Friday night is a trick deck as we've got five aces, though there are also some jokers at the other end. We also have the debut of a 19-year-old phenom. Todd Zola deals all the information you need on the most popular DFS night of the week.
Perhaps "encouraging" is the most apropos term when describing Felix Hernandez's recent outings. The King's velocity has picked up in his past three efforts and is inching closer to last year's levels. That said, a drop in first-pitch strike rate and especially swinging-strike rate remains disconcerting, along with spotty control. Then why does Hernandez top our Friday ledger? The Seattle right-hander has a soft matchup with the Minnesota Twins, who are making the trek to the Pacific Northwest for a weekend set at Safeco Field. The visitors tote a pedestrian 0.308 weighted on-base average and generous 23 percent strikeout rate against right-handers. Even with the elevated whiff potential, Hernandez profiles better for DFS cash than GPP action.
Max Scherzer, on the other hand, is the embodiment of a tournament pitcher. When on, it doesn't matter, the Washington Nationals right-hander is a threat to punch out double digits regardless of foe. That said, Scherzer has a tall task in store with the St. Louis Cardinals visiting the nation's capital. The Redbirds are smashing righties to the tune of a 0.362 weighted on-base average (wOBA), though they'll be without Matt Carpenter, who's away on paternity leave.
Note the asterisk next to Jon Lester's projected game score of 63. I took the liberty of overriding the original 60, even though I understand why it was dinged as the Chicago Cubs southpaw has hit a rough patch, surrendering nine runs over his past three outings, spanning just 15 1/3rd innings. The boost is a result of the visiting Philadelphia Phillies and their weak 0.280 wOBA and healthy 24 percent whiff rate against left-handers. Also fueling the bump is that the guests will be sending Adam Morgan and his 43 projected game score to the Wrigley Field hill, making Lester a big favorite. Note this is a day affair so Lester won't be available in most DFS contests.
Fun fact of the day: Jacob deGrom is only two years and two months younger than Hernandez. Of course, deGrom has thrown nearly 2,000 fewer innings than his elder, and that makes the drop in his velocity more worrisome. The New York Mets right-hander also has incurred a precipitous drop in strikeouts, though his first-strike and swinging-strike rates are in sync with his career levels and that portends a spike in strikeouts. On the docket for the 28-year-old is a home date with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The guests don't lend deGrom the best chance to realize the increased whiffs as they bring a 20 percent strikeout rate into Citi Field. This renders deGrom better suited for DFS cash action.
The final ace is a bit of a wild card in Chris Archer. The Tampa Bay Rays righty has allowed two or fewer earned runs in six of his 10 outings but has surrendered at least four in the others, three of which featured six earned tallies. Next up for Archer is a home affair against a New York Yankees club that's conveniently among the league's lower performers when it comes to hitting homers off righties on the road. This really helps Archer, whose primary crutch has been a bloated 1.7 HR/9, though only four of those aforementioned 10 starts occurred at power-suppressing Tropicana Field. The strikeout potential yields Archer as another ace better for GPP than cash.
Masahiro Tanaka was mere decimal points from visiting the elite. Keeping him out is a below-average strikeout rate along with working on the road. However, in the Yankees righty's favor is an encounter with the Rays and their 26 percent strikeout rate against right-handers. In addition, Tanaka has tossed at least seven frames in five of his past seven outings, missing by one out in another. Putting it together, Tanaka offers the safety desired in a cash-game anchor.
With all the attention heeded to the struggling American League hurlers, Cole Hamels and his strong start to the campaign isn't getting the attention it deserves. Admittedly, a 3.3 BB/9 is the worst of the southpaw's career. However, that's balanced by a 9.7 K/9, bettered only by Hamels' mark as a rookie way back in 2006. The Pittsburgh Pirates are next for the former Senior Circuit All-Star as the Bucs invade Globe Life Park to open an interleague set with the Texas Rangers. The contest will feature strength versus strength as the visitors boast an impressive 0.358 wOBA against left-handers, though they fan 25 percent of the time in that scenario. Add Hamels to the growing list of GPP options.
