With a shortened slate and three day games, you are left with only sixteen starting pitchers to choose from for the evening contests on Thursday. Here are the ten I like best, ranked according to how I see their value at the price, not just projected fantasy points, with some reasons why I happen to like him (or not) for tonight. You can assume the six not listed would be #’s 11-16 for me, in some order.
Top 5 Pitchers
1) Madison Bumgarner – SF @ OAK – $13,000 – Despite taking the loss in each of his last two outings, he is still maintaining a streak of 13-straight quality starts, since allowing 4 runs in 5 innings against the Dodgers on April 15th. In a pretty awesome move, he is hitting for himself tonight in Oakland, with the Giants forgoing the use of a DH to keep his bat in the lineup. This guy wins ballgames. And when he can lose and still get you 30 fantasy points like he just did against Pittsburgh, he is helping your fantasy lineups as well.
2) Jordan Zimmerman – WAS @ TB – $8,300 – Zimmerman comes by his 15.0 DKFP the exciting way, with some decent upside and a seriously low floor. Against a team near the bottom of the league in runs scored and the top of the league in total strikeouts, for tonight I would expect him to be closer to his 20+ point upside than his sub-zero downside, making him a decent SP2 in GPP tourneys.
3) Carlos Carrasco – CLE @ TOR – $10,800 – I am not really expecting a seven-strikeout complete game shutout (like his last performance against Detroit) but that was his third straight quality start. In other words, it was more the continuation of a trend than a fluke, and while the matchup knocks him down a couple of spots, he has been very comfortable away from home all season, posting a 1.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP while averaging more than six innings an outing in five road starts this year.
“He has been very comfortable away from home all season, posting a 1.95 ERA and 0.87 WHIP…“
4) Mike Foltynewicz – ATL vs. MIA – $7,200 – This game could go either way, with two offenses that have been largely unsuccessful and two pitchers who could either let the batters buck that trend for once, or bear down and take advantage of the matchup. In other words, both Foltynewicz and Chen have a decent chance of winning here, as counter-intuitive as that might seem. But it makes each of them interesting plays, especially in cash games. This will only be his seventh start of the year after a stint on the DL, but he had posted 28 K’s through his first six, giving him the slight edge in upside.
5) Wei-Yin Chen – MIA @ ATL – $6,900 – It starts getting ugly real quick tonight, but Chen does have four quality starts out of his last six. The last time he faced Atlanta, about a month ago, he only went five innings, but gave up just one run and struck out five. This is a team that will let you get through innings quickly, and Chen has been doing a better job of late controlling his pitch count and not issuing a lot of free passes, with a 17:3 K:BB ratio over his last four starts.
6) Mike Leake – STL vs. KC – $5,900 – Leake, to me, seems like the best value play of the night. It is usually tough to trust guys in this range in cash games, just because of their downside, but Leake has had 15 or more fantasy points in seven of his last nine starts, and had been working on a streak of eight games going at least six innings before his last outing against Seattle. He doesn’t strike out enough batters to have real upside, but he could pitch well enough to earn a W and get you useful production for the price.
7) Taijuan Walker – SEA vs. BAL – $7,900 – In his first game back from the DL, he will have to contend with a solid Baltimore lineup, but he has been exposed to them before as well. In 48 career at-bats against these hitters, he has allowed only three extra base hits, so as long as he can stay in the strike zone, he should be able to find some amount of success here. He is down this far on the list mainly out of fear that he has a short leash, with only a side session prior to his first start back. There is no stated pitch count, but it is easy to imagine him failing to go seven full against a good offense in this one, limiting his upside more than usual.
8) John Lackey – CHC @ NYM – $10,600 – You have to love the matchup, and the potential for run support against a banged up Matz, but Lackey gets bumped down the list based on his last two starts, which are not trending in the right direction. He went six innings and gave up three runs two starts ago, forgivable against the Cardinals. But he followed that up with only 4.1 innings against Miami, in which he allowed seven more runs. For a pitcher who has been known to suffer through down spells occasionally, Lackey isn’t the safest option tonight.
“He does not have “the stuff” to give you huge fantasy production, but he pitches for a good team, and he is good for 5+ innings”
9) R.A. Dickey – TOR vs. CLE – $6,600 – He does not have “the stuff” to give you huge fantasy production, but he pitches for a good team, and he is good for 5+ innings almost every time out. You never know when the knuckler is all of a sudden going to start being effective again though. So, his biggest strength is an ability to chew up innings and put his team in a position to win, which is enough for you to reasonably expect 15-20 fantasy points on the cheap here.
10) Jake Odorizzi – TB vs. DET – $7,700 – Here’s the deal: I like him more than the guys not on the list, but with lower-priced players ranked higher than him on my list, it’s not likely I end up going this far down into the barrel. But with a K/9 rate over 10.0 in June, he has an upside that’s hard to completely ignore, even in a tough matchup.