FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball Helper: Thursday 5/19/22
Welcome to another wonky Thursday! We only have three games on the main slate, and with few sure things for both pitchers and stacks, we might need to take some stabs in the dark to be unique tonight.
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Let's check out the top options on today's main slate.
Zac Gallen ($10,600): It's pretty much Gallen and then everyone else tonight. The 26-year-old righty is the only pitcher with an above-average strikeout rate (27.1%) -- no one else cracks even 21.0% -- and it comes alongside a pristine walk rate (3.9%). He also owns a slate-best 2.90 SIERA and has tallied four straight quality starts. It's easy to see why Gallen easily beats the rest of the field.
The matchup also checks out against a Cubs team that has the second-highest strikeout rate among active rosters (25.7%).
Perhaps the only downside to rostering Gallen is some hitter-friendly weather at Wrigley Field; we're seeing fairly warm temperatures and roughly 12 MPH winds blowing out to left field. But with Gallen being so far ahead in every other respect, the weather is hardly enough of a reason to move away from him as the night's top choice.
Framber Valdez ($9,700): Due to his low strikeout rate, Valdez falls under that "better in real life" category of pitcher, but he comes under consideration on a slate like this. Both his 18.9% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate leave a whole lot to be desired, but his 69.0% ground-ball rate is the great equalizer. In fact, the southpaw is allowing just a 6.9% fly-ball rate, which is far and away the lowest among qualified starters. The end result is just one home run allowed all season.
While Valdez has a tougher path to a ceiling game, he does routinely pitch deep into games, logging at least six innings in five of seven starts, making him a solid bet to get the quality start bonus. Additionally, the Rangers have been a below-average offense this season and come in with the slate's worst implied total (3.38).
George Kirby ($8,500): If you want to go off the board a bit, you could roll the dice with the unknown commodity. Kirby is a top prospect who drew a lot of buzz when he got called up earlier this month, and he didn't disappoint in his MLB debut, blanking the Rays across six innings while posting seven strikeouts. However, he followed that up with a one-strikeout performance against the Mets, and inconsistency is to be expected from a guy who had previously never pitched above Double-A.
Who knows which version of Kirby we get tonight, but he's up against a Red Sox team that's generally underwhelmed in 2022. He's already hinted at his potential in that dazzling debut, and he was mowing down Double-A batters prior to his call-up, producing a 34.4% strikeout rate and 15.0% swinging-strike rate over five starts.
Take a quick glance at Thursday's implied totals, and the Houston Astros immediately stand out with a slate-high mark of 4.62.
They take on Glenn Otto, who initially got off to a solid start to the season but now comes in with an uninspiring 4.65 SIERA, 19.8% strikeout rate, and 12.3% walk rate over four outings. Although Otto's underlying numbers were much better in six starts last season, the results just haven't been there, and he's clearly still a work in progress.
This will be the second time he faces the Astros this year, as well, which should only give us even more confidence in this stack.
The right-hander's peripherals are predictably worse against lefties over his 10 career starts (4.52 xFIP), so begin with Yordan Alvarez ($4,500) and Kyle Tucker ($3,700) as top options, and Michael Brantley ($3,000) is a value out of the two-hole. Otherwise, it's just a matter of filling in the blanks with the usual righties in this deep lineup.
Boston Red Sox
Rostering the aforementioned Kirby is an option, but the more conventional strategy will be to stack against a pitcher making just his third career big league start.
As noted earlier, the Sox have struggled at the plate this season, but they were expected to be a plus offense entering the season, and even amidst their struggles, they're still a top-10 unit in terms of barrels. They've started to put together some big games over the last week or so, which is perhaps a sign of a turnaround.
With so little data to go off of for Kirby, this is really just a matter of rostering Boston's top bats, which starts with the big three of Rafael Devers ($4,000), J.D. Martinez ($3,800), and Xander Bogaerts ($3,800). Even in this dead-ball season, Martinez (.239 ISO) and Devers (.248 ISO) haven't missed a beat in the power department.
While those three have performed up to expectations, the rest of the gang has a lot of catching up to do. Nonetheless, Enrique Hernandez ($2,800) has value as a value leadoff man, and Alex Verdugo ($2,800) will have the platoon advantage as the projected number-five hitter.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners are the remaining teams facing pitchers not named Gallen or Valdez. The Mariners may not be an exciting team for power, but they have a solid matchup against Rich Hill, who only has an 18.6% strikeout rate this season.
But the D-backs get the edge here because they'll benefit from winds at Wrigley Field that have bumped the over/under up to 8.5.
Marcus Stroman is typically a guy we want to avoid, but he's coming off the COVID-19 list and has been inconsistent over five starts this season. While most of his underlying metrics are around what we would expect, his ground-ball rate has dipped to 45.6%, which has contributed to him allowing a home run in four of his five outings.
I expect Stroman to have another solid campaign when it's all said and done, but this seems like the right circumstances to go against him -- particularly in the context of this slate.
The other great thing about stacking Arizona is that their salaries are low from top to bottom. Assuming Ketel Marte ($3,000) is back in the lineup, he should join Daulton Varsho ($2,800), Christian Walker ($2,800), and Pavin Smith ($2,300) in the top four lineup slots. Walker has put up a .258 ISO this season, and while Smith hasn't enjoyed the same success, he has an encouraging 14.5% barrel rate.
Jordan Luplow ($2,600) has five dingers in limited playing time this year and should also be considered if he cracks the starting nine. He owns a career .235 ISO.