Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Thursday’s 11-game evening slate on DraftKings. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, rankings of the top plays at each position and some sample lineups for you to consider.
If you’ve been a Front Office subscriber all year or if you’ve just read a few of my DFS posts, you’ll know that I don’t automatically tout the most expensive pitchers of the day. More often than not the most expensive pitchers have the best projections according to my model, but I also need them to have at least an above average value grade. By focusing on value rather than just expected production, you give yourself the opportunity to roster more players who are in a good situation on a given day. Rostering the player with the highest projected production for a price that exceeds his expected production forces you to roster poorer players further down your roster.
That said, Chris Sale ($13,200) is worth paying for today. Five of the 22 pitchers going today have a better value grade than Sale but none significantly so, and Sale’s projection is separated from the pack by a very significant margin. He’ll have above average matchup against the Red Sox tonight who own an 84 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. It’s not the best matchup since the Red Sox don’t strike out a ton, but Sale is virtually matchup-proof.
The pitcher with the next highest projection is Jake Arrieta ($12,100), but his projection is effectively identical to that of Jimmy Nelson ($7,800). Given that Nelson is $4,300 cheaper than Arrieta, it’s obvious which of the two I prefer. These pitchers are actually facing each other, and Arrieta may have the better chance at getting a win. But the four points you get from a win is going to make up a very small percentage of any point total from a DK lineup cashing in tournaments. Wins are hardly a consideration.
Arrieta has much more talent than Nelson, but Arrieta unfortunately doesn’t get to pitch against his own team that is 14 percent worse than league average against right-handed pitching with the second highest strikeout rate against right-handers. That difference in mathcup is enough to even out the talent difference between Nelson and Arrieta. And when factoring in price, Nelson becomes the better choice.
If you like value pitchers but need to go even cheaper than Nelson, Matt Shoemaker ($6,600) is your guy. Shoemaker will face the Astros, who are the only team to strike out more against right-handers than the Cubs. Houston does, however, have the ability to do damage against right-handers as they own a .188 ISO vs. RHP while the Cubs ISO is just .138. That makes Nelson a much safer cash game play, but Shoemaker is a GPP option you can use in place of (or in conjunction with) Nelson if you need to save some money.
I also like Phil Hughes ($6,800) to some degree, but both his projection and value grade are slightly lower than Shoemaker’s. Perhaps Hughes is a bit safer pitching in a more pitcher-friendly ball park in Minnesota, but unless you’re just very risk-averse, I’d roster Shoemaker over Hughes if you’re rostering a pitcher below the $7,000 mark.
If you’re looking for an absolute bargain (perhaps to offset the cost of Sale), Chris Rusin ($4,600) is an option. For one, he’s pitching away from Coors and in St. Louis, which is a fairly pitcher-friendly park. Combined with the ball park, Rusin’s ability to keep the ball on the ground could allow him to return value on a very low price tag. In 65 1/3 innings this year, Rusin’s ground ball rate is an impressive 54.3 percent. Plus, the Cardinals are 16 percent below average against left-handed pitching, and they have the fourth highest strikeout rate in the league against lefties.
Here are our projections for today’s starters. You’ll see each starter’s salary, the average number of fantasy points the starter is projected to score per game and how far above or below average his projection is compared to his salary in the value column. You’ll also see adjustments being made for matchup and ballpark. As for the colors, they rank as follows from good to bad: purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, burgundy.
Looking at the implied team totals for tomorrow, Vegas likes the Yankees, Orioles and Twins the most, but my model doesn’t necessarily agree. I could get on board with the Yankess as Ellsbury, Gardner, Teixeira and ARod all have solid projections for the day, but I hate all of their price tags aside from Ellsbury at $4,400. As for the Twins, I don’t really see it. They’re seven percent worse than league average against left-handed pitching this year, and only two of their hitters crack the top 60 in my hitter rankings today.
And finally with respect to the Orioles, I could see stacking the top half of that lineup at home against Alfredo Simon. But I’m not wild about their price tags, and my model likes a few other teams better. Were I to feel we were lacking other options today, I’d be OK with an O’s stack. But I do think there are better options.
