Gerrit Cole- There are no doubts that Gerrit Cole is the top pitcher on this slate, one that is lacking in aces in our first big slate back from the All-Star break. Cole has been the Astros-version of himself this season, striking out everyone in his path to the tune of a 37% strikeout rate, a number that rises even more at home in Houston. This start, however, does not take place in Houston, but in Arlington, Texas rather in what should be some pretty hitter-friendly weather — per usual this time of year there. The Rangers are a high-strikeout lineup, striking out around a quarter of the time against right-handed pitching as a team, but the problem is that Cole is by far the highest-priced pitcher on this slate, and there are quality value plays throughout the position. Undoubtedly he is the highest floor/ceiling pitcher on this slate, and is the top option in all formats, I’m just not sure we *need* him tonight, but my final decision remains to be seen.
Caleb Smith- One of those value plays is Caleb Smith, who comes into this slate priced at just $8,600 on DraftKings and $8,000 on FanDuel. Smith returned after a month off striking out six Braves over six innings allowing three-earned runs, a positive performance given the difficulty of the matchup and with rust expected after missing a month. This is a guy who who has completely broke out for the Marlins this season striking out 31% of batters and owning a 3.64 SIERA. Smith, like Cole, is a fly-ball pitcher so he is prone to the long ball in certain spots, but that risk is mitigated by his spacious home park in Miami. You can clearly see why he would be better at home with most of those fly balls turning into fly outs, and that holds true in his numbers as well with a 2.76 xFIP and 34% strikeouts at Marlins Park. The matchup holds upside as well, as the Mets strike out 24% of the time against lefties as a team. Overall, when factoring in price, Smith is my top option on this slate, and I expect him to be a popular play on Friday night.
Robbie Ray (DraftKings)-This is going to be a DK-only play for me as we have a wide price discrepancy between FanDuel and DraftKings, but I think that Ray is in play for your SP2. On FanDuel. Ray is the second-most expensive pitcher at $9,400 while on DraftKings he sits at just $7,900. Generally we like to avoid someone as volatile as Robbie Ray when he is set to be chalky, but at this price I find it hard to not consider him as a partner with Caleb Smith, especially when factoring in his matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals *should* by all accounts mash left-handed pitching given their abundance of right-handed bats in the lineup, while their season-long numbers aren’t bad (only 20% strikeouts) this has been one of the worst offenses in baseball over the last month. Since the start of June, the Cardinals own a 79 wRC+ as a team, good for second-worst in the league just above the Detroit Tigers. Over that span, they also are bottom-ten in walk rate as a team, which should help ease the concerns with Ray’s 12% walk rate. Overall, I really hate trusting Ray as chalk, but this offense has been so bad and he doesn’t lose any strikeout ability to righties. I want to be underweight in GPPs if he is as popular as it seems he will be, but at his price on DK we have to consider him as a strong SP2 play.
Danny Duffy (DraftKings)- If you love potentially rostering volatile pitchers in cash games, tonight is your night, and if you want to avoid the Robbie Ray chalk, you could drop down even further to Danny Duffy at $6,800. The advanced metrics look disastrous for Duffy, but this is a guy who has been able to beat up on bad offenses this season, and he gets one tonight in the Detroit Tigers. If you look at his game log and take all of the teams that strike out a lot against left-handed pitching you would see that Ray has had good games against them — 6 vs the Rangers twice, 6 vs the Rays, 7 vs this Detroit team and 8 against the Blue Jays. This Tigers team strikes out 26% of the time as a team against southpaws, with the fifth-worst wRC+. This honestly probably will end up more as a GPP play for me, but if we already are playing a risky pitcher, why not take an even cheaper one in a much more positive matchup for strikeouts?
Note: On FanDuel, Dinelson Lamet is the second-cheapest pitcher compared to the second most expensive one on DK. I don’t think I have ever seen a pricing gap that big, and I would 100% put Lamet in my cash game pool if you want to pure punt and jam in all the bats.
Tournament Pool: Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet (FanDuel)
Scooter Gennett- I really try not to include Coors Field bats in this section, but this price is — in the words of DeMarcus Cousins “ridiculous!” Gennett is only $3,800 on DK despite playing in Coors Field tonight, and he sports a 117 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers for his career. He should be in the heart of the Reds order tonight, and even if I didn’t think he was that good of a play. it’s hard to avoid him in cash games at that price.
Justin Upton- Upton is another terrific value play on Friday night, sitting at $4,100 on DraftKings in a matchup with Mike Leake. Leake has been much worse against righties than lefties this season, striking them out just 15% of the time while allowing over 40% hard hits and fly balls. Upton is still cheap after recently returning from injury, but he and his Angels teammates are in one of the best offensive spots of the night. Furthermore, Leake’s most used pitch to right-handed batters is his cut fastball, a pitch that Upton owns a .400 ISO against over the last two seasons.
Aaron Judge- Finishing off my core batters today is Aaron Judge, he (and his teammates) are in a smash spot against Aaron Sanchez, but none of them are very expensive! I would much rather full stack this team than just pick out one or two guys, because Sanchez is extremely wild so the probability that you get one or two walks or a ground out out of your one batter is definitely likely, but I can’t ignore the spot for Judge. If plugging in Scooter/Upton we should have room to spend up, and Sanchez has been egregious against right-handed batters this season. He has struck out just 15% of them with 14% walks, while allowing 38% hard hits. Judge owns a .500 or better xwOBA against every pitch in Sanchez’s arsenal and he is arguably my favorite play on this slate.
Written by Ben Hossler (Follow @BenHossler on Twitter)
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