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Tonight in Daily Baseball, we have an “Ace Free Zone”. The best pitcher on the board is Francisco Liriano, who posted a 4.69 ERA in 2016. Here’s a look at the starting pitching options for the evening slate on April 7th:
Francisco Liriano (DK $8,000/FD $8,800) – Despite his poor season in 2016, Liriano was a much better pitcher in Toronto after being reunited with catcher Russell Martin. Over his last 10 appearances on the year, he went 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 52 Ks over 49.1 innings. Liriano looked sharp in his five starts in spring training (2.00 ERA over 18 innings with only 10 hits allowed and 29 Ks) though he did walk six batters (3.0 per nine). Liriano has struggled in his career against the Rays (2-3 with a 5.02 ERA and 48 Ks in 52 innings) with poor results at Tropicana Field (1-2 with a 6.75 ERA, 11 walks, and 14 Ks over 16 innings). I like his spring and expect improvement in 2017, but I would temper my expectations in this matchup.
Wei-Yin Chen (DK $8,200/FD $7,700) – Chen had his worst season of his career in 2016 (4.96 ERA) due to his struggles with home runs (22 over 123.1 innings – 1.6 per 9). Chen missed time over the second half of last year due to a sprained left elbow that didn’t require surgery. His arm produced neutral results in March (3.32 ERA with 14 Ks over 19 innings). He did serve up six HRs, which may be a sign of downside in this matchup. In his only start against the Mets, he allowed one run and three hits over seven innings with five strikeouts. Last year, Chen offered no value at home (1-1 with a 5.49 ERA and seven HRs allowed over 59 innings). His lack of upside in strikeouts plus his risk in home runs would make me very weary of Chen. More apt to stack against than to play in the daily space.
Zack Wheeler (DK $8,000/FD $6,500) – Wheeler will be making his first start in the majors since September of 2014. He’s had more than two years to recover from Tommy John surgery. Wheeler didn't have a great spring and didn’t look ready to make a major impact in April. Over 12.1 innings, he allowed seven runs, four HRs, and seven walks while striking out seven batters. He did look improved in his last start in March (five shutout innings with two hits allowed and two Ks). This outing did come against Miami, which is a strike for me. I hate pitchers who face the same team in back-to-back games, especially early in the year. This will actually be the third straight game vs. the Marlins. On March 22nd, Wheeler allowed four runs, eight base runners, and two homers over three innings. Even if he pitches well, I don’t expect him to pitch past the 5th inning. I'm fading him in all formats, especially with his disaster downside.
Mike Fiers (DK $7,500/FD $7,300) – Mike battled a hamstring injury over the second half of March leading to 13.2 innings pitched (1.98 ERA with 13 Ks). Fiers looked to be the odd man out of the starting rotation headed into the regular season, but an injury to Collin McHugh created a window for him to regain his form. In his last start in spring training, Fiers allowed one run over 5.1 innings with five Ks. He’s 0-2 vs. the Royals over his career with a 6.46 ERA while allowing 30 base runners over 15.1 innings. Fiers is a -170 favorite so a win looks to be a likely outcome.
A.J. Griffin (DK $6,100/FD $7,300) – Griffin looks to be only playable at DraftKings based on salary. Typically, he is a pitcher to play against in the daily games due his high volume of home runs allowed (28 allowed over 119 innings in 2016). Over his last 10 starts last year, Griffin allowed 18 long balls (seven games with two HRs allowed). Even with disaster risk, he does have some K ability (8.1 per nine). His spring training was unimpressive (5.73 ERA with seven HRs allowed over 22 innings) and this will be his first career start against the A’s. Tough to make a case for him, given that this game has an over/under of 9.5.
Josh Tomlin (DK $7,200/FD $7,600) – I had a double take when I saw Tomlin was a -140 favorite on the road against the Diamondbacks, which speaks more about the talent of the Indians lineup than Tomlin's ability. Last season, Josh pitched well in April, May, June, July, and September (13-4 with 3.20 ERA), but he did allow 26 HRs over 141.1 innings. Tomlin ran off the rails in August (11.48 ERA over 26.2 innings) when he allowed 34 runs, 52 base runners, and 10 homers. He pitched well in his two career starts against the Diamondbacks (1.46 ERA with no walks and eight Ks). His stats produced a ton of crooked numbers in spring training (5.50 ERA over 18 innings with seven HRs allowed). I don’t like his matchup, which probably means he pitches better than expected.
Jesse Chavez (DK $7,100/FD $4,000) – His pricing looks way out of line at FanDuel. Chavez hasn’t made a start in the majors since 2015 when he went 7-15 with a 4.18 ERA. He made 62 appearances out of the bullpen last year with a poor ERA (4.43) due to 12 home runs allowed. His K rate (8.5) and walk rate (2.4) point to more upside. Chavez didn’t walk a batter over 17.2 innings in March, but batters hit .310 against him with three HRs and 14 Ks. His resume is putrid against the Mariners (0-6 with 5.84 ERA and seven HRs allowed over 49.1 innings). He is unplayable for me at DraftKings while possibly being too good to be true on FanDuel. I'd avoid him and look for a couple of Seattle players to take him deep.
Jimmy Nelson (DK $7,000/FD $5,900) – Over five seasons in the minors, Nelson had a 3.12 ERA with 549 Ks over 563.1 innings. His arm has yet to develop at the major-league level (4.38 ERA). Nelson struggles to win games (21-38), partly due to a fading walk rate (4.3). Last year, he lost value in every area of his game with righties hitting .283 against him. His arm did look improved in spring training (.182 BAA with only two walks over 17.2 innings and 19 Ks). Nelson is 1-6 in his career against the Cubs with a 3.68 ERA and 60 Ks over 63.2 innings. Possible gamble if you want to go against the grain.
Mike Leake (DK $6,800/FD $6,600) – In 2016, Leake had the best command of his career (1.5 walks per 9) with his second highest K rate (6.4), but batters hit .288 against him with righties having the most success (.304). This led to the worst season of his career (4.58 ERA). While drafting in the high stakes market late in March, I just couldn’t pull the trigger on him even with a low-price point (after round 23 in 15 team leagues). Leake fits more in the steady mold than explosive upside needed in the daily games due to his low K rate. On occasion, he can sneak in a better game as far as strikeouts and I do expect him to rebound in 2017. In his career against the Reds, he’s 0-2 with a 7.25 ERA and 34 base runners allowed over 22.1 innings. After 19 starts in Busch Stadium (3), Leake is 4-9 with a 4.05 ERA with 78 Ks over 122.1 innings. No sexiness here even with a favorable matchup. The bottom line on tonight’s slate is that someone will produce a high score. I can’t see that coming from Leake. Dig deeper.
Matt Andriese (DK $6,700/FD $5,800) – Over the first half of 2016, Andriese had playable Fantasy value (6-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 48 Ks over 65 innings). After the All-Star break, he threw more strikes (1.3 per nine) with growth in his K rate (8.8). This growth didn’t help his stat line as batters hit .297 against him with 15 home runs. His spring training looked rather pedestrian (6.75 ERA with 23 batters allowed over 10.2 innings). Last season he didn’t face the Blue Jays (4.05 ERA in seven appearances in his career with four HRs allowed over 20 innings).
Ubaldo Jimenez (DK $6,600/FD $6,800) – What’s not to like about a pitcher coming off a season with a 5.44 ERA? I’m sure Fantasy owners will be lining up to stack against Jimenez after his poor 2016 season. On the positive side, he only allowed 16 long balls (1.0 per nine) with a respectable K rate (7.9). As bad as his season was last year, he pitched great in September (2.31 ERA, .151 BAA, and 31 Ks over 35 innings). Jimenez struggled with his command in March (11 walks over 16.2 innings) leading to a 5.94 ERA. He’s 4-5 in his career vs. the Yankees with a 6.05 ERA and 55 Ks over 58 innings. Drunken gamble at best with a short outing expected.
Phil Hughes (DK $6,500/FD $5,800) – Hughes wasn’t healthy in 2016 leading to a 5.50 ERA over 59 innings. He landed on the DL in mid-June due to left knee injury. It was later determined that Phil had a nerve issue in his right shoulder, which required surgery in late June to remove a rib. Hughes was a disaster in spring training (6.55 ERA) when he allowed 16 runs, 35 base runners, and seven home runs over 22 innings. Hughes is headed to a hitter’s ballpark against a team that scored 11 runs in their last game. The White Sox will be a popular stack tonight. If you decide to ride Hughes, he will be on a sinking island.
Brett Anderson (DK $6,400/FD $5,400) – Brett was a backend flier by some owners in the high stakes season long games late in March. Health continues to be his downside. Anderson had a respectable ERA (3.69) over 180.1 innings in 2015 with the Dodgers while struggling to strikeout batters (5.8 per nine). He suffered a back injury in early 2016 leading to surgery and four and half months on the DL. When he returned to the majors in mid-August, he suffered a left wrist sprain costing him another month of the season. Batters hit .352 against him in March with 12 runs and 36 base runners allowed over 20.1 innings. I don’t expect him to pitch much more than five innings so I’d leave him off my daily list tonight.
Shelby Miller (DK $6,300/FD $7,100) – Headed into his first start of the season, FanDuel at least gave Miller some respect. Shelby had a 3.27 ERA over 561.2 innings from 2013 to 2015 before ballooning to 6.15 last year. Early in the year in 2016, Miller was scrapping his knuckles on the ground after throwing a pitch. His stuff looked fine in the minors over 10 starts (7-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 74 Ks over 62.2 innings) while showcasing excellent command (1.6 walks per nine). Miller had a poor ERA (6.46) in spring training, but he had 22 Ks over 15.1 innings while walking six batters. This will be his first career start vs. the Indians. The Diamondbacks have invested in a humidor, a la the Colorado Rockies, to slow down the offensive production in their ballpark. Most will view Shelby as poor option. At the very least, he has talent and possible K ability. He just needs to throw more strikes. I own him in the season long games so I’m in his camp. Better option than many of the scabs pitching tonight.
Yovani Gallardo (DK $7,300/FD $5.700) – One of the best moves the Orioles did in the offseason was dumping Gallardo to the Mariners. It's been four years since Gallardo has had winning value in the Fantasy market. His survived in 2014 (3.51 ERA) and 2015 (3.42 ERA) with less life on his pitches leading to a plummeting K rate (2014 – 6.8 and 2015 – 5.9). Yovani missed a couple of months early in 2016 due to a right shoulder issue. His arm had no value in any month (April – 7.00 ERA, June – 4.41 ERA, July – 5.63, August – 5.46, and September – 4.43 ERA). His AFB (90.8) was the lowest of his career. Batters crushed his slider (.371 with seven HRs in 143 at bats). Surprisingly, Gallardo still got batters out with his four-seam fastball (.210). Over five starts in spring training, he had a 7.47 ERA over 17.2 innings with 14 runs, 31 base runners, and four home runs allowed. Just say no thanks…
If you’re looking for the remaining five starters on April 7th evening slate, they will be posted on the premium forums at ScoutFantasy.com!