With a number of solid options at pitcher tonight, here are my top-5.
1. Johnny Cueto – SF @ ARI – $10,200
After struggling in his brief stint in the American league, Cueto had a tremendous bounce-back year in his first season as a member of the Giants. Cueto went 18-5 and posted a career best 2.96 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP measures what a player’s ERA would look like over a given period of time if the pitcher were to have experienced league average results on balls in play and league average timing.) The location of today’s game is not ideal. Chase Field ranked as the second best hitter’s park in baseball last year; however, Cueto has had success pitching in Arizona. He won both of his starts at Chase Field last year and racked up 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. The Diamondbacks had the fourth most strikeouts against right handed pitching last season, which elevates the upside of Cueto. Cueto is priced similarly to Arrieta, but I prefer rostering Cueto tonight. Cueto averaged 22.2 DKFP per start last year to 20.4 DKFP per start for Arrieta. The Diamondbacks also strike out at a higher rate than the Cardinals and had a worse wOBA (weighted on-base average) last season.
2. Kenta Maeda – LAD vs. SD – $9,600
Maeda was awesome in his first season in the United States. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting behind teammate Corey Seager. Maeda dominated at home, where he posted a 3.22 ERA and posted 9.5 strikeouts per 9 innings. Maeda draws a terrific matchup against the Padres, who were abysmal against right handed pitching last year. San Diego had a .291 wOBA against righties, which was the worst in baseball. They also struck out 24.9 percent of time against right-handed pitching, which was the second worst in the big leagues. The Padres did not make any significant improvements to their offense in the offseason. They will be playing without Matt Kemp this year, who was arguably their best hitter last season before he was traded away. It is reasonable to think their offense will be even worse this season.
3. Lance McCullers – HOU vs. SEA – $9,500
Of all the pitchers on this slate, I believe that McCullers possess the most upside. Last year McCullers had a 29.6 percent strikeout rate, which is 5 percent higher than any other starter taking the mound tonight. McCullers also has some pretty significant home/road splits over his career. He has an ERA of 2.12 at home and 4.84 on the road. He makes for a much stronger target when pitching in the confines of Minute Maid Park. In his 2 starts against Seattle last year, he went 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. McCullers has been a very high variance pitcher over the course of his first 2 seasons in the majors, which makes him a better target for GPP tournaments than cash games in my opinion.
4. Jake Odorizzi – TB vs. NYY – $7,800
Odorizzi is yet another pitcher going tonight with glaring home/road splits. For his career, Odorizzi has a 3.14 ERA at Tropicana Field and a 4.43 ERA on the road. He also pitched extremely well against the Yankees last year. In 3 starts against the Yankees, Odorizzi went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. This Yankees team is also significantly younger this year and will go through some growing pains. Young players tend to strikeout at a higher rate, which should benefit Odorizzi tonight. I think the Yankees are a good offense to pick on before their young bats become more experienced.
5. Tyler Anderson – COL @ MIL – $5,900
On a slate without many great pitching options in plus spots, it may be wise to go looking for a cheap starting pitcher to roster. I think that Tyler Anderson may be that guy. Last year, he averaged 14.8 DKFP per start, which is comparable to the fantasy points put up by pitchers who are priced in the high $7K range tonight. He did that despite having to make half his starts at Coors field. Anderson accomplished this by being a high-end ground ball pitcher with a ground ball percentage of 50.9. This propelled him to finish his rookie season with a 3.54 ERA, which was the best of any Rockies’ starter. One of Anderson’s best starts last year came against the Brewers. He racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts in just 5 innings of work. I think Anderson could go overlooked after the Brewers’ offense put up 5 runs yesterday.
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