There’s no Max Scherzer or Chris Sale gracing Tuesday night’s 14-game FantasyDraft slate, but a new Cy Young Award contender has worked his way into must-play territory despite an extravagant cost. The real challenge is surrounding him with a winning lineup.
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I wanted to pick someone other than Gerrit Cole. He’s a bit of an obvious choice, but $26,400 is a lot of dough to spend on one player going against an above-average offense that is one of baseball’s best at limiting strikeouts. Then I took another look at his numbers. His 1.54 FIP and 35.6 K-BB % lead all starters. His ERA (1.43), WHIP (0.74), and swinging-strike % (16.3) all reside within the top five. The Angels showcased their contact skills by only striking out eight times–Cole’s second-lowest tally this season–on April 23. Cole has averaged 34.51 FantasyDraft points per turn, and no other Tuesday probable pitcher has exceeded 20 points per start. There’s enough affordable hitting to pay the premium for Houston’s ace in cash contests.
Honorable Mention: Alex Wood ($19,600) at MIA
This was a tough call between Nick Pivetta and Jack Flaherty, the two NL pitchers visiting AL territory. Each priced at $14,700, either makes a fine second starter. Sporting a 3.25 FIP and 42 strikeouts in 39 innings, Pivetta gets the edge against a righty-heavy Orioles lineup that strikes out more with a lower wOBA than Flaherty’s opponent, the Twins. While the Phillies hurler stumbled against the Nationals, he has made the most of other opportune matchups by allowing four runs in as many outings against the Marlins, Reds, Pirates, and Giants. Flaherty has yet to record an out beyond the fifth inning in his seven career starts, making Pivetta more likely to pocket the pivotal win with Philadelphia facing Andrew Cashner.
Speaking of Cashner, the 31-year-old righty has relinquished a 4.84 ERA, 10 home runs, and a .401 xwOBA this season. Opposing lefties, who slugged over .500 against him in 2015 and 2016, have already stockpiled a dozen extra-base hits. Although miles apart in batting average, Odubel Herrera and Carlos Santana each cost $8,100 for the dream matchup. Herrera, a career .300/.358/.457 hitter against lefties, has taken Cashner deep twice in 14 career encounters. He also wields a .426 wOBA through 38 games and oddly remains infield eligible in FantasyDraft contests. Despite batting .196, Santana has hit seven homers with a 38.5 % hard-hit rate and .399 xwOBA. There’s no discount for his putrid April, but those struggles have at least offset a larger uptick in light of his five May doubles and homers apiece. Consider adding Maikel Franco ($8,300), Rhys Hoskins ($8,000) and/or Cesar Hernandez ($7,500) for a full Phillies stack.
Joey Gallo has not recorded a hit since May 7. His last homer occurred two days earlier, when he trotted the bases twice against Boston. He remains baseball’s truest three-true outcome slugger, but one with a 45.2 % hard-hit rate and .386 xwOBA. Mike Leake, meanwhile, is a contact pitcher who has ceded seven homers, a 38.4 % hard-hit rate, and .434 wxOBA. Gallo is always a boom-or-bust play, but MLB DFS is all about chasing upside. Without the budget to afford top-tier hitters, let’s roll the dice on him connecting with authority.
The Reds and Cubs clobbered Wei-Yin Chen for 12 hits, six walks, and 13 runs (five home runs) in seven combined frames. Righties probably won’t maintain a .542 wOBA against the veteran southpaw, but it’s nevertheless a prime spot to play Enrique Hernandez. Because of his career .366 wOBA versus lefties, he’s usually slotted in the No. 2 spot when one faces the Dodgers. Although still not a prolific contact source, the 26-year-old has combined power (21 homers in 501 plate appearances) and plate discipline (13.0 walk %) when given the platoon advantage. At $6,400, he’s the perfect bargain to pick for a lineup led by Cole. Austin Barnes (.369 wOBA vs. LHP) for $6,300 can fill the same purpose if given the starting nod.
In a slate with Cashner, Chen, Josh Tomlin, and Ty Blach, Mike Minor is far from the slate’s worst starter. As witnessed by the three homers served up against the Tigers last Tuesday, he’s also beatable. The starter-turned reliever-turned starter again has forfeited all six home runs and nine walks against right-handed hitters. He fared well (5.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) in April 20’s outing against the Mariners, but few teams are tougher on southpaws. An underwhelming start has checkered Nelson Cruz’s price ($8,500) despite his career .390 wOBA against lefties. Even following a 10-homer April, Mitch Haniger’s fee has faded to $7,500 because of May’s power drought. He has still gone 16-for-46 with six walks, five doubles, and two long balls versus lefties in 2018. If May slumps tempered their prices, why is the surging Ryon Healy just $7,400? The 26-year-old, who boasts a career .313/.345/.546 slash line against lefties, has went yard seven times in his last 15 games. He’s still on the market for a reasonable $7,200. Gamers can also find Jean Segura around the same neighborhood at $7,500, A Seattle stack should pay huge dividends.
Honorable Mentions: Phillies at Orioles (Cashner); Rangers at Mariners (Leake)