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Friday night’s main slate of DraftKings features a huge 14-game slate, missing only the Cubs and the Diamondbacks. With 28 teams to analyze, options are plentiful while building lineups.
Top SP: Justin Verlander, HOU ($10,400) at TEX
I waffled over my top starting pitching option of the day while looking over matchup statistics, nearly going with Madison Bumgarner in a projected low-scoring affair with the Pirates. But I kept coming back to Justin Verlander’s elite strikeout rate and ultimately sided with the top-end pitching talent as opposed to the juicy matchup. I wouldn’t fault you for going with a starting pitcher facing a bottom barrel offense instead, but Verlander’s matchup may not be as bad as it seems.
The Rangers offense has been a middle of the pack offense overall in 2019, but against right-handed pitching, its hitters feature a .348 wOBA that ranks as the fifth-best in baseball. On top of that, Verlander has already faced the Rangers this year, only lasting four innings while surrendering four runs in his worst outing so far. However, this isn’t a team that has owned Verlander recently. In 2018, Verlander recorded a 2.03 ERA across five starts against the Rangers while recording 39 strikeouts in 31 innings. And this isn’t a matter of struggling in Arlington either, as Verlander was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in Globe Life Park last year. Let’s hope 2019’s small sample size scares off DFS players from one of the game’s elite pitchers.
Verlander’s 34.8% strikeout rate from 2018 is the best on Friday’s slate, and his 2019 strikeout rate of 31.3% is the second-best on the slate. Houston finds itself as a huge favorite even on the road, and we know Verlander will be given a long leash to secure a win, as the Astros have already allowed him to throw 103 pitches per game to start the season. I may be tempted to play two value starting pitchers on this slate, but if I’m going to spend up on a pitcher, Verlander is my top option.
Honorable Mention: Madison Bumgarner, SF ($9,500) at PIT.
Value SP: Jordan Lyles, PIT ($7,900) vs. SF
Jordan Lyles has fared well through his first two starts to open 2019, and his most recent appearance was a six-inning gem against a Cubs team featuring the league’s second-best wOBA against right-handed pitching. In his third start of the year on Friday night, Lyles gets a Giants team with a 29th-ranked .254 wOBA against righties in his pitcher-friendly home park. Lyles strikes out enough batters to be usable, with a 22.6% strikeout rate last year and a small sample 28.6% strikeout rate this year. There are several interesting value pitchers on today’s slate, but Lyles features the best combination of talent, matchup, and reliability. Pairing him with a higher variance value pitcher could be a winning tournament combo, and he would make a high-floor combo with Verlander for cash games.
Paul Goldschmidt has struggled in a limited sample against left-handed pitchers in 2019, but don’t let that fool you. His .425 wOBA in his career against lefties is elite, and last year was no disappointment either with a .405 wOBA. Goldschmidt has watched his strikeout rate jump in 2019, but the power is still there with seven home runs and a .324 ISO. And strikeouts shouldn’t be a problem against Jason Vargas, who has had a disastrous start to the season. At age 36, it’s fair to wonder if Vargas is on his way out of the league, allowing 14 hits and 10 runs across 6.1 innings pitched while walking more batters (four) than he has struck out (three). Look for Goldschmidt to get his splits versus lefties back to normal after today’s matchup.
David Dahl comes in with a lower price than usual in Coors Field after coming back from injury, and DFS players should take advantage while it lasts. Dahl had been hitting the cover off the ball in his 10 games before the injury, and opposing starter Vince Velasquez hasn’t been known for his consistency in his career. You’ll obviously need to make sure he’s in the lineup, as the Rockies could choose to rest him coming off his first game back. But he seemed just fine on Thursday, as he doubled, walked, and even attempted a stolen base. The matchup is one to target, as Velasquez allowed a .377 wOBA to lefties last year, while Dahl has a .382 wOBA across his 506 career at-bats against righties.
This won’t last for long, but at the low price of $3,200, keep riding Eric Sogard while he’s hot. Since being recalled from the minors, Sogard has been hot at the top of the Blue Jays lineup, with six hits in 12 at-bats, three RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base in only three games. This is all about price; as long as Sogard is this cheap he’s at worst a punt play at third base or second base. And his spot atop the lineup gives him some upside when the Blue Jays offense has a good matchup. Today’s game against a mediocre righty in Aaron Brooks might provide that opportunity.
Lineup Stack: Cardinals vs. Mets (LHP Jason Vargas)
Any time there is a game in Coors Field, both teams are stackable options, so the Rockies were in consideration for the top stack. But I couldn’t look past a matchup against the meme-able Vargas, so the Cardinals are the pick. Ozuna and Paul Dejong are both on fire, and Goldschmidt and Kolten Wong are no pushovers themselves. Add in the steady Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina, and this lineup presents multiple stacking options. And while I hate to pile on Vargas after only recording one out in his last start, I can’t pass on the chance to stack against a pitcher who may not be long for the majors. Even a rebound from Vargas should produce plenty of base runners, and there is a chance the Cardinals break through into New York’s bullpen well before the fifth inning. The Cardinals have disappointed against left-handed pitching so far this year; look for them to break out of that funk tonight.
Honorable Mentions: Rockies vs. Phillies (RHP Vince Velasquez).
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is eriks44) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games on which I offer advice. 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. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any nonpublic information.