Welcome back to the DraftKings Playbook, and our Starting Pitcher breakdown for tonight’s slate. We have 14 games tonight with one starting a bit earlier than usual, as the Nationals and Red Sox get things started at 6:10 EST. The majority of the contests will not include that game because of the early start time, but feel free to make an all-day slate to get some Mookie Betts exposure.
After a few days of mostly early and late-only contests, we’re back at it today with a nearly full evening slate. Rain has been an issue of late, and the early forecast calls for rain on the east coast again, so don’t forget to double check the weather reports prior to game time.
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, power/finesse pitching tendencies along with ground-ball/fly-ball tendencies. We leave no stone unturned here. The pitcher pool is quite top heavy today, so let’s get to it. If you have any last minute questions you can find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan.
Cream of the Crop
1) Shane Greene vs. Pittsburgh Pirates ($5,800)
This is about price more than it is skill, but let’s not ignore what we’ve seen from Shane Greene so far. He built on his late spring helium by pitching eight strong innings in his season debut. He’s not an elite strikeout guy, but he does miss bats when he keeps his fastball and sinker down in the zone. PNC Park is quite favorable as well for the young right-hander, and it negates his fly ball tendencies. The way that Detroit is swinging the bat, he’s likely to have plenty of run support. Using Greene frees up so much cap space today.
2) Matt Harvey vs. Philadelphia Phillies ($9,300)
I have Matt Harvey priced above $10,000 today, so this should be considered a discount. If I’m searching for a dent in the armor here, it’s the possibility that Harvey only pitches 6-7 innings in this one. Assuming that’s his floor, I still think Harvey can earn 2.5-3x salary at home against the lowly Phillies. Since we do have a few other top tier options today, you can make a case for fading Harvey here.
3) Jake Arrieta vs. Cincinnati Reds ($8,600)
Jake Arrieta is the real deal, folks. He came up as a fastball/curveball pitcher, but it’s the reliance of his cutter that’s taking him to the next level. It looks like his four-seam fastball when it comes out of his hand, but the late sinking action is inducing the highest swinging strike percentage of his career. Jon Lester showed us otherwise last night, but Wrigley typically plays like a pitchers park early in the season. The Reds return most of their 2014 team, a team that was the third worst in the league against right-handed pitching last season.
4) Carlos Carrasco vs. Chicago White Sox ($8,800)
If you were a late adaptor to the Carlos Carrasco fantasy goodness train, then I think you’re on board after his season debut. He has four pitches that grade out as plus, and mixes his sequencing incredibly well. He turned the corner late last season after struggling with walks early in his career, but he looks like a different pitcher than the one that started the season in the bullpen last year. It’s a neutral matchup, so I’ll bet on the skill of the pitcher here.
5) Jose Quintana vs. Cleveland Indians ($7,900)
The aforementioned Carlos Carrasco will be the opponent here, but I’m ok with using both starters here. The total opened at just 7.5 runs, and while Cleveland platoons as much as anyone, their primary options are better from the left-hand side. Quintana will turn the switch hitters around to the right side, which is to his benefit. When looking at pull side slugging, ‘The Jake’ plays like a hitter’s park to right field, but a pitchers park to left, helping Quintana here. He’s better than his last outing.
Middle of the Pack
6) Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Los Angeles Dodgers ($9,100)
Hisashi Iwakuma is an under-appreciated fantasy asset, but he’s a tad expensive here today. If I’m spending north of $9,000 on a pitcher, I want elite strikeout numbers, and I’m not going to get that from Iwakuma on most nights. Let’s not pretend that Dodger Stadium is Petco, either. I think there’s some GPP intrigue here though, as I suspect Iwakuma’s ownership totals will be quite low given the options surrounding him.
7) Stephen Strasburg vs. Boston Red Sox ($9,600)
On a night where we have numerous options to choose from, I’m going to stay away from teams like the Red Sox at home. I don’t need to sell you on the upside that Strasburg has, but there’s downside here too, and it rears its head far too often for me to suggest paying $9,600 for Strasburg in Boston. Pitch F/X data from FanGraphs shows that the Red Sox have some of the best fastball hitters littering their lineup.
8) Justin Masterson vs. Washington Nationals ($7,000)
Justin Masterson’s heavy sink action plays well in Fenway. He’s back in Boston, reunited with his former pitching coach, John Ferrell, and he’s under the radar right now. When Masterson is commanding his arsenal he’s quit difficult to square up, leading to a below average hard contact rate and extreme ground ball totals (58% last season). I’m open to exploiting the Nationals while they’re still less than 100% healthy.
9) Tom Koehler vs. Atlanta Braves ($5,900)
Tom Koehler struggled with walks his last time out, extending innings and opened up the gates for a big inning. For less than $6,000, Koehler can get you enough strikeouts to earn value, and the Braves have been playing over their proverbial heads thus far. Atlanta isn’t the pitchers park that Miami is, but it’s still one worth targeting and so are the Braves. Their wRAA (weighted Runs-Against Average) of -76.9 against right-handed pitching last season was the second worst in the league.
10) Kendall Graveman vs. Houston Astros ($5,100)
You could make a case that this is way too high of a ranking for Kendall Graveman, but remember the context. He’s just $5,100 tonight, and while I like the young Astros lineup, they have a propensity to whiff nearly once per inning. Graveman isn’t a big strikeout guy, but he keeps the ball on the ground which will help him in Houston. I watched a lot of his debut, and he pitched better than the results indicate. Looking for a cheap, minimally owned GPP option today? You can do a lot worse than Graveman.
