With most teams now 10 games into the 2022 season, Tuesday’s 11-game featured slate is jam-packed with high-end starting pitching. Walker Buehler ($10,700) and Corbin Burnes ($10,500) are joined at the top by last year’s American League Cy Young award winner, Robbie Ray ($9,800), and by Nathan Eovaldi ($9,500), who led all qualified AL starters in FIP (2.79).
Needless to say, choosing your pitchers this evening won’t be an easy task.
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $10,500 - Burnes looked much more like himself in last Wednesday’s start against Baltimore, firing seven shutout innings and striking out eight. The right-hander’s pristine control was on display, while he also generated a massive 18.6% swinging strike rate on his 97 pitches. Long story short, he performed like the reigning NL Cy Young award winner. As for Burnes’ opponent this evening, the Pirates have ridden an unstable .332 BABIP to league-average offensive success in April, yet the team lacks any explosive upside with just a .113 ISO. There’s nothing to fear here.
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros, $6,900 - While Kyle Gibson ($6,600) is also intriguing below $7K, my eyes are focused on Sandoval as the perfect combination of salary savings and upside on Tuesday. Obviously the matchup is a difficult one, yet Sandoval has shown he has the stuff to success against any lineup. In fact, of the 153 pitchers who have thrown at least 90 innings dating back to the beginning of 2021, the left-hander’s 15.2% swinging strike rate is the ninth-best in baseball, higher than the figure posted by Carlos Rodon, Gerrit Cole or Freddy Peralta. Sandoval didn’t allow an earned run across six innings in his first outing of 2022 and I think he’s primed for a breakout campaign, if he can stay healthy.
Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals, $5,200 - Suggesting a full-on Diamondbacks stack makes my stomach churn, but I can certainly get behind building a couple lineups around Marte. The switch-hitter hasn’t started off 2022 exceedingly well, yet tonight’s matchup should be what turns his season around. Joan Adon ($5,700) has been pummelled through his first two starts. The 23-year-old has surrendered 10 earned runs through nine innings of work, which has Adon’s xERA sitting at an ugly 10.50. The RHP has also managed to concede an opponent barrel on a whopping 19.4% of his 31 batted ball events — the highest qualified rate in the league. Marte should be able to do some damage.
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres vs. Cincinnati Reds, $4,600 - Machado has always hit left-handed pitching well. For his career, the veteran infielder sports an .855 OPS and a 128 wRC+ within the split. That’s why it’s not shocking that Machado has started off the season slashing .600/.667/1.200 in his first 12 plate appearances against southpaws. Will that level of success continue all season? Of course not. However, Reiver Sanmartin ($7,300) is a rookie with a below-average fastball and a career 88.9% zone contact rate. He doesn’t have the raw stuff to overwhelm Machado and I believe the Padres’ 3B will take advantage.
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles at Oakland Athletics, $3,600 - Mountcastle has started 2022 a little slowly, but a matchup against Cole Irvin ($6,300) should be just what the doctor ordered. Last season, in 209 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Mountcastle registered a .261 ISO and a 120 wRC+. As for Irvin, the lefty’s contact-oriented nature has backfired through his first two outings of 2022, where he’s allowed opposing RHBs to compile an eye-popping .676 slugging percentage. That’s the direct result of Irvin having already surrendered four home runs in just 11.2 innings of work. The Orioles should be able to post a few crooked numbers on Tuesday.
Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $2,900 - This is just too cheap a price tag for Tellez. While the first baseman might not be a household name, Tellez comes into Tuesday’s slate with a career .215 ISO. The man can hit and he’s been showcasing that skill to start 2022, with Tellez posting a .385 xwOBA across his first 33 plate appearances of the season. Tellez is also left-handed, which is all you need to be viable against JT Brubaker ($5,900). In Brubaker’s last 12 starts, he’s faced a combined 132 LHBs. Those hitters have slashed .311/.379/.664 with a .434 wOBA. Yikes.
Nick Castellanos, Philadelphia Phillies at Colorado Rockies, $5,900 - I think Kyle Freeland ($5,600) is ready for a road trip. The Rockies’ left-hander is set to make his third start of the season on Tuesday, with all three having come at Coors Field. That’s a bit of an issue. Dating back to the beginning of 2021, Freeland’s been beat up in the altitude. In fact, over those 13 appearances, Freeland’s surrendered 1.6 home runs per nine and a massive .376 opponent wOBA. That’s all music to the ears of Castellanos, who is off to another hot start in 2022. The outfielder has a .417 xwOBA and a 153 wRC+ through his first 46 plate appearances, while a career .896 OPS against lefties isn’t too shabby, either.
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $4,800 - Even before clubbing a grand slam on Monday night, there were signs that Yelich’s bat was coming back to life. While the surface numbers so far in 2022 may not blow anyone away, Yelich’s advanced profile is glowing, as the LHB has posted a .417 xwOBA over his first 43 plate appearances of the season. He’s also had 17 of his 22 batted ball events come off the bat at over 95 mph — a 77.3% rate that is tops among all qualified players in baseball. Considering Brubaker’s well documented struggles with left-handed hitters, Yelich is maybe my favorite asset on the whole slate.
Daulton Varsho, Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals, $3,600 - While I won’t go so far as to say Arizona’s whole lineup is due for some positive regression, Varsho has been hitting the ball better than his numbers suggest. In fact, though Varsho is slugging a paltry .296 through nine games, his expected slugging percentage sits at .431. This is consistent with his expected batting average and expected wOBA, too. Heck, even if you don’t buy into the advanced analytics, just know Varsho is left-handed and going to hit leadoff against Adon on Tuesday. LHBs are slashing .385/.484/.692 against Adon in 2022.
Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers, $2,700 - I have no idea what’s happening here. I get that Buehler is scheduled to start for the Dodgers, but every single member of the Braves has seen their salary shirk by roughly $1,500 since Monday night. That’s absurd, especially when it comes to Ozuna, who has a .313 ISO and a .405 xwOBA through his first 50 plate appearances of 2022. It’s a bad matchup, yet somehow a worse price tag.
TEAMS TO STACK
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates - There are few teams that utilize platoons as effectively as the Brewers and that’s really bad news for the aforementioned Brubaker. Between Yelich, Tellez, Kolten Wong ($4,100), Omar Narvaez ($3,300) and Jace Peterson ($3,300), Milwaukee’s lineup should have at least five left-handed bats this evening. For a starter that notably struggles within the split, it’s a nightmare scenario.
Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals - I can’t believe it. Across 1,700 words, I talked myself into stacking the D-Backs. Here are the bullet points. One, Adon has had his issues with LHBs through starts, surrendering a .507 wOBA within the split. That opens the door for the likes of Marte, Varsho, David Peralta ($3,700), Seth Beer ($3,400) and Pavin Smith ($3,000). Two, the Nationals bullpen has been awful in 2022, posting a 5.16 ERA, and now they’ll be in the second leg of a doubleheader. Three, the Diamondbacks’ bats are super cheap and no one else will want to use them.
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