It’s just a six-game featured slate on Wednesday, but don’t let that fool you when it comes to the quality of the starting pitching options. In fact, in Kevin Gausman ($10,100), Gerrit Cole ($9,900) and Shohei Ohtani ($9,200), we might have the three leading candidates for the American League Cy Young taking the mound. Plus, some guy named Max Scherzer ($10,600). Not too shabby at all.
Let’s highlight some studs and values.
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Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, $8,300 - Giolito had a chance to start on Tuesday night, but was held back to this evening. For some reason — most likely his five-day stay on the COVID-19 injured list — Giolito’s salary is way down in comparison to where it’s been the past month, which separates the RHP on this top-loaded pitching slate. Giolito has been special so far in 2022, maintaining a 2.67 xFIP to go along with a 35.2% strikeout rate. The Royals are also far from the scariest opponent to draw, as the team has managed just a .110 ISO and a 83 wRC+ this season. You don’t fire your hitting coach in May for no reason, right?
Drew Smyly, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $7,100 - Smyly’s far from the most consistent pitcher in baseball, but at this point, I’ll trust almost anyone with a pulse against the Pirates. Here’s a quick recap of Pittsburgh’s past three games: 1-0 victory in contest where they registered zero hits, shutout 9-0 and then once again shutout by the Cubs, this time 7-0. They simply have been unable to get anything going on the scoreboard all week. Smyly’s also been better than you might assume. He enters play on Wednesday inducing the third-lowest average exit velocity among pitchers with at least 90 batted ball events in 2022 and a 39.9% chase rate and 11.3% swinging strike rate look a lot better than his modest 16.7% strikeout rate. In a fantastic matchup, he checks enough boxes.
Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles, $5,300 - Rizzo’s about the only Yankee bat that’s been struggling so far in May, yet for the season, the veteran still owns a .295 ISO and a 152 wRC+ thanks to 10 home runs in 151 plate appearances. He’ll also draw an amazing matchup on Wednesday if he’s looking to break out a his “slump” at the dish. Jordan Lyles ($6,100) has been harassed by left-handed bats throughout 2022, with LHBs slashing .295/.387/.590 against the righty. Advantage: Rizzo.
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners, $5,300 - Ever so slowly, Bichette is starting to turn his season around. Dating back to Apr. 30, the All-Star is slashing .317/.369/.500 across 65 plate appearances. He’s also been insanely good against left-handed pitching over the much larger sample of his entire career. At least that’s what a .341 average and a 158 wRC+ would suggest. Marco Gonzales ($5,500) is a lefty. On top of that, Gonzales has surrendered 2.25 home runs per nine with a 6.29 FIP in 2022.
Yoan Moncada, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, $3,700 - It’s generally been right-handed bats that have given Zack Greinke ($5,100) the most trouble so far in 2022, but the RHP is due for some overall regression on Wednesday evening. The veteran owns a 5.30 xERA across his 38.1 innings of work, and he’s striking out just 8.9% of opposing hitters. That’s a dangerous formula going up against the White Sox. Moncada, in particular, is sporting a .491 xwOBA on his 21 batted ball events since coming off the IL.
Editor’s Note: Pirates SP Wil Crowe will start tonight’s game vs. the Cubs.
Alfonso Rivas, Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, $2,300 - This isn’t rocket science. The Cubs are projected for a healthy amount of runs on Wednesday night due to the largely unproven Roansy Contreras ($4,000) starting for Pittsburgh. Contreras has posted a 16.7% walk rate in Triple-A this season, so he’s clearly still ironing out some kinks. Anyway, Rivas has generally hit fifth for the Cubs against right-handed opponents. Makes sense, as Rivas has registered a 148 wRC+ within the split across his first 48 plate appearances. He’s just too cheap.
Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners, $4,900 - A mid-April oblique injury has ruined most of Hernandez’s value so far in 2022, but tonight should be the night he turns the ship around. There’s a case to be made that no hitter in baseball was more successful against left-handed pitching than Toronto’s clean-up man in 2021. To wit, Hernandez hit .372 with a 203 wRC+ within the split in 140 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Gonzales is currently sitting in the 11th percentile of qualified pitchers in expected wOBA and slugging percentage. Yikes.
Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, $4,700 - As mentioned above, Greinke is about as contact-prone as any pitcher in the American League at this point in his career. Contact is a scary way to live when Robert is standing in the opposing batter’s box. The 24-year-old is 95th percentile or better in expected wOBA, slugging percentage and batting average, while his .475 xwOBA on batted ball events is also elite. Just for fun, Robert is slashing .381/.426/.492 in May, as well.
Andrew Vaughn, Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals, $3,600 - Vaughn hit sixth in Game 2 of yesterday’s doubleheader against the Royals, so I’m hoping all the talk of him as a fantastic No. 9 hitter has subsided. You just don’t hit someone with a 135 wRC+ ninth, Tony. You don’t. Anyway, like several of his teammates, Vaughn can lay claim to an above-average xwOBAcon (.392), which is crucial in a matchup with Greinke. Where he lands in a lineup will play a role — Gavin Sheets ($2,900) might turn into a more desirable asset — but Vaughn should end up viable.
Joey Gallo, New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles, $3,200 - Another left-handed bat to throw at Lyles. It’s been easy to miss with so many productive bats in New York’s lineup, but Gallo’s basically been his usual self for the past four weeks. In fact, going back to Apr. 24, Gallo’s slashing .218/.317/.509 with a .291 ISO and a 144 wRC+. The outfielder’s price point also makes him extremely viable on Wednesday, especially considering Lyles has conceded 2.16 home runs per nine to opposing LHBs in 2022.
TEAMS TO STACK
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City Royals - It feels like the White Sox’s offense is on the cusp of waking up. Not only is Moncada back in the mix, but the team ranks third in all of baseball with a 42.7% hard hit rate. Normalization is on the horizon and it should start tonight against Greinke has his 6.0% swinging strike rate. Robert, Tim Anderson ($5,000) and Jose Abreu ($4,100) are all worthwhile options, and the likes of Moncada and Vaughn can save you some dough.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners - The Blue Jays are a team designed in a lab to crush left-handed pitching — they simply haven’t done so yet in 2022. I think that changes on Wednesday. Gonzales has struggled all season, but the majority of his issues have been on the road, where he’s surrendered a .625 slugging percentage and a .432 wOBA to opposing hitters. Bichette, Hernandez, George Springer ($5,100), Matt Chapman ($4,400), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($5,900) and Alejandro Kirk ($4,300) are all in favorable matchups.
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