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, so now is not the time to take days off. Let’s go, people! We have another full slate of action tonight, 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 ea ch 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
Cole Hamels @ Seattle Mariners ($10,300)
It’s difficult to pay up for Clayton Kershaw tonight when you can roll out Cole Hamels for $5,400 less. That’s a stud outfielder. The Mariners have been without Nelson Cruz of late, and if that’s the case again tonight you can bump Cole Hamels up even higher. The Mariners’ 22.5% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching is one of the highest marks in the league, and while Cruz contributes to that total, his power upside has a lot to do with their success. They don’t walk much, which has been an issue for Hamels at times, and he’s getting a positive park shift by pitching in Seattle instead of Texas. Vegas likes Hamels too, giving the Mariners an implied-run total of just 3.2 runs.
Michael Wacha was originally scheduled to pitch on Monday but was pushed back a day due to the return of Lance Lynn from his ankle injury. The extra day saves us $400, as Wacha’s price was set at $10,300 for Monday. He has been consistent in the second half, and this matchup with the Cubs is a perfect fit for what Wacha does best. He’s only slightly above average in terms of K/9 (7.67), but his swinging-strike rate (10%) shows that he has the upside that can exploit the Cubs free swinging ways. Their lineup has taken a hit with the injury to Kyle Schwarber, and on the season Wacha’s held both right and left-handed bats (.267 wOBA) in check. He’s not the sexiest option tonight, but he possess both a high floor and ceiling and Vegas has the Cubs with an implied-run total of just 3.2.
Rasiel Iglesias vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($8,700)
After yet another outstanding performance I’m surprised to see Raisel Iglesias’s price dip by $500 here against the Pirates. Sure, they’re one of the league’s better clubs, but their 99 wRC+ against right-handed tells us that they’re league average offensively plus their 20.6% strikeout rate is slightly above average, and that’s Iglesias’ appeal. He’s whiffed 50 batters over his past 40 innings (6 starts), while stringing together a 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. It’s been an impressive run, and I like the chances that it continues tonight.
Clayton Kershaw @ Los Angeles Angels ($15,700)
$15,700. Good lord.
It’ll cost you 31.4% of your $50,000 budget if you’re interested in rostering Clayton Kershaw tonight, and why wouldn’t you be interested in that?! Oh, because he’ll eat up 31.4% of your budget? That makes sense. From a game theory perspective, you have to try and build a tournament lineup with Kershaw because I bet few even consider him at this price. Owning a red-hot Kershaw on a night with suppressed ownership is always a good thing. The Angels are among the league’s bottom third in terms of wOBA, wRC and ISO against left-handed pitching, so the matchup is ripe for the picking.
Francisco Liriano @ Cincinnati Reds ($8,900)
Francisco Liriano isn’t for everyone. Especially lately, he’s more of an acquired taste. There’s just so much value here given his $2,400 price drop, that it makes a lot of sense to zig when the rest of the world is zagging. I understand why you’d bypass Liriano, but he’s capable of any outcome when he takes the ball. With a 9.53 K/9 and one of the lowest hard-hit contact rates (23.3%) in the league, you have to consider Liriano a tournament option tonight.
Middle of the Pack
Sonny Gray vs. Houston Astros ($10,500)
I think Sonny Gray is in a very similar spot to Michael Wacha tonight, but he’s just a tad bit more expensive. Gray has pitched incredibly well this season, entering play with a 2.36 ERA (3.08 FIP). You’ll find that the upper-echelon pitchers are able to out-pitch their peripherals more than others, and that’s certainly been the case with Sonny Gray. He’s benefited from a .243 BABIP, and has shut down both right and left-handed bats. His 7.33 K/9 leaves me wanting more, but the ‘more’ comes in the form of the Astros (24.2% strikeout rate) tonight.
Matt Harvey vs. Washington Nationals ($11,900)
We’re going to see it quite a bit over the next few weeks, but few will make headlines quite like Matt Harvey just did. Teams, and/or agents, limiting a pitcher’s workload as the season winds down. In Harvey’s case, it’s about saving bullets for a potential post-season run. I get it. He’s barely making over league minimum and his arm is his money maker, I understand. It’s the age in which we live in, for better or for worse. I think we see a solid outing from Harvey here against the Nationals and their 21.4% strikeout rate, but again, how long will he go?
We’re paying full price for Carlos Carrasco tonight, despite the fact that he’s missed the past few weeks with shoulder soreness. Shoulder soreness is rarely a good thing. Just before the Indians shut him down though, he was rolling. He had average 31 points over his past five outings, showing those huge strikeout/walk splits that had him on everyone’s radar as the season opened. I’m a bit hesitant to pay up for him, solely because I worry about how deep the Indians allow him to work in this game.
