MLB DFS Opening Day: Starting Pitcher Breakdown (July 24)

Shawn Childs

A big part of winning in daily fantasy baseball is understanding the starting pitching pool. Here's a look at all for opening day starters for the July 24th slate on Friday. With no spring training leading into the regular season, it is imperative to get a feel for how many innings each pitcher may go in their first start.

Aaron Nola, PHI (DK – $9,100/FD – $9,000)

The below note on Nola is from The Philadelphia Inquirer, which includes their expected opening day roster.

“Nola missed the start of summer camp while quarantining after coming in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, but he’s on track to start Friday against Miami. He looked crisp on Saturday night in D.C. and should be able to give the Phillies at least five innings in his first start of the season. The Phillies’ chances at reaching the postseason will rely heavily on their rotation and its ability to lighten the load on a shaky bullpen. Nola, if he dominates the way he did in 2018, will be quite the tone-setter.”

Matchup: Las Vegas has Nola as a -190 favorite against the Marlins with a mid-level over/under (8.0 to 8.5). In his career, he is 3-6 with a 3.28 ERA and 80 strikeouts over 82.1 innings.

Outlook: Over the last two seasons, Nola has been a workhorse type arm (67 starts), leading to 414.2 innings pitched. Last year he finished with a career-high strikeout rate (10.2), but he walked the most batters of his career (3.6 per nine). His 2018 season (17-6 with a 2.37 ERA and 224 strikeouts) shows his high ceiling.

A winnable matchup with enough command to pitch six solid innings with some upside in strikeouts.

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Sandy Alcantara, MIA (DK – $6,800/FD – $6,800)

The only information on Alcantara inning count came from a Tweet from Jordan McPherson on July 14th. He is a beat writer for the Miami Herald.

Matchup: Alcantara is 3-1 in his career against Philly with a 2.81 ERA and 23 strikeouts over 25.2 innings. His highlight game (seven shutout innings with six strikeouts) came in 2018 at home.

Outlook: His strikeout rate (6.9) came up short in 2019 with plenty of questions with his command (3.7 walks per nine). Alcantara has a plus fastball (95.9) while offering three pitches of value (four-seam – .239, sinker – .233, and slider – .232 BAA). He also has a changeup (.274 BAA) with upside.

Over five seasons in the minors, Alcantara went 23-32 with a 3.94 ERA and 461 strikeouts over 496 innings. His biggest obstacle remains his command (walk rate – 3.7).

This season I expect him to take a massive step forward. In this matchup, I see more risk than reward due to his questionable command. I don’t expect Alcantara to pitch deep into this game, and he offers no real reward in strikeouts.

Shane Bieber, CLE (DK – $10,300/FD – $10,200)

In his last outing, Bieber went four innings while allowing one run with nine strikeouts. Mandy Bell did a full writeup on MLB.com. I expect him to be ready for a full six innings against the Royals.

Matchup: Bieber is a -210 favorite in this matchup with an over/under of 8.5. Despite a 3-0 record in his career against the Royals, Bieber has 5.22 ERA, 1.466 WHIP, and 29 strikeouts over 29.1 innings.

Outlook: Last year, he pitched into the seven-inning in 19 games, and he had five other starts with six innings. Bieber came into 2019 with a great foundation in his command, which led to him blossoming into an ace arm. He led the American League in the lowest walk rate (1.7), helping Bieber boost his strikeout rate (10.9) well above his minor league career (8.4) and success in his rookie season (9.3).

Last year, Bieber was much tougher to hit (.230 BAA - .285 in 2018), but he did allow a few too many home runs (1.3 per nine). His arm had almost the same value against righties (.231) and lefties (.228) while posting an ERA under 3.70 each month. He allowed two runs or fewer in 22 of his 33 starts.

Bieber is in the mix with me at the top end of salary arms on opening day thanks to his elite command, which gives him a chance to win and pitch six innings.

Danny Duffy, KC (DK – $6,400/FD – $6,700)

Duffy flashed in spring training (six shutout innings with one walk and nine strikeouts) while adding three more shutout innings with two strikeouts on July 13th. His pitching count looks to be about 75 heading into opening day.

Matchup: The Indians have had their way with Duffy for most of his career. Over 21 games and 17 starts, he went 3-11 with a 5.48 ERA, 1.590 WHIP, and 114 strikeouts over 129.1 innings.

