FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball Helper: Thursday 9/23/21
We've got one of those tiny four-game main slates tonight, which predictably has a narrow pitching pool, though we can reasonably branch out for our bats. Six of the eight teams have implied totals well above four runs. Unfortunately, we do have to keep an eye on rain in Philadelphia, though. Hey, at least we also have a single-game NFL slate, right?
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Let's check out the top options on tonight's main slate.
Aaron Nola ($9,100): The results have been up and down for Nola down the stretch, but his peripherals have remained strong through it all, so there really isn't any reason to overthink his spot against Pittsburgh on a small slate.
Nola owns a 3.20 SIERA, 30.3% strikeout rate, and 5.2% walk rate this season, easily the best overall marks on the board. And while he's failed to make it through a full six innings very often lately, there aren't any concerns over his workload when things are going well, as he logged 96 pitches in a strong start against the Mets his last time out.
You can be forgiven if you're barely aware of who the Pirates are even rolling out there these days, but what isn't shocking is that their active roster has ho-hum numbers, including an 82 wRC+ and 23.3% strikeout rate versus righties. Pittsburgh has a slate-low 3.10 implied total.
Note that this is the game with rain in the forecast, so that's something to keep tabs on.
Lance McCullers ($10,200): McCullers is the obvious alternative to Nola, though he comes at the higher salary.
Between a 27.5% strikeout rate and 55.5% ground-ball rate, McCullers is always capable of putting up a big score, but his less-than-ideal 11.1% walk rate will get in the way sometimes. His high pitch counts give him some leeway, though, as he's cracked 100 pitches in 11 of his past 14 appearances.
The matchup is right for a high-ceiling performance against the Angels (3.81 implied total), who comes in with a 25.0% strikeout rate versus right-handed pitching.
Toronto Blue Jays: In terms of offensive firepower, the Blue Jays and Astros are clearly the most talented teams available to us tonight, but with Houston taking on a quality hurler in Alex Cobb, it's Toronto that has the easiest path to success. The Blue Jays are being credited with a slate-best 4.99 implied total against Michael Pineda.
Pineda isn't terrible by any means, but he also doesn't do anything that really wows us, either. When it comes to the Blue Jays, we're mostly concerned with Pineda's splits versus righties, and while he's posted a solid 4.09 xFIP, he also has just a 21.6% strikeout rate and 43.6% ground-ball rate. Toronto shouldn't have any trouble putting the ball in play, and we know what they're capable of when that happens.
What also benefits the Blue Jays' bats is that this will be Pineda's second straight start against them, so they'll also be more than familiar with his arsenal.
As always, any of the high-salaried studs in the top half of the order are the priority, with leadoff man George Springer ($3,600) having the lowest salary of the group. Lourdes Gurriel ($3,400) bats lower in the lineup, but he's really turned it on in the second half with a .250 ISO.
Texas Rangers: The Philadelphia Phillies have the next best implied total against what should be a bullpen game for the Pirates (again, check the weather), while the aforementioned Astros should be able to do some damage against a beatable Angels bullpen once they get past Alex Cobb.
But these lowly Rangers also check in with a respectable 4.61 implied total against left-hander Zac Lowther. Texas has one of the worst lineups in the league, so it says something that they're getting any love by oddsmakers.
And that's because Lowther has been pretty brutal himself, posting a 5.04 SIERA, 19.4% strikeout rate, 11.2% walk rate, and 37.5% ground-ball rate over 19 2/3 innings. He's also allowing 2.29 home runs per nine innings. Outside of inducing more grounders in Triple-A, his numbers weren't much better across eight starts at that level this year, too.
Furthermore, while it's admittedly a small sample, most of his innings have come against right-handed bats, and the result has been an egregious 6.46 xFIP in the split. Again, it's not the most exciting lineup to stack, but we could see an entire lineup of righty sticks from Texas, so they will be poised to take advantage at least.
To top it off, Lowther likely won't pitch deep into this game, which means Texas will also get a bunch of innings against a bullpen that has the second-worst xFIP over the last 30 days (5.42).
In terms of power, Adolis Garcia ($3,400) and DJ Peters ($2,400) are probably your best bets, and Andy Ibanez ($2,800) has been decent. Otherwise, it's just a matter of seeing how the lineup shakes out and mostly concentrating on the higher bats in the order. The other benefit of this stack is the Rangers have pretty low salaries across the board.