There’s no shortage of aces available on Tuesday night. Kershaw! Scherzer! Sale! Syndergaard! Verlander! Koch? Eflin?
OK, so there’s a wide dichotomy between superstars and placeholders to exploit. The significant drop-off after the big names almost forces DFS players to splurge on a top-flight arm, especially in cash contests. Of course, that means everyone will choose an ace, meaning the evening’s winners must choose the right stud and surround him with a strong offense and No. 2 pitcher. Let’s dive into a 14-game slate stockpiled with options.
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You know it’s a big pitching night when Clayton Kershaw wields the sixth-highest strikeout % (26.9) among the evening’s probable starters. Despite his six-walk outing against Miami, he’s still a better play than an identically priced Justin Verlander facing the potent Yankees. While the Braves aren’t the Bronx Bombers just yet, they’re too dangerous to test by picking Noah Syndergaard. This narrows down the elite options to Kershaw, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale. At April’s end, Kershaw has fallen a step behind his peers:
- Scherzer ($24,900): 6 GS, 39 IP, 23 H 1.62 ERA, 57 K, 9 BB, 18.2 SwStr % .262 xwOBA
- Sale ($23,900): 6 GS, 35 IP, 26 H, 2.31 ERA, 45 K, 8 BB, 15.4 SwStr% .252 xwOBA
- Kershaw ($22,800): 38 IP, 34 H, 2.84 ERA, 32 K, 9 BB, 12.0 SwStr% .303 xwOBA
They’re properly priced based on early returns, and I’m not opposed to either in the right confines. While the Pirates and Royals are two of MLB’s toughest teams to strike out, the latter fares worse (25.6 %) against southpaws. Sale might get lost in the middle–especially after Kansas City roughed up fellow Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez on Monday night–so the lesser exposure makes him Tuesday’s top choice.
It’s hard to imagine fading all the aces, so every lineup requires an affordable second starter. With Yoenis Cespedes nursing a thumb injury, Sean Newcomb has appeal against a Mets lineup carrying a 71 wRC+ and 26.0 % strikeout rate against southpaws. I also just focused on him last week, and Jon Gray is $500 cheaper. It’s a risky choice, as the 26-year-old righty relinquished seven runs (six earned) against the Cubs on April 20. The highly erratic Gray now holds a a 5.79 ERA despite also tossing 13 shutout frames versus the Padres in April. This bout, however, takes place outside of Coors Field, and he has also garnered a 3.55 FIP, 18.2 K-BB % and 12.3 % swinging-strike rate. Although not usually a lineup to target, the Cubs are currently vulnerable. Anthony Rizzo is slugging .189, and Kris Bryant has recorded one hit since facing Gray 11 days ago. Gray will eventually shine against someone besides San Diego.
Money is tight after splurging for Sale, but how can anyone resist Mike Trout against Alex Cobb? One of the latest free-agent signings has coughed up 30 hits and 20 runs in three starts, allowing three long balls and a .541 wOBA in the process. Trout is hitting .291/.408/.631 with 10 homers, five steals and a .437 wOBA matching last year’s mark. So usual Trout stuff. For the little it’s worth, the two-time MVP has reached base in nine of 14 plate appearances against Cobb. For the lot it’s worth, Trout is still the best player in baseball, and his cost isn’t inflated enough to shy away from a stellar matchup.
Vintage Felix Hernandez isn’t working through that door. Since opening 2018 with 5.1 shutout frames, the former king has surrendered six homers (five against righties) and a 5.93 ERA in five starts. Another velocity dip has led to an elevated contact rate (82.5 %) and diminished swinging-strike % (7.4). After hitting .303/.361/.493 against him last year, lefties are slugging .507 against the regressing 32-year-old. Matt Olson’s power has evaporated, as he has needed a .390 BABIP just to hit .257. Then again, he has also hit 38 of his 62 batted balls 95 mph or harder, and he still boasts a .396 career wOBA off righties because of last season’s late tear. Since he’s struggling and Hernandez still generates brand-name buzz, he’s a highly affordable $7,200 at Safeco Field.
Shortly off his return from the disabled list, Manuel Margot batted 6-for-17 with three doubles, a triple, and a stolen base last week. A two-hit Saturday led him to notch another pair of knocks in the leadoff spot on Sunday. While he slid back down the order last night, the 23-year-old righty holds a career .337 wOBA against lefties. He should thus climb back up the lineup against Andrew Suarez, who served up a pair of homers in his MLB debut. Margot’s meager pre-DL numbers (.159/.245/.250) have capped his price despite recent progress, and a cheap bat or two is necessary to deploy an ace and Trout.
Happy James Shields Day! The 36-year-old righty has allowed 33 hits and 20 runs in 29.1 innings. He has more walks (17) than strikeouts (15), and opponents are teeing off (.344/.500/.594) on a four-seam fastball thrown for an average velocity of 89.6 mph. Unfortunately, all of St. Louis’ starting lefties (Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong) aren’t discounted amid major slumps. Yet given Carpenter’s .405 xwOBA, he’s still worth a $7,600 investment despite batting .155. Aside from Tommy Pham ($9,400) and Paul DeJong ($8,400), none of their righties cost more than $7,500, the going rate for Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna. All of them except Ozuna, who belted 34 homers versus righties last year, handled same-handed pitchers well in April.
Honorable Mentions: Brewers at Reds (Bailey); Dodgers at Diamondbacks (Koch); Phillies at Marlins (Garcia)