Outlook: Duffy looks to be a tease for anyone drafting him in the season-long games based on his small sample size of success in spring training/summer camp. I don’t trust his matchup or length of innings in this game. A fantasy owner will look to stack against Duffy on opening day.

Kyle Hendricks, CHC (DK – $7,400/FD – $7,700)

In his last start on Sunday, Hendricks gave up three runs over 4.2 innings while tossing 83 pitches. With an efficient outing on opening day. He has a chance to pitch six innings while being on a pitch count of about 100 pitches.

Matchup: Over 21 starts in his career, Hendricks is 8-6 vs. the Brewers with a 3.08 ERA and 109 strikeouts over 119.2 innings.

Outlook: Batters had the toughest time with his two lowest usage pitches (four-seam – .167 BAA and curveball – .217 BAA). His changeup (.260 BAA) had a sharp decline in value compared to 2018 (.184 BAA). Head shaker arm, with the sum of his parts, outweighing the weakness in his velocity. More pullback should be expected if he doesn’t regain the feel of his changeup.

His low K rate (7.6) set a low ceiling in many games when trying to beat the game's best arms in the daily market. Kendrick is reliable, which works better over the long haul in the season-long contests.

Brandon Woodruff, MIL (DK – $7,700/FD – $8,700)

On July 9th, Woodruff worked his way to about 70 pitches while pushing his pitch count to 78 on July 14th. I didn’t see the results from his next outing, which I suspect to be in the mid-80s. The Brewers should allow Woodruff to pitch six innings against the Cubs if he’s on his game.

Matchup: Over five games and three starts vs. Chicago, Woodruff doesn’t have a win with a 6.75 ERA, 1.705 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts over 14.2 innings. With that said, he didn’t face the Cubs after April 5th in 2019.

Outlook: His average fastball (96.8) was top shelf while offering three pitches of value (four-seam – .218 BAA, sinker – .224 BAA, and slider – .237 BAA) with weakness in his changeup (.297 BAA). Woodruff needs to improve against lefties (.265 with eight home runs over 211 at-bats). He pitched the best at home (9-0 with a 3.06 ERA and 93 strikeouts over 70.2 innings).

Woodruff’s walk rate (2.2) came in an elite area in 2019 with further growth in his strikeout rate (10.6). His salary is fair at DraftKings, and he should be about to pitch six innings.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Nathan Eovaldi, BOS (DK – $7,100/FD – $7,100)

The Red Sox named Eovaldi as their starter for opening day. He threw 66 pitches on July 14th with a pushover 75 pitches in his last start.

Matchup: Over nine starts in his career, Eovaldi struggled against the Orioles (3-1 with 5.62 ERA, 1.704 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts over 32.1 innings. Boston is -220 favorite with an over/under of 9.5.

Outlook: Eovaldi had a low strikeout rate (7.0) over eight years in the majors. His arm should have more strikeout ability over the last two seasons (8.6 per nine). He has developed a split-finger fastball while showcasing solid command in his career. Eovaldi has a good chance at a win with sneaky upside in strikeouts. I don’t expect him to pitch six full innings in this matchup.

Tommy Milone, BAL (DK – $4,000/FD – $5,600)

Milone draws the opening start for the Orioles after John Means developed a left shoulder issue. He has the lowest salary of the day while being a long shot to last five innings.

Matchup: He made five career starts against Boston with no success (0-3 with a 9.26 ERA, 2.057 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts over 23.1 innings).

Outlook: Stacking against Milone will be a popular play opening day. The Orioles have weakness as well in their bullpen, which invites follow through for Boston’s offense if their bats get rolling early.

Lance Lynn, TEX (DK – $8,900/FD – $8,300)

Lynn threw over 100 pitches in his start on July 13th while being expected to toss another 85 pitches in his final preseason start.

Matchup: The Rangers play their first game in the new ballpark, which projects to be pitcher favoring. Texas is a slight favorite (-120) with an over/under of 9.0. Lynn is 2-2 in his career against the Rockies with a 2.76 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 42.1 innings.

