Monday night's slate could be defined by the weather, with rain already knocking out the Arizona-Washington game. The Giants-Mets contest could also be in danger due to rain, while a gross forecast in Chicago is predicting cold temperatures and possibly even snow showers at Wrigley Field.
Thankfully, the rest of the games should be good to go, which includes a stack-friendly matchup for the Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field.
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Let's check out the top options on today's main slate.
Frankie Montas ($9,900): We saw a brilliant Clayton Kershaw ($11,000) throw seven perfect innings against Minnesota last week, but with this being 2022, he would ultimately get yanked at 80 pitches with the big picture in mind.
While he should theoretically get more leash this time around, this is an awfully high salary cap hit for someone who's unlikely to sniff 100 pitches and gets a tough opponent in the Braves. This arguably leaves the veteran lefty as a secondary play.
Montas has the next-highest salary but is far easier to fit in at under $10,000. He has a more bankable workload after pitch counts of 92 and 89 in his first couple of starts, and he gets an easier draw at home versus the visiting Orioles. Baltimore's active roster had the league's third-highest strikeout rate last season (24.7%), and they're only showing a 3.21 implied total at pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum.
As for Montas' credentials, he posted solid overall marks in 2021 but really took off in the second half, boasting a 29.7% strikeout rate that coincided with increased usage of his splitter. He's thrown the pitch at a high clip to begin this season, and a promising 16.0% swinging-strike rate may foreshadow an increase in punchouts sooner rather than later.
Shane McClanahan ($9,900): We always expect pitch-count and inning-limit shenanigans when it comes to Tampa Bay's rotation, but McClanahan did get up to 85 pitches in his last start, so there's hope he might be able to get up to six or so innings.
Although McClanahan has failed to go five frames in either of his opening starts, he's produced dazzling strikeout numbers, including a 39.5% strikeout rate, 18.3% swinging-strike rate, and 38.6% called-plus-swinging-strike (CWS) rate. Unfortunately, a 13.2% walk rate has held him back, but the young lefty posted a 7.2% walk rate in 2021, so he should be able to get back on track.
The Cubs' active roster struck out at an even higher clip than the Orioles last year (25.6%), so McClanahan could have a big night if he can keep the free passes in check and doesn't get yanked prematurely.
And while the wind is blowing out at Wrigley, this is the coldest game on the slate, so the two factors may ultimately cancel each other out.
Eric Lauer ($7,100) and Luis Garcia ($6,700): Once we get into the sub-$9,000 range, Alex Cobb ($8,800) is intriguing after racking up 10 strikeouts in his first start, but he's in one of the more troubling weather spots at Citi Field. Keep him in mind if it plays, though.
But if you're looking to maximize savings -- particularly with Coors Field in play tonight -- then Lauer and Garcia are two names to consider.
Lauer is facing the Pirates, a team whose active roster ranked 30th in wRC+ last season (82) and is expected to be one of the league's worst offenses in 2022. The Milwaukee left-hander was solid if unspectacular in 2021, posting a 4.24 SIERA, 23.9% strikeout rate, and 8.4% walk rate.
While he had a mediocre debut against Baltimore last week, the key takeaway was a pitch count of 89 pitches, so we can have confidence in his workload. If he can pitch deep into this game, he could pay dividends against a weak opponent.
Garcia's pitch count is less reliable after only going 71 pitches in his first start, and to make matters worse, he only recorded one punchout. But he produced better marks than Lauer in 2021, putting up a 3.91 SIERA, 26.4% strikeout rate, and 7.9% walk rate.
Additionally, while his matchup against the Angels is more difficult, Los Angeles is expected to be without Mike Trout (hand) on Monday, making this a far less scary lineup. This is also a juicy spot for punchouts, as the Angels' active roster had the highest strikeout rate in 2021 (25.9%).
Garcia's shaky first start makes him the riskier value play, but he's arguably got the path to a higher ceiling.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are the night's top stack by a country mile, and that's reflected by their 6.04 implied total. That's over a full run higher than any other team on the board.
Not only will an already potent Philadelphia offense enjoy the confines of Coors Field, but they'll face a mediocre hurler in Chad Kuhl.
Formerly with the Pirates, Kuhl didn't move the needle in 2021, submitting a 4.89 SIERA, 21.5% strikeout rate, and 12.0% walk rate over 80 1/3 innings. Taking things one step further, Kuhl performed poorly against lefties and righties alike, but a 40.2% ground-ball rate against lefty sticks led to far more home runs in the split (1.96 per nine innings).
Ultimately, this really just boils down to whether you're willing to roll with the chalk stack or not. It's easy to like anyone in the top half of the order, and lefties Bryce Harper ($4,200) and Kyle Schwarber ($3,500) should be priorities.
Didi Gregorius ($2,800) tends to bat lower in the lineup, but he will also have the platoon advantage. His high fly-ball rate (45.4% in 2021) has led to solid home run numbers across his career and should play well at Coors Field.
Houston Astros: The tricky thing about pivoting away from the Phillies is that we can poke holes in just about every other potential stack.
On paper, the Astros have a plus matchup versus Michael Lorenzen, but the right-hander has gotten some buzz and was excellent in his first start for the Angels. Against the Marlins, Lorenzen allowed one earned run over six innings with issuing zero walks and punching out seven batters. He also induced grounders at a 69.2% clip.
Maybe Lorenzen's figured things out, but we're also talking about a 30-year-old pitcher who's spent the majority of his career as a reliever with mixed results. His numbers were dreadful in 29 innings last season with a 4.98 SIERA, 16.8% strikeout rate, and 11.2% walk rate.
At the end of the day, Lorenzen is a wild card, and we're just putting faith in a strong Houston offense getting the job done.
In a limited sample, Lorenzen was awful versus left-handed batters in 2021, so Yordan Alvarez ($3,700) and Kyle Tucker ($3,500) are standout options, and Michael Brantley ($2,800) has value is he's batting second as usual. Alvarez has missed time due to COVID-19, but he's expected to be back in the lineup.
But for another alternative, let's look at the Rays. As noted earlier, the temperatures at Wrigley are less than ideal, but we're also looking at 17 mph winds going out to right field, so perhaps a lucky gust here and there could help Tampa's bats out.
They're up against Kyle Hendricks, who was fantastic in his opening start against the Brewers but followed it up with a horrific outing against the Pirates of all teams. He's curiously struggled with walks in both starts, resulting in a 15.6% walk rate thus far.
The soft-tossing righty consistently out-performed ERA estimators for years before it all came crashing down in 2021, easily the worst campaign of his career. Most notably, his strikeout rate plummeted to 16.7%, and a dip in ground-ball rate (43.1%) may have contributed to Hendricks allowing 1.54 home runs per nine innings.
It remains to be seen which version of Hendricks we get this year, but getting rocked by Pittsburgh is hardly a ringing endorsement.
Hendricks had a 5.20 xFIP versus lefties last season, so Brandon Lowe ($3,500) is a top choice. Wander Franco ($3,600), Ji-Man Choi ($3,500) and Josh Lowe ($2,500) will also have the platoon advantage, though the latter two could have some pinch-hit risk.