FanDuel Daily Fantasy Baseball Helper: Thursday 9/30/21
Following a better showing last night, the Boston Red Sox are shaking out to be the chalk stack again on Thursday, and they should be joined by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also draw a juicy matchup. There arguably isn't a clear top choice at pitcher, though, with the night's best hurler in a tough spot.
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Let's check out the top options on tonight's main slate.
Robbie Ray ($10,800): In what's shaping up to be a wild finish to the, uh, wild card race in the American League, the Blue Jays now turn to their Cy Young candidate in a must-win game versus the Yankees. This is hardly a cupcake matchup for Ray, of course, but he's wrapping up what could ultimately end up as the best campaign of his career, which includes an excellent 3.14 SIERA, 32.5% strikeout rate, and 6.7% walk rate. He's had an up-and-down September with a slight uptick in walks, but the ceiling's still been incredible, with two FanDuel scores of 60 or more points.
The opponent obviously adds risk, but motivation clearly won't be an issue here, and if Ray is on his game, chances are no one else on the slate can match his ceiling tonight.
Joe Ryan ($8,800): Ryan looks like the real deal through his first four MLB starts, producing a head-turning 3.16 SIERA, 32.1% strikeout rate, and 3.8% walk rate. Obviously, if we had more season left, we wouldn't expect him to maintain such an elite pace, but he also demonstrated a high strikeout rate and low walk rate in Triple-A this year, so this isn't entirely a fluke. For what it's worth, his called-plus-swinging-strike rate (30.0%) is well above league average and would rank 10th among qualified starters.
Ryan hasn't reached 90 pitches in any of his outings, and there's little reason to think he'll get pushed much beyond that tonight. But he's still cracked 40 FanDuel points twice, including his 48-point performance his last time out off an 11-strikeout effort versus the Cubs. It is reasonable to imagine similar upside against a Tigers team with a 25.6% strikeout rate versus righties this season. Detroit also has the second-lowest implied total on the board (3.57).
Rich Hill ($7,400): If you're looking for an avenue to load up on some high-salaried stacks, Hill could be your guy. While his numbers won't blow you away, if a struggling Taijuan Walker can post a solid outing against the Marlins, surely Hill can, too. Miami's roster is every bit as poor against left-handers, entering the night with an 80 wRC+ and 26.6% strikeout rate in the split. It's no wonder they have the slate's lowest implied total (3.18).
The veteran southpaw has shown a little more firepower lately, too, posting a 3.66 SIERA, 27.8% strikeout rate, and 6.8% walk rate over his last six appearances. He'll probably only top out at five or six innings with a pitch count similar to Joe Ryan, though he did get up to 97 pitches his last time out, so you never know.
Boston Red Sox: For the third night in a row, Boston's bats should be a popular destination for stacks, as they get to face yet another middling lefty from Baltimore. It may not be a huge sample, but Alexander Wells has been simply brutal versus right-handed batters, getting lit up for a 6.56 xFIP with a 10.0% strikeout rate, 8.5% walk rate, and 32.7% ground-ball rate in the split.
Add all that with the Orioles' lackluster bullpen, and it's yet another golden opportunity for righties J.D. Martinez ($3,800), Xander Bogaerts ($3,700), Hunter Renfroe ($3,600), Enrique Hernandez ($3,400), and Bobby Dalbec ($3,000). Lefties Rafael Devers ($3,900) and Kyle Schwarber ($3,800) figure to see slightly less popularity but could still come through versus Baltimore's relievers, so look to them in tournaments as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Padres appeared to be in the driver's seat entering the eighth inning last night, but a barrage of Dodgers home runs would lead to yet another victory for Los Angeles over their division rivals. More dingers could be on the way tonight, as Vincent Velasquez will toe the slab for San Diego.
We pretty much know who Velasquez is at this point, capable of occasionally racking up punchouts but more often than not getting himself into trouble with walks and home runs. However, his strikeout rate has dipped to a more middle-of-the-road 23.6% this season, predictably leading to a rise in his ERA due to an ugly 12.1% walk rate while giving up 1.91 homers per nine innings off a 45.8% fly-ball rate.
Velasquez has logged 59, 37, and 67 pitches in three starts for San Diego, so he might not even get through five innings, but as we saw last night, the Dodgers could do plenty of damage to those who follow. While the Padres' bullpen has typically been a strength in 2021, they've stumbled down the stretch, with a 4.79 xFIP over the last 30 days, the eighth-worst mark in the league.
Similar to the Red Sox, you can pretty much mix-and-match most hitters in this deep lineup. Max Muncy ($3,800) is arguably the top guy to target as a one-off, but it's otherwise more a matter of who you can fit in with your secondary stack/pieces. You can also target the bottom half of the order with mid-range guys like Will Smith ($3,300), Justin Turner ($3,200), A.J. Pollock ($3,100), and Chris Taylor ($3,100) -- all potent hitters who could knock one out tonight.
Minnesota Twins: The Red Sox and Dodgers are pretty much in their own tier, and that's reflected by their implied totals easily besting everyone else on the slate. After them, you can go the route of stacking the other strong offenses fighting for postseason seeding, though their matchups don't jump off the page in the same way.
On the other hand, the Twins are just riding out the remainder of their games, but their matchup does stand out against Tarik Skubal and the Tigers. Skubal has solid underlying numbers but has one glaring issue: giving up home runs to righties. The young lefty is getting slaughtered for 2.35 homers per nine innings in the split off a 46.1% fly-ball rate and 37.6% hard-hit rate.
Skubal hasn't surpassed 50 pitches in any September outing, so he'll be capped at a handful of innings, leaving the rest to a Detroit bullpen with the third-worst xFIP over the past 30 days.
The Twins may be in last place, but we can find plenty of right-handed pop to attack Skubal through. Byron Buxton ($4,000), Jorge Polanco ($3,500), Josh Donaldson ($3,200), Mitch Garver ($3,000), and Miguel Sano ($2,600) all fit that description. Brent Rooker ($2,200) owns a .193 ISO this year if he gets the nod, and the left-handed Max Kepler ($2,600) should still be in the mix with all those bullpen innings on tap.