Outlook: Lynn’s strikeout rate (10.6) came in as a career-best in 2019, along with his walk rate (2.5). He did have some issues with left-handed batters (.267). Lynn had a jump in his average fastball (94.9). Batters struggled to hit his four-seamer (.214 BAA) while his secondary pitches had success (cutter – .235 BAA, curveball – .184 BAA, and changeup – .214 BAA). Most of his trouble came from his sinker (.337 BAA), an up-and-down pitch in his career.

Not a great matchup, but he has the arm to pile up strikeouts while being a lower percentage owned. Lynn should be allowed to pitch six innings if he’s getting batters out.

German Marquez, COL (DK – $8,700/FD – $8,200)

In his final preseason start, Marquez threw 64 pitches, which points to a quick hook on opening day.

Matchup: This will be his first career start against Texas.

Outlook: His average fastball (95.8) fell in line with 2018. He continued to have an elite curveball (.114 BAA), but Marquez lost the value of his four-seamer (.304 with ten HRs over 237 at-bats) and his slider (.289 with 11 HRs over 149 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (20.1) is exceptionally high, but he is a ground ball pitcher (29.0 percent). I don’t like the direction of his slider, which may be a sign of a future TJ surgery.

Easy avoid in the daily games.

Lucas Giolito, CWS ($9,500/FD – $9,500)

In his last start, Giolito pushed his pitch count to about 100 pitches.

Matchup: His resume (4-5 with 4.58 ERA) isn’t attractive vs. the Twins, but Giolito does show more upside in his WHIP (1.193) with 51 strikeouts over 57 innings. In 2019, he posted a 3.24 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 25 innings. The White Sox have almost a pick'em game (-103) against Minnesota with an 8.5 over/under.

Outlook: Giolito dominated lefties (.172) in 2019 with success vs. right-handed batters (.235). His average (94.1) had more life and success (.204 BAA). He threw a plus changeup (.191 BAA) and a winning slider (.215 BAA). His biggest change from 2018 was dumping his sinker. Giolito pitched more up in the strike zone, leading to a higher fly-ball rate (42.8 – 37.3 in 2018), but he didn’t fix his issue with home runs allowed (1.2 per nine) and HR/FB rate (13.6).

Giolito is priced too high for me while expecting him to have a chance at six innings.

Jose Berrios, MIN ($9,600/FD – $9,200)

In his final tune-up start, Berrios tossed 73 pitches. I don't expect him to pitch over five innings on opening day.

Matchup: Over five career starts vs. the White Sox, Berrios is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 34.1 innings.

Outlook: Berrios had success but didn’t dominate right-handed (.254) or left-handed (.247) batters. Over his first 22 starts, he posted a 2.80 ERA and 133 strikeouts over 141.2 innings before disaster struck on August 6th (nine runs and 13 baserunners over 5.2 innings).

His average (93.5) is trending backward while having about the same success with his four-seamer (.246 BAA), curveball (.241 BAA), and changeup (.244 BAA).

With a question with the length of his start, I would avoid using Berrios on opening day, and his higher salary isn’t worth the investment.

Jake Flaherty, STL (DK – $9,000/FD – $10,500)

In his final preseason start, Flaherty posted ten strikeouts while tossing 92 pitches.

Matchup: The Cardinals are -195 favorites against Pittsburgh with an over/under of 7.5. Flaherty is 4-1 in his career against the Pirates with a 1.84 ERA and 41 strikeouts over 44 innings.

Outlook: Flaherty dominated both righties (.182) and lefties (.202) last year with growth in walk rate (2.5). Even with more strikes thrown, his strikeout rate (10.6) didn’t beat his success in 2018 (10.8). His average fastball (94.7) was a career-best. Both his four-seamer (.201 BAA), slider (.187 BAA), and sinker (.184 BAA) had winning success while his curveball (.240 BAA) and show-me changeup (.235 BAA) also played well. His pitches were phenomenal after his hot stretch over the second half of 2019 (four-seam – .169 BAA, sinker – .172 BAA, slider – .123 BAA, and curveball – .148 BAA). This season he needs to clean up his mistakes in home runs allowed.

Flaherty is my top pitching play in the daily games on opening day. His salary is favorable, and I expect a win and solid six innings of work.

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Joe Musgrove
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Musgrove, PIT (DK – $6,900/FD – $6,500)

The only blurb about Musgrove’s that I found came from his July 14th start. He looked sharp that day, which led to one run over five innings with seven strikeouts.

