A few days into the second half of the season, some of the best arms in baseball are slated to get the start Tuesday night. How you handle the decision whether to pay up will go a long way towards determining what your roster looks like. And just deciding to go big isn’t enough – whether you choose the right top option will determine your success. Here are my ten favorite options for tonight, ranked in order of value at their price, not just total projected fantasy points. Good luck.
Top 5 Pitchers
#1) Aaron Sanchez – Tor @ Ari – $9,900 – – Sanchez had the kind of first half he could have only dreamed about, with 14 quality starts leading to a 2.97 ERA and a 9-1 record. As good as those numbers are overall, they were actually even better on the road, where through ten starts, he posted a ridiculous 6-0 record with a 2.20 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He takes those numbers into Arizona tonight, to face a free-swinging club that can put up runs, but struggles with strikeouts (5th in MLB in total K’s). Sanchez has 103 K’s in 118.1 innings, so even if he does get touched for a run or two, he should be able to take advantage of this matchup and put up a solid fantasy number.
#2) Vince Velasquez – Phi vs. Mia – $9,700 – – While there is a full slate of games tonight, there are not a lot of cheap pitching options except for a bunch of underperforming arms and bad matchups. Being able to save a little while retaining some upside might make building out the rest of your lineup a bit easier. If you’re looking for upside, Velasquez could certainly have it, with a K/9 rate of 10.63 through 78.2 innings so far on the year.
#3) Danny Salazar – Cle @ KC – $11,300 – – Despite giving up nine runs over his last two starts before the break, Salazar still takes a 2.75 ERA into the second half. He skipped the All-Star game as a precaution because of some elbow issues he was feeling during his last start, during which he gave up six runs to the Yankees. But he is all set to take the ball tonight and he’ll look to improve on his 10-3 record, while maintaining his rate of more than a strikeout per inning.
#4) Jameson Taillon – Pit vs. Mil – $8,800 – – The young right-hander appears set to take the mound tonight after not making a start since June 29th (against Seattle a six-inning, one-run victory). He has 21 strikeouts in 28 innings so far on the year, and is facing a Brewers team that’s second in the majors in strikeouts, just two behind the league-leading Astros. If he can continue the progress he showed in his last start, he could lock down a rotation spot for the remainder of the season.
#5) Jake Arrieta – ChC vs. NYM – $12,100 – – Arrieta is getting the start so late after the All-Star festivities because Joe Maddon wanted to give him as much rest as possible, considering the struggles he had in his last three starts heading into the break. But now he is getting to kick off the second half against a Mets team that is bottom-three in the league in runs scored and top-10 in strikeouts. Despite his struggles, he still holds a K/9 rate over 9.5, and that should still be a recipe for fantasy success.
#6) Carlos Martinez – StL vs. SD – $10,200 – – Pitching with one of the best offenses in baseball supporting you is never a bad thing, and Martinez has taken advantage. But he has come by his eight wins honestly, posting a 2.85 ERA and a K/9 rate of 7.63 through 19 starts. The K’s are down from last year and it seems like that might be a regression to the norm for him, because he is replacing those K’s with a parade of ground ball outs. That approach seems well suited to his array of pitches, which could make him a more consistent option (who still has double-digit strikeout upside, as demonstrated in his final start of the first half against the Brewers).
#7) Junior Guerra – Mil @ Pit – $10,400 – – Guerra has now made 13 big-league starts, and has been a bright spot in what is an otherwise disappointing season for Milwaukee so far. He comes into the second half with a 3.06 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, which has translated into an average of more than 18 DraftKings Fantasy Points (DKFP) per game. His price is finally reflecting that upside here, which is what drops him down the list somewhat, but he had quality starts in three of his last four prior to the break, including 15-straight scoreless innings against the Dodgers and Nationals.
#8) Dallas Keuchel – Hou @ Oak – $8,200 – – Oakland actually usually fares relatively well against left-handers, and they have been hitting the ball well as of late (slugging over .500 as a team for the past week), otherwise Keuchel would be higher on this list. Keuchel struggled mightily to begin the season, and if not for those hiccups his price would already be significantly higher than it is. He has had five straight quality starts, a run in which he went 3-0 and averaged just north of 17.5 DKFP per outing. He had 23 K’s in 32 innings over that period, and dropped his ERA a whole run to a much more respectable 4.80. For a guy who has shown the ability to put together a Cy Young-caliber season, it’s easier to start to trust him when he is showing this kind of return to form.
#9) Noah Syndergaard – NYM @ ChC – $11,700 – – I know, the matchup is tough – but you should really take a look at some of the options at the bottom of the list tonight. Actually, on second though, don’t. Syndergaard’s main promise here is he is a pitcher with as much upside as you can find, but whose ownership % should obviously be down while he’s facing one of the league’s most potent offenses. But for whatever it is worth, the Cubs do slug about 40 points lower against right-handers, and Syndergaard is entering the game with 128 K’s in 105 innings, to go along with a 2.56 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. With numbers like that, it’s tough to decide who has the tougher matchup – him or the Cubs hitters.
#10) Jake Peavy – SF @ Bos – $4,500 – – There are not a lot of low-end options for whom you can envision any kind of upside at all tonight, but here is one name to consider. Returning to Boston to start against some former teammates, he has limited lineup stalwarts like Pedroia (1-for-7 lifetime) and Ortiz (3-for-10 with three singles), which is a good place to start.
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.