DFS Pitching Preview: May 9, 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.

There are a few tiers with which we’re gonna deal. More in order of salary than skill because we’re not talking about your pitcher picks. We’re talking about how you’re going to construct your lineups and the salaries are the shapes of our puzzle pieces.

EXPENSIVE ACES TIER: Carlos Rodón, Brandon Woodruff

Carlos Rodon might be the best pitcher in baseball. If he isn’t, he’s up there. “THE BAT thinks he is, aside from Jacob deGrom,” Derek Carty, curator of THE BAT, told me, adding: “He’s absurdly good and somehow super underrated.”

There’s nothing to fear against the Rockies. Not even their active roster’s 20.1% strikeout rate against left-handed pitching since 2020 because Rodon has some of the best strikeout stuff in baseball. His 12.58 K/9 since leads the slate. His 2.86 SIERA leads the slate. All of that said, the Rockies aren’t total trash in neutral settings. Their active roster has a 101 wRC+ against left-handers since 2020, so this isn’t a plus matchup. But Rodon is so great right now that anything that isn’t negative is a full system go.

Brandon Woodruff doesn’t have the elite data points of Rodon, but he does face the terrible Reds. Factor in their active roster’s 23.3% strikeout rate against right-handers and the strikeout output should be similar to Rodon’s. Woodruff doesn’t have a monster strikeout rate, but 10.69 since 2021 is more than fine, considering his great command and comparable power prevention. I’m looking to lock in Rodon because the matchup isn’t enough of a points-per-dollar uptick to make this a coin flip. Rodon has the clear edge with his elite strikeout stuff. But the run prevention matchup for Woodruff is great, despite the Small Park, so he’s totally excusable where we need the salary relief.

EXPENSIVE YOUTH TIER: MacKenzie Gore, Michael Kopech

Here’s where I thought we could flip a coin, factoring in the Kopech discount between the two, but the matchup is swarming this comparison.

MacKenzie Gore is really expensive, but he draws the terrible Cubs who strike out a ton and Gore’s strikeouts are on the uptick. Sometimes.

Gore only struck out 15.0% of batters in his first start. But then struck out 35.0% and 45.5% in the following two. His last start: 8.7%. The question with Gore has never been whether or not he can generate strike outs, but when will he do it? The Cubs’ active roster’s 24.7% strikeout rate against lefties should make for a ceiling game for Gore. Should.

The issue with Michael Kopech isn’t that his shaky command will get him bombed. The concern is that his shaky command runs up his pitch count to prevent him from pitching six innings. It’s hard to even ceiling him out over six, the matchup is a bit of a minus, and the Guardians don’t strike out much. That said, the baked-in strikeout stuff is an electric 12.28 K/9 over 92.1 career innings, while he and Gore could legitimately be $10k on this slate.


Julio Urias isn’t really an ace, but he’s really good at run prevention and can go six innings against anyone to compile six strikeouts. Unfortunately, he’s more of a FanDuel play where we get extra points for the quality start and this game is only on the DraftKings main slate. It’s a truly excellent matchup, if not the best on the slate in one of the pitcher-friendliest ballparks in the league. He’s projecting well for good reasons. We shouldn’t just not-ignore him in MME. He should be in our pools for smaller fields, like the $250 four-max or $4 20-max.

CHEAPER SP2: Paul Blackburn

Paul Blackburn seems about adequately priced. He doesn’t strike anyone out, but we’re talking about a 1.80 groundball-flyball ratio and 1.87 BB/9 since 2021. Only 62.2 innings, but we should think he’s who we think he is: a pitch-to-contact guy who generates a ton of outs. He’s more of a DraftKings play because we have to play two pitchers there, but also because we don’t need six innings. His normal five is just fine. Moreover, the Tigers’ active roster comes in with a 24.7% strikeout rate against righties since 2020. SO there is a shot as a strikeout-per-inning in Blackburn’s ceiling.

Sure, we’d prefer that Blackburn is $6,500, but it’s still a solid price when we can’t afford to go with two of the five expensive pitchers or just wanna find some leverage.

BUM TIER: Michael Pineda

At $6,200, facing the maybe the second-best matchup on the slate in the Athletics, Michael Pineda is totally viable. He doesn’t strike anyone out these days, but his 1.67 BB/9 since 2021 should give us a sense of optimism that he can go deep in a low-scoring game. Well, relatively deep.

We’ve seen Pineda go exactly five innings in two of his three starts, which should be more than enough comfort for us to play him. He’s bad, so no one wants to play him, but this is a ceiling spot where he can generate 15-to-20 fantasy points. He carries more risk than Blackburn, but he probably carries a higher ceiling than Blackburn.

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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