Matchup: The Cardinals have dominated Musgrove in all four of his career starts (0-4 with 10.00 ERA, 2.000 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts over 18 innings.

Outlook: Musgrove had the best season of his career in 2019 as far as innings pitched (170.1). Even with more length to his year, he underachieved again in ERA (4.44) despite strength in his command (strikeout rate – 8.3 and walk rate – 2.1).

His AFB (92.9) was more than one MPH lower than in 2018 (94.1). Both his slider (.182 BAA) and curveball (.180 BAA) had exceptional results while his changeup (.244 BAA) was an advantage. Musgrove lost his value due to regression in his fastball (four-seam – .300 with eight HRs over 207 at-bats and sinker – .366 with two HRs over 82 at-bats).

Command pitcher with a bunch of crooked numbers vs. the Cardinals in his career. His salary is relatively low, which offsets some of his downside risk. Musgrove is more of a “stack against” than a start in the daily games.

Justin Verlander, HOU (DK – $11,400/FD – $11,200)

In his last appearance before opening day, Verlander threw 74 pitches over five innings of work.

Matchup: Vegas has Houston -300 favorite against Seattle with an over/under between 7.5 and 8.5. Verlander is 15-9 in his career against Seattle with a 3.25 ERA and 208 strikeouts over 196.2 innings.

Outlook: Over three seasons with Houston, Verlander went 42-15 with a 2.45 ERA and 633 strikeouts over 471 innings. Last year he finished with 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career with strength in his walk rate (1.7) and strikeout rate (12.1).

His average fastball (94.8) fell short of 2017 (95.8) and 2018 (95.6), but batters did struggle to hit his four-seamer (.221 BBA). All three of his secondary pitched graded as elite (changeup – .163 BAA, slider – .145 BAA, and curveball – .194 BAA). A volume arm with cracks in his resume, but overall, Verlander looks poised to build on his success in Houston.

Verlander can’t fill his salary bucket based on his pitch count (about 90 pitches).

Marco Gonzales, SEA (DK – $5,900/FD – $5,900)

On July 19th, Gonzales only pitched four innings while being a low pitch count (50).

Matchup: Gonzales doesn’t have a win versus Houston six starts (0-4 with a 7.36 ERA, 1.977 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts over 29.1 innings.

Outlook: His walk rate (2.5) regressed from his 2018 success (1.7) while losing any strikeout ability (6.5 per nine). Gonzales struggled with lefties (.302 with eight HRs over 205 at-bats). His average fastball (89.3) was a career-low. Batters had the toughest time with his changeup (.244 BAA) with a serviceable cutter (.255 BAA) and four-seamer (.245 BAA). Striker thrower with no edge in velocity.

Complete avoid on opening day as he has almost no chance of pitching five innings. The Astros will be a popular stack, but their best players will all have high salaries.

Chris Paddack, SD (DK – $8,600/FD – $8,900)

Last Sunday, Paddack pitched six innings with eight strikeouts while throwing 87 pitches.

Matchup: The Padres are slight favorites (-130) over the Diamondbacks with an over/under of 8.0/ Paddack pitched great in his three starts against Arizona last year (1-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 20 strikeouts).

Outlook: Both his walk rate (2.0) and strikeout rate (9.8) started in excellent areas while throwing a tremendous amount of first-pitch strikes (71). Paddock only difficulty came from home runs allowed (23 – 1.5 per nine). He allowed two runs or fewer in 16 of his 26 starts.

Paddack had almost the same success against righties (.198) and lefties (.211). His AFB (94.2) was above the league average. Batters struggled to hit his changeup (.187 BAA) and four-seam fastball (.204 BBA) while needing more on his curveball (.267 BAA).

He looks poised to deliver a big game on opening day. Paddack has all the tools to be electric, and he throws strikes. In the running for the top pitcher of the day while being undervalued based on his salary.

Madison Bumgarner, ARI (DK – $8,400/FD – $9,000)

On July 15th, Bumgarner threw four innings. I didn’t find any pitch count data. At best, the Diamondback pushed him to five innings and 75 pitched in his final summer start before the start of the season.

Matchup: Over 36 career games against San Diego, Bumgarner went 13-10 with a 3.40 ERA and 231 strikeouts over 230.1 innings.

