MLB DFS: Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber Top Optimal Pitchers for Friday

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Pitchers with the highest optimal probabilities: Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber

Gerrit Cole enters tonight’s slate as the top pitcher on our optimal board ahead of his matchup against the Kansas City Royals. Cole’s standing as one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers is not in question, as he has an xERA and xFIP around 3.00 with elite strikeout production. He already faced Kansas City once this season, where he tossed six scoreless innings, and now their best hitter dons the Yankees pinstripes giving Cole one less matchup to be concerned about. 

The loss of Andrew Benintendi will be felt offensively. Still, in the meantime, the Royals have had a respectable July given their record as they are roughly league average in production given their wOBA and wRC+ even though they struggle to produce meaningful power. Cole will be the most expensive pitcher on the DraftKings board with the highest optimal probability of any arm, along with the expectation of him ending up as the highest owned by a decent margin. Nothing sways us one way or another as he is being projected status quo against a mediocre offense. So if you consider yourself a Cole backer, nothing here should scare you away from this play. 

Shane Bieber joins Cole near the top of the optimal board as he prepares to face the Tampa Bay Rays while finding himself in a slight leverage situation. The Rays have been an inconsistent offense throughout the year, so it is hard to predict when their next outburst will be, but over the past week, they have been in a downward trend from their scorching start to July as they have been in the bottom ten in ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ post the all-star break. They also have struck out at the sixth-worst clip in baseball during that stretch. 

The strikeout boost that we could see tonight with the Rays at the plate looks extremely needed for Shane Bieber, who has faced a steep strikeout decline this season compared to years past. His real and expected ERA and FIP numbers are still in a respectable place in the mid-3.00 range. Bieber has improved giving up power this year as he has a top-15 ranking in allowed HR/9 among all qualified pitchers, considering he gave up three homers over six innings of work in his most recent start. Do we expect Bieber to get shelled two starts in a row? No, we do not. Buying into the low ownership available with Bieber against a slumping offense that could offer a higher strikeout upside is a low-risk, high-reward play.