With nine games on tap tonight on what is a typically slow Thursday night, the choices seem downright plentiful. These are the ten pitchers I like most, ranked according to return value at their price, not just total projected fantasy points.
Top 5 Pitchers
1) Robbie Ray – ARI vs. ATL – $10,400 – It’s simple enough, and obvious, but he is the best combination of elite talent and plus matchup on the board tonight. His K/9 of 11.19 limits his downside and gives him the potential to outscore everyone on any given night, and especially when he is facing the Braves. They don’t fan too much, at least against most pitchers, but they also don’t hit or get on base well enough to make him exit early. In the last three games in which he has gone 7 innings or more, he has scored 29, 22 and 42 fantasy points, and that is the kind of output I expect tonight.
2) Tom Koehler – MIA vs. KC – $7,100 – He now has six straight quality starts, and was up over 20 DKFP in four of those games, plenty of value at this price. He has dropped his ERA almost a full point over that span, sitting now at a very respectable 3.82 for the year. He has been significantly better at home all season long, and he facing a Royals team that has scored fewer runs than anyone else in the majors. He doesn’t have the upside of a few of the elite options available tonight, but I like his chances to return value for his price enough to trust him in any contest format.
3) Adam Wainwright – STL vs. NYM – $6,900 – He bounced back from a couple of rough outings with a solid six-inning effort against the Phillies last time out, and now he has another inept offense on his plate as he tries to build some momentum. And while he has been inconsistent, if you have any inclination to trust him at all this year, it’s when he is at home. The difference is striking: 6.53 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 13 road starts, but at home he has compiled a 5-3 record with a 3.06 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, in 12 appearances. He has the strikeout ability to give you real upside at this price, and the situation seems stable enough for me to trust him in a cash game as well.
4) J.A. Happ – TOR vs. LAA – $10,900 – On a night with two of the potential top options facing less-than-ideal matchups, it’s easy to find some solace in a pairing with the Angels here – not a terrible lineup, but one that has been slumping hard, hitting just over .230 so far this month. Happ has been striking out more than a batter an inning at home all season long, but lately he has stepped it up even further: in his last five starts – all victories – he has fanned 39 batters in 32.1 innings. That bumps up his ceiling and his floor enough to make him a solid play in any type of contest.
5) Chad Kuhl – PIT @ MIL – $6,600 – The rookie has just seven starts under his belt so far, but until his last outing, against Miami, he had been working on a run of three straight quality starts (and four of five). He had gone exactly six innings in each of those last three and had even starting inducing more swinging strikes, totaling 14 strikeouts in 18 innings over that stretch. Facing a Milwaukee lineup that will help him out in that sense, if he can avoid trouble in the first few innings, he has a solid shot at getting you the 18+ fantasy points he needs to be really returning value at this price in my opinion.
6) James Paxton – SEA @ CWS – $9,700 – It’s his first game back since August 7, so he’s not the safest option – both that he could struggle, or just be on some kind of pitch count we’re not aware of at the moment. But the potential doesn’t change, just the safety (or lack thereof). What we’re looking for here is low-ownership, which could make him a stud for you in tourney play if he is 100% ready to go because he has shown the ability to control the strike zone this season and get deep into games without having to throw a ton of pitches.
7) Cole Hamels – TEX vs. CLE – $9,800 – Another top option tonight finding himself facing a solid offense, the analysis here really isn’t much different than Scherzer. I like Hamels a lot, of course – I just don’t like the matchup. Sometimes in these instances it’s difficult to decide if it is the pitcher or the offense with the bad draw, but this time around, suffice it to say, it’s not great for either of them. The Indians don’t see much of a change in their production when facing lefties and have been top ten in all the power categories all year long. For his part, Hamels is working on a run of five straight quality starts with 37 K’s in 35.1 frames. The matchup just injects enough questions to him down the list and make him more of a GPP option only for me tonight.
8) Max Scherzer – WAS vs. BAL – $11,600 – Basically 50% of the time for the past two months, Scherzer has gotten you 30 fantasy points, and while he is a top-priced option, he is at least coming a little short of costing you 25%+ of your total budget like other stud options do at times. The problem tonight is just matchup, of course, as he faces off against a Baltimore club slugging .480 in August that is also patient enough at the plate to keep his strikeout potential on the lower end of his range.
9) Wily Peralta – Mil vs. Pit – $4,600 – To put it very, very mildly, Peralta isn’t the safest option. But at $4,600, you’re looking for 15 fantasy points. Can he get you 15 fantasy points? Well, he has before, so it is possible. And if you love a top arm and a bunch of expensive hitters, this could be the route you take. He has gotten his owners 13 or more DK fantasy points in three of his last five starts, so it really isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and with Pittsburgh hitting just .241 for the month of August, the matchup is somewhat less intimidating than it is for many of the other options in this price range.
10) Edinson Volquez – KC @ MIA – $5,400 – Anytime you see a really cheap option on this list, but there is someone even less expensive ranked higher, it means two things: one, I am probably not actually rostering Volquez tonight, and two, I really don’t like all the other guys left on the board. But Miami is the kind of offense you can go out and just sort of manage the game and come away with fantasy points in the low double-digits. In 107 plate appearance against him, the Marlins batters have a .267 average and eight extra-base hits, while he has amasses a 24:6 K:BB rate – exactly the kind of middling stats you should have expected to see, and, in my opinion, likely pretty close to what you are going to see tonight as well.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theasquad) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.