Taylor Jungmann @ Miami Marlins ($9,200)
Of course a 3.4 HR/FB ratio isn’t sustainable, but the Marlins as currently constructed (sans Giancarlo Stanton) are just about the best team to face if you’re looking to keep it that low. Taylor Jungmann (2.42 ERA/3.04 FIP) has been able to quiet bats on both sides of the plate (.275 wOBA vs. LH and RH), and his 8.07 K/9 leaves enough meat on the bone against the right opponent. It’s a solid park shift for Jungmann too, pitching in the much friendlier confines of Marlins Park.
Scott Kazmir @ Oakland Athletics ($9,600)
Scott Kazmir takes yet another drive down Narrative Street as he heads back to Oakland to take on the A’s. The A’s don’t strikeout very much (16.8%) against left-handed pitching, limiting the upside of Kazmir here. $9,600 is a lot to pay with limited upside. I like how Kazmir has pitching this season, really reviving his career after a few ‘lost’ seasons, but I don’t think he’s a smart play tonight.
Masahiro Tanaka vs. Baltimore Orioles ($9,500)
It’s really just amazing that his elbow has held up. Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was last season, but his 16.9 HR/FB ratio has a lot to do with that. His ERA is up a bit, as is his 4.09 FIP, but an 11.4% swinging-strike rate shows that he’s still able to get a strikeout when he needs one. The Orioles have steadily increased their strikeout rate as the season has progressed, as their 22.2% K-rate has them in the team picture with the Cubs and Astros. Not a horrible place to be, but something that we need to exploit as DFS players.
Jason Hammel @ St. Louis Cardinals ($8,300)
The most innings that Jason Hammel has thrown over the past two months is 6 1/3. That’s just not going to cut it. On top of that, he hasn’t looked the same since his mid-season leg injury. He has started to come around a bit, but the consistency isn’t there right now. I think Joe Maddon continues the trend of limiting Hammel’s workload here, so I wouldn’t expect more than 90 pitches or six innings.
Jordan Zimmermann vs. New York Mets ($8,200)
You can, and sometimes have to, make the case for Jordan Zimmermann on a shortened slate. He’s an above average pitching and has the ability to prevent runs (3.36 ERA/3.60 FIP), but he’s a bit boring. Sorry, Jordan. A 7.08 K/9 doesn’t move the needle for me, and he has actionable platoon splits against left-handed bats (.340 wOBA). I’d rather pay a tad bit more, or even a little bit less, for more upside.
Carlos Rodon vs. Cleveland Indians ($7,200)
Carlos Rodon’s huge strikeout upside makes him a tournament play, tonight and always. A 9.33 K/9 plays nicely at this price point, the problem is a 4.85 BB/9 will make you want to throw/break things while you watch him pitch. He’s only throwing a strike on 53.9% of his first pitches, something that must improve as he matures. He has your standard major platoon splits, so look for right or switch-hitting Indians if you’re targeting Rodon tonight.
Taijuan Walker vs. Texas Rangers ($7,700)
Home runs have been an issue for Taijuan Walker all season long, but thankfully he’s play the Rangers in Seattle tonight and not in Arlington, Texas. I don’t mind a low ground ball rate from a power pitcher, and Walker is developing in to one right now. His command has improved as the season has progressed, but he’s yet another example of an arm I’m worried about pitching deep tonight. After straining his hip last week, I don’t expect the Mariners to push Walker too much here, making him a tournament options at best.
Colin Rea vs. Colorado Rockies ($5,500)
We’ve seen just 24 2/3 innings from Colin Rea so far, but he’s pitching okay. That’s far from a ringing endorsement, but his 3.51 FIP will work. Of course the sample size is small, and he’s given up a decent amount of hard-hit contact, but I’ll pause before drawing any conclusions based on such a small sample of work. He can miss bats though, and Vegas has the Rockies at just 3.6 implied-runs tonight. Sounds like they’re trying to tell us something.
Andrew Heaney vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($7,400)
I follow certain numbers more than others because over time there’s proven success that there’s an edge to be gained by doing so. It’s not complicated, really. One of those ‘numbers’ is GB/FB ratio. Avoid fly ball pitchers with below average strikeout rates. That’s pretty simple, no? Andrew Heaney is currently checking both of those boxes, and is in a difficult spot against the Dodgers (113 wRC+) and Clayton Kershaw. I think there’s room for a bit of growth in his strikeout rate, but it’ll still be below average.
Aaron Nola vs. Atlanta Braves ($8,100)
There’s talk of limiting Aaron Nola’s innings moving forward, and that’s enough to take him out of consideration for me tonight at $8,100. The team is telling you that his upside is capped, essentially. Even if Nola were able to cruise through the first few innings, he’s not likely to go past 6 innings here.
Can we talk about how silly it is to use innings as a bench mark to rest pitchers? Wouldn’t pitches thrown make a ton more sense? C’mon, people. Be better.
