FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball Helper: Friday 4/9/21
Following back-to-back afternoon main slates, we return to our regularly scheduled programming with an evening start time of 7:07 pm ET. We have a solid grouping of mid-tier starters tonight, although a few could be on the upswing to bigger and better things.
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Let's check out the top options on Friday's main slate.
Joe Musgrove ($9,700): Following a promising eight-start campaign in 2020 -- most notably a 33.1% strikeout rate -- Joe Musgrove was a popular pick in season-long drafts this year, and he sure looked the part in his 2021 debut. Musgrove tossed 6.0 shutout innings against the Diamondbacks with 8 strikeouts and no walks, and his 16.7% swinging-strike rate checked out, too.
What also checks out is his matchup tonight against the Texas Rangers, whose active roster owns a 26.1% strikeout rate and 83 wRC+ versus righties dating back to 2019. The only concern will be Musgrove's pitch count (78 in his opening start), but he should have more leeway in his second outing.
Lance McCullers ($9,000): After Musgrove, you can make a case for or against quite a few guys depending on what sample you trust the most. Should we buy into a fantastic 2021 debut from Zack Wheeler? Is the 2020 version of Zach Plesac the real one? Can an aging Charlie Morton still be that guy from 2019? They're all valid questions, and I wouldn't be against using any of them in tournaments depending on what you believe.
But one guy who arguably has fewer question marks is Lance McCullers, who's always produced at a solid level and showed well in his first 2021 start.
Against the Oakland Athletics, he struck out 7 batters over 5.0 innings while allowing 1 earned run and generating a whopping 80.0% ground-ball rate. He wasn't perfect, as he also issued three walks and his swinging-strike rate wasn't anything special (7.4%), but it was nonetheless a promising way to begin the season. In 2020, he recorded a 3.95 SIERA, 24.7% strikeout rate, 8.8% walk rate, and 59.7% ground-ball rate, which falls in line with his pre-Tommy John form.
McCullers faces the Athletics again, a lineup that rates above-average historically but is also a plus matchup for strikeouts. They're off to a terrible start to the year, too, potentially opening the door for him to take advantage. McCullers threw 95 pitches in his first start, so workload won't be an issue, either.
Tyler Mahle ($8,400): Much like Musgrove, Tyler Mahle backed up his 2020 marks with an encouraging debut against the St. Louis Cardinals, racking up 9 punchouts and allowing 2 earned runs across 5.0 innings. A higher swinging-strike rate would have been nice (7.1%), but Mahle submitted a 4.07 SIERA, 29.9% strikeout rate, and 13.8% swinging-strike rate in 2020, so we can feel fairly confident in his abilities.
While walks could be an issue (10.4% rate last year), we have to like the overall upside at this modest salary. Mahle takes on the Diamondbacks, who aren't the best matchup for strikeouts but are also lacking much punch.
Others to Consider: Zack Wheeler ($10,500), Zach Plesac ($8,600), Charlie Morton ($7,500)
The Texas right-hander is making just his second big league start, and the first one wasn't so hot, allowing 3 earned runs (1 home run) to the Kansas City Royals over 5.0 innings. The Royals aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut, and to make matters worse, Arihara only managed 1 strikeout on a 5.5% swinging-strike rate.
We don't have much more to go off of from the Japanese import, but early returns certainly suggest an adjustment period to MLB hitting, and San Diego has one of the highest implied totals on the board (5.41).
Manny Machado ($3,500) is easy to like at this mid-range salary, and Wil Myers ($3,300) is coming off a 2020 campaign with a 14.8% barrel rate. Eric Hosmer ($3,700), Jake Cronenworth ($3,400), and hopefully a returning Trent Grisham ($2,500) will all have the platoon advantage.
But last year, the wheels really fell off, resulting in a 5.99 SIERA, 13.4% strikeout rate, and 10.7% walk rate. Teheran was predictably shaky in his first 2021 start, with ERA estimators collectively panning him (6.14 SIERA) despite skating by with just 1 earned run in 5.0 innings versus Detroit.
If all that wasn't enough, we're looking at temperatures bordering on 70 degrees in Cleveland and roughly 12 mph winds blowing out. The Indians are looking at a 4.84 implied total, and I wouldn't be surprised if that rises before game time.
We should get plenty of lefties and switch-hitters in the lineup, too, with Jose Ramirez ($4,100) leading the way, followed by Eddie Rosario ($3,100) and a slew of potential low-salaried plays like Ben Gamel ($2,200), Cesar Hernandez ($2,700), and Josh Naylor ($2,500). Given last year's dreadful results for Teheran, we shouldn't hesitate to include power righty Franmil Reyes ($2,800) in the mix, as well.
Cincinnati Reds: We only have 20 big league innings to go off of for Taylor Widener in 2020 -- all of which came out of the bullpen -- but control wasn't his strong suit, doling out a 13.6% walk rate. He also didn't get many ground balls (37.3% rate), which helped opposing batters to 5 dingers over that small sample.
Widener survived his first start by blanking the Padres over 6.0 innings, but 3 walks suggest that those control issues will persist in 2021, and a 4.93 SIERA in that outing suggests the end result could've been much worse.
Cincinnati boasts a healthy 5.07 implied total, so don't be afraid to test the waters here. Nick Castellanos ($4,200), Eugenio Suarez ($3,200), and Mike Moustakas ($3,500) are the top home run threats, while Joey Votto ($2,800) and Nick Senzel ($2,800) offer up some sub-$3,000 values.