One of the tenets of DFS cash strategy is to deploy a safe pitcher with solid floor, which makes recommending Adam Conley a bit precarious. A tilt at Turner Field with the punchless Atlanta Braves mitigates this fear. The hosts sport a non-productive 0.261 and lofty 24 percent strikeout rate against left-handers. The Miami Marlins southpaw will be opposed by Williams Perez so the Fish sticks should provide ample support.
Using a dominant lefty against the San Diego Padres has become a chalk play in both DFS and seasonal formats. With a 9.9 K/9, Arizona Diamondbacks southpaw Robbie Ray certainly qualifies as the Friars bring their 27 percent strikeout mark to the desert to open a weekend set at Chase Field.
If you've been sitting on Julio Urias, first of all get off of him -- he needs to get ready for his debut. Then, you may as well activate the 19-year-old phenom since you won't have too many more chances considering the Los Angeles Dodgers plan on limiting his innings, perhaps by using the lefty out of the bullpen. Urias is taking the spot of Alex Wood, and one has to think the club wouldn't start his service-time clock if they didn't intend to do it soon anyway. With some veteran reinforcements due back from injury soon, this could be a one-and-done as far as starting goes for this season. As such, don't burn a waiver priority or take up a valuable reserve spot just to pick Urias up for what's likely an abbreviated stint.
There are a couple of borderline options with veterans Joe Kelly and Yordano Ventura. Kelly looked strong in his return from the disabled list as he held the Cleveland Indians scoreless over 6 2/3 frames, allowing just a single hit while fanning seven with three walks. If the opposition were anyone other than the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, the decision to take the shot on the Boston Red Sox righty would be easier. I'm aggressive so I'd do it; your mileage may vary. Despite a horrific 6.1 BB/9, because Ventura's at home at Kauffman Stadium, the Kansas City Royals right-hander is in play but defensible as an avoid.
While there are several excellent choices for those opting to fade Coors Field, here are the best options to get some mile-high exposure. Let's start with the guests as the San Francisco Giants will step into the box against Tyler Chatwood. The right-hander doesn't miss many bats while the Giants make excellent contact, meaning the ball will be in play all night, which isn't a good thing with the cavernous Coors Field gaps. Focus on Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Jarrett Parker with the platoon edge but don't overlook Buster Posey or Hunter Pence. The Rockies' hitters will take aim against Matt Cain. Lefties Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez lead the way while Nolan Arenado is forever in the mix.
Miller Park should also see significant scoring. Since Zach Davies was recommended as a streamer, let's give the nod to his hitters against Reds lefty John Lamb. Leading the Brewers' right-handed contingent are Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter, with switch-hitting Jonathan Villar setting the table. If you want to hedge Davis with a Reds stack, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are the left-handed stalwarts.
On one hand, a switch hitter doesn't enjoy the same platoon boost relative to his pricing as those swinging from just one side. On the other, he continues to have a platoon edge once the bullpen comes into play. This is important as the Indians feature several switch hitters to challenge Mike Wright. A great contrarian stack consists of the Tribe's lefties Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall along with ambidextrous swinging teammates Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez.
The Marlins are in a great spot to do some damage facing Williams Perez. Ichiro Suzuki has been leading off when a righty is on the hill, advancing his quest for 3,000 MLB hits. Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich also enjoy the platoon edge with sluggers Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton in play.
The Cubs bats have come out of hibernation and should be able to feast on the lefty tossings from Adam Morgan, but remember this is a day affair.
Most likely to hit a home run: So many choices, but let's settle on Charlie Blackmon leading off against Matt Cain at Coors.
Most likely to steal a base: While the pick doesn't have to be for DFS purposes, let's give Jon Lester a break and choose a speedster under the lights. Billy Hamilton should have a field day running on the Milwaukee Brewers.