Monday's top pitcher is pretty clear, but it could be another one of those slates where offense is harder to come by. Welcome to Major League Baseball in 2022.
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Let's check out the top options on today's main slate.
Carlos Rodon ($11,100): In his most recent start, Rodon finally had a "down game" in terms of FanDuel points, logging just three strikeouts, but he still managed a quality start against a tough Dodgers lineup. We can nitpick a 9.0% walk rate, but it's hard to argue with an outstanding 2.40 SIERA and 36.9% strikeout rate.
The Colorado Rockies aren't a particularly great matchup for strikeouts themselves, but this is a team that annually struggles away from Coors Field. In road games, Colorado owns the third-worst wRC+ (85) among active rosters dating back to last season. Even on a slate with middling implied totals from top to bottom, the Rockies have the lowest by far (2.59).
While Rodon's salary is quite the cap hit, he's easily the slate's best option, and there are plenty of value stacks to help fit him into lineups.
MacKenzie Gore ($10,000): It's rare to see a guy making just his fifth ever MLB start at this kind of salary, but Gore is a former top prospect who is looking the part in 2022 after some struggles in the minors last season.
Across his four outings, he's put up a promising 3.67 SIERA and 25.9% strikeout rate, and despite his youth, the Padres have ramped up his workload quickly, letting him go beyond 100 pitches in each of his last two starts.
Admittedly, there are some caveats, though. Gore's 8.8% swinging-strike rate and 22.3% called-plus-swinging-strike (CSW) rate are underwhelming marks, suggesting his strikeouts could come down. He's also struggled with his control, owning a 10.6% walk rate.
The good news is that despite all those potential red flags, the Cubs are a good matchup. Chicago's active roster has the seventh-highest strikeout rate in 2022 (24.3%), and since the start of last season, they have the second-highest strikeout rate against left-handers (25.8%). Their implied total also isn't anything to write home about (3.36).
Due to Gore's small sample size, he's a bit more risky at $10,000, but he still looks like one of the better alternatives to Rodon for this slate.
Michael Kopech ($9,200): Part of the reason Gore is appealing is because we can arguably poke holes in everyone else on the slate. Kopech is no exception, but it's easier to talk ourselves into his upside relative to the rest of the field.
The 26-year-old has been a mixed bag this year, producing a promising 25.3% strikeout rate while also issuing walks too often (12.1%). His swinging-strike rate has been up and down over his starts, resulting in a middle-of-the-road 9.9% clip.
He's also up against a feisty Cleveland lineup that's been one of the league's best so far and also has the second-lowest strikeout rate (18.7%).
All of this probably isn't making a compelling case for Kopech, but this is a former top prospect who produced a 36.1% strikeout rate as a multi-inning reliever in 2021, and most pre-season projection systems saw him flirting with a 30% strikeout rate entering 2022.
The Guardians are also performing well above expectations and have a roster that was closer to league average last season. Their 3.29 implied total would also suggest that some regression is coming.
Finally, while Kopech hasn't exceeded five innings in a start yet, he tallied a season-high 94 pitches two games ago, so workload shouldn't be a problem.
You know it's a weird slate when the Miami Marlins have the highest implied total -- if you can even call 4.35 a "high" total. But that's the reality of offense in 2022.
While the Marlins aren't a conventional top stack, their matchup versus Humberto Castellanos checks out. Castellanos has a ho-hum 4.70 SIERA and 14.5% strikeout rate this season, and he was pretty much the same guy over 45 2/3 innings in 2021 (5.17 SIERA and 14.8% strikeout rate). The young righty hasn't allowed a home run to this point, but there's a good chance he doesn't stay at zero dingers for much longer.
Left-handed batters were a huge problem for Castellanos last season. In the split, he posted a 12.2% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate, and 37.8% ground-ball rate, and he allowed 1.93 home runs per nine innings.
That slots in Jazz Chisholm ($3,700) as an easy choice, and he's the only Miami hitter above $3,000, making this an ideal stack to pair with Rodon. Unfortunately, there aren't many other lefties on the roster, butJoey Wendle ($2,500) could bat cleanup, and Jesus Sanchez ($2,900) has some pop.
It's not like Castellanos was anything special versus righties last year, either, putting up a 4.46 xFIP, so you can also mix in the righty sticks in the top half of the order.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks are a couple of other teams with implied totals above four runs, though neither offense has been particularly stout at the plate. Still, the D-backs have low salaries, and their lefties have a plus matchup against Elieser Hernandez, who recorded a 5.48 xFIP in the split last year.
The White Sox have actually been one of the worst offenses in baseball, and while they've dealt with some injuries, this is still baffling for a team that was one of the league's best in 2021.
It's fair to assume that Chicago should pick up the pace eventually, and this isn't a bad spot for them to do that versus Zach Plesac. It's the same old story for Plesac, getting neither strikeouts (13.9%) nor ground balls (35.6%), and his 4.76 SIERA is pretty much right where he ended up last season.
The right-hander allowed home runs at a higher clip to same-sided batters (1.88 per nine innings), but he also posted a higher xFIP versus lefties (5.13). Batters on both sides of the plate are fair game.
Despite Chicago's sluggish start, Tim Anderson ($3,600), Jose Abreu ($3,500), and Luis Robert ($3,600) have been three of the team's better hitters, and all three are above average in wRC+ this year. WhileYasmani Grandal ($2,400) has been in a woeful slump, a .197 BABIP shows some poor luck is to blame, and we should trust his lengthy track record.
We should also see Yoan Moncada ($2,800) back in the lineup, and the rest of the team also comes in on the cheap. A.J. Pollock ($2,600) may not have any home runs, but a 15.4% barrel rate suggests he's deserved better than his lackluster results so far.
Tampa Bay Rays
Clearly, this is wide open slate in terms of offense, and it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see a random stack emerge in a sport that already has a ton of nightly variance.
And yet, Syndergaard has a 14.6% strikeout rate this season, which puts him closer to the likes of Castellanos and Plesac than tonight's upper-tier arms. His 11.6% swinging-strike rate presumably means his strikeout rate shouldn't be this bad, but it's been trending in the wrong direction since the start of the year. Likewise, his velocity is also way below what we're used to seeing, and it dropped down to 94.5 MPH in his last start -- not exactly close to his 98 MPH career average.
It's too early to tell what level the 29-year-old will settle in at, and it's entirely possible he gets that swinging-strike rate back up tonight. He's also still doing a good job of getting grounders (50.7% clip).
But at the very least, there are some signs that Syndergaard may not be the pitcher he once was, and perhaps we can take advantage of that with a Rays team that's been performing well at the plate.
And this is yet another stack where we can round things out with a slew of value plays. Randy Arozarena ($2,700) is hitting way too many ground balls (60.5%), destroying his power upside thus far, but he's still stealing bases (4) and is entrenched in the middle of the order.