Today we have a large full day slate of 12 games, but the top arms are going early. There is a small three game slate on DraftKings that will feature four of my top five ranked arms for today. The first pitcher that I am playing today is Corey Kluber ($10,300). Kluber will face the Red Sox in frigid temperatures in Cleveland. While Progressive field had one of the higher run environments in 2015, the temperatures should depress some offense. The total on this game is just six runs, which is the lowest of any game today. The Red Sox finished 2015 with an 18.4% strikeout rate, which isn’t overwhelming, but could go up a tick as Kluber had a 27.7% strikeout rate in ’15. The downside of Kluber is that the Red Sox finished 2015 with a .334 wOBA against right-handed pitchers, which is greater than league average. Kluber is a slight underdog, so the win could go either way here. According to weather reports, the wind is blowing in from center field at roughly 8-10MPH, which could also depress some offense. Kluber allows you to save some cash and maybe fit an extra bat in your lineup. I am okay with Kluber in cash and tournaments today.
Dallas Keuchel ($10,100) gets another matchup with the Yankees, who he dominated last season, finishing 2-0 with a zero ERA and 21 strikeouts in 16 innings against the Yankees during the regular season. He met them again in the playoffs, throwing six shutout innings at Yankee Stadium. This game will be played at Yankee stadium, which has been favorable to home runs and runs overall, but reports have a cross wind moving from left to right field of nearly 10-15MPH in New York. I am not too concerned with the Yankee left-handed hitters as Keuchel held opposing lefties to just a .201 wOBA in 2015. I am sure that regresses this season, but he has certainly been difficult on same-handed hitters. The Yankees did hit lefties well in 2015, but as the 2015 numbers against the Yanks show—they couldn’t figure the CY Young winner out. There is strikeout upside here as the Yankees posted a 21.3% strikeout rate against lefties in 2015. For the year, Keuchel finished with a 23.7% strikeout rate, so there is a good chance for strikeout upside. I like Keuchel for cash and tournaments.
As we move toward the night slate, Jon Lester ($10,700) is an interesting option against the Angels. The Cubs are a -131 favorite against the Angels, and will be facing Andrew Heaney, who will be mentioned later. My biggest issue with Lester is that he may be a little bit expensive, which could be a decent reason to fade him in tournaments. However, the strikeout upside is there as the Angels posted a 20.2% strikeout rate versus left-handed pitchers a season ago. Lester is a strikeout pitcher with his 25% strikeout rate from ’15 as a reference point. Los Angeles has been a decent pitcher park, so Lester gets a good park to throw in as well. Lester is a good option, but he does come at a premium.
If we are going down to get some pitching, I believe that Justin Verlander at $8,500 is a good option. Verlander gets the Opening Day nod for the Tigers, who are a -117 favorite today. The total is a little higher than I like at 7.5, but the park and strikeout factor are there for Verlander. In 2015, Verlander posted a 21.1% strikeout rate, and the Marlins finished with an 18.7% strikeout rate against right-handers, so there is some upside. I don’t think he is going to strikeout double-digit batters, but it depends on the stuff he brings. The Marlins were worse against right-handed pitchers last season, finishing with a .305 wOBA. Now Verlander did struggled a little more with right-handed hitters than left, so Stanton could present a problem, but I’m not letting one guy scare me that much. Last year, Marlins park was below average in runs per game and finished as the third worst park for players to hit home runs—which favors Verlander. The night slate isn’t too deep with pitching, so I like Verlander in all formats.
In the early slate, I would be okay with an Astros stack as there is some risk, but huge power upside. Remember, this is a three game slate, so there aren’t too many options. Last year, Tanaka finished with a .296 wOBA against left-handed hitters, which was 18 points higher than his wOBA versus right-handed hitters. In 24 games last year, Tanaka allowed 25 home runs, so there is a chance some balls leave the yard today. He allowed 12 to righties and 13 to lefties, so he is an equal opportunity offender there. It is important to note that 17 of those 25 homers were allowed at Yankee Stadium. With the big time arms going early, I think Luis Valbuena ($3,200) and Colby Rasmus ($3,000) are great low priced options. Rasmus took Tanaka deep in their Wild Card game last season.
The Giants are going to be another great option to stack as they are still in Milwaukee and will face Jimmy Nelson, another starter who has issues with left-handed hitters. Last season, Nelson allowed a .376 wOBA to left-handed hitters, so Denard Span ($4,400), Joe Panik ($4,000) and Brandon Belt ($4,500) are all great options and will hit at top of the order. The total on this game eight, so there should be some runs and the Giants are favored in Vegas. Nelson came in as my lowest ranked pitcher for today.
The chalk stack today is going to be the Chicago Cubs. Anytime this team goes against a left-handed pitcher, they’re going to be stackable. Andrew Heaney’s FIP and SIERA both indicate that he isn’t as good as the result from 2015 would lead you to believe. The Cubs do carry a higher strikeout rate against lefties, but Heaney finished last year with a strikeout rate just over 17%, which is not intimidating. The total in this game is 7.5, and while L.A isn’t hitter friendly, I think the Cubs will give Heaney a tough time. I think just about every Cub can be considered in a stack today.
Sneak Stack: I am going to go with the Tampa Bay Rays today against Aaron Sanchez. There is no doubt that Sanchez has some future upside for this Toronto team, but the Rays actually finished last season with a higher wOBA vs. right-handed pitchers. The Rays strikeout potential is there, but Sanchez hasn’t shown to be overwhelming in his time in the majors. He also carried an 11% walk rate last year, and while walks aren’t sexy, they produce points and create issues for younger pitchers. The total in this game is set at eight with the Rays as a favorite. Follow my Twitter feed as I will release some of my favorite guys when lineups are released.
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Best of luck!