Sometimes a slate comes along that is so defined by one major characteristic it almost seems impossible. Well, that’s the feeling I had last night taking a first glance at Tuesday’s 14-game MLB schedule. Do you like elite pitching? If you do, then this is the slate for you. Gerrit Cole ($11,000), Max Scherzer ($10,800), Zack Wheeler ($10,200), Freddy Peralta ($10,000), Lucas Giolito ($9,400), Clayton Kershaw ($9,200) and Zac Gallen ($8,900) are just the beginning of a positional group that almost reads like a mistake.
So, which of those studs are you starting your lineups with? Let’s go position-by-position and break it all down.
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Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates, $9,400 - Does it matter that Giolito has thrown a no-hitter against the Pirates before? Not really, but it is a good illustration of how hapless Pittsburgh’s offense has tended to be in recent seasons, and nothing’s really changed in 2021. In fact, coming into today’s start, the Pirates own the league’s lowest ISO against right-handed pitching (.123). That’s crucial to note, because home runs have been Giolito’s big weakness across his past four outings; a span that’s seen the White Sox’s ace surrender 2.4 home runs per nine, but also strike out 36.3% of opponents. I think you’ll be able to bank on that strikeout upside this evening without having to worry about Giolito keeping the ball in the yard. That makes the RHP very viable, especially at his lowest salary since late May.
Ross Stripling, Toronto Blue Jays at Miami Marlins, $5,700 - Stripling made a huge mechanical change to his windup back towards the end of May, with the RHP and Jays’ pitching coach Pete Walker believing that the veteran had been tipping his pitches. Well, it’s only been 29.1 innings since the tweak, but you’d have to admit that things have been different for Stripling across his past five outings. In that stretch, Stripling has maintained a 2.45 ERA with a 25.4% strikeout rate, all while limiting opponents to a meager .248 wOBA. Considering the matchup and the price point below $6K, another quality start from Stripling would easily mean you’re looking at 3x value from the former Dodger.
Editor’s Note: White Sox C Yasmani Grandal is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Pirates.
Yasmani Grandal, Chicago White Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates, $5,000 - Much like everyone on the White Sox’s roster, Grandal has posted some pretty impressive numbers against left-handed pitching so far in 2021. In fact, in 58 plate appearances, the veteran has registered an insane .491 OBP to go along with a 165 wRC+. The specific presence of Tyler Anderson ($8,000) is important, too. Though the southpaw put together some decent numbers early in the season, he’s allowed opponents to combine for a .602 slugging percentage in his past five starts. That’s rough.
Editor’s Note: Rays C Mike Zunino is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Red Sox.
Mike Zunino, Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox , $3,500 - Zunino has been magnificent when facing a left-handed pitcher in 2021, slashing an eye-popping .309/.387/.709 with a .400 ISO and a 198 wRC+ within the split in his 62 plate appearances. With Eduardo Rodriguez ($6,400) struggling to a 9.16 ERA over his past four starts, Zunino might be one of the best values plays on the entire slate.
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Editor’s Note: Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. Cleveland.
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Baseball Team , $4,900 - The Cubs’ offense has been putrid lately, but you’d have to think they’ll be able to light up the scoreboard with Eli Morgan ($6,000) set to take the mound for Cleveland this evening — at least that’s what possession of the slate’s second-highest implied team total would suggest. Morgan’s simply not long to be a starter at this level, as he’s surrendered three home runs and nine earned runs in his 6.1 innings of work. Rizzo and the rest of Chicago’s lineup should be able to take advantage.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres, $3,300 - Obviously Blake Snell ($8,400) isn’t your average left-handed pitcher, but Pujols has almost been unstoppable within the split so far this season. To wit, the veteran is slashing .333/.361/.710 with a 192 wRC+ in his 72 plate appearances against southpaws. It’s the reason the Dodgers brought him in and it’s also the reason they continue to hit the 41-year-old clean-up when a lefty is on the mound for an opponent.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles, $5,500 - It’s the Astros that have this slate’s highest implied team total, and it’s not particularly hard to see why that is. Jorge Lopez ($4,500) has struggled all season long for the Orioles, but his last three starts have taken things to a whole new level. In 14.0 innings, Lopez has conceded a .610 slugging percentage and a .426 wOBA to opponents, all while also allowing a robust 2.57 home runs per nine. Meanwhile, since the beginning of May, Altuve has just been Jose Altuve again, hitting .306 with a .269 ISO and a 165 wRC+. He’ll get at least five plate appearances tonight and he’ll surely do some damage.