Outlook: Bumgarner had success with his curveball (.214 BAA) and changeup (.194 BAA), but his cutter (.260 BAA) lost value while also offering a mid-level four-seam fastball (.250 BAA). Since 2016, he’s pitched more up in the strike zone, which led to a higher HR/FB rate in 2017 (12.9) and 2019 (12.6).

Bumgarner isn’t the pitcher he once was, and his pitch count in this matchup is too low for his salary.

Ross Stripling, LAD (DK – $7,900/FD – $6,600)

The Dodgers will have a quick hook for all their starters over the first week of the season. In his six starts last year, Stripling pitched more than 5.1 innings in just one game.

Matchup: Las Vegas has Los Angeles listed as 230 favorites with an over/under of 8.5. Stripling is 1-3 in his career vs. the Giants with a 5.59 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 38 innings.

Outlook: The Dodgers have used him as a swingman over the past four seasons, leading to a 20-24 record, 3.51 ERA, and 377 strikeouts over 387 innings. His walk rate (2.0) is now elite with strength as well in his strikeout rate (9.2). Stripling posted a 3.60 ERA in 2019 over his 15 starts covering 70 innings with 71 strikeouts. His AFB (90.7) is below par with his only pitch of value being his plus curveball (.164 BAA). He had league average value with his slider (.268 AAA) while his changeup (.259 BAA) has a chance to have further growth. The sum of his parts grades better than his stuff.

Stripling should pitch well, but he may not make it through the fifth inning.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Samardzija, SF (DK – $6,500/FD – $6,400)

Matchup: Over 11 career games, Samardzija went 2-5 with a 3.83 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 54 innings against the Dodgers.

Outlook: Samardzija outpitched his strikeout rate (6.9) and HR/9 rate (1.4) in 2019, which led to surprising help in ERA (3.55) and WHIP (1.108). He allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 32 starts, with his best value coming in July and August (1.99 ERA, 172 BAA, and 54 Ks over 68 innings).

His AFB (91.9) was 1.4 MPH lower than 2018 (93.3) and miles away from his peak in 2012 (96.1). He had success with his four-seam (.183 BAA), slider (.234 BAA), and cutter (.177 BAA). Samardzija struggled with his sinker (.289 BAA) and lost the feel for his split-finger fastball (.279 BAA).

Fading arm with problems allowing home runs suggests a daily fantasy owner should stack against him in this matchup. The Giants have weaknesses as well in their bullpen.

Frankie Montas, OAK ($8,800/FD – $7,600)

In his last appearance on July 18th, Montas only pitched three innings.

Matchup: Montas is 2-0 over four starts against the Angels with a 3.27 ERA and 20 strikeouts over 22 innings. Vegas has Oakland as a -140 favorite over LA with an over/under of 8.5.

Outlook: His AFB (97.2) fell in line with his career path. His skill set change looks to the addition of plus split-finger fastball (.155 BAA) and success with his slider (.152 BAA).

With the A’s in 2019, Montas threw the most strikes of his career (walk rate – 2.2) while his strikeout rate (9.7) fell in line with his minor league resume (9.6).

I like his salary much better at Fanduel, but his expected innings output would push me elsewhere for upside.

Andrew Heaney, LAA (DK – $8,000/FD – $6,700)

Heaney threw five innings on July 13th, which required 82 pitches. The Angels skipped his last start due to back stiffness.

Matchup: Over six career starts against Oakland, Heaney went 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 38.1 innings.

Outlook: The command geeks will be all over Heaney in 2020. He finished with a career-best in his strikeout rate (11.1) in a season with 18 starts or more, and his walk rate (2.8) only had a slight regression (2.4).

His AFB (92.7) fell in line with 2018. He had the most success with his sinker (.231 BAA) with a serviceable curveball (.255 BAA) and a fading changeup (.284 BAA). Heaney struggled to get left-handed batters out (.321 with six HRs over 84 at-bats). Last year he pitched more up in the strike zone (fly-ball rate – 43.6) while continuing to battle home runs (HR/FB rate – 18.3 and HR/9 rate – 1.9).

Heaney has a boom or bust arm that doesn’t look ready to hit the ground running on opening day. His weakness in home runs allowed makes him a viable pitcher to stack against on Friday. I don’t expect more than five innings of work.

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