This is always a fun early-season slate. On Tuesday, most teams in baseball will be playing their fifth game of the schedule, which means that a majority of the probable starters are the final — or worst — pitcher in their respective club’s rotation. To cut to the chase: Runs will be scored.
Still, some matchups are better than others, so let’s dive in and single out a few assets you should be keeping an eye on.
Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants, $10,100 - Not to belabor the point too much, but this is a slate where Andrew Heaney ($8,800) is the fourth-most expensive pitching option — a little security at the top never hurt anybody. Not only is Darvish coming off six no-hit innings against the Diamondbacks in hist first outing of 2022, but he threw 92 pitches in that contest, illustrating an innings ceiling that few men can match on Tuesday. I mean, I don’t hate Luis Garcia ($9,400) in this spot, but the RHP only threw 3.2 frames in his final Grapefruit League start. Darvish should also be in line for a bit more strikeout success than we witnessed this past Thursday, as the veteran maintained a 30.5% strikeout rate from 2019 to 2021.
Jesus Luzardo, Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Angels, $7,300 - I’ll rarely allow myself to indulge in Spring Training stats, but there’s no denying Luzardo looked good in March. The big left-hander threw a team-high 11.2 innings for the Marlins, registering a 0.77 ERA and racking up 10 strikeouts. More impressively, Luzardo was sitting 98 mph with his fastball and appeared to be more comfortable than we saw him at any point in a weird 2021 campaign. The upside is obvious — Luzardo owns a 9.36 K/9 for his career — and the prospect pedigree still shines through. I’m willing to give the 24-year-old an opportunity on Tuesday, especially if Mike Trout ($5,700; illness) is sidelined for a second straight night.
Josh Donaldson, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $4,900 - After not starting Monday night’s loss to Toronto, I’d expect Donaldson to be back in the leadoff spot for the Yankees this evening against Yusei Kikuchi ($8,600). It remains to be seen what adjustments the Blue Jays will have for the lefty, but they’ll have to take effect quickly, as Kikuchi was destroyed by right-handed bats in the final few months of 2021. In fact, from July 1 onwards, Kikuchi surrendered an .588 slugging percentage and a .423 wOBA within the split. Meanwhile, Donaldson posted a lovely .390 xwOBA versus southpaws last season. This is a nice spot for the former MVP.
Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals, $4,700 - Albies has gotten off to a slow start this season, but don’t let that distract you from two important things. One, the infielder was an absolute monster against left-handed pitching in 2021, slashing .323/.354/.585 within the split. Albies also managed an eye-popping 166 wRC+ in his 91 plate appearances against southpaws in Atlanta. Two, Albies has hit leadoff for the Braves both times they’ve faced a lefty starter in 2022. The hits are coming, and considering how much Patrick Corbin ($6,800) struggled last year, they’re probably coming Tuesday night.
Brad Miller, Texas Rangers vs. Colorado Rockies, $3,400 - I think Miller is going to be a pretty popular asset on Tuesday — and justifiably so. The veteran has thrived as Texas’ platoon leadoff man, collecting three extra-base hits in his first 14 plate appearances of the season. This isn’t really anything new, either, as Miller posted an .842 OPS versus RHPs with the Phillies in 2021. As for his opponent? Chad Kuhl ($5,200) might not have to pitch in Colorado tonight, but that’s about all he has going for him. The RHP was particularly bad when facing LHBs last season, conceding 1.96 home runs per nine within the split.
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Kansas City Royals, $3,200 - Pujols got the start at DH on Opening Day in St. Louis, but has sat squarely on the bench since as the Cardinals have faced a parade of right-handed opponents. Well, that changes on Tuesday. Daniel Lynch ($5,500) will take the mound for the Royals, hoping to rebound after a rookie campaign that saw him post a 6.35 xERA across 15 starts. Pujols possessed a .309 ISO and a 146 wRC+ against lefties in 2021. He was brought in as a platoon bat, and it’s likely we see him hit fifth in the lineup with Lynch on the hill.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays, $5,500 - I already mentioned Kikuchi’s late-season issues with right-handed bats and unfortunately for the newest member of the Blue Jays’ rotation, the Yankees are flush with power-hitting RHBs. Judge hasn’t looked all that dangerous to start 2022, but his 2021 numbers tell a drastically different story. In his 188 plate appearances versus LHPs, the All-Star posted a .990 OPS and a .454 xwOBA — the highest mark of any player with at least 125 at-bats within the split.
Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees, $4,600 - Some things don’t have to be too complex. Hernandez was basically the best hitter in baseball against left-handed pitching in 2021. He led all qualified players in OPS (1.151) and wRC+ (203) within the split and his .372 ISO was good for second. Hernandez also had a .443 xwOBA versus LHPs, which was the third-best mark of any players with at least 100 plate appearances against a southpaw. Nestor Cortes ($7,700) is left-handed. Yankee Stadium is a good place to hit. Need I say more?
Conner Joe, Colorado Rockies at Texas Rangers, $3,100 - It’s a very small sample, but Joe has been blistering hot to start 2022, slashing .313/.421/.688 across his first 19 plate appearances. Also, after posting a .941 OPS against LHPs last season, Joe has hit leadoff for the Rockies the past two times they’ve faced a southpaw. Tonight’s opponent? Martin Perez ($5,800), who pitched to a 5.44 xERA in 2021.
Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles vs. Milwaukee Brewers, $2,900 - Mancini and the Orioles have yet to have much of an offensive explosion so far in 2022, yet this lineup was always better against left-handed pitching in 2021. To wit, in his 223 plate appearances within the split, Mancini posted a .378 wOBA and a 140 wRC+. Add in a top-third batting order slot and it’s weird to see the veteran with a price tag below $3K on Tuesday.
TEAMS TO STACK
New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays - The Yankees are one of a handful of teams projected to score at least five runs this evening. That makes sense given the issues the aforementioned Kikuchi had with right-handed bats in the final three months of last season. Judge is the lone New York bat priced above $5K, which might help get the likes of Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton ($4,900) and DJ LeMahieu ($4,300) into the same build. This is a stack that might also be a little less popular than usual, with the Yankees on the heels of a shutout on Monday. Hooray for recency bias!
Texas Rangers vs. Colorado Rockies - When I saw that the Rangers were projected for over six runs on Tuesday, I had to triple-check that this game was in Texas and not Colorado. That speaks to the struggles Kuhl had in 2021. Not only did the RHP have issues retiring left-handed bats, but he was simply awful when pitching away from the comfy confines of PNC Park, as indicated by a 7.32 ERA and a .405 opponent wOBA on the road. You’ll need to take serious looks at Marcus Semien ($5,400) and Corey Seager ($5,000), yet the real value might be lefties Nathaniel Lowe ($4,400), Miller and Kole Calhoun ($3,300).
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