Jazz Chisholm, Miami Marlins vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $3,500 - While I do believe in Ross Stripling’s value this evening, I just don’t understand this price point. Though Chisholm has seen his production taper off slightly from an amazing April, he remains Miami’s leadoff hitter and an asset that combines both power and stolen base potential. Heck, this is someone who was as expensive as $5K less than two weeks ago. Also, while I might trust Stripling, I can’t say the same about Toronto’s bullpen, which has posted a 5.52 ERA in June.
Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $5,200 - Though you’d prefer to be using Bryant against a left-handed opponent — not to mention his awful numbers so far in June — I think the former All-Star is in for a big performance against the aforementioned Morgan. The young right-hander has seen a whopping 15.4% of his batted ball events turn into barrels, while he’s also carrying an ugly 9.49 xERA into tonight’s start. I’m thinking that Morgan’s presence will be the thing that gets many Cubs bats out of their respective slumps.
Patrick Wisdom, Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Baseball Team, $4,000 - Wisdom’s production has slowed since a crazy start to his 2021 campaign, but he’s still in possession of a .414 ISO and a 180 wRC+ across 77 plate appearances. Really, the 29-year-old’s only issue has been strikeouts, but that likely won’t be a problem against Morgan, as the RHP has struck out just 17.1% of the batter’s he’s faced in his brief MLB career. Also, with Bryant’s outfield eligibility, you’ll be able to use both Chicago hitters in the same build.
Editor’s Note: Astros SS Carlos Correa is not in the lineup for tonight’s game vs. the Orioles.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles, $4,800 - Few hitters have been as hot in June as Correa, who comes into Tuesday’s slate slashing .338/.456/.692 with a 214 wRC+ since the calendar turned from May. Would it been nice if he was hitting higher in the lineup on a consistent basis than Chas McCorkmick ($3,100) ? Sure. But I guess I’ll reluctantly leave all roster decisions to Dusty Baker.
J.P. Crawford, Seattle Mariners vs. Colorado Rockies, $3,700 - While there’s still obvious disappointment from Mariners fans when it comes to the struggles of Jared Kelenic, Crawford has been doing an amazing job since taking over as the team’s primary leadoff hitter. In fact, in the month of June alone, the shortstop is slashing .364/.414/.558 with a .998 OPS. Crawford has also had a lot of success in left-on-left situations in 2021, as he owns a 138 wRC+ within the split.
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels vs. San Francisco Giants, $5,400 - I mean, how could you not? Ohtani has been destroying opponents throughout the month of June, as he comes into Tuesday’s slate with a .528 ISO and a 229 wRC+ in his last 66 plate appearances. It’s also important to remember that while Anthony DeSclafani ($7,000) has pitched quite well so far in 2021, it’s always been LHBs that have given him issues, as evidenced by a career .350 wOBA within the split.
Michael Brantley, Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles, $3,900 - Why is Brantley still priced below $4K? Like, what does the guy have to do to get a little respect? Not only is the veteran currently leading the league with a .350 batting average, but Brantley’s been red-hot in June, slashing .511/.574/.766 in his 54 plate appearances. Yes. You read that correctly. Brantley is hitting above .500 so far this month. If I’m Jorge Lopez, I might not even leave my hotel room tonight.
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