11) A.J. Burnett vs. Detroit Tigers ($8,100)
My A.J. Burnett analysis today: He’s Strasburg-lite. What I mean by that is he has the potential to dominate, but he can extend innings by walking batters and that’s a problem against the Tigers. As DFS’ers, we feel like we can do no wrong when we’re running well. You feel like you can’t lose and you question whether or not to ignore all bankroll management rules some nights. Well that’s the Tigers offense right now, they’re running well. There’s no need to deploy Burnett in this spot.
12) Odrisamer Despaigne vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($6,400)
I didn’t even need to look up how to spell it. Nailed it first time. Easy peasy. O.D. did some damage in spot duty late last season, and he’s filling in for the injured Ian Kennedy after starting the season with 4 1/3 scoreless out of the pen to start the season. The Petco effect should bump him into a number of lineups tonight, and I suspect his ownership totals rival Shane Greene.
13) Tim Hudson vs. Colorado Rockies ($6,800)
There’s not a lot of excitement here, but Hudson remains effective late in his career. He’s the beneficiary of the best pitchers park in the game (yes, better than Petco) but let’s not get carried away here. The Rockies are not the same team on the road (wOBA of .282) as they are in the thin air of Colorado (.390), but they’re still loaded offensively. I wouldn’t bend over backwards to get them in my lineup today in the same sense that I wouldn’t start Hudson just because he’s at home. If this were a $5,800 pitcher, I’d be singing a different tune.
14) C.C. Sabathia vs. Baltimore Orioles ($8,200)
For some reason there’s still a name tax associated with owning C.C. Sabathia; don’t take the bait. Reports of improved velocity this spring had some encouraged that we may see a bit of the C.C. of old this season, but that didn’t come to pass in his first start. His average fastball velocity was 88, which makes it difficult to fool hitters with his secondary offering since the velocity doesn’t differ much from his top level heat. A familiar opponent in the Orioles, in a hitter friendly park, is a situation to avoid. The Orioles were 37 runs above average at home last season.
15) Trevor Cahill vs. Miami Marlins ($5,300)
If Trevor Cahill would just stop throwing his fastball, he could be really good. I know that’s a loaded statement, but he has fantastic secondary offerings, gets a decent amount of swinging strikes (predictive indicator of strikeout ability) and forces opponent’s to pound worm burners into the ground. He’ll likely benefit from the move to Atlanta because of their infield defense, and he’s severely under-priced here. Nice sneaky start option.
Rest of the Field
I would avoid the ‘Rest of the Field’ tonight. The names above are a good mix of upper echelon starters and value plays that are in favorable spots while offering a bit of salary relief if you so choose. I’d steer clear of the names below.
16) Jeremy Hellickson vs. San Diego Padres ($6,300)
Don’t blindly target him because he’s pitching in San Diego. Hellickson walks too many batters and strikes out too few, regardless of the park. Remember, these aren’t the same Padres.
17) Daniel Norris vs. Tampa Bay Rays ($5,600)
I like the player, but his home park scares me. He looked good in his debut, but I want to see it again. The fact that Norris pitched well in his debut and a guy like Graveman didn’t means they’ll be an ownership discrepancy that we can exploit.
18) Nick Martinez vs. Los Angeles Angels ($4,900)
Nick Martinez is a guy you stack against, not a guy that you start. He managed to get through eight innings against the Athletics in his debut, but I’m not a believer. I’m not interested in a fly ball pitcher that doesn’t have over powering stuff.
19) Anthony DeSclafani vs. Chicago Cubs ($6,000)
Anthony DeSclafani is an intriguing prospect and definitely one that I have my eye on, but that doesn’t mean I want to play him against Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs. If he’s able to strike out 20%+ of the batters he faces while minimizing his walks he’s going to work his way up this list each time he starts. Watch, but don’t roster.
20) Miguel Gonzalez vs. New York Yankees ($6,100)
I’d prefer to target the Yankees when they’re facing a left-hander, but inter division rivals are worth avoiding unless we’re dealing with an ace.
Asher Wojciechowski vs. Oakland Athletics ($4,300)
The Athletics and their lefty bats in particular, are worth a look today. They used Wojeiechowski for long relief last night, and early reports have Brad Peacock scheduled to take take his spot.
22) Christian Bergman vs. San Francisco Giants ($5,200)
If it were any other opponent, in any other park, Bergman would likely be the last option listed today.
23) David Buchanan vs. New York Mets ($5,400)
When you have options this cheap like Shane Greene and Trevor Cahill, David Buchanan is an easy name to cross of the list.
24) Matt Andriese vs. Toronto Blue Jays ($4,100)
There’s no way that the Blue Jays lay an egg at home again like they did last night, right? Right???
25) Drew Rucinski vs. Texas Rangers ($5,500)
Good news, Garrett Richards is going to be back soon. The bad news is, he’s not back yet so Drew Rucinski is forced to come out of the pen to take a start. Don’t expect much from Rucinski here.
26) David Huff vs. Seattle Mariners (N/A)
The Dodgers are starting David Huff today, who’s not in the player pool.