Despite a pair of afternoon games, there are still nine games on the evening slate Thursday. This leaves you with plenty of choices to make at every position, starting – as always – with pitcher. Here are the ten pitchers I like most for tonight, ranked according to the value I see at their price, not only projected total fantasy points.
Top 5 Pitchers
1) Chris Sale – CWS vs. HOU – $13,800 – What is there really to say? Pick a stat, any stat. He’s 8-0 in eight starts. He has a WHIP of 0.76, which, if you’re counting, translates to a grand total of 45 baserunners in 59.1 innings. His 1.67 ERA means he essentially never gives up runs (11 so far on the year). I suppose if you’re nitpicking, his K/9 ratio is “only” around 8. So then you factor in the fact that Houston leads the league in strikeouts, and you’ve got the perfect pitcher in the perfect matchup. Yes, please.
2) Marco Estrada – TOR @ MIN – $8,100 – My general rule of thumb is to always try to start Estrada at home, where he seems to pitch much better, but against the Twins I can make an exception. They have struck out more and scored less than just about every team in baseball, and Estrada will look to take advantage and earn a road W against Ervin Santana. Estrada has been striking out just about a batter per inning, and still has an ERA under 3.00 despite giving up four runs to Texas his last time out. He is going to look to bounce back from that game and has upside closer to 30 than anyone else on the board who is not at the very top of the price range tonight.
3) Mike Foltynewicz – ATL @ PIT – $6,400 – The price is set where it is because it’s hard to trust anyone after just three starts, especially against one of the higher-scoring teams in baseball. But Foltynewicz has performed really well so far, improving with every start. He only went 3.2 innings in his first outing, 7 in his second, and threw eight innings of shutout ball against the Royals in his last appearance. His 1.18 WHIP, 7.9 K/p and 8:0 K:BB figures show a pitcher who can be both dominating and efficient, the perfect fantasy commodity on the mound.
4) Jeff Samardzija – SF @ SD – $11,800 – Last time out, he threw eight innings against Arizona, giving up just one run despite allowing eight hits, but saw his fantasy value limited by only recording three strikeouts. But he has only had two starts all year that weren’t quality starts, and his K/9 rate over 7.50 shows that his last start was the anomaly. This time out, facing a Padres team that has struck out in more than 25% of all their at-bats all season long and is hitting only .228 (yup, they strike out more than they hit). Samardzija has a chance to go for the fantasy trifecta, piling up strikeout and going deep in the game en route to a victory.
“His strikeout ability usually means he’s going to give you some measure of fantasy value even in a game where he struggles”
5) Stephen Strasburg – WAS @ NYM – $12,900 – Facing a Mets team that is top ten in the league in strikeouts and bottom ten in runs scored, Strasburg will look to build on his 6-0 record, and his streak of seven straight games of 20+ DKFP. He’s been the same dominant pitcher he’s always been in terms of his ability to sit guys down, with an average of over eight K’s per outing (10.6 K/9). His issue has been giving up production – at least 2 earned runs in each of his last five starts (but no more than 4). Combined with the fact that he hasn’t gone more than 7 innings over that five-game stretch, those runs are serving to keep his upside down just enough to keep him behind Sale on this list. But if you’re looking to stabilize a cash-game roster and save a few salary dollars, his strikeout ability usually means he’s going to give you some measure of fantasy value even in a game where he struggles to keep his opponent off the board.
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6) Jon Gray – COL @ STL – $8,500 – After giving up 11 runs in just 8.2 innings in his first two starts of the year, he’s gotten his ERA back down to a respectable 4.71 by giving up only four runs in the 20 innings he’s pitched since. He has also struck out 20 batters in that most recent three-game stretch, better than one per inning. It’s hard to trust someone facing one of the better offenses in the league, but with his potential he makes an obvious choice in at one of your tourney lineups.
7) Josh Tomlin – CLE @ CIN – $7,400 – He’s 5-0 with a 1.08 WHIP, and he has also given up 13 runs in his last four starts. But, no matter, he has won three of them anyway. On the one hand, he’s a good example of why you don’t use W-L records to judge pitchers, but on the other hand, a win is worth four fantasy points and can be the difference between a good fantasy outing and a very good one. Without big strikeout potential, his upside is limited to somewhere in the low 20’s, but he also only has one game on the year with fewer than 11 DKFP, which makes him a good cash game option.
8) Tim Adleman – CIN vs. CLE – $5,600 – He’s a rookie with three starts under his belt, who got pulled after 67 pitches last time out. All this just to be sure you’re entering into this fully well aware he’s not a safe option. But he is the cheapest on the board I would even want to consider, so I figured he deserved some space here. He’s kept his ERA down at 3.38, and he has scored double-digit fantasy points in two of his three outings, recording a total of 13 K’s in 16 innings thus far. Cleveland is probably the second-best offense he has faced, but against Pittsburgh, the first, he went six innings and limited them to two runs on three hits while striking out six. He might not have earned the win, but the 18.5 DKFP were definitely worth the price.
“Now is a good time to be catching the Blue Jays…”
9) Ervin Santana – MIN vs. TOR – $7,600 – After a short stint on the DL with a back injury, he returned and immediately managed to go only 3.1 innings in a loss to the White Sox. In his last start, though, he went six innings and gave up only one run for a win against Cleveland, and he’ll look to return to that form tonight against Toronto. Coming off a series against Tampa Bay in which they never scored more than 3 runs, and losers of five straight, now is a good time to be catching the Blue Jays. If Santana can maintain a K:BB ratio like the 5:1 he posted last time out and not the 18:8 he had in the four games leading up to his stint on the DL, he should be able to return value at this price.
10) Michael Wacha – COL @ STL – $7,200 – He has lost four straight starts, and needed 92 pitches to get through four innings last time out. Not very encouraging. But, he did only give up two hits in those four innings, so there’s that. His main issue has been with his control, issuing 14 walks in his last five starts. Those walks make it impossible for me to put him in the same range as his counterpart for tonight, Gray, but his ability to avoid giving up the long ball (only four in 47.1 innings this year) and to get out of trouble when he needs to (3.23 ERA) makes him a decent candidate for 15-20 DKFP, which is more than you can say for most of the guys behind him on the board.