With only seven games scheduled for the evening slate on Thursday, you have fourteen pitchers to choose from for your two starting slots. Here are the ten I like best – although you’re starting to reach the bottom of the barrel by the end. Assume the guys not mentioned would be #11-14 in these rankings of all your choices, according to value at their price, not just projected fantasy points.
Top 5 Pitchers
#1) Justin Verlander – Det @ KC – $11,600 – – His last start against the Yankees was the first time in more than a month that he failed to go at least seven innings. Even though he had given up just five hits and one run, New York had made him work for it and he got pulled after 106 pitches. KC is not likely to make him work for it, with one of the lowest run totals in the majors and a OBP of just .299 so far in June. Verlander should be able to chew up innings and give you the consistency overall and the upside in every category that you’re looking for in a top choice.
#2) Danny Duffy – KC vs. Det – $7,000 – – With a 2.94 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, Duffy seems like he could be making the kind of jump every team dreams of for it’s young arms. The issue now – other than whether this keeps up – is what the upside can be for a guy on a pitch count. He has been gradually increasing his workload, and now has three straight games of at least six innings, and two straight with 80 or more pitches. With a season-high 88 pitches in his last start the Royals are getting more comfortable rolling him out there – and even with his time on the mound limited, he has 25 K’s in those last three outings (K/9 of 12.27), a good sign against a Tigers team that can put up some runs, but that also has 550+ strikeouts on the year already.
#3) Tanner Roark – Was @ SD – $10,300 – – Facing a Padres team near the bottom of the league in OPS, Roark should be able to avoid some of the pitfalls he has seen recently, like giving up five runs on seven hits ten days ago against Cincinnati or seven runs on eight hits last month against Miami. San Diego just isn’t likely to string together the hits they need to score that much against him, which tells me we’re more likely to see something like the seven innings and no more than two runs allowed he has racked up in three of his last four.
#4) J.A. Happ – Tor @ Phi – $7,300 – – The Phillies have hit even worse against lefties than right handed pitching, with a batting average as a team of just .226. You might not expect the Blue Jays to truly explode offensively against Nola, but they don’t need to for Happ to earn his eighth win of the season here. He has 17 or more DKFP (DraftKings Fantasy Points) in six of his last nine starts, and it is easy to picture him extending that run of success here.
#5) Aaron Nola – Phi vs. Tor – $9,600 – – He has the upside to be the number one pitcher of the night every time out, apparently – as demonstrated by his 29.5 DKFP against the Brewers last week or the 32 DKFP outing against Detroit last month, and for that reason alone he shows up on the top half of this list. But he can’t be number one coming off a start that saw him last only 3.2 innings against the Nats, not when his next opponent is a Blue Jays squad with an OPS of .819 so far in June.
#6) Junior Guerra – Mil @ LAD – $6,500 – – The price is really enticing here. The Dodgers are a middle-of-the-road offense in terms of runs scored, but bottom six in batting average, OBP and slugging – these guys aren’t intimidating. Guerra is coming into his ninth start of the year with a 3.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, which he has earned by being consistently good, not occasionally terrific. You’re more likely to see five straight games with two runs allowed than two shutouts and three blow-ups. And that means that he has been a somewhat reliable source of semi-useful fantasy totals, but without a lot of upside. If you’re looking for a cheap SP2 who can get you 15+ DKFP, he’s a solid choice – but not so much if you’re trying to win a big GPP.
#7) CC Sabathia – NYY @ Min – $9,800 – – The seven innings of shutout ball he tossed against Detroit last time out was his seventh straight quality start. Even if you never would have guessed it at the beginning of the year, Sabathia has become “the safe choice,” against all odds. But he also still has seven or eight strikeout potential on occasion, and could easily realize that potential against Minnesota. Another top option with a good matchup tonight, the Twins are one of the teams in the league who strike out the most and put the smallest amount of pressure on starting pitchers, routinely allowing them to go deep in games.
#8) Scott Kazmir – LAD vs. Mil – $8,500 – – He is averaging just more than a strikeout per inning so far this season, giving him a nice base of fantasy potential every time he steps on the mound. Of course, that doesn’t help much when he only lasts five innings, as he has in his last two starts. Milwaukee comes into the contest hitting just .237 against left-handers, down ten points from where they are overall, so as long as Kazmir is controlling the zone, he should be able to go deep and return you plenty of DKFP for the price. He had five walks in his last start against San Francisco, a seven-walk outing against the Padres last month, etc – but in between, he has had only zero, one or two walks in nine of his fourteen starts this season.
#9) Juan Nicasio – Pit @ NYM – $7,900 – – The last time he faced the Mets he ended up with 24.3 DKFP. He only went five innings, but racked up seven K’s and gave up only three hits and one run. He had a rough May, a month in which he gave up 15 earned runs despite making it through only 20 innings in four starts. If you go with Nicasio, it is because of the matchup and not much else.
#10) Bartolo Colon – NYM vs. Pit – $6,700 – – His K:BB ratio of 3.69 seems great until you see his K/9 rate of 5.91 and realize that he doesn’t strike anyone out (48 K’s in 73 innings) – he just also doesn’t walk anyone (only 13 on the year). Combine that with a BAA% of .271 and there is a chance he goes deep enough in this one to get you at least into double-digits in fantasy points, but he is strictly a cash game option, with a ceiling under 20. The best thing I can say about him here is that I like him more than the guys not listed.