WATCH: IMPACT PLAYER – ZACK WHEELER
Most teams are turning to their third and fourth starters tonight, which means there are less top-tier pitching options. Below, I break down my top five.
1. Francisco Liriano – TOR @ TB – $8,900
The pickings are really slim at pitching when we have to consider Liriano as the top overall pitcher on a slate. Liriano had a lot of success after being traded to the Blue Jays last year. He posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. If he did that over a full season then those would be his best marks since his rookie year. His matchup for tonight also appears to be a good one. Even though the Rays were decent against left-handed pitching last year, it appears they will be significantly worse this year. They were shut out in their lone game against a left-handed starter this year, and the pitcher was the 2017 version of CC Sabathia. The middle of the Rays lineup against lefties includes Rickie Weeks and Tim Beckham, who I don’t expect to pose much of a threat.
2. Zack Wheeler – NYM vs MIA – $8,000
Wheeler is a former top prospect who has had his career derailed by injuries. He has been effective when healthy, which hasn’t been very frequent. The good news is that for daily fantasy we don’t have to worry about anybody’s long-term health. He might be hurt in a month, but we know that he is going to be healthy and starting tonight. Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two years, but he has a 3.5 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 49 career starts. He also averages nearly a strikeout per inning. Wheeler was very impressive in spring training, and the most encouraging sign was his velocity. In Wheeler’s final spring training start, his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 miles per hour. This means that the stuff he had, which garnered him attention as a top pitching prospect, still exists in him despite the injury setbacks.
3. Mike Fiers – HOU vs KC – $7,500
Fiers really struggled last year, so the hope here is that he can regain some of his old form that made him a successful big league pitcher. Fiers struck out just 7.15 batters per nine innings last season, which was the lowest mark of his career. Across his six years in the big leagues, Fiers has struck out 8.52 hitters per nine innings. However, last year Fiers created swing and misses on 8.9 percent of his pitches. His career mark is 9.2 percent, which is insignificantly different from the amount of swing and misses he had last year. This leads me to believe that there were some tough breaks involved in his lack of strikeouts. There is reason to be optimistic about his strikeout potential this season. Fiers also gets a boost from getting to pitch against the Royal reeling offense. They have scored a total of just five runs in their first three games of the season.
4. Jesse Chavez – LAA vs SEA – $7,100
Chavez started his career as a reliever before transitioning to a starter, then back to a reliever, and now back to a starter. Overall Chavez has been much more effective as a starter. He has a 4.57 FIP as a reliever, but a 3.88 FIP as a starter. He also has a higher strikeout rate (21 percent vs 19.9 percent) as a starter, which is a really bizarre statistic. Chavez has also always been a better pitcher at the start of the season and tends to wear down as the year progresses. For his career, he has a 3.69 ERA prior to the All-Star break and a 5.91 ERA in the second half the year. He has a career-best 2.6 ERA in the month of April. The Mariners are averaging just two runs per game through their first four games of the season.
5. Mike Leake – STL vs CIN – $6,800
There is some #revenge narrative here as Leake takes on his old ball club. Leake does not possess a ton of strikeout upside, but he does provide some stability, as the Cardinals are the largest favorites on the slate, which would equate to a four-point win bonus. In Leake’s only home start against the Reds last year, he pitched five innings with six strikeouts and surrendered just two runs. On a slate short on top pitching options, a replication of that performance could pay big dividends for his owners at a fairly cheap price tag.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is gehrenberg) 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.