Below I’ve ranked tonight’s top 10 pitchers, ranked according to value at their price, not simply total projected fantasy points. Let’s get right into it!
Top 5 Pitchers
1) Jimmy Nelson – MIL vs. SD – $9,200 – – For me, tonight is a night to spend up on pitching. Identifying a pitcher you like who isn’t Kershaw is still important, and for me, tonight, that’s Nelson. He is coming off his worst start of the year, and that only performance in which he failed to reach double digits in fantasy points. He will be looking to come back in a big way from that game, and he has the perfect opponent to return against: the Padres are in the bottom third of the league in runs scored, and have the second highest strikeout total in the majors.
2) Clayton Kershaw – LAD vs. NYM – $13,300 – – He is clearly the #1 option for the night if these guys were ranked according to nothing but projected points, costs aside. He has yet to have a game this season with fewer than 21 DKFP; in other words, his floor is somewhere right around the ceiling for a lot of tonight’s options. And his ceiling – four games with 29 or more fantasy points and one 55-point complete game shutout – is as high as anyone’s in the game. With four straight games with double-digit strikeouts and a good matchup against the Mets (collective .138 batting average against him in 80 at-bats), you might be best served just trying to decide who to roll out in your second pitching slot.
3) Vince Velasquez – PHI @ ATL – $10,900 – – Facing an Atlanta team that is dead last in majors in runs scored, slugging % and OPS, the opportunity is clearly there for Velasquez to go deep in this game, and potentially earn a win if his offense can get to Aaron Blair. The Braves, for all their faults though, don’t strike out much, so I would expect something more like the 4.25 K’s per outing he is averaging over his last four. That puts his upside somewhere in the 25-30 DKFP range, as I see it, but without a lot of downside in this matchup, he is well worth consideration for the price.
4) Ian Kennedy – KC @ NYY – $8,600 – – He has gone at least six innings and given up no more than two runs in four of his six starts this year, including seven innings of shutout ball against Cleveland last time out. His ERA of 2.13 and his WHIP of 1.08 both demonstrate the efficiency with which he is getting in and out of innings, and the Yankees lineup is for once not the intimidating turn in the rotation it once was. They still know how to make a pitcher work, so the one area for concern for Kennedy is the 13 walks he has issued this year. If he can control the ball and keep his pitch count down, he has the potential to turn in a very useful fantasy performance for the salary.
“When he is on his game, he has a knack for missing bats, and he can pile up strikeout numbers in a hurry . . .”
5) Zack Greinke – ARI vs. SFG – $8,400 – – He has had a few rough outings that have led to his 5.15 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, but he also has had four quality starts so far on the year, including each of his last two. In those four starts, he has averaged just about 23 DKFP per game. When he is on his game, he has a knack for missing bats, and he can pile up strikeout numbers in a hurry. He has had a good amount of exposure to the Giants hitters over the years (219 at-bats), and the only guy who has had any real success against him is Denard Span. If he can continue that trend and keep some of San Fran’s top hitters off-balance, he could be in line for a successful night, despite what seems like a tough matchup on paper.
6) Adam Wainwright – STL @ LAA – $7,200 – – He has had quality starts in three of his last four (although just barely – he gave up exactly three runs in each and didn’t complete seven innings in any of them). His slot this high in the rankings has a lot more to do with a lack of viable options tonight than anything else though. While the Angels offense has struggled in terms of hits and runs, they have also struck out fewer times than any other team in the league. That combination of traits in the offense, to me, makes Wainwright a legitimate consideration in a cash game, but someone who might not be able to help you much in a GPP.
7) *Dallas Keuchel – HOU @ BOS – $6,900 -* – Boston is leading the league in runs scored, and Keuchel has struggled some over his last few starts. Keuchel is coming off a 7-inning, 8-strikeout performance against the Mariners, where he gave up just two runs but didn’t factor in the decision – an encouraging start. And Boston, while their splits are respectable against everyone, does see their batting average and slugging % both drop about 30 points against lefties.
8) James Shields – SD @ MIL – $8,200 – – His K/9 ratio is terrible, but that has more to do with a ton of walks, not a lack of strikeouts (his K/9 rate is still right around 7). And those strikeouts would be the reason you’re drafting him tonight because his chances of getting a W aren’t great, with his bottom-of-the-league offense trying to support him against Jimmy Nelson. But, as good as the Brewers offense has been at producing runs, they also have the fourth-most strikeouts in the majors, so Shields could get some things done if he manages to stay out there at least 5 or 6 innings.
“A K/9 rate over 11 makes anyone useful . . .”
9) David Price – BOS vs. HOU – $11,100 – – Prize has an ERA of 6.75 so far, which basically says just one thing to me: he has WAY too much downside for this price tag. Sure, the upside is still there, so if you want to include him in at least one of your tournament lineups, I wouldn’t blame you – he did have a 41.2 DKFP outing against Atlanta just a couple of weeks ago. A K/9 rate over 11 makes anyone useful, but three out of four games with single-digit fantasy production means I am thinking long and hard about inserting him into too many of my lineups.
10) Aaron Blair – ATL vs. PHI – $7,500 – – The rookie has pitched well, despite his 0-2 record, maintaining a 3.11 ERA through his first three starts. And this time out he is drawing one of the best matchups possible, which is what gets him listed here. He also has a K/9 rate of just about 2.8, and a K:BB ratio of 5:9 (no, that’s not backwards) which gets him listed tenth. His upside is somewhere in the mid-teens.