DFS Pitching Preview: May 31, 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.

Of the 16 pitchers on the slate with at least 100.0 innings pitched since 2021, only four have SIERA over 4.00. And that includes Martín Pérez, who has a 3.71 SIERA this season and has yet to give up a home run through 56.1 innings. That said, only Kevin Gausman has a SIERA under 3.50. So, this slate isn’t a meeting of four or five aces, but there is some very good pitching scattered around. This is probably why everyone is pretty cheap on both sites — that pricing is relative to the slate.

There isn’t really a clear direction in which to go with pitching tonight. It really does depends on where we wanna go with hitting and how much leverage we’re looking to apply at the pitcher slot.

ACE OF THE SLATE: Kevin Gausman

We haven’t wanted to pick on the White Sox in recent years because of all the power they have. But they’re injured. As an injured club, their active roster only has an 81 wRC+ against right-handed pitching this season, so this is an excellent spot for Gausman to go deep and compile outs. What this spot isn’t is one to compile strikeouts.

Gausman is third on the slate with 10.60 K/9 and leads the slate with a 23.8% K-BB rate since 2021, but we can’t be sure that that’s enough baked in to get this White Sox club. If we’re gonna go with the recency bias of the White Sox as a great matchup for run prevention, we have to take with that the fact that these same guys only have a 19.5% strikeout rate against righties.

This is all the long way of saying that we can play Gausman, but it looks more like a five- or six-strikeout night in seven innings than a ten-strikeout night.

My instinct is to have Gausman as a clear SP1, but there are guys with ace-potential that we could play for cheaper.

ACE-POTENTIAL: Cristian Javier, Julio Urías, Eric Lauer, George Kirby

Julio Urias projects just behind Gausman, according to THE BAT. It’s a great spot. The Pirates suck and strike out a good amount. But if I’m pivoting off of Gausman, I’m going the high-risk-reward walk-to-strikeout situation in Cristian Javier. He’s $500 more than Urias on DraftKings, which should lower his ownership; but at $8.7k on FanDuel, he allows us the leash to do whatever we want with the rest of our lineups.

Javier throws unhittable pitches. The onus is on the hitters to be statues and take walks. But Javier is a master at fooling hitters into thinking unhittable pitches are hittable and they whiff heavily (13.3 SwStr% since 2021). Javier leads the slate with 11.58 K/9 since 2021 and it isn’t even close. Oakland’s strikeout rate against righties is a modest 22.5%, but that’s enough for Javier to be the ace of the slate.

Eric Lauer draws the Cubs and has found a ton of strikeouts this year, where he has 10.61 K/9. Match him up with the Cubs projected lineup’s 24.2% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching and there’s crazy ace potential, too. Lauer has pitched six-plus innings in five of his last seven starts, so we should love him on FanDuel where we get the quality start points. He’s very expensive on both sites, but we should like that, as the price will depress his ownership.

And speaking of innings, let’s circle back to Urias — who is a very, very good play — and his six-plus innings in five of his last six. The difference between Urias and Lauer, though, is that Lauer gives us more strikeouts and the potential for seven innings, whereas Urias hasn’t gone into the seventh yet this season.

Burying the lede, George Kirby is the man of mystery. Tons of strikeouts with great command in his minor league past. The problem is that the present might have him low on innings. He doesn’t walk many guys, but it took him 90 pitches to get through five innings in his last start, and 89 to get through 4.2 on May 14. Getting only 9.00 K/9 this season, so far. 90 pitches is a promising projection and the Orioles strike out a ton, but we want him to be more economical with those pitches.

Correction: we need that from him.

Kirby is very tempting and has the potential to blow away nine or ten in six innings, but we’re risking that he has another just-fine performance. For the price, I’ll risk just-fine for a potential slate-breaker.

GOOD PITCHERS, BAD SPOTS: Lucas Giolito, Frankie Montas

Lucas Giolito has so many command and power prevention issues that he wouldn’t be worthy of discussion if not for his slate-leading 12.19 K/9 this season. We can buy strikeouts here, but we buy 3.58 BB/9 and 1.43 HR/9 with it. To make matters worse, the Jays are heavily right-handed and Giolito has allowed 1.71 HR/9 to righties since 2021.

Frankie Montas is very similar to Giolito. Just with fewer strikeouts but much stronger power prevention. Facing the Astros, he has a similarly terrible matchup.

The blowup potential for both of these pitchers scare me off where there’s so much more to digest. But in MME, we have to have shares of these two, as the matchups and price tags will have them under-rostered.

CONTRARIAN SP2: Germán Márquez

If we’re gonna take on the risk of high scoring, is it better to attack the more skilled pitchers in terrible matchups or the decent pitcher in Coors Field against an average team?

I don’t know the answer to this. If I did, I might be getting a massage on a beach somewhere in Latin America instead of typing this post.

But there’s an argument here for German Marquez, who has an arsenal that doesn’t get distorted by Coors Field. His Coors FIP is only 3.92. A place where he has 9.29 K/9. FOr the price, this is a decent SP2 that nobody’s gonna play. The Marlins certainly aren’t scary against Marquez’ 1.96 groundball:flyball ratio at Coors.

I DON’T KNOW IF HE’S GOOD: Martín Pérez, Charlie Morton

Martin Perez isn’t getting played over here, but I get it. This is the luck Kyle Hendricks‘ pitch-to-contact landed for some years. How long will Perez’ high-contact last? We just don’t know, so riding this wave of a 3.71 2022 SIERA with a 2.5% barrel rate is fine. I just know this is a sinking ship because Perez isn’t actually good and other are enough good options to not risk being left holding the bag.

Because my hands are full holding on to Charlie Morton. He’s been horrendous this year, and the time to jump off might have been some time ago, but, yeah, he’s worth a look against the terrible Diamondbacks. We know the magical stuff might still be there and where it reared its head on May 8 and May 14, he was electric.

Morton has because of shell of himself, but hitters swinging at his garbage can be the difference between him getting negative points and him breaking the 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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