One of those options is the team opposite the O’s tonight, the Tigers. Miguel Gonzalez is starting for the O’s, and between this season and last he has a 1.44 HR/9. Gonzalez hasn’t really displayed a split in his career, so both left- and right-handed Tigers are options. In particular, I like Victor Martinez as well as Alex Avila is a punt option. But to be honest, the Tigers are not my favorite stack of the day, nor are they my second favorite stack of the day. I simply discussed them first because it followed logically to discuss them after discussing their opponent for the day.
No, my favorite stack of the day is the good old Blue Jays. I’m more than aware that many others always like Jays (and for good reason), so I’m not opposed to fading them in tournaments. But at home against a left-handed starter, it’s very hard to fade Jays in cash games. That’s especially true when the left-hander is Danny Duffy and he’s allowing right-handers to slug .489 when pitching outside of Kansas City this year. Plus, their price tags are insanely reasonable and downright cheap in one instance. First, Bautista and Donaldson are priced at $4,600. That sounds crazy until you see Tulo is priced under 4K at $3,900. Edwin Encarnacion and Kevin Pillar are also reasonably priced. You shouldn’t be able to do this, but it shouldn’t be hard to get Sale and a Blue Jays stack into your lineup. But, of course, many others are likely to do the same.
No line had come out for the Pittsburgh at Cincinnati game as of this writing, and it could end up being fairly high. But my assumption is that Pirates won’t have ridiculously high ownership rates. The fact that they’re facing David Holmberg and getting a positive park shift in Cincinnati will certainly drive some attention their way, but Toronto, the Yankees and maybe even Baltimore may receive more attention. With Holmberg being a left-hander, the Pittsburgh right-handed bats are in play, and they are all nice values today. Make sure to consider McCutchen, Marte, Aramis, Kang and Cervelli.
You can view and download our hitter projections here. These projections are an average of what each hitter is projected to do on a per game basis according to the ZiPS rest-of-season projections. The projections have then been adjusted for splits, quality of the opposing starting pitcher and ballpark.
- Francisco Cervelli – $3,700 – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Alex Avila – $2,800 – Detroit Tigers
- Russell Martin – $4,300 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Edwin Encarnacion – $4,200 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Eric Hosmer – $4,600 – Kansas City Royals
- Victor Martinez – $3,500 – Detroit Tigers
- Jason Kipnis – $4,700 – Cleveland Indians
- Ben Zobrist – $4,200 – Oakland Athletics
- Brian Dozier – $4,600 – Minnesota Twins
- Josh Donaldson – $4,600 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Aramis Ramirez – $3,300 – Milwaukee Brewers
- Carlos Santana – $3,800 – Cleveland Indians
- Troy Tulowitzki – $3,900 – Colorado Rockies
- Jung-Ho Kang – $3,700 – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Jhonny Peralta – $3,800 – St. Louis Cardinals
- Andrew McCutchen – $4,800 – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Jose Bautista – $4,600 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Starling Marte – $4,700 – Pittsburgh Pirates
- Michael Brantley – $4,600 – Cleveland Indians
- Brandon Moss – $3,300 – Cleveland Indians
- Adam Jones – $4,300 – Baltimore Orioles
- Chris Sale – $13,200 – Chicago White Sox
- Jimmy Nelson – $7,800 – Milwaukee Brewers
- Matt Shoemaker – $6,600 – Los Angeles Angels
- Phil Hughes – $6,800 – Minnesota Twins
- Chris Rusin – $4,600 – Colorado Rockies
- Jake Arrieta – $12,100 – Chicago Cubs
Every day I play DFS, I take the projections you see above and run them through Fantasycruncher.com, a lineup optimization tool. Basically, it just tells me what the maximum number of projected points is that I can get into a lineup under the cap. Below is the optimal lineup it spit out for tonight using my projections.
I’m pretty sold on that lineup in tournaments. I also feel a little better about Shoemaker than my model tells me I should, so I’d also be OK with that lineup for cash games. Now, in the interest of being contrarian, let’s look at a lineup without Sale.
Assuming Encarnacion is back in the lineup (and it seems like he should be), that’s an attractive tournament lineup. Upside in the strikeout department, and some nice built-in stacking. Alright, one more. Now let’s look at a lineup without Jays.