Friday features one of the game's top arms, Jake Arrieta, against one of the league's hottest teams, the San Francisco Giants, as well as a former Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, against the top scoring team in the majors, the Boston Red Sox.
Arrieta has the stuff to pile up strikeouts, but that's really not his game. Moreover, he's facing a Giants squad that's whiffing at a stingy 16 percent clip versus right-handers. This makes the Chicago Cubs right-hander a poor play for tournaments at his elevated price tag, though his consistency and reliability put him in the mix for cash action. Something to note is his offense has been running cold, especially against right-handers, as evidenced by a league-low 0.249 weighted on base average (wOBA) for the past week.
The Philadelphia Phillies are surprisingly off to a strong start. Or maybe it's not so surprising? Teams can be weak due to poor hitting, poor pitching or a combination of both. The Senior Circuit is loaded with teams weak all over. The Phillies' offense may be weak, but it has a trio of young and talented hurlers who give them the edge over lesser squads. Aaron Nola is the jewel of the three. The Phils' 22-year-old righty matches up with one of the weaker clubs as the Atlanta Braves visit Citizens Bank Park for a weekend set. Nola has tossed seven frames in four of his past five starts and is in a great spot for another lengthy outing as the Braves tote a 0.295 wOBA against righties. The strikeout potential isn't overwhelming because the guests fan at a league average rate, but with an impressive 9.9 K/9, Nola should rack up sufficient punchouts to be a GPP option.
DFS has morphed to the point where every option can be recommended. If it's backed by the numbers it's a value pick; otherwise, it's termed contrarian. The numbers do not favor Corey Kluber as the Cleveland Indians venture to Fenway Park for a weekend series against the Boston Red Sox. At home, the hosts boast a productive 0.369 wOBA facing right-handers and overall league the majors in runs per game. Kluber's peripherals are excellent, but he historically carries a relatively high batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is even worse against a team that keeps the line moving like the Red Sox. Some will point toward the 8.9 K/9 and call him a contrarian GPP option since he has intrinsic strikeout potential and will be low-owned. Yeah, that may be one approach, but if you're a one-lineup-per-night player, it's best to look elsewhere.
In seasonal formats, an argument can be made to include Gerrit Cole among the elite since ratios are more important than in DFS. However, innings and strikeouts are paramount in daily play. Cole's 8.5 K/9 and 6.0 innings per game are solid but not elite. On Friday, the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander takes the hill at PNC Park to challenge the Colorado Rockies. Away from Coors, the travelers carry a pedestrian 0.313 wOBA, setting Cole up to pitch a little deeper into the game than normal, putting him in play for cash action. The Rockies' road-whiff rate of 20 percent versus righties tempers GPP enthusiasm.
Sonny Gray heads the list of starting pitching disappointments one-quarter of the way into the campaign. His 7.6 K/9 is in sync with historical levels, but his 4.0 BB/9 and 1.6 HR/9 are a result of poor control and command, especially up in the zone. Anecdotally, the righty says he found a mechanical flaw during his last outing and is confident he'll return to form. The New York Yankees lend Gray the perfect platform to prove it at O.Co Coliseum. On the road, the Yankees check in with a putrid 0.240 wOBA against right-handers, by far the league's lowest mark. This puts Gray in the mix for DFS cash action. On a side note, if you're looking to buy low on Gray in seasonal formats, now's the time, before he supports his contention that he fixed his mechanical issue.
Jose Quintana has always been a personal favorite in seasonal formats as the market overlooks the veteran left-hander. However, his 1.54 ERA and 0.99 WHIP are impossible to ignore. But here's the thing: Quintana is fundamentally the same guy he's been the past couple of seasons -- he's enjoyed some good fortune keeping the ball in the yard. Considering he's allowing more fly balls than usual, this is even more fortuitous. The added fly outs also fuel a BABIP that is lower than normal. Next up for Quintana are the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. The guests possess an above-average home run rate against southpaws so there's some risk but not enough to preclude Quintana from DFS action.
A forearm scare forced Steven Matz to skip his last start, but after a battery of tests and a seamless bullpen session, the young lefty is set to climb back on the Citi Field hill to square off against the Milwaukee Brewers. There's no indication of a pitch limit, but even so, using Matz feels risky in DFS cash play. However, if he is truly healthy, the upside stemming from facing a Brewers club checking in with a 0.314 wOBA and 22 percent strikeout rate versus lefties renders Matz GPP fodder.
Tyler Duffey owners may be reticent to use the right-hander against the Toronto Blue Jays, but with the affair being in Target Field, the risk is reduced. Plus, the visitors are still rather tame against right-handers as evidenced by a 0.311 and 23 percent strikeout rate in that scenario. In fact, the whiff possibilities are GPP worthy.
Scott Kazmir has been shaky, but with a road date in Petco Park against the San Diego Padres, the Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw is fine for a spot start. The Friars sport a tepid 0.309 wOBA along with a generous 26 percent whiff rate facing left-handers.
The Baltimore Orioles' lineup has a few dangerous right-handed hitters, but as a team they've recorded a low 0.300 wOBA versus left-handers. Hector Santiago's strikeouts have waned as of late, plus he's surrendered a home run in four of his past five efforts. Still, with the contest in pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium, the veteran southpaw is a streaming candidate.
Matt Wisler has quietly pitched into the eighth inning in his past three outings. Next up, Wisler has the Philadelphia Phillies on his docket. Even in a road tilt, Wisler is in play based on the home team's 0.294 wOBA and 21 percent strikeout clip against right-handers.
Aside from Eddie Butler and Justin Nicolino, who fall into the automatic category based on their projected game score, only Colby Lewis at Minute Maid Park is too risky to categorically avoid. There are some borderline candidates, but they all have something to hang your optimistic hat on.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lead the stack pack on Friday's slate as they face the promising but still-maturing Eddie Butler at home. The Colorado Rockies right-hander is susceptible to both lefties and righties, so while John Jaso and Gregory Polanco have the platoon edge, don't fade Andrew McCutchen, Jung Ho Kang, Francisco Cervelli or Starling Marte based on the right-on-right matchup.
Justin Nicolino has fanned four hitters in 24 innings. To his credit he's served up only one homer, but allowing that much contact is dangerous. The right-handed contingent of the Washington Nationals is in a favorable spot against the southpaw at Marlins Park. Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos are the primary beneficiaries. Michael Taylor also could get a shot versus the lefty.
Colby Lewis has surrendered a homer in seven of his eight outings, including the past six. Taking on the Houston Astros, it's more of a matter of whom than if. Colby Rasmus and Luis Valbuena share the top billing with the platoon edge, although since Lewis is equally hospitable, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve are all candidates to muscle up.
Lefty swingers generally have their way with Dillon Gee. The caveat is the Chicago White Sox are predominantly a right-handed squad. That makes Adam Eaton an intriguing stand-alone option, though creating a mini-stack with Jose Abreu or Todd Frazier has merits.
If the pitching notes are going to warn against using Kluber at Fenway, the hitting notes should support that opinion. Ergo, an under-the-radar stack consists of Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez without the platoon edge, with Jackie Bradley Jr., David Ortiz and Travis Shaw enjoying the bump.
Most likely to hit a home run: Odds say there will be a dinger hit at Minute Maid Park so let's anoint Springer the honor.
Most likely to steal a base: The fact the Red Sox are a perfect 19-for-19 swiping bases is more cool than it is predictive, but nonetheless we'll tag Xander Bogaerts as the one to bring it to 20.