FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 4/4/18

Absent any elite studs on the main slate, which pitchers should you be considering tonight?

In daily fantasy baseball, success starts with nailing the starting pitcher spot in your lineup.

When compared to hitters, pitching performance tends to be much more predictable and stable throughout the course of the season. You know what you're getting from a top-level ace when you roster him: probably a dominant effort with only one or two implosions per season. In contrast, even the game's best hitters have days at the plate when they go 0-for-4.

As a result, lineup construction should begin with the starting pitcher. Each day we will highlight a starter to consider from each pricing tier, and we'll also look at one contrarian play for tournaments.

Who should you consider on tonight's main slate?

High-Priced Stud

Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants

vs. Seattle Mariners
FanDuel Price: $8,500

There is no ace on tonight's slate, but spending up for the highest-priced pitcher -- Johnny Cueto -- is a smart move.

Cueto led the San Francisco Giants to a 1-0 victory in his season debut, twirling seven scoreless innings and allowing only one hit. It was an encouraging sign for the Giants as Cueto began to show some signs of regression last season. In fact, Cueto's 4.52 ERA was his worst since 2008, his rookie season.

As we've become accustomed to with the right-hander, he makes for a better play in his home stadium of AT&T Park, which ranks fifth in run suppression, according to numberFire's park factor. Cueto's career home-road splits are relatively neutral, but the ballpark definitely improves his outlook against a powerful Seattle Mariners offense.

Cueto's splits versus left- and right-handed batters are also almost identical, so there is no big advantage for a lefty-heavy Mariners lineup. Cueto is the closest thing to a stud on tonight's slate.

Mid-Range Play

Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals

at Milwaukee Brewers
FanDuel Price: $7,900

St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander Carlos Martinez checks in as a fine mid-range play tonight at a very affordable salary.

In a start against the New York Mets, t he fire-balling Dominican got off on the wrong foot to begin the new year, having allowed 10 baserunners and 4 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. The good news is his FanDuel knocked his salary down to a very playable $7,900, ahead of tonight's matchup versus the Milwaukee Brewers.

The ballpark in Milwaukee certainly favors offense -- especially with the roof closed (as it probably will be on Wednesday) -- and the Brew Crew's lