It was looking dicey for a while there, but opening day is finally upon us! We've already had two games knocked off the slate due to inclement weather, but that still leaves us with seven others to peruse for our arms and bats. The main slate is spread throughout the day, beginning at 2:20 p.m. ET and going deep into the night.
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Let's check out the top options on tonight's main slate.
Corbin Burnes ($11,200): Burnes was already the top option on the slate, and the subtractions of Gerrit Cole and Robbie Ray due to weather further solidify it. The reigning NL Cy Young winner posted sparkling numbers across the board in 2021, including a 2.61 SIERA, 35.6% strikeout rate, 5.2% walk rate, and 48.8% ground-ball rate. It's hard to beat numbers like that, and he's facing a Cubs lineup that's short on star power and figures to be a below-average offense in 2022.
Burnes went 82 pitches in his final tune-up, and particularly with an abridged spring training, it wouldn't be surprising to see him stay under 100 pitches in his opening start. That being said, we saw Burnes routinely hover around 90 or so pitches last season, and it didn't stop him from putting together plenty of gems.
Note that weather could be a factor at Wrigley, so keep an eye on the forecast Thursday morning. We could see hitter-friendly winds blowing out, though it could be offset by temperatures in the 40s.
Yu Darvish ($9,400): While Shane Bieber would normally be an enticing alternative to Burnes, it sounds like Cleveland isn't planning to push their starters much beyond 65 pitches to begin the season, which dumps a bucket of water on Bieber's opening day potential.
But we can still turn to Darvish, who shouldn't be nearly as restricted after tossing 90 pitches in his last spring training start. Darvish struggled with home runs in the second half of last season -- something not all that uncommon to him throughout his career -- but his peripherals otherwise remained positive. He finished his campaign with a 3.49 SIERA, 29.2% strikeout rate, and 6.5% walk rate.
Adam Wainwright ($8,000): Due to his modest strikeout rate (21.0% in 2021), Wainwright is the type of better-in-real-life hurler I prefer to avoid in DFS, but on a weather-shortened slate with curtailed pitch counts throughout, he could get the job done.
The reason? He's facing the Pirates, who have one of MLB's weakest lineups. Their active roster produced an 85 wRC+ in 2021, the worst mark in the league.
Wainwright may not have elite firepower, but he's perhaps one of our better bets to pitch deep into the game. He was one of just four pitchers to accumulate 200 innings last season, helping him to 22 quality starts, which was tied for the fourth-most. He logged 89 pitches in his last spring start, so he's expected to be ready for a full workload right away.
We've seen Corbin pitch at a high level in the past, and he performed well this spring, so there's always the possibility he bounces back in 2022. But until he proves otherwise, we're looking at a lefty who posted a 4.61 SIERA over 31 starts last year and managed just a 17.2% strikeout rate versus right-handed hitters.
New York's lineup should be mostly comprised of righties and switch-hitters, with Pete Alonso ($3,600) being the most exciting of the bunch. Across his three MLB campaigns, Alonso boasts a .286 ISO and 14.5% barrel rate. Perhaps even more encouraging, he dropped his strikeout rate to 19.9% last season. He could have a massive year.
Newcomer Starling Marte ($3,600) and Francisco Lindor ($3,800) should also bat high in the order. Marte's one of the few true stolen base threats left these days (47 in 2021), and the 28-year-old Lindor should bounce back after a shaky first season with the Mets.
San Diego Padres: We find another southpaw who has seen better days in Madison Bumgarner, who takes on the Padres at Chase Field. Excluding the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Bumgarner's 2021 stands as the worst of his career with a 4.57 SIERA.
Never a huge strikeout guy to begin with, Bumgarner submitted a mediocre 20.2% strikeout rate last year while inducing grounders only 33.3% of the time. The end result was coughing up 1.48 dingers per 9 innings.
This San Diego lineup is less potent without Fernando Tatis Jr., but we still have Manny Machado ($3,800), Luke Voit ($2,500), and Wil Myers ($2,600) as key righties to build around in the middle of the lineup. Machado produced a career-best 13.3% barrel rate last season and should flirt with roughly 30 dingers again.
This is a low-salaried lineup all around, too. Outside of Machado, there's isn't a single other Padres bat above $3,100, so they're an ideal stack to pair with Corbin Burnes.
Atlanta Braves: This is nothing against Tyler Mahle, who's coming off a strong 2021 season, but this is a pretty ruthless Braves lineup. While Mahle had an impressive 27.7% strikeout rate, he put up only a 42.2% ground-ball rate, so home runs can sometimes be an issue for him.
Mahle's strikeout rate was less scary versus righties (24.5%), and most of the home runs he gave up came from that side of the plate, too (1.86 per 9 innings), so while anyone in this Atlanta lineup is worth considering, righties should be the priority.
With that in mind, there could be added incentive in rostering guys like Austin Riley ($3,600), Marcell Ozuna ($2,900), Adam Duvall ($2,800), and Dansby Swanson ($3,000). Riley, Duvall, and Swanson produced an ISO of .200 or better in 2021, and Ozuna projects to be in that neighborhood, as well.
Of course, that doesn't mean we should ignore switch-hitter Ozzie Albies ($4,000) and new lefty Matt Olson ($3,700), both of whom can counter Mahle with punchout-suppressing plate skills. Albies owns a career 17.3% strikeout rate while Olson made remarkable strides in that department last season (16.8%).