Edinson Volquez vs. Minnesota Twins ($7,100)
A matchup against the Twins is one to exploit if you have the right pitcher, but I’m not sure Edinson Volquez is that guy. Minnesota has struggled against big-strikeout right-handed pitching this season, with a just a .300 wOBA and 88 wRC+. They do have some pop, but their 21.6% strikeout rate is ripe for the picking. Unfortunately, Volquez’s 6.79 K/9 isn’t exciting, and his 3.21 BB/9 can be an issue for him at times.
Erasmo Ramirez @ Detroit Tigers ($5,300)
Some of the early season success’s of Erasmo Ramirez have all but vanished. He’s struggled to get out of the fourth inning in his last few starts, and working deep in to games has been an issue for him even when he’s pitching well. His reverse splits (.343 wOBA vs. right-handed hitters) are a problem when facing the likes of Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez.
Rest of the Field
Jonathan Gray @ San Diego Padres ($4,600)
Jonathan Gray hasn’t gotten off to quite the start I’m sure he hoped for, but it hasn’t been as bad as his 6.15 ERA would appear. His FIP is just 3.67, and he’s been BABIP’d quite a bit (.375) in his first 26 1/3 Major League innings. His walk and strikeout totals are slightly on the wrong side of league average, but he’s promising down the road.
Chase Anderson vs. San Francisco Giants ($5,600)
The April and May versions of Chase Anderson were encouraging, but he’s been less than stellar of late. His ground ball rate has dropped a bit, and a lack of strikeouts always impact his fantasy value. He’s a young kid, so the hiccups are expected, but his lack of upside makes him an easy name to skip over today against the Giants (107 wRC+ vs. RHP).
Kyle Gibson @ Kansas City Royals ($6,400)
I don’t mind Kyle Gibson as a pitcher, he’s just not much of a fantasy asset though, not here on DraftKings where strikeouts rein supreme. Gibson’s pedestrian 6.31 K/9 takes an even greater hit tonight as he takes on the Royals, who’ve had the lowest team strikeout rate in the league virtually all season long. They’re tough at home too, and Vegas has them down for 4.5 runs.
Kevin Gausman @ New York Yankees ($4,500)
I want to see Kevin Gausman improve on his 53.6% first-pitch strike rate down the stretch. He has managed to keep his walks in check (2.19 BB/9) despite starting off behind in the count so often, but it’s leading to more favorable hitters counts and he’s getting hit hard. Home runs have been an issues this season (13.9 HR/FB ratio) and the Bronx isn’t the place to correct that trend. It’s worth noting that he has some strong reverse splits this season as well, with right-handed bats carrying a .361 wOBA against him compared to just .294 for left-handers.
Adam Conley @ Miami Marlins ($4,100)
The Marlins are still a feisty club against left-handed pitching (.321 wOBA), and should give Adam Conley a run for his money tonight. Conley has league average stuff in terms of strikeouts and walks, but he’s had trouble against both right (.333 wOBA) and left-handed bats (.407) this season. A low 4.0 implied-run total suggests that you find a team other than the Marlins to stack, but I can’t advise you chase that number and roster Conley.
R.A. Dickey @ Boston Red Sox ($6,600)
R.A. Dickey is a timeless enigma, sort of like his knuckle-ball actually. His low 23.4% hard-hit contact rate speaks to the nature of his arsenal, but when he’s off, he’s hit hard (4.09 ERA/4.58 FIP). He’s a bit fly ball heavy which I’m not a fan of, and I can’t pay for a pitcher with a K/9 of 5.22, regardless of his price. Vegas thinks the Red Sox get to him tonight (4.6 implied-run total) and I agree.
Ryan Vogelsong @ Arizona Diamondbacks ($4,400)
If your nickname is Vogel-dong, that’s never a good thing. Probably for a multitude of reasons, actually. This is a substantial negative park shift for Vogelsong tonight, taking the ball for the Giants on the road in Arizona. Vegas has the Diamondbacks down for 4.7 runs tonight, and you can count on the Diamondbacks left-handed bats to be involved (.388 wOBA against Vogelsong) in the action.
Henry Owens vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($5,400)
This is a terrible spot for the Red Sox young left-hander. The Blue Jays and their big slugging bats roll in to Boston to take on fly-ball fan Henry Ownens and the Sox, and the manual score operator should have his hands full tonight. Owens can miss bats, but the one’s that are hitting him have hit him hard (32.3%) so far. There will be better days, young man.
Matt Boyd vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($4,000)
An ERA north of 8 and a FIP just south of 7 makes sense when you give up a ton of hard-hit contact (35.3%) and get destroyed by both left and right-handed bats. Add to it a Rays’ club that’s hit left-handed pitching well all season long (.331 wOBA/114 wRC+).