This article is part of our DraftKings MLB series.
Friday's pitching slate has an embarrassment of riches.
Very reasonable arguments can be made for using any combination of at least 10 different pitchers, and yet there are still significantly underpriced arms that might check in with surprisingly high ownership rates.
To complicate matters further, the Rockies are home this weekend, hosting the A's for an Interleague series.
As noted throughout the last month or so, I generally don't write up the most expensive bats, since it should be fairly obvious the overwhelming majority of those players are fine plays if the budget allows you to utilize them.
As noted over the last couple weeks, I'm making a concerted effort to indicate the type of contest I prefer to use players in – cash (50/50) or tournaments (GPPs) – which is generally an exercise in estimating ownership rates (or 'finding the chalk') and making sure to have enough variation around the highly-coveted top value plays to have a dangerous lineup.
A strong cash-game play isn't necessarily a 'bad' tournament play, but too many 'chalky' players can create a limiting factor in big-field tournaments.
Your constructive feedback is appreciated, and always welcomed.
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Let's take a slightly different approach with the Friday night options this week.
Three games on the board have over/under totals of a 7.5 – the lowest number on the slate.
From that group, Scherzer (-265), Greinke (-172) and Bumgarner (-142) are the favorites, but we should not rule out Chase Anderson (+125) as a big-field tournament option as an SP.
Scherzer is the most expensive option on the board ($13,900), and on a night with a Coors game and several viable alternatives, he might be low owned, which makes him very appealing in tournaments if you can find a cheap arm to pair him with on the bottom of the price list (see again: Anderson, Chase – $5,500).
The more common approach will likely be Zack Greinke as an SP1 at a very affordable $10,700, since the Padres still strike out a lot, and his win probability is very similar to that of Clayton Kershaw (at Atlanta) for $2,100 less. Greinke is an excellent cash-game play, but tournament usage might require a Colorado fade.
In addition to the high price, Kershaw's road matchup against a Braves lineup that has punished left-handed pitching this season will almost certainly steer him to a low ownership rate in tournaments – likely even lower than Scherzer. I'm not certain that using Kershaw is worth the risk given the setup elsewhere. The Braves own the third-highest team wRC+ in MLB this season against lefties (116), with a sub-20 percent strikeout rate.
Chris Sale is home against the Twins at $13,500, and while the over/under total is 8.5, that has everything to do with Boston's offense getting a swipe at Twins right-hander Lance Lynn. The Red Sox are a -350 favorite, giving Sale the highest win probability out of the 30 starters taking the ball Friday. As a result, he'll be more highly owned than Scherzer, but I don't expect him to reach a level in tournaments where a fade is necessary. The same cap-related issues that apply to Scherzer lineups apply here as well.
Carlos Carrasco and Chris Archer draw doormats on the road, with the Tigers and Orioles, respectively. Carrasco and Cleveland are a -200 road favorite, and the over/under is down from 9.0 to 8.5 as of late Thursday night. Archer is 'only' a -152 favorite against Andrew Cashner at Camden Yards, but the over/under total there is also 8.5, and he's absolutely playable at $9,500, with the potential to be at least somewhat chalky. At $11,400, Carrasco ownership rates should be reasonable.
As a -260 home favorite, Dallas Keuchel ($9,100) draws the Rangers at Minute Maid Park, making him a useful cash-game consideration and a fringe tournament play (I think he'll get largely ignored because of the price, and low K/9), but in many ways, he looks like a more expensive version of CC Sabathia given the lack of strikeouts.
Similar logic used with Keuchel applies to Sabathia at home against the Royals, (-280, $6,900) though it's worth noting he's eclipsed five strikeouts just once in his last seven starts. The Royals, however, have been well below average against left-handed pitching this season (84 wRC+) with plenty of whiffs (23.2% K%).
My hope is that Andrew Heaney flies under the radar as best value arm – $8,900 – with a home matchup (-135, o/u 8.5) against Wade LeBlanc and the Mariners. The matchup is hardly a push-over, but Heaney is at home, he's got a great defense behind him, and his skills – 8.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 – are relatively underpriced at the present time.
Summary: I rarely build a lineup bats first and arms second, but this is the type of slate where you can figure out pitching after you feel good about your combination(s) of hitters. My best estimation of the masses is a heavy dose of Greinke, Bumgarner or Archer, with Sabathia serving as the frequently-used cheap SP2, which makes a Scherzer or Sale + Anderson combo my first choice in tournaments. One of those combos, or using Heaney with Greinke (or Archer) should offer the right mix of floor and upside. As high-upside afterthoughts go, Mike Foltynewicz ($9,700) might be the lowest-owned starter above $8.5K on DraftKings with his home matchup against Kershaw and the Dodgers. I'm not building enough lineups to go that far off the wall/down the list.
Tom Murphy/Chris Iannetta, Josh Phegley/Jonathan Lucroy, COL vs. OAK – As a hitter, Murphy ($3,700) is the best in this matchup, but if Iannetta ($3,500) starts, he'll also have the platoon advantage against A's lefty Sean Manaea. I've watched a lot of Jonathan Lucroy over the years and I have no idea how/why he's fallen off the cliff so quickly, but he's hitting eighth at Coors for $3,000. Like Murphy, Josh Phegley is a consideration if he's given the spot start ($3,700).
Elias Diaz/Francisco Cervelli, PIT vs. NYM ($3,600/$2,900) – Look to the Bucs for your catching solution Friday as Jason Vargas and the Mets visit PNC Park. With Francisco Cervelli back from the DL, Diaz's temporary run as the Pirates' starter behind the plate – and cleanup hitter (!?) – is over, but it's possible manager Clint Hurdle will be more generous with days off for Cervelli in the near future.
Jose Martinez, STL vs. CHC, ($3,700) – Cubs starter Mike Montgomery isn't a gas can, and he's done a good job overall of keeping the ball in the park throughout the last three seasons working between the rotation and the bullpen in Chicago and Seattle, but Martinez's .323/.411/.575 line against left-handed pitching is among the best at the position, and should be enough to put him in the Cards' lineup somewhere despite the drop in playing time due to defensive struggles in recent weeks.
In tournaments, Cody Bellinger ($3,800) is an interesting value play to consider in Atlanta. Mike Foltynewicz has not struggled against lefties in 2018 as he did in previous seasons, but SunTrust Park offers a nice left-handed power boost, and Bellinger will likely be used much less than Martinez on this slate.
Gleyber Torres, NYY vs. KC, ($4,100) – The Yankees are hosting the Royals for a weekend series, and Rule 5 pick Brad Keller has the ball for Kansas City on Friday night. With Aaron Judge (wrist) joining Gary Sanchez (groin) on the disabled list, Torres should move up to a more prominent spot in the batting order for manager Aaron Boone. In addition to the low-end starting pitcher, the Royals boast the league's worst bullpen.
Jeff McNeil, NYM at PIT, ($3,100) – McNeil was putting together a big year in the minors, albeit he was old for the level as a 26-year-old who started the season at Double-A. As punt plays go, you could do much worse than using a left-handed hitter who doesn't strike out a lot against a right-handed pitcher like Ivan Nova, with a crazy-low K% against lefties, and a bloated home-run rate.
Matt Chapman, OAK at COL ($4,300) – If I could only use one Oakland bat on DraftKings on Friday night, Chapman might be at the top of the list. Nolan Arenado ($5,500) and Jose Ramirez ($5,600) are extremely difficult to work with at their top-end prices, but Chapman is very reasonable given the run environment, and the righty-lefty matchup against Kyle Freeland.
Miguel Andujar, NYY vs. KC, ($4,200) – A Yankees stack might be in order Friday, but Andujar is another viable option regardless of how much exposure you're looking to get with the Royals having to find a way to get 27 outs in the Bronx.
Trea Turner, WAS at MIA ($4,300) – He's still affordable, likely due to lineup placement, but Turner was in the No. 2 spot in the order with Anthony Rendon on the paternity list Thursday. The combination of power and speed he offers, especially with a spot at or near the top of the Nats' lineup against rookie Pablo Lopez, is very difficult to ignore.
Paul DeJong, STL vs. CHC ($3,600) – DeJong has an .842 OPS against lefties since the start of last season, which is among the best marks on the board at the position during that span. For those who can't spend up for the Coors options – or even Didi Gregorius ($4,800) – DeJong provides much needed salary relief, while he's been locked into the No. 3 spot in the Cards' lineup for each of the last nine games entering play Friday night.
Michael Brantley, CLE at DET ($4,400) – Brantley looks like the same player he was before injuries wiped out most of 2016 and a good portion of his 2017 season. With Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez regularly commanding well over $5,000, Brantley has become an easier-to-afford option to get exposure to the Cleveland offense. While he's never had the same pop that Lindor and Ramirez currently offer, Brantley's well balanced skill set gives him a great cash-game floor most days, and I have no issue using him in tournaments against Mike Fiers and the Tigers.
Justin Upton, LAA vs. SEA ($4,100) – Mariners lefty Wade LeBlanc is one of the pleasant pitching surprises of 2018, and while that age-33 breakout might be somewhat sustainable, I don't believe his baseline is such that we should avoid using good, underpriced right-handed power bats against him. Upton has a .929 OPS against left-handed pitching since the start of 2017 – the eighth-best split among outfielders on Friday's slate. Even within the success he's had, LeBlanc has been vulnerable to the long ball, giving up nine of his 14 homers this season to right-handed hitters.
Aaron Hicks, NYY vs. KC ($4,100) – Another Yankee to consider against Brad Keller and the Royals – stack or no stack – is Hicks, whose improvement against righties over the last two seasons has shifted him into consideration any time a weak pitching matchup arises. As noted above, the Kansas City bullpen has been the worst in MLB this season – including a few months of good Kelvin Herrera numbers baked in – leaving Hicks with four or five plate appearances Friday that should be among the easiest matchups in play.