Day 2 of this MLB DFS campaign brings us back to a more standard start time for the main slate, with tonight's FanDuel offering comprised of the five evening games beginning at 7:05 pm ET. Outside of perhaps some rain in the Mets-Nationals contest, we should have a worry-free night in terms of weather.
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Let's check out the top options on tonight's main slate.
Max Scherzer ($11,000): With a shorter slate on tap tonight, Mad Max comes in as the only pitcher with a five-digit salary, and the next-highest arms are way back in the $9,000 range. Additionally, Scherzer is coming off a hamstring issue that pushed him off his opening day start, so we have to consider at least the slight risk of a setback or reduced workload.
Still, he was up to 89 pitches in spring training, and we know you pretty much need to drag Scherzer kicking and screaming to take him out of a game, so it's hard to see him being handled with kid gloves if his start was only delayed one day.
As for the 37-year-old's credentials, he produced yet another phenomenal campaign in 2021, recording a 2.90 SIERA, 34.1% strikeout rate, and 5.2% walk rate. Given his massive 48.3% fly-ball rate, we'll have to accept the occasional solo shot here and there, but we're hardly complaining when a guy is striking out over the third of the batters he faces.
The Nationals aren't a perfect matchup, as they have the always imposing Juan Soto and boast the second-lowest 2021 strikeout rate (20.1%) among active rosters. That being said, they otherwise project as a neutral offense, and if Scherzer is at his best, few on this slate have any chance of keeping pace.
Charlie Morton ($9,000): In terms of strikeout rate, it's another "old guy" who comes closest to matching Scherzer. After a forgettable COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, Morton was back to his old tricks last year, posting a 3.53 SIERA, 28.6% strikeout rate, and 7.7% walk rate. The 38-year-old has always suppressed dingers throughout his career, as well, with his 0.78 homers allowed per nine innings hovering right around his career average.
His pitch count is probably a bigger concern than Scherzer, though, as Morton threw 63 pitches in his lone spring training start, followed by a simulated game due to weather. Realistically, we're probably looking at a pitch count in the mid-80s, though at least we're getting a $2,000 discount from Max.
The Reds are another offense that's likely to be middle of the pack, and they're showing the lowest implied total on the board (3.66).
Sean Manaea ($8,800): I'm not loving any of the hurlers in the bargain bin, so if you're looking for a third one, it's probably best to stick in the mid-range with Manaea or Jose Berrios ($9,300). Both players produced remarkably similar 2021 numbers, hovering right around a 3.70 SIERA, 26% strikeout rate, and 6% walk rate.
They arguably both deserve a spot in your player pool, but if you need a tiebreaker, the matchup has to go to Manaea against the lowly Diamondbacks. While the Rangers still aren't expected to be an elite lineup this season, adding pieces like Corey Seager and Marcus Semien should make them more troublesome in 2022.
The same can't be said for the D-backs, whose active roster ranked 27th in wRC+ (90) and 30th in barrel rate (5.9%) last season.
Manaea got up to 73 pitches this spring, so he figures to be in a similar boat as Morton in terms of pitch count.
New York Mets: A handful of teams have an implied total near five runs, and one of them is the Mets against Josiah Gray. Although Gray produced a solid 24.8% strikeout rate across 70 2/3 innings last year, he also had a less-than-stellar 10.7% walk rate and gave up fly balls at a 53.7% clip.
He was absolutely obliterated by the long ball, too, coughing up 2.42 dingers per nine innings. Even if we assume some poor luck -- he had an elevated 18.6% homer-to-fly-ball rate -- most projection systems still view him as a liability in that department.
Like yesterday, Pete Alonso ($3,600) is the obvious home-run threat in New York's lineup, and he's a clear top choice.
Beyond him, it's the batters with the platoon advantage who should be a priority. Gray put up an ugly 5.60 xFIP versus lefties, and his strikeout rate dipped to 22.4% in the split, as well.
That puts Francisco Lindor ($3,800) on the map but also value options like Brandon Nimmo ($2,600), Robinson Cano ($2,200), and Eduardo Escobar ($2,900). Note that Nimmo sat out yesterday due to neck stiffness, but he should bat leadoff if he starts.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves are up against a guy making just his third career start in left-hander Reiver Sanmartin, so we don't have much to go on in terms of the matchup. But what we do know is that Atlanta is loaded, and their active roster ranked second last season in team barrel rate (10.2%). That'll do.
Sanmartin produced promising numbers between the minors and big leagues last season, most of which came in Triple-A. At that level, he put together a 3.26 xFIP and 54.0% ground-ball rate across 82 1/3 innings.
However, projection systems have tempered expectations with a mid-4.00 ERA and a modest 20-21% strikeout rate.
Siding with the known commodity in the Braves feels like the way to go, and a 4.84 implied total backs that notion.
The righties are the clear priority against the southpaw, but Matt Olson ($3,700) shouldn't miss a beat, either. Olson is coming off his best season yet, and he's more than held his own in lefty-lefty spots with a career .238 ISO and .341 wOBA.
Los Angeles Angels: Two of the other teams with high implied totals include the Angels and Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays don't have the best draw against Jon Gray, but they're the type of lineup we're rarely going to cross off on any given night. In 2021, their active roster was third in wRC+ (114), third in barrel rate (10.0%), and eighth in strikeout rate (21.5%).
But in terms of matchup, the Angels are easy to like at home versus Jake Odorizzi. Not only is Odorizzi an unimposing foe, but temperatures will be in the high 80s tonight, so the ball should be flying better than other parks. Odorizzi put up lukewarm marks across the board last year, including a 4.62 SIERA, 20.6% strikeout rate, and 35.3% ground-ball rate.
That's good news for the scary pairing of Shohei Ohtani ($4,300) and Mike Trout ($4,200) atop this lineup.
Beyond those two, Jared Walsh ($3,400) will have the platoon advantage and should bat in the heart of the order. He demonstrated some nice pop in 2021, posting a .232 ISO and 11.3% barrel rate.
We can also hope for a bounce-back year from Anthony Rendon ($3,200), who posted a wRC+ of 140 or better from 2017 to 2020, and this salary is easy to get on board with.
Other possibilities include Jo Adell ($2,700) and Max Stassi ($2,400). Adell is a former top prospect with breakout potential, while Stassi produced a .184 ISO in 2021.