With a good chunk of the schedule getting a first pitch some time in the afternoon, there are only six games left for Thursday’s evening slate. I will give you a few thoughts on ten of the twelve pitchers getting the start tonight, and why I like them, or don’t. These rankings, as always, are based on the value I perceive at these prices, not on total projected points. You can assume the two guys not ranked would be numbers 11 and 12.
Top 5 Pitchers
#1) Jake Arrieta – CHC @ CIN – $11,100 – – He’s 3-0, he’s gone at least 7 innings in every game, and he has struck out 20 batters. Only once did he allow any runs at all (three, against the Diamondbacks). Two of his three starts have been worth 30 or more fantasy points. The reigning Cy Young winner has been pitching like he wants his second trophy. As the safest and highest upside pitcher on the board, there is a reason he’s the most expensive. Without a lot of confidence-inspiring options behind him, I might find it hard to get away from spending up for the top option available.
#2) Dallas Keuchel – HOU @ TEX – $9,400 – – It’s obviously not an easy matchup, but Keuchel has been tested a few times this season already, with games against the Yankees and the Tigers already behind him. In his last start, he held Detroit to five hits over eight innings of shutout ball, so he is definitely capable of a big game against anyone. Texas is hitting .221/.268/.329 against him in 222 at-bats. He pitched against Texas five times last season, and in four of those starts, he went at least seven innings giving up a total of three earned runs.
“The real issue with him right now is the nine walks he has issued over his last two starts…”
#3) Brandon Finnegan – CIN vs. CHC – $6,400 – – He faced the Cubs ten days ago and gave up just one hit and two earned runs through 6.2 innings, good for more than 17 DK FP. The real issue with him right now is the nine walks he has issued over his last two starts, but he is a cheap pitcher who has been a fantasy asset more than liability so far, scoring at least 14.5 points in each of his three starts (2.04 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 17+ innings). He struck out seven batters last time against Chicago, so there is some upside. Obviously, the matchup with Arrieta doesn’t help his chances of getting the W, but Finnegan has shown the ability to be a valuable fantasy starter so far this season.
#4) James Shields – SD vs. PIT – $8,700 – – He has started off 0-2 with a no decision, and only has 14 K’s vs. 7 walks through 20 innings so far. In a matchup with Gerrit Cole, it will interesting to see which of these pitchers – if either of them – comes through with the kind of start that carries their team to victory. For Shields, there have been two problems so far: he has issued too many walks and given up too many home runs. And while the Pirates have hit only seven homers on the year (third fewest in the league), they have also taken the second-most walks. However, if Shields can find his control in this one, he should set himself up to pitch deep into the game.
#5) Marco Estrada – TOR @ BAL – $6,800 – – Baltimore is one of the more explosive offenses in baseball, slugging .519 as a group on the season so far. Estrada has two starts in 2016, both against Boston – one great and one decidedly mediocre. But the Red Sox are another top offense, only one run scored behind the O’s so far, and Estrada did throw seven shutout innings against them in his first start of the year. And, as divisional opponents, Estrada has had plenty of exposure to the Orioles lately, and over 88 at-bats, Baltimore is hitting just .182 against him as a team. He faced the O’s three times last season as a starter, and two of those games turned out to be quality starts.
#6) Gerrit Cole – PIT @ SD – $10,300 – – Cole won 19 games last year, with over 200 K’s and a 1.09 WHIP – so obviously, the upside is there. But after two starts this season, he’s given us plenty of reasons not to trust him just yet: 0-2, no more than 16.5 DK FP in either game, only 9 total K’s and an ERA over 4.00. We should all just be happy Cole is heading back out to the mound after the scary-looking incident in his last start, when he took a line drive off the head, but I want to see a good performance before I trust him across a range of different lineups. The only benefit he has tonight is that if you’re looking for big-tournament upside, his ownership % will likely be down, so you could get a stud pitcher and a contrarian play rolled into one, in a pitcher-friendly park, against the team with the third most strikeouts in the majors.
#7) Rich Hill – OAK @ NYY – $7,000 – – The big lefty has struggled with injury issues for years, so it’s nice to see him out there throwing, even if his performances have been shaky at best so far this year. Hill had a nice outing against the Mariners in his second start of the season, but more recently, he required 106 pitches to get through 4.1 innings against KC, surrendering nine hits and three runs and, eventually, taking the loss. Drawing Severino opposite gives Hill a decent shot at grabbing a win.
#8) Edinson Volquez – KC vs. DET – $7,700 – – He currently possesses a 1.19 WHIP and 2.04 ERA, so he is doing something right. But at the same time, he hasn’t gone more than 6 innings or earned more than 24.5 DK FP in any of his three starts. For me, I can’t highly recommend starting him tonight – he gave up 16 runs in four starts against the Tigers last season, and as a team, Detroit is hitting .317 against him over 120 at-bats. With the exception of J.D. Martinez, every prominent hitter on Detroit’s roster has a lifetime average over .300 against him, headlined by Cabrera’s 5-for-8 (.625) history. However, if he can continue his early season form tonight, he’ll be decent value.
“Against an Oakland team that doesn’t score much, he might give the Yankees a fighting chance here…”
#9) Luis Severino – NYY vs. OAK – $7,400 – – The guy has got “stuff,” as they say, but so far, that hasn’t translated into any kind of success. He has thrown 87 and 95 pitches in his two starts, and yet has failed to get out of the sixth inning in either. He’s getting behind in counts and making the game a bit easier on the hitters right now, so if anything, the fact that he has only given up seven runs is a testament to his mental toughness, pitching his way out of a few jams. Against an Oakland team that doesn’t score much, he might give the Yankees a fighting chance here.
#10) Mike Pelfrey – DET @ KC – $4,700 – – I included him on the list in order to drive home the point that I really don’t want to start A.J. Griffin or Chris Tillman, the two guys who didn’t make the list. Pelfrey gave up 7 hits (in 3.2 innings) in one of his two starts, and six walks in his other, so no, I don’t actually have any interest in starting him here. But, I feel just as strongly about Tillman and Griffin, and at least Pelfrey is cheap.