With just seven games on tap for Thursday night, the biggest fantasy games of the day will only feature 14 possible starting pitcher options. Here are the ten I like most from that group, which doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot for the few guys at the bottom of the list. They are ranked according to how I see their value at their price, not just by projected points, and I’ll give you a little bit of insight into why it is I like them (or don’t, as the case may be). Good luck!
Top 5 Pitchers
#1) Chris Sale – CWS @ ChC – $11,000 – – Returning from a suspension and facing some recent trade speculation should have Sale plenty motivated for this one, which could well mean it’s the Cubs with the bad matchup tonight and not the other way around. He has put up at least 23 fantasy points in five of his last six starts, and there is a reason trade rumors are swirling – namely, his 3.18 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. With the White Sox drawing a struggling Lackey tonight and his ownership % perhaps being depressed due to the matchup, he has a great chance to grab the win and provide plenty of upside at this price.
#2) Johnny Cueto – SF vs. Was – $11,900 – – At 13-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, Cueto has been rock-solid for the Giants this season. One of the best stats he has going for him is the fact that he is averaging more than seven innings per start – he’s keeping his team in games, giving them a chance to win, saving the bullpen’s arms… and giving himself plenty of chances to rack up fantasy points. He has 30+ point upside, but has earned his average of 23.6 DraftKings Fantasy Points (DKFP) per game honestly, consistently getting you 24-30 fantasy points, not just bringing up his average with a few anomalous high-scoring outings.
#3) Jose Fernandez – Mia vs. StL – $13,400 – – The numbers at this point are just staggering. His 175 strikeouts in 120.2 innings calculates to a K/9 rate over 13.0. He has a 2.54 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, and if anything he has only been improving on those numbers recently. He has recorded at least seven K’s in eight straight games, and in his last three, he’s gone 20.1 innings and recorded 29 strikeouts against only four walks. Facing a brutally consistent Cardinals offense he could get stung for a couple of runs, and he could exit too early to reach his highest potential, which are the factors that pushed him down this list in terms of value. For such a premium price, you want to be buying more than just the high floor his strikeout rate provides, but the fact is that floor is there – Fernandez is not likely to be the guy who loses a contest for you tonight.
#4) Cole Hamels – Tex vs. KC – $9,900 – – I never love just recommending all the most expensive guys, but on a night with seven games being played, remember that I am recommending the “top” ten out of only fourteen pitchers (and if you look closely, there is one top option missing here). He is coming off a game on the road against these same Royals, in which he earned the win, but only went 5.1 innings on 105 pitches, gave up five hits and issued three walks. The game before he had no walks and made it through eight innings on only 91 pitches. Suffice it to say, control is the issue – and that makes him more of an upside play than a cash game option for me tonight.
#5) David Price – Bos @ LAA – $9,300 – – So far this season, the Angels have shown a consistent ability to hit left-handed pitching and Price has struggled somewhat in each of his last two starts, giving up a total of 22 hits across just 11.1 innings. So he’s at the bottom of the list, but he is not off the list entirely because prior to those two starts, he had two in row in which he went eight strong innings, and he is facing a seriously struggling Jered Weaver who could have big problems with the Red Sox offense. In addition, he has been exposed plenty to these Angels hitters over the course of his career in the AL, and he has had more than his fair share of success: in 156 plate appearances, the Angels are hitting just .201 against him, with nine total extra base hits and 12 walks against 45 K’s.
#6) Tanner Roark – Was @ SF – $8,900 – – San Francisco’s offense started out the year hot but has been tailing off ever since – they are currently hitting just .241 since the break and their slugging % against right-handed pitching has dropped below .400. Roark can hopefully take advantage to bounce back after a poor outing against San Diego last time he took the mound. Prior to the break, he had gone six straight starts with at least six innings pitched, going 3-1 over that stretch. Then he emerged from the break with eight innings of shutout ball against the Brewers and looked poised for a strong second half – hopefully this last outing was just a bump in that road and he can continue to build on the 3.05 ERA he brings into tonight’s game.
#7) Aaron Nola – Phi @ Atl – $8,400 – – With only fourteen pitchers available, it would take a lot to not even consider the guy facing the Braves, but Nola almost does it, recording just one quality start out of his last seven. This is a clear upside play, where you are hoping the pitcher’s recent performance keeps ownership percentage down enough, and the matchup with the Braves props him up enough that he returns value at the price. With 116 K’s in 106 innings, the upside is real is he can avoid trouble and make it through more than five innings, so I’m telling you there’s a chance.
#8) Michael Wacha – StL @ Mia – $6,500 – – While Wacha is suffering through the worst ERA and WHIP of his career, he is not exactly getting hammered, as he hasn’t given up a lot of extra base hits (only 11 home runs). It’s been death by a thousand cuts with him, giving up a lot of singles and not controlling the zone quite as well as he has in past seasons, as demonstrated by a 2.58 K/BB rate, down from prior seasons. That doesn’t fit well into a matchup with Miami, a team that doesn’t necessarily rely on extra base hits to generate offense. Going against Fernandez, his chances of grabbing the win are about as low as possible for a guy with such a potent offense backing him up, all of which combines to find him here at the bottom of the list. In his defense, he is cheap, and we’ve seen him pitch better than this, so if you’re looking for a cheap option but can’t bring yourself to go with any of the guys priced even lower than him tonight, Wacha makes sense.
#9) Ubaldo Jiminez – Bal @ Min – $4,700 – – This comes down to matchup and price. The Orioles have been playing great baseball, and the Twins offense has been mediocre at best all season long, and even worse than that lately (slugging just .371 since the break as a team). Jiminez certainly carries plenty of risk, but he earned back-to-back wins for the Orioles as recently as the last week in June, earning at least 19 DKFP in each contest, and if he can get you even close to that mark for this price, he is a worthwhile play in a larger GPP in which you really want to load up on big bats.
#10) Matt Wisler – Atl vs. Phi – $5,600 – – The problem here is an almost complete and total lack of upside. But at least he’s cheap. There are a few guys higher up on the list who I would clearly project to score more points, but at the price I just don’t think the chance is worth it (re: John Lackey). But with at least one guy even cheaper than him ranked higher, suffice it to say I am not likely to be running Wisler out there in many (any) of my lineups tonight, not with five games in his last ten with five or fewer DKFP (against only four with ten or more).
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.