We have a tidy six-game main slate beginning at 6:45 pm ET, and there's a clear top tier for both pitching and stacks.
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Let's check out the top options on today's main slate.
Shane McClanahan ($10,100): Back in March, if you asked someone to guess which pitcher would be the league leader in strikeout rate (39.3%), xFIP (1.59), and SIERA (1.77) a little over a month into the season, I doubt anyone would've said McClanahan.
The lefty has been brilliant across the board, and while we should assume there will be some pullback on the punchouts, he's also showing an excellent 18.6% swinging-strike rate and leads the league with a 36.9% called-plus-swinging-strike (CSW) rate. Toss in a 6.5% walk rate and 56.1% ground-ball rate, and it's really hard to find anything to nitpick so far in 2022.
McClanahan got up to a season-high 90 pitches in his last start, too, which is hopefully a sign that the Rays are more willing to bump up his pitch count moving forward.
Aaron Nola ($9,900): While Nola hasn't put up McClanahan numbers, he's displaying pristine underlying numbers, as well.
Through five starts, the veteran right-hander owns a 2.23 SIERA, 31.8% strikeout rate, 4.7% walk rate, and 56.3% ground-ball rate. Although his actual results have been mixed, he's coming off back-to-back nine-strikeout games, so he seems to be trending in the right direction.
The downside is that Nola is facing the Mets for the second straight start, and despite racking up those Ks the last time, this is an active roster that typically suppresses strikeouts, boasting the fifth-lowest mark this year (19.5%). Still, the Mets come in with a fairly modest 3.81 implied total, and Nola's credentials are among the best on the slate.
Jesus Luzardo ($9,100): Luzardo performed poorly in 2021, but he's coming off a promising opening month. While an 11.0% walk rate still looms, he has a sparkling 2.87 SIERA and 34.1% strikeout rate. A 14.0% swinging-strike rate and 35.4% CSW rate suggest that his rise in punchouts hasn't been entirely a fluke, either.
However, like Nola, this isn't the greatest matchup against the Padres. Even without Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego's active roster has hit well this year with the 11th-lowest strikeout rate (21.3%) and the highest walk rate (11.3%). Dating back to last season, they're above average versus lefties, too.
That definitely adds some risk to rostering Luzardo, but the Padres are another team with a low implied total (3.50), and we're getting a cool $1,000 discount compared to McClanahan.
At roughly the same salary,Robbie Ray ($8,900) is another possibility if you believe he's on the verge of turning his season around. This isn't the easiest matchup versus Tampa Bay, but at least Ray is at home in pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park.
Watkins has a 2.55 ERA despite a laughable 5.25 SIERA, 10.5% strikeout rate, and 10.5% walk rate. A .211 BABIP tells us everything we need to know, and regression will smack the Baltimore righty in the face sooner rather than later.
It's not like Watkins was any good in 2021, either, posting a 5.42 SIERA and 13.7% strikeout rate, and he had poor marks against righties and lefties alike.
Byron Buxton ($4,100) is a clear top play, and everyone else in the lineup has a salary of $3,200 or below, making it easier to fit him in.
Carlos Correa ($3,200), Jorge Polanco ($3,100), and Max Kepler ($3,100) form a solid trio in the heart of the order. Of the three, Kepler has performed the best at the plate this season, logging a .240 ISO, 16.9% strikeout rate, and 13.3% barrel rate.
Luis Arraez ($2,500) doesn't hit for a lick of power, but he has value as the projected number-two hitter.
Walker is making just his third start, and he was pretty much a league-average pitcher last season, putting up a 4.42 SIERA, 22.3% strikeout rate, and 8.4% walk rate. There isn't anything to suggest he'll be much different in 2022.
Although he allowed home runs at a higher rate to righties in 2021, his overall marks versus lefties suggest that they're the priority tonight. In the split, the right-hander recorded a 4.91 xFIP, 22.1% strikeout rate, 11.2% walk rate, and 45.4% fly-ball rate.
That places Bryce Harper ($3,900) and Kyle Schwarber ($3,800) at the top of our wishlist, and both are projected for strong odds to hit a dinger. WhileDidi Gregorius ($2,700) doesn't have a single barrel to his name this season, he'll have the platoon advantage, too.
As for the righties, Nick Castellanos ($3,400), J.T. Realmuto ($3,200), and Rhys Hoskins ($3,000) are all home run threats despite somewhat underwhelming power numbers to this point, andAlec Bohm ($2,900) is a value if he's batting high in the order again.
Last but certainly not least are the Houston Astros, the only other team with an implied total over four (4.68).
Tarik Skubal has actually pitched pretty well this season, so this is more about putting our faith in an Astros roster that has the fifth-best wRC+ (115) against left-handed pitching going back to last season. While Skubal had a 26.5% strikeout rate versus righties in 2021, he also only had a 34.2% ground-ball rate and allowed 2.53 home runs per nine innings.
Alex Bregman ($3,600) has been Houston's best right-handed slugger this season, making him an easy top choice.
Jose Altuve ($2,900) and Yuli Gurriel ($2,700) have gotten off to slow starts, but they remain solid value plays as righties batting high in the order. Chas McCormick ($2,700) and Jeremy Pena ($3,000) are lower-order options, and Pena actually has the second-highest barrel rate (12.7%) on the team.
Like always, lefties Yordan Alvarez ($4,300) and Kyle Tucker ($3,600) shouldn't be left out of the conversation as guys who more than hold their own in same-sided matchups. Alvarez has the league's second-best ISO this season (.366).