DFS Pitching Preview: July 14, 2022

Our pitching in MLB DFS isn’t just a source of fantasy points. The price tags on pitchers make it so they dictate the freedoms and restrictions of building our lineups. Before reading this article, it’s highly suggested that you read my article, “DFS Pitching Primer,” so the concepts discussed here make more sense.

That we’re not selecting the best players. We’re constructing the lineups which carry the most leverage without sacrificing many projected fantasy points.

Thanks to the Royals, we have some — uhh — drama on this slate featuring 20 pitchers. 13 of whom have SIERAs under 4.00 this season. Usually, it wouldn’t be so easy to create a pitcher pool with this bunch, but the aces up top with the Royals dynamic make this slate a bit simple.

ACES: Corbin Burnes, Carlos Rodón, Kevin Gausman

O.K., let’s not bury the lede. Ten Royals cannot travel to Toronto because of their vaccination status. This means that ten people are getting called up from the minors for this series. I believe Bobby Witt Jr., Vinnie Pasquantino, and Nicky Lopez will be the only regular starters in the lineup on Thursday. Who will fill in the other slots are largely either players not good enough to start for the Royals every day or not good enough to play past Double- and Triple-A.

I could be wrong on the exact personnel, but the point remains: Kevin Gausman is an ace facing people who kinda’ have no business in the majors (yet).

This season, Gausman ranks second in SIERA (3.06), third in K/9 (10.23), second in BB/9 (1.64), and first by a mile in HR/9 (0.20) on the slate. He was knocked around a bit while reportedly tipping pitches, but we’re being led to believe that this is a thing of the past because of a larger glove.

It’s hard to fade Corbin Burnes and Carlos Rodon on FanDuel, but Gausman is my ace of the slate. On DraftKings, he’s so cheap that it’s really easy to pair him up with Burnes and Rodon. These are gonna be chalky combos, but I like eating it and differentiating with bats. It’s easier to fade the Braves than one of these three pitchers.

Because — oh, by the way — Burnes is the best active pitcher in baseball. Every data point we cited with Gausman, Burnes is way better. He leads the slate in SIERA (2.75) and K/9 (11.34), while posting a 2.20 BB/9 and 1.02 HR/9. His homers don’t scare me because he pitches in a hitters’ park and his barrel rate allowed is only 5.7%. The matchup sucks, but the ballpark is glorious for pitching. This is a case where I latch onto the “talent wins out” mantra.

Carlos Rodon doesn’t get lost in the mix. He’s $400 cheaper that Burnes on FanDuel and a whopping $1,300 cheaper on DraftKings. Even if he’s the third-best play on the slate, the salary savings kinda’ evens things out. His 3.10 SIERA, 11.16 K/9, and 0.36 HR/9 on a 4.9% barrel rate stand up to Burnes, considering the pricing and matchup.

The Brewers are a supersolid ballclub against lefties and the strikeout matchup is a bit neutral, but they’re substantially worse than the Giants, giving Rodon the matchup edge.

I don’t know how much this matchup edge is enough, though. In single-entry, I’m not overthinking the Gausman situation. I’m just gonna play him. On DraftKings, where we play two pitchers, I’d like to fit in Burnes, but Rodon is hardly a concession. The problem is that Burnes and Rodon could see similar ownership, so going down in pricing to Rodon and playing the chalky Braves or Guardians is gonna be something that everyone does, taking away the edge in spending down.

MME EXPOSURE: Framber Valdez, Nestor Cortes, Carlos Carrasco, Triston McKenzie

Framber Valdez doesn’t strike anyone out, but not sure that matters against about six or seven Quad-A hitters who strike out a ton. The problem with Valdez is that he’s overpriced, but I’m on Team Spend Up to Be Contrarian. He can surely go six-plus innings; he’s done so in 14 consecutive starts. He also had his only double-digit strikeout game of the season against a better Angels lineup on July 3. Since May 30, his K/9 is up to 8.67 and his fastball velocity is finally over 90 miles per hour. There’s a lot of potential here. I wouldn’t bet much on it because of the opportunity cost, but he’s worth the gamble.

Nestor Cortes is fine. he’s cheap and the Reds suck, but they don’t suck as much as we want them to suck. They’re about average against lefties and Yankee Stadium isn’t much of a downgrade from the Great American Ball Park. If you believe that Cortes is a regression candidate and that the Reds aren’t a great-great matchup, you can fade; if you believe the raw data over the peripherals, you’re totally allowed to play him. I just won’t.

Carlos Carrasco isn’t very good, but he isn’t bad and we’re gonna get Wrigley wind blowing in, which provides massive boosts to pitching. If you wanna stack the chalky Braves, Carrasco provides us with differentiation and a very fair price in a great strikeout matchup.

Triston McKenzie is a righty facing the Tigers, so he’s in play for that alone. He has a home run problem, but the Tigers don’t have any game power after Javier Baez.

HE’S FREE, SO…: Keegan Thompson

The Mets are really good, but Keegan Thompson is free in a Wrigley wind game for pitchers. Since getting blown up on June 12, he went six-plus innings three times in a row, was pulled after 86 pitches in four innings on July 3 against the pesky Red Sox, and threw 96 pitches in 5.2 innings in his most recent start on July 8 against the juggernaut Dodgers.

Thompson isn’t a great pitcher. But he’s good enough for a wind game and he’s for damn sure cheap enough.

Alex Sonty is a professional DFS and poker player, while contributing to RotoGrinders and FanGraphs, as well as serving as a part-time political science professor in Chicago, IL. He’s been playing fantasy sports since 1996 and entered the DFS realm in 2014, currently playing high-stakes MLB and NFL cash games and GPPs. He is a Chicago Tribune and SB Nation alum, while holding a J.D./M.A. and L.L.M. from DePaul University.

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