Today we get a split slate with some elite pitching in the early slate, which will be my primary focus in the column. I am going to change the format up a little here, so give me some feedback on whether or not you like the new format! Next to the pitcher, I will list their DraftKings price, the Vegas line and the game total.
Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw ($13,600; -260 favorite, O/U 6.5)
Opponent: Atlanta Braves
Today the best pitcher in baseball gets a juicy matchup against the Atlanta Braves, who have hit well in their first two matchups this week. The Dodgers look to take game three here with Kershaw facing a very weak lineup. The Dodger ace has a 33% strikeout rate and will face a team striking out 20.5% of the time against lefties. Kershaw does get a team that chase quite a bit as the Braves have a 30.4% O-swing (outside the zone), while Kershaw draws swings on 34.4% of his pitches outside of the zone. The issue is the Braves fight off those pitcher quite a bit, as they lead MLB in connecting on pitches outside the zone at 67.4%. Now Kershaw is a different animal, averaging over 7 innings and 102 pitches per game, so depth isn’t an issue here. The Vegas total is set at 6.5 facing a very weak right-handed pitcher in Matt Wisler, so there is a chance for a shutout here. The wind is blowing out to center field today, but Kershaw is great at limiting home runs, so no true worry from me. In fact, the Braves has a .100 ISO and .278 wOBA against left-handed pitchers. Kershaw is safe in all formats and gets a plus-plus matchup.
Pitcher: Max Scherzer ($12,400; -170, O/U 7)
Opponent: Miami Marlins
Max Scherzer has been a little off to start the season, but that isn’t a reason to fade him today. The Marlins will be without Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of their order today, which gives Scherzer a big boost. As a team, the Marlins have just a 19% strikeout rate against right-handed pitchers and will get Scherzer, who has a 30.3% strikeout rate. Similar to Kershaw, Scherzer generates a lot of swings on pitches outside of the zone and the Marlins swing at pitches outside the zone 28% of the time. On those swings outside the zone, they make contact 61% of the time. Their team OPS and wOBA both take significant hits against right-handed pitchers and that would probably take a dip without their best hitter in Stanton. Scherzer also gets park boost heading to Miami, so that will play in his favor. I don’t think the Vegas line truly reflects the win probability here with no Stanton. I think Scherzer has similar upside to Kershaw today, but I am still a little weary due to the slow start and some control issues. He is fine in all formats.
Pitcher: David Price ($11,600; -159; O/U 7.5)
Opponents: Tampa Bay Rays
David Price gets a chance to redeem himself at home today against the Rays, who will be running out eight right-handed bats. The Rays have been much better against left-handed pitchers than right this season. While their wOBA and OPS go up against lefties, so does their strikeout rate at 22%. Price comes into this matchup with a 26.2% strikeout rate, while getting opponents to chase on 34.4% of his pitches. The Rays are an aggressive team and chase 31.8% of pitches outside the zone, which is the highest on the early slate. Along with that, they connect on 58.1% of those pitches, which falls in the middle on the slate. The total makes me a little worried as well as the lower line, but Price will be going against Jake Odorizzi who is no slouch himself. The ball park and eight right-handed bats in their lineup worry me a little. The wind is blowing out at Fenway at nearly 8-10mph today, so that could carry a ball over the monster. Price does present upside on this slate, but Kershaw and Scherzer have much better matchups. I like Price, but don’t think I will be too in on him with Kershaw and Scherzer at the top. He is a good pivot off of those two, but I don’t think you’ll want to go away from the top two early.
Pitcher: Johnny Cueto ($10,100; -170, O/U 7.5)
Opponent: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Johnny Cueto show gets the Arizona Diamondbacks on the road, so the park already hurts the Arizona bats a little bit. Cueto has been pretty good this season with one poor outing against the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks are pretty balanced against left and right-handed bats, so no true worries there as you know what you should get. They are striking out some more against lefties than righties, but just one percent difference. Cueto has a 20.5% strikeout rate himself, so there is some upside for strikeouts. Cueto also gets a good number of swings on pitches outside of the zone at 35.2%, which is the second-highest to Kershaw on the slate. The D’Backs chase those pitches 29.3% of the time with a 55.8% contact rate, which is the third lowest on the slate. The total is 7.5 because these offenses are both good, but the Vegas line heavily favors Cueto here. He usually is good for six to seven innings and 100 pitches, so the depth in safe, too. He is more of a tournament play for me, but I do like the matchup.
Pitcher: Nathan Karns ($6,900; -110, O/U 8.5)
Opponent: Cleveland Indians
As my sneaky pitcher early, I think Nathan Karns draws an interesting matchup. I would say that you need to be weary of the rain in the forecast, but he does have some upside at his $6,900 price tag. Karns has a 23.2% strikeout rate and goes up against the Indians, who are striking out in 19% of their at bats against righties. Karns is drawing swings outside the zone on 29% of his pitches and the Indians case at a similar rate. Along with that, they make contact on 59% of those swings, which falls in the middle today. He is usually good for five to six innings and 90-95 pitches, so depth isn’t phenomenal, but his price tag isn’t unreal either. Karns has watched his K-rate go up on the road during his career, so there could be some more of that today. The current 8.5 run total isn’t pretty, but that is why he is a tournament option. In their six home games, the Indians also have a lower team OPS. I know the sample size isn’t ideal, but it could hold. If you play Karns in tournaments, hope the rain holds, too!
The Giants are one of my early stacks today and it is because I don’t trust Shelby Miller. First off, Miller left his last start due to an injury, so we will see if he can make it through this one. Miller allowed hard contact on 32.8% of balls in play to left-handed hitters of the past year, so that puts some big Giants’ bats in great spots. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford both have hard-hit rates greater than 30% against right-handed pitchers to go along with .200-plus ISO’s and over a .340 wOBA. They are great plays against Miller. Miller also allowed 18 stolen bases last year, so Denard Span and Angel Pagan could be in spots to run here. The total is set a 7.5 and Miller hasn’t been good this season. I’d start this stack with Belt and Crawford and work from there.
The Twins are another stack that I am interested in today because of Taylor Jungmann. In the last year, Jungmann has allowed hard contact to righties 31% of the time on balls in play. The Twins get a park boost in Milwaukee today, so that will help, too. Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier are two top of the lineup options for the Twins in this game. I also like Joe Mauer and Oswaldo Arcia, who get the left on right matchup and both have 30% hard-hit rates against right-handed pitchers. In this mix, I really like Eduardo Nunez, who should have a good shot to get a hit and swipe a base against Jungmann, who allowed 18 stolen bases last year.
The Mariners are another stack that interests me, but the weather needs to hold up. Cody Anderson isn’t going to miss too many bats with his 12.3% strikeout rate. Anderson also allowed hard contact to left-handed hitters on 32.9% of balls in play. Robinson Cano, Seth Smith, Adam Lind and Kyle Seager all had hard-hit rates greater than 30% against right-handed pitchers and have the left on right match-up today. Nelson Cruz is also in that list, but Anderson held righties to a 24.5% hard contact rate. I think the left-handed stack works really well if the weather holds up in Cleveland.
Home run of the day (early)
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Best of luck!