DFS Pitching Preview: May 20, 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.

This is a really tough slate in that there are no clear aces and the best pitchers we have don’t have matchups that stand out. On slates like this, I prefer to save money where I’m sacrificing the least projection, as opposed to chasing raw points. Because there are obvious plays for raw points.

Robbie Ray

Robbie Ray is probably my go-to on the slate. The only knock on him is that he wasn’t striking out many batters to start the season and walked 12 in his first 30.1 innings. But if we’re looking at recency bias, I’d rather look at what confirms the larger sample. Over his last 11.2 innings, Ray has 19 strikeouts and five walks, which is more in the direction of the 11.54 K/9 he achieved last season. Though he’s been effectively wild, he’s been effective, making the price tag too cheap.

As for the matchup, the Red Sox are a fine enough team to target. They don’t strike out much against left-handed pitching, but Ray’s strikeouts are baked into his skillset. At these prices, he can strike out seven in six innings and pay us back with extra juice.

Nestor Cortes

Of the pitchers on this slate, Nestor Cortes has the second-lowest SIERA this season (2.73). That’s elite. And we better believe he’s truly elite to play him because he has the worst matchup on the slate. The White Sox active roster has a 129 wRC+ with only a 21.1% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching since 2020.

To play Cortes is to play him to the degree by which his talent matchup-proof. And that’s not a reach, considering that none of the top pitchers have good matchups.

Sean Manaea

Sean Manaea has come heavy with the strikeouts this season. 10.47 K/9 this season so far and THE BAT thinks this is sticky, as it projects him the highest on the slate. The problem isn’t just the strength of the Giants to score runs, but their 21.1% strikeout rate against lefties since 2020. This looks like a spot where Manaea won’t get blown up and he has a long leash, but his BB/9 is up to 2.93 this season from 2.06 in 2021, so the plate discipline matchup is hairy.

Again, if you’re gonna believe the recency of Manaea’s 2022 strikeouts, we have to believe in the walks, too. This is a scary offense to which any pitcher can gift extra outs.

Julio Urías

Julio Urias belongs with these three not because of his talent, but because of his leash. Since 2021, his 3.73 SIERA is fine, his 8.97 K/9 is fine, but his 1.97 BB/9 and 1.06 HR/9 on a 5.7% barrel rate are elite. The Phillies need power to blow a pitcher up and he just doesn’t break that way, so there’s a high probability of six innings here.

Then, we get the strikeouts. The Phillies active roster has a 24.1% strikeout rate against left-handers since 2020, so if six innings is in the bag, we can strongly believe that at least six strikeouts are, as well.

There’s nothing sexy about this play, but Urias is adequately priced and we should project him well for the sneaky-decent matchup (relatively speaking). I prefer taking on the blowup risk of Ray for the biggest strikeout upside on the slate, but Urias is perfectly fine.

The great thing about DraftKings pricing pitchers so horribly is that we can play whoever we want. But — again — I’m not looking to spend $19k on pitching. The Ray-Urias combo costs only $17.2k.

Tarik Skubal and Jakob Junis

Finally, we get to good matchups. Tarik Skubal and Jakob Junis are the only pitchers on the slate with SIERAs under 4.00 who are also matched up with a wRC+ under 100 versus the handedness of the starters. They’re not very good pitchers, but they have the best matchups.

Thing is, Skubal’s matchup isn’t great and he’s really expensive because he’s got 10.21 K/9, only 1.82 BB/9, and a microscopic 0.45 HR/9 this season on a 5.7% barrel rate. this is a far cry from the feast-or-famine guy we’ve seen throughout his short career. This kid’s surrendered a ton of homers over a short period of time. Is he breaking out or is this a fluke?

Maybe a little bit of both.

We’ve seen his BB/9 slide in the right direction since he debuted, and — from there — it’s natural to see the power prevention get stronger.

But 0.45 HR/9 is just silly. That said, the Guardians are pretty weak on power outside of Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes, so Skubal should be fine.

Junis is palatable from a matchup perspective, as the Padres aren’t much after Manny Machado and Luke Voit. Junis can get a strikeout-per-inning, but his volume is firmly in the range of five innings. The pitching on this slate isn’t great, as we’ve already addressed, but we might need six innings from SP2 on this slate because there are some volume machines on it.

Cristian Javier

The Rangers are a great matchup, but they’re fine. We should only keep Cristian Javier in our MME player pools because he has the highest K/9 since 2021 on the slate at 11.37 and the Rangers can strike out a lot. The bad side of this is that he also has the most BB/9 at 4.41. He’s more dramatically effectively wild than Ray at a higher price.

Eric Lauer

I don’t believe it. Remember that if we’re gonna be prisoners of the moment, we have to still look at the total package. Sure, his 2.34 SIERA is the lowest on the slate and his 12.72 K/9 is the highest, and his 2.08 BB/9 is a reflection of great command, but he’s also given up 1.82 HR/9 on a whopping 11.1% barrel rate. American Family Whatever the Hell Park is a hitters park and Washington can mash left-handers just enough through Juan Soto, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Bell. Not to mention the latent power of Keibert Ruiz. This is a sneaky-terrible matchup for over $10k on an unproven guy with a history of being a bit of a bum.

Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진

We should be fans of Hyun Jin Ryu as a real-life pitcher, but his strikeouts have been on a sharp decline since 2020. Sure, he draws the Reds and can go seven, but he could easily come out with only two or three strikeouts. It sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not.

Tyler Wells

The guy I’m looking at when I scroll all the way down under $7.5k isn’t German Marquez — a guy I normally like to play cheaply in Coors — or Luis Castillo. I think those guys get mashed tonight. So if I’m risking getting mashed to save a butt-ton of money, why not Tyler Wells?

His 10.26 K/9 and 1.89 BB/9 last year were good enough to translate into a high-command strikeout-per-inning guy after some bouts with control in the minors. The Rays aren’t scary. Their wRC+ against righties since 2020 is only 102, while they have a 24.4% strikeout rate to exploit. Wells is so cheap that we might not need the six innings we discussed earlier, so I can buy it.

Wells fits into the cheap pairing for which we might wanna aim on this complex slate.

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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1 month ago

Tyler Wells’ numbers last year were in MLB, not Double-A.