WATCH: PITCHER TO WATCH ROBBIE RAY


There are a dozen Major League Baseball games lined up for this Thursday with five games tonight making up a nice limited slate in the main contest. The D-Backs and Brewers are playing the first game of their series in Milwaukee while the other four games are all conclusions to series that started earlier this week. As you put together your lineup for tonight, these are my top-five starting pitchers to check out:

UPDATE: Jacob deGrom WILL NOT start tonight. Rafael Montero will take the mound for the Mets.

1. Jacob deGrom – NYM vs. SD – $12,100

There are lots of contenders for the second spot on this list, but a very clear No. 1 option. In his last start, deGrom dominated the Angels allowing just four hits in seven shutout innings while striking out nine on his way to 33 DKFP. He improved to 3-1 with the win and comes into tonight with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP on the season.

At home this year, he has been even better with a 2.19 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 24.2 innings. The Padres have one of the least productive lineups in the Major Leagues, so he should be able to dial up another dominant performance tonight. The “day-to-day” designation is due to a blister that cropped up in his last start, but it shouldn’t impact his ability to be effective since he pitched through it while dominating the Angels.


2. Michael Wacha – STL @ LAD – $8,200

After deGrom, there’s a sizable drop-off to the next few options. Numbers two through four on this list are pretty close, but I’ll give my second spot to Michael Wacha since he’s the lowest risk of the second tier of options. Wacha faces the Dodgers in the late game tonight and comes in with a very impressive 2.74 ERA to go with a 1.15 WHIP and a 2-1 record. In his last start, he held the Giants scoreless for six innings and produced 19.3 DKFP.

Wacha is the lowest risk option outside of deGrom tonight, but he doesn’t have a high ceiling since he doesn’t typically strikeout a ton of batters. He has at least five strikeouts in in six of his seven starts but only 39 in his 42.2 innings this season. He has produced 15-20 DKFP in five of his last six outings, and he should be in that range again tonight.


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3. Robbie Ray – ARI @ MIL – $8,600

Ray has a higher ceiling than Wacha, but he has been less consistent which is why I have him at number three for tonight. He is coming off a great start when he held the Padres to two hits and three walks in 7.2 shutout innings to improve to 3-3 on the year. In his two starts before that, though, he had given up nine runs on 11 hits in just nine innings.

Arizona’s southpaw is on the road in a tough matchup against the hard-hitting Brewers tonight, but he has had much better success away from Chase Field than at home. He comes into tonight’s start 2-1 on the road with a 1.03 ERA while he has been shelled at home and is 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA. On the road, he’s a viable option tonight, but there is risk since he has been prone to giving up home runs and is in a hitter-friendly park tonight in Milwaukee.


4. Justin Verlander – DET @ HOU – $9,900

The Tigers look to earn a split of their four-game set with the Astros tonight behind Verlander, who is making his 10th start of the season. So far he is 4-3 with a 4.39 ERA, but he has given up at least three runs in each of his last three outings. His solid innings and strikeout numbers still allowed him to post 19+ DKFP in four of his last five starts, but he hasn’t been as locked-in as he looked at the very start of the season.

The reason why Verlander slides to the fourth spot tonight is that he has a very tough matchup on the road in Houston against the Astros tonight. He is 2-3 with a 7.24 ERA on the road while posting a 2-0 record with a 1.61 ERA at home. Last year, he did go 2-0 against the Astros allowing five runs in 15 innings, but his road splits are scary enough for me to drop him behind Wacha and Ray for tonight’s matchup.


5. Kenta Maeda – LAD vs. STL – $8,800

After the three pitchers in the second tier of options, there is another sharp dropoff to the rest of the 10 starters taking the mound tonight. I’ll go with Maeda as my “best of the rest” option as he comes off the DL to face the Cardinals tonight at home in L.A.

Maeda had an ugly 5.03 ERA before missing a start with a hamstring issue. He did look sharper in his last few starts before the injury, though, posting 21+ DKFP in three straight outings highlighted by dominating starts at home against the Phillies and Pirates. He probably won’t be ready to go deep into the game tonight, but his 40 strikeouts in 39.1 innings show he has the punch out potential to give him a high enough ceiling to earn him the final spot in tonight’s top-five.

 


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.