This Thursday, Major League Baseball is in transition as teams move from the series they have been playing so far this week and get set for the series they have coming up this weekend. Due to the transitions, there are five games set up for a solid afternoon contest and six more on tap tonight for under the lights. In this post, we’ll focus on the 12 starting pitchers taking the mound tonight looking at my top-five options. Aside from a few exceptions, we have a lot of fifth starters to pick from in the limited pool tonight, so even the top options come with risk. Here are the five I like the most.
1. Madison Bumgarner – SF vs. COL – $12,500
Bumgarner costs $2.5K more than any other starting pitcher tonight, and he’s clearly the top option if you can work the rest of your lineup around his hefty price tag. Bumgarner is making his third start of the season against his AL West rivals, and it will be his first start at AT&T Park.
He took a tough loss his last time out allowing two runs on six hits in eight innings while striking out five for 21.2 DKFP. The Giants gave him no run support, though, so he fell to 0-1. Based on his track record, he should fare better at home tonight where he went 9-4 with a 2.14 ERA last season while holding opponents to a .195 batting average. Bumgarner averages over a strikeout per inning, so he’s almost a lock for 20+ DKFP. If the matchup against the Rockies is a concern for you, remember that last year he allowed just three earned runs in three starts to Colorado finishing with a 1.40 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings.
2. Jason Vargas – KC vs. OAK – $6,300
From a value perspective, Vargas is a great way to balance out your two starters if you spend big with Bumgarner. He costs surprisingly under $6.5K despite a great start against the Astros in his last time out. He missed most of last season with Tommy John surgery, but he looked to be fully recovered picking up his first win of the season.
In that start, he allowed one run on six hits while striking out six. He finished with 23.3 DKFP, and he gets a good matchup at home against the Athletics tonight. The Royals’ lineup hasn’t been great yet this year, but Vargas is definitely a solid option if he exhibits the same type of command he had last week.
3. Jimmy Nelson – MIL @ CIN – $6,700
Nelson and the Brewers continue their road trip in Cincinnati tonight after taking a pair of games in Toronto. He gets a great matchup against Bronson Arroyo, so he should be able to pick up a win if he has another strong outing like he did last week.
Against the champion Cubs’ lineup, Nelson allowed just one run on four hits while striking out eight and piling up 23.3 DKFP. The Reds have been swinging hot bats, but Nelson should know them well from his time against them in the NL Central. In fact, he had four starts against them last season and went 2-1 with a 3.70 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24.1 innings.
4. Kevin Gausman – BAL @ TOR – $8,700
The Orioles earned a split of their two-game set in Boston and open their series in Toronto tonight as Gausman makes his third start of the year. He started on Opening Day which was also against the Blue Jays and took a no-decision allowing two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings. His control was an issue in that start and continued to be against New York his last time out. He has walked seven batters in ten innings while striking out eight.
This will be his first start on the road this season, and last year he went just 3-10 away from Camden Yards while going 6-2 at home. He’s definitely not a low-risk option, but one thing he has in his favor is his matchup against Blue Jays’ fifth-starter Francisco Liriano who was crushed in his first outing against the Rays. Gausman has a good shot at a win if he can keep his stuff under better control.
5. Wei-Yin Chen – MIA vs. NYM – $7,700
The Marlins host the Mets in an NL East matchup starting tonight, and it’s already their second series of the young season. Chen will be making his second start in a row against the Mets after holding them to one run on seven hits in six innings last Friday. He picked up his first win of the season and 20.7 DKFP in that start.
Tonight, Chen goes head-to-head with Robert Gsellman, who lost to Miami last week. Chen has a good shot at a win tonight if he can put together another solid start. The Mets have hit southpaws well this season with a team OPS of .958 against LHP, but Chen already beat them once, so he makes it into my top five on tonight’s limited slate.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Z.Thompson) 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.