Every so often, even this late into the season, the stars align and you get a slate that’s basically Opening Day when it comes to the quality of pitching. Friends, today is that day. Despite the fact that only one starter — Corbin Burnes ($10,100) — is priced above $10K, the number of amazing arms taking the mound this evening is stunning. We’ve got Dylan Cease ($9,800), Kevin Gausman ($9,500), Zac Gallen ($9,300) and Walker Buehler ($9,200) just to name a few.
It’ll make for some tough decisions in the DFS world. But that’s why I’m here. Let’s dive into some studs and values.
Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals, $9,200 - I’m starting to feel a little like Bart Simpson waiting for Krusty, but the strikeouts just have to be around the corner for Buehler. The right-hander’s pitched perfectly fine so far in 2022, maintaining a 2.89 ERA and a 3.17 FIP, yet a career-low 20.1% strikeout rate is the reason five of Buehler’s eight outings have ended in fewer than 20.0 DKFP. However, it’s not only history that makes the lack of strikeouts odd. Coming into Tuesday, Buehler is sporting career-highs in chase rate (36.7%) and swinging strike rate (12.7%). Brighter days must be on the horizon and I believe it all gets started this evening. The fact the Nationals own a league-low .097 ISO across the past two weeks doesn’t hurt, either.
Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers, $6,800 - If you’re afraid of Gray being too chalky on Tuesday there are other places to turn for value — Jordan Hicks ($5,800) springs to mind — yet I’m zeroed in on the Twins’ RHP. Gray’s been quite good since coming off the IL, registering a 2.51 ERA and a 2.48 FIP in this last three starts. It’s a span of time where Gray has also struck out 33.3% of the 60 batters he’s faced, emphasizing just how off this modest price tag is. You also couldn’t ask for a better matchup. Detroit has struggled with right-handed pitching all season long, entering tonight’s contest with MLB’s second-worst wOBA (.265) and wRC+ (73) within the split.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Guardians, $5,700 - It might not be physically possible to be more locked in at the dish than Altuve is right now. Dating back to May 3, the infielder is slashing .352/.403/.775 with a .423 ISO across 77 plate appearances. That’s the power of eight home runs and six doubles in the span of 18 games. Conversely, Zach Plesac ($5,600) has been ice cold over his last four outings. The right-hander has conceded 16 earned runs in just 21.0 innings, with an anemic K/BB ratio of 1.30. The Astros are going to put up some crooked numbers on Tuesday and Altuve will be in the middle of the action.
Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers at Washington Nationals, $5,500 - To say that Josiah Gray ($8,500) has had his issues this season with LHBs would be an understatement. The sophomore starter has been rocked within the split, surrendering 3.38 home runs per nine and a massive .676 opponent slugging percentage. That’s going to be a problem when he faces Freeman this evening. While the veteran hasn’t hit a home run so far in May, Freeman’s .430 xwOBA for 2022 as a whole is elite. He’s due for a long ball and Gray’s just the man to serve one up.
Santiago Espinal, Toronto Blue Jays at St. Louis Cardinals, $3,700 - There isn’t a lot of positive things to say about the Blue Jays’ bats right now, but Espinal is the exception. In fact, the 27-year-old comes into tonight’s matchup with Hicks riding a 16-game hitting streak, which is likely why he was moved up to the No. 2 spot in Toronto’s order on Monday. Considering Espinal is slashing .357/.403/.464 with a 153 wRC+ since the streak began, there are worse options with a price tag below $4K.
Sheldon Neuse, Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners, $2,600 - The transition from Double-A hasn’t been super smooth for George Kirby ($6,000). In three starts, the rookie has been giving up quite a bit of loud contact, as he’s surrendered a 53.1% hard hit rate that would be among the worst in baseball had Kirby the innings to qualify. RHBs have been particularly troublesome, with the 26 he’s faced combining for an absurd .833 slugging percentage. Some of this is small sample noise, to be sure, but with the right-handed Neuse likely batting second in the A’s lineup this evening, he’s worth a look.
Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers, $5,900 - Buxton’s in a little bit of a slump, but a matchup with Beau Brieske ($7,400) should be enough to pull him out of it. The rookie’s numbers are flat out ugly against RHBs. Brieske’s given up 2.70 home runs per nine to the 62 he’s faced in 2022, which has resulted in a .574 slugging percentage and a .406 wOBA within the split. I’d expect Buxton to walk away with his first hit in a week, if not much more.
Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Guardians, $5,600 - I mentioned above that Plesac has been subpar. Well, a lot of that stems from his inability to handle left-handed opponents. Plesac is allowing 1.96 home runs per nine within the split this season, all while striking out just 12.0% of the LHBs he’s faced. That’s a lot of contact, which is bad news when Alvarez steps into the box. The hulking DH is always a threat for a barrel and Alvarez has managed an eye-popping .425 ISO against RHPs in 2022.
Michael Brantley, Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Guardians, $4,000 - If it’s a day that ends in “Y” there’s a pretty good chance that Brantley is undervalued. Copy and paste everything I just said about Plesac struggling with LHBs, because it obviously applies to Brantley. The veteran has been as good as ever in 2022, posting a .401 xwOBA across his first 161 plate appearances of the season. Brantley’s also hitting .312 with a 160 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. That’s quite good.
Pavin Smith, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Kansas City Royals, $3,400 - Simply put, I think the Diamondbacks are in a position to score several runs on Tuesday. Jonathan Heasley ($5,400) has looked overmatched in his first two big league starts, walking seven batters across 8.1 innings and sporting a 6.02 xERA. Smith could be in line for a huge performance, as the outfielder owns a .383 expected wOBA against RHPs in 2022. He also appears to be locked into the No. 2 spot in Arizona’s lineup.
TEAMS TO STACK
Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Guardians - Let’s just say it isn’t difficult to come up with reasons to stack the Astros. In May, the team leads all of baseball in ISO (.203) and wRC+ (130), thanks primarily to the explosive return of Altuve. With the All-Star once again anchoring the leadoff spot, Houston has the most dangerous batting order in the league, balanced perfectly by the left-handed bats of Alvarez, Brantley and Kyle Tucker ($5,200). Going up against the contact-oriented Plesac — a man with an 11th percentile xwOBA — the Astros should do some serious damage.
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