Verlander is the most expensive pitcher on the slate as he faces the Reds tonight in Cincinnati. He leads the slate with a 32.8 percent strikeout percentage and a 27.8 K-BB percentage. His 2.79 pCRA is the fifth best among qualified starters, behind only Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and Blake Snell. He has an elite 33.1 percent called strike plus swinging strike percentage that ranks seventh amongst all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 750 pitches this season and he ranks eighth among that group with a 34.2 percent two strike percentage. Needless to say, Verlander continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and there is nothing wrong with rostering him against a Reds team with an active roster that has struck out 24.3 percent of the time against right-handed pitching this season with a .305 wOBA and 84 wRC+. The only issue with rostering Verlander tonight is that there are a lot of high upside pitchers that are available for less salary so there is substantial opportunity cost to paying up for Verlander in addition to his expensive price tag.
Kershaw has a favorable matchup against the San Francisco Giants, but he is one of the most expensive pitchers on the slate and he doesn’t offer the same strikeout upside that many of the other arms do. His 23.6 percent strikeout percentage is the seventh best on the slate, but he is more expensive than all but one pitcher ahead of him. San Francisco’s active roster has just a 20.8 percent strikeout percentage against left-handed pitching since the start of last season, though they also have produced just a .287 wOBA and 79 wRC+. It is a safe spot for Kershaw where he is likely to pitch a good game, but it is difficult to get him onto rosters because he doesn’t offer as much strikeout upside as many pitchers that are cheaper than him and we also have Justin Verlander available for slightly more money if we are more concerned with floor than ceiling.
The Cubs hurler faces the White Sox tonight in Wrigley Field where the wind is not blowing out. Hamels is expensive on DraftKings at $10,500 and is nothing more than a secondary option for me there, but at $8,600 on FanDuel and $46 on Yahoo he is more appealing. Hamels’ 23.6 percent strikeout percentage this season is identical to Kershaw’s but his 8.5 percent walk percentage is nearly twice as high. The White Sox’ active roster has the fourth highest strikeout percentage against left-handed pitching since the start of last season at 25.2 percent and they have the fifth lowest walk percentage at 7.2 percent. They have been well below average in terms of production as well, with a .297 wOBA and 86 wRC+. It is a nice spot for Hamels on the sites where he is not priced like an ace.
deGrom is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He has the second highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 29.9 percent and the second best K-BB percentage at 24.1 percent. He leads the slate with a 3.25 xFIP and his 2.94 pCRA is the ninth best among qualified starters this season. Surprisingly, he has just a 29.3 percent called strike plus swinging strike percentage which ranks 46th out of 139 starting pitchers that have thrown at least 750 pitches this season. He does have an elite 36.9 percent two strike percentage, however, which trails only Chris Paddack amongst that group of starters.
The matchup for DeGrom is difficult as Atlanta’s active roster has only struck out 21.1 percent of the time against right-handed pitching this season with a .349 wOBA and 113 wRC+. In cash games, I would recommend either saving some money from DeGrom at SP1 or paying all the way up to Verlander (depending on what hitter value opens up when lineups are released) but in tournaments DeGrom is a strong play as he offers similar upside to Verlander at a discount.
Woodruff is in a prime spot as he faces the San Diego Padres tonight in San Diego. The Padres’ active roster leads all of baseball with a 26.5 percent strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season and they have a below average .311 wOBA and 93 wRC+. Woodruff has the third highest strikeout percentage on the slate at 28.9 percent and he has struck out 29.3 percent of right-handed hitters this season while holding them to a .268 xwOBA and .081 ISO. Woodruff’s 3.10 pCRA is the 12th best among qualified starters this season, sitting in the middle of Stephen Strasburg, Rich Hill, Frankie Montas and Chris Paddack.
Flaherty gets one of the best matchups in baseball as he takes on the Miami Marlins tonight. Miami’s active roster has the ninth highest strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season at 24.1 percent and they have a .287 wOBA and 79 wRC+. Also working in Flaherty’s favor is that Miami’s lineup is predominantly right-handed. Flaherty has drastic splits this season with a 32.1 percent strikeout percentage, .273 xwOBA and .130 ISO allowed against righties compared to a 20.4 percent strikeout percentage, .369 xwOBA and .239 ISO allowed against lefties. The Marlins’ projected lineup has just two left-handed hitters, so Flaherty is one of my favorite plays on the slate in any format.
Keller is my favorite value arm on the slate as he takes on the Detroit Tigers tonight in PNC Park. Keller has been roughed up a bit in each of his first two outings, first by the Reds in Cincinnati and then by the Braves in Atlanta. This is the best matchup that he has had so far, however, as the Tigers have the second highest strikeout percentage and second lowest walk percentage against right-handed pitching this season. Keller is the Pirates’ number two prospect and the number 33 prospect in baseball according to FanGraphs. He struck out 30.2 percent of hitters at AAA this season while walking 10.0 percent. Steamer projects Keller for 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He is one of my top pitchers on the two pitcher sites, and he is even viable on FanDuel at $5,500 because he offers legitimate raw point upside and lets you fit whatever bats you want.
Kikuchi is available at just $5,300 on DraftKings which is worthy of a mention because there is not much to like in that price range. Kikuchi is not in play for me on FanDuel because you only need one pitcher or on Yahoo because Keller is close to the minimum. On DraftKings, however, Kikuchi is viable if you need the savings from Keller to fit in an expensive stack. Kikuchi has not been good this season, striking out just 16.7 percent of hitters with a 4.54 pCRA. This is simply a price play against a Kansas City team with an active roster that has the fifth highest strikeout percentage and an 88 wRC+ against left-handed pitching since the start of last season.
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