Below we’ve got a discussion of the starting pitching situation as well as the best teams to use for stacks for Thursday’s seven-game evening slate on DraftKings. We’ve also got projections derived from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections and rankings of the top plays at each position.
On this small slate, the starters are broken into three nice little price tiers. Of the four expensive pitchers ($9,500+), only one appears to be worth his price tag, John Lackey ($9,700). Lackey has a good matchup against the Brewers who have the fifth worst wRC+ and tenth highest strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. His recent form is good as his ERA is 2.30 over his last four starts with just shy of a strikeout per inning in that stretch. He’s a bit cheaper than Lance McCullers, who has a tough matchup in Texas, and he’s much, much cheaper than Corey Kluber, who has an even worse matchup against Kansas City and is making his first start back from an injury. If you’re spending on a starter (and you need to), do it with Lackey.
In the mid-price range ($7,800-$9,000), Jimmy Nelson ($8,500) and Marco Estrada ($7,900) are worth considering. My model likes Nelson a bit more in terms of both projection and value, primarily based on the matchup adjustment he’s getting to his base projection. My matchup projection is based off each team’s production in the categories that actually help and hurt a pitcher on DraftKings, so, on some level, the Cards are a good matchup for Nelson. But the Cards are top 10 in wRC+ against right-handers and mid-pack in terms of strikeout rate, so the matchup feels dicier to me.
Estrada, on the other hand, has a good matchup according to my model, and it’s a bit easier to see why in some of the advanced metrics. The Braves don’t strikeout much, but they also don’t hit much against right-handers. They have the third worst wRC+ against right-handers this year. And against pitchers of any handedness over the last 30 days, they have the second worst wRC+. Estrada might not have as much upside against Atlanta, but the floor feels pretty high. That said, he does have a 5.68 xFIP in his last six starts. But when options are thin on a short slate, there is no avoiding risky options.
If you’re looking for a bargain ($5,400 or less), Matt Moore is a somewhat interesting name. His base projection is not intriguing and would rank ninth among today’s starters if my model made no adjustments to the base projections. But once you factor in matchup and ball park, he appears to have some value potential. The matchup is a bit boom-or-bust as Baltimore’s non-pitchers rank eighth in wRC+ against right-handed pitching but have the third highest strikeout rate. And the game is in Tampa, which is obviously preferable to Baltimore. It’s a gamble, and I’m not sure it’s necessary given that there’s not really any expensive pitchers to spend on today. But it’s an option nonetheless.
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.
I know I just got done saying Moore was an option tonight, but the Orioles are an option for a stack as well. Three teams have six or more hitters that rank in my top 35 projected hitters today, and the O’s are one of them. As mentioned, they’re boom-or-bust against right-handed pitching, and Moore can certainly let opposing hitters blow up. He has allowed eight home runs in eight starts this year, and his ERA is 8.42 (5.84 xFIP). Steve Pearce is a great value even if you’re not stacking O’s, and Adam Jones is reasonably priced. A full stack might include those two, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters.
The Twins have been popping up as a stack option here a lot recently, but that’s because they keep facing left-handed starters. Minnesota can field a very right-handed-heavy lineup, though it hasn’t totally translated to dominance of lefties as they’re basically mid-pack in all stats against LHP as a team. Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano are the two most likely to do damage, and while they’re not huge values or anything, their price tags are affordable tonight. For a team-heavy stack you’d go with that pair along with some combination of Byron Buxton, Torii Hunter, Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez.
And finally, the Blue Jays are almost always at least worth a look, and that’s especially true when facing a starter who has a 5.20 xFIP. Unfortunately that starter is right-handed, and, even more unfortunately, the game is in Atlanta as opposed to Toronto. But Justin Smoak is a great value as a left-handed bat, and Edwin Encarnacion is priced reasonably after returning to the lineup just yesterday. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson are very pricey and honestly not really worth it. But with it being a short slate and there being limited pitching options on which to spend your money, you could probably fit those guys into a stack.
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.
- John Jaso – $2,500 – Tampa Bay Rays
- Matt Wieters – $2,500 – Baltimore Orioles
- Josh Thole – $2,000 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Adam Lind – $4,100 – Milwaukee Brewers
- Justin Smoak – $2,600 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Freddie Freeman – $4,000 – Atlanta Braves
- Brian Dozier – $4,700 – Minnesota Twins
- Steve Pearce – $2,700 – Baltimore Orioles
- Scooter Gennett – $2,800 – Milwaukee Brewers
- Miguel Sano – $4,800 – Minnesota Twins
- Trevor Plouffe – $4,100 – Minnesota Twins
- Manny Machado – $4,500 – Baltimore Orioles
- Eduardo Nunez – $2,600 – Minnesota Twins
- Eduardo Escobar – $3,700 – Minnesota Twins
- Ryan Goins – $2,500 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Mike Trout – $4,900 – Los Angeles Angels
- Adam Jones – $3,900 – Baltimore Orioles
- Byron Buxton – $2,300 – Minnesota Twins
- Jason Heyward – $4,400 – St. Louis Cardinals
- Ben Revere – $4,100 – Toronto Blue Jays
- Bryce Harper – $5,900 – Washington Nationals
- Jose Bautista – $5,700 – Toronto Blue Jays