DFS Pitching Preview: July 8, 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.

With a whopping 28 pitchers on the slate, it’s easy to get confused. But there’s a lot of noise on this slate that can make it easy to distract us from a clear handful that should rise to the top of our player pools.

ACE OF THE SLATE: Zack Wheeler

Since Zack Wheeler finally cleared the hump of getting a K-per-inning after six seasons of throwing 95-97 miles per hour fastball, he has 10.33 K/9 with only 1.97 BB/9 and excellent power prevention (0.63 HR/9 on a 4.9% barrel rate) in a great ballpark upgrade from Philly to St. Louis. The Cardinals are pesky, but Spencer Strider showed last night that gas is gas and a great strikeout pitcher will get his.

Wheeler can get BABIP’d around by the Cardinals’ high contact rate, but I’ll take this risk over the risk of the White Sox or Red Sox rippin’ bombs off of Tarik Skubal and Nestor Cortes when Wheeler has gone six-plus innings in 10 of his last 12 starts.

Everyone carries risk. There’s no such thing as safe. Wheeler’s slate-best SIERA, K-BB%, HR/9, and barrel rate against a team that is just a bit above average against right-handed pitching in a great ballpark for pitching carries the least risk on the field.

The big risk with a pitcher standing out like this is usually ownership, but this is where we get to the noise on the slate. With 27 other pitchers chipping away at Wheeler’s ownership, it’s probably capped in the 25% range and I wouldn’t be too worried about getting that high. In other words, I don’t think I give a crap about ownership among pitchers on this slate, except for Lucas Giolito.

SP2: Lucas Giolito, Chris Bassitt, Zac Gallen, José Urquidy

The top projected pitcher for raw points at 11:00 a.m. CST is Giolito. The Tigers’ active roster’s 85 wRC+ against right-handed pitching since 2021 is the best matchup on the slate and their 24.8% strikeout rate is among the worst. Giolito’s been a mixed bag, but this matchup should bring out the best in him, if any is going to. This season, he’s got 10.63 K/9.

The argument against Giolito is that his 3.63 BB/9 and 1.79 HR/9 is a terrible mix of bad command and power prevention for one of the best home run ballparks in baseball. In the 25-35% range for ownership, I’m gonna have to take a step back and proceed with caution. But he does have the highest strikeout ceiling on the slate and — good or bad — he’s gonna throw anywhere from 95-to-110 pitches.

Chris Bassitt concerns me coming off of the COVID list, but we have to trust that he’s not being tossed out there all weak and stuff. Bassitt is a modest strikeout pitcher with a modest strikeout matchup against an average team in a great ballpark for pitching. The ballpark boost with the unscary elements of the Marlins is what has me interested. But this is unspectacular. I’d rather take on the risk of Giolito for the spectacular, despite the risk of peril.

Zac Gallen is a tad too cheap on both sites. He’s similar to Bassitt in production, but Gallen’s worse command comes with more upside for a double-digit strikeout performance. The Rockies are the best matchup on the slate after the Tigers. They don’t strike out much, but Gallen can strike out six in six against just about anyone, so he should be more than fine against a bad team in Arizona with the roof closed.

I don’t like playing Jose Urquidy because of his 79.8% contact rate. The A’s are a great matchup, but they don’t strike out that much, so I hate playing a pitcher with no baked-in strikeouts against a team that doesn’t strike out a ton. But he projects well, throws a lot of strikes, and should prevent runs over a solid six innings.

CHEAPER SP2: Aaron Ashby

Aaron Ashby isn’t much cheaper than Giolito, but he’s a fine step down if we need the $400. He can also be paired with Giolito in MME to spread things out a big off of Wheeler. Ashby has a 4.60 ERA sneakily covering up that he has the second-best SIERA (3.23) and the most K/9 (11.20) on the slate facing a Pirates active roster that is striking out a ridiculous 26.1% of the time. That’s higher than the Cubs and the aforementioned Tigers.

If Giolito’s ownership is stupid, we can come here for sanity.

GLARING OMISSIONS: Nestor Cortes, Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray, Tarik Skubal, George Kirby, Blake Snell

I don’t like pitching against the Mets and Red Sox, pretty much ever on full slates. They’re just too good and pesky in real life, despite not having other-worldly power, so Pablo Lopez and Nestor Cortes are out for me.

Sonny Gray is in a great spot. Tons of strikeouts in the Rangers lineup and Gray can get a strikeout-per-inning against just about anyone, but he’s too expensive, give the upside of the other pitchers we’ve discussed.

I’m a believer in Skubal and not a believer in the White Sox offense, but the Sox are so much better against left-handed pitching. They’re almost like the normal-day Astros when they face lefties. Skubal’s only allowed 0.81 HR/9 this season and he’s cheap on DK, but he allowed 2.18 from 2020-21. I’ll take the other SP2s over this spot.

Speaking of power prevention worries, George Kirby is giving up 1.80 HR/9 on a 10.4% barrel rate and faces the power-packed Blue Jays.

And then, there’s the ineffectively wild Blake Snell. His 5.02 ERA isn’t real, but we’re not talking about a massive regression looming. His 5.13 BB/9 was gonna happen at some point because this dude just doesn’t throw strikes. He throws unhittable pitches, so his 11.16 K/9 lives on chasing. The Giants don’t chase.

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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