Fantasy Baseball: Should You Start Walker Buehler In Return From IL?

May 30, 2022; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler
May 30, 2022; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Nearly two years after his last major league start, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler returns from the IL tonight. He is slated for a two-step this week. 

That's right. Buehler is a two-start pitcher, meaning for those who set weekly roto lineups, the potential upside is enormous but not without risk. 

If you've been stashing him on your IL, you're no doubt eager to slot him back into the rotation. Buehler finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2021—the last full season he pitched—striking out batters at a rate of more than nine per nine innings and finishing with a 2.47 ERA. 

Monday will be Buehler's first start on a major league mound since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2022. He'll be facing the Miami Marlins, who are already waving the white flag on the season.  Miami traded Luis Arraez to the Padres on Saturday morning and promptly got walloped by the Oakland A's 20-4 that night.  

Buehler made six minor league rehab starts, posting a 4.15 ERA and striking out 21 batters across 21 2/3 innings pitched.  While his K-rate is in good shape, his command has not been ideal. Buehler walked nine total batters in those starts for an average of 3.7 per nine innings, and he finished with a 1.64 WHIP. 

Buehler's second start comes vs. the Padres in San Diego. The Dodgers' rivals have been playing strong baseball this season and, as mentioned above, just acquired Arraez, who has a league-low 7.1% strikeout rate this season. The Padres have scored the fifth-most runs per game this season (5.08) and have won three of their five matchups with the Dodgers in 2024. 

Nearly two years after his last big league start, the 29-year-old right-hander should have a little rust. Expect Buehler to be on a pitch count, which reduces his chances of qualifying for the win.   

I'll wait and see in all but my deepest leagues with a weekly lineup lock. I don't trust Buehler in his first week back facing major league pitching.    

In DFS, however, I'll be giving Buehler a start vs. the Marlins. It's a contrarian play that could pay dividends in a GPP tournament. 


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Jennifer Piacenti

JENNIFER PIACENTI

In addition to being a fantasy sports and betting analyst at Sports Illustrated, Jennifer is a radio host for Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, and she hosts her own podcast, “Waiver Wired” on the Extra Points podcast network. Jennifer has been nominated for multiple FSWA awards for her NFL DFS video series. She’s a Scott Fish Bowl Finalist, and she finished third overall in the 2021 NFFC post-season mini. Jennifer is also a featured expert on MLB Network’s “Bettor’s Eye,” and a member of the esteemed Tout Wars, the fantasy baseball battle of the experts.