tonight (-175) against the Twins, who enter play with an 89 wRC+ and .301 wOBA against right-handed pitching. McHugh (3.92 ERA/3.67 FIP) has shown a trend of reverse splits this season, so if you’re using Minnesota bats make it their right-handed hitters (.345 wOBA) and not their left-handed bats (.272).
Garrett Richards vs. Texas Rangers ($8,300)
Garrett Richards is an enigma. I just can’t quite figure him out. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid him lately, but by doing so I know I’m missing a few stellar starts every so often. There’s just little predictability in his performance. His 11.3 swinging-strike rate means I should expect a K/9 above 9.0, but he’s sitting at 7.27, right around league average. His 23.7 hard-hit contact rate is yet again, one of the lowest in the league, yet his ERA and FIP tell us that he’s a 3.80-ERA guy. His ability to neutralize left-handed bats (.269 wOBA) sets him up well here against Texas, but I can’t trust him in cash games.
Joe Kelly vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($6,400)
Don’t look now but Joe Kelly has five straight starts with at least 18.3 DraftKings points. Kelly can throw gas (94+ mph regularly) but his trip down to Pawtucket and the Red Sox AAA club helped him quite a bit. He’s starting to rely on it less, mixing in his secondary offerings more and the results have been excellent. The Phillies aren’t quite the offensive wasteland that they were in the first half of the season, but they’re still a team that’s worth attacking.
Drew Hutchison vs. Baltimore Oroiles ($7,100)
I’ve mentioned it before when discussing Drew Hutchison, but I’m not a huge believer in home/road splits. I believe it’s more noise than actionable data because there’s so much unaccounted for when drawing H/R split conclusions. It doesn’t factor in the opponent’s at all, and that’s it’s biggest flaw. With that said, Hutchison is 11-1 with a 2.46 ERA at home this season, one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, no less. That’s huge when you consider his season ERA is 4.87. He hasn’t been quite that bad though (3.87 FIP), and he’s been on the receiving end of a .337 BABIP and 65% strand rate. Vegas loves the Jays today (-180), so if you’re a believer than Hutchison is decent SP2 tonight.
Jake Odorizzi @ New York Yankees ($8,500)
The trend of Jake Odorizzi working 6 innings or fewer is one that keeps me off of him almost every time he starts. His strikeout rate (7.92 K/9) is way down this season, but he’s improved his command, so that’s something. When you combined the two, you’d assume that with a lowered pitch count and solid run preventing skills (3.18 ERA & FIP), that he’d be able to work deeper in to each game. It just hasn’t been the case. He’s more fly ball pitcher than ground ball pitcher, and that rarely ends well in the Bronx if you aren’t overpowering teams.
Julio Teheran @ Washington Nationals ($6,900)
Julio Teheran is always too expensive for a mid-four ERA pitcher, but today he’s finally priced well enough to consider. The trouble with Teheran is that his random moments of wildness make him difficult to trust, but he’s been better over the past month. Left-handed bats have destroyed him this season (.391 wOBA) though, and the Nationals have finally started to swing the bats well.
Kris Medlen vs. Chicago White Sox ($4,700)
There’s not a ton of upside with Kris Medlen tonight, but there’s enough to make him viable at just $4,700. After scoring 15.2 and 20.5 DraftKings points in his last two starts, Medlen’s price is back at $4,700 at home against Chicago (91 wRC+). He’s a strong favorite here (-187), and has shown enough K-upside in his 25 1/3 innings this season to catch my attention at this price point. Rostering him clearly allows you to construct any type of offense that you’d like tonight.
Martin Perez @ Los Angeles Angels ($4,500)
Martin Perez is another near min-sal arm that can help you out tonight. He’s better than his 5.15 ERA (3.18 FIP), but he’s lacking a bit of the strikeout potential that I seek in most pitchers I selcted. He’s been BABIP’d around quite a bit this season, with a .340 BABIP and a 58.2% strand rate (league average is about 73%). He keeps the ball on the ground, and faces an Angels club that’s really struggled against lefties all season long (.291 wOBA/88 wRC+).
Aaron Brooks vs. Seattle Mariners ($4,000)
I don’t love Aaron Brooks here, but he’s dirty cheap and slightly better than min-salary. We’ve only seen 26 1/3 innings from him this season, but he has a 3.59 FIP with a decent K/BB ratio. He’s a fly ball pitcher, which isn’t a concern when he’s pitching in Oakland, and Vegas likes his chances at keeping the Mariners in check here tonight (3.7 implied run total).
Tanner Roark vs. Atlanta Braves ($4,200)
Tanner Roark is a huge favorite tonight (-190) but you know me well enough to know I don’t chase favorites. I want to evaluate the pitcher for his skills and matchup and less about his chance and earning a ‘win’. Such a useless stat, but I digress.
The difficulty in rostering Roark is that there’s little to no strikeout potential here, and I don’t like relying on run prevention alone to get fantasy points. Especially with a pitcher who’s 4.54 ERA (4.51 FIP) show that run prevention aren’t exactly his thing, either. A 5.40 K/9 won’t get it done, and when it’s paired with an opponent that’s striking out just 17.8% of the time, it’s a bad mix. Roark could pitch 6 innings of one-run ball and still only have a dozen or so fantasy points. That’s a low ceiling.
Kyle Lobstein vs. Cleveland Indians ($6,400)
I’m convinced that Lobstein is one of the worst possible pitching names ever. Second only to….nah. I was going to give you some cheesy made up baseball pun-name, but I’ll spare you my #DadHumor. Just know that it was going to be terrible.
The Tigers’ left-hander has been able to keep the ball on the ground a lot in his limited action this season, but that’s about the only nice thing I can say about him here. A 3.78 K/9 is amazingly bad, and won’t get it done. Right-handed bats have a .350 wOBA against him so far this season.
Tom Koehler vs. New York Mets ($6,100)
Tom Koehler (4.12 ERA/4.60 FIP) is just good enough to stay in Miami’s rotation, but that’s about it. Overall, he’s about as ‘slightly below average’ as they come. His strikeout and walk rates are both slightly on the wrong side of league average, and he benefits greatly from pitching in one of the best environments in the game. He’s not a viable option tonight against the Mets.
Rest of the Field
Mike Pelfrey @ Houston Astros ($4,600)
A 52% ground ball rate will definitely improve your odds at keeping the ball in the park, but Mike Pelfrey’s 5.7 HR/FB ratio has a lot of luck tied to it. He gives up too much hard-hit contact to sustain that number, and doesn’t miss enough bats to make him a fantasy option. Ever.
Ubaldo Jimenez @ Toronto Blue Jays ($6,500)
After a really nice start to the season, it’s been a bumpy ride for Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles. Even ‘Good Ubaldo’ would be a bad play in Toronto right now. Jimenez doesn’t really have splits either, in fact he’s shown a bit of reverse splits this season, with right-handed bats hitting .334 wOBA against him.
Jorge De La Rosa vs. San Francisco Giants ($6,700)
I’m not advising that you play Jorge De La Rosa tonight, but I’m not a huge fan of an expensive Giants stack either. JDLR is not a spring chicken, and he’s pitched his entire career in Coors. He’s done just about as well as anyone has when it comes to pitching well in Denver, learning how to increase his ground ball rate while continuing to strike out at least a league average amount of batters per game. The Giants have one of the lowest isolated-power marks in the game against left-handed pitching, and while they obviously see a huge bump by playing in Colorado, I wouldn’t go out of my way to chase them.
Chris Heston @ Colorado Rockies ($5,900)
Pitching in Coors obviously eliminates Chris Heston from consideration as well. Like De La Rosa, Heston keeps the ball on the ground (53.5% ground ball rate) so that can help mitigate the damage here tonight. The problem is that Heston has struggled against left-handed bats (.347 wOBA) and the Rockies have a Coors-aided .335 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season.
Zack Godley @ Chicago Cubs ($6,000)
Zack Godley faces Jon Lester and the Cubs in today’s lone day game, and I’m not rushing in to all-day contests to get a slice of Godley. He has some decent swing-and-miss stuff, but we’ve only seen 23 1/3 innings from him so I’m in ‘wait and see’ mode here.
John Danks @ Kansas City Royals ($5,300)
Pitching in Kansas City is not a favorable spot for John Danks, though I supposed it’s no worse than pitching at home. Really, pitching anywhere is not a favorable event for John Danks. He’s been better (?) than expected at times this season, but enters play with a 4.82 ERA and a below average 6.36 K/9. The Royals don’t strikeout, so putting the ball in play early and often should benefit the Royals here tonight.
Edgar Olmos @ Oakland Athletics ($4,100)
I Olmos made another terrible joke here, but…
The Mariners are rolling out lefty Edgar Olmos tonight in Oakland. Enjoy that one! Olmos vs. Brooks! Catch the fever, baseball fans!!! We’ve only seen 12 2/3 innings from Edgar this season, and we have enough cheap options that we can safely cross him off the list.
Matt Garza @ Cincinnati Reds ($4,400)
If we don’t know enough about Edgar Olmos, is it safe to say we know too much about Matt Garza? Garza has been terrible this season. It’s fun to say terrible in a Charles Barkely voice, by the way. Try it. His 5.56 ERA (4.94 FIP) has been equal parts left-handed (.376 wOBA) and right-handed (.342), making every Reds’ bat an option tonight. Domo arigato, Mr. Joey Votto.
Keyvius Sampson vs. Milwaukee Brewers ($4,300)
“I want to talk to Sampson!”, said the Brewers, probably. While Keyvius has shown a bit of swing-and-miss potential in his debut, he’s also allowed a ton of runs and hard-hit contact. He’s a no-go tonight.
Adam Morgan @ Boston Red Sox ($4,900)
Adam Morgan has a 28.6% ground ball rate. That’s a lot of fly balls and line drives, something that plays right in to the Red Sox hands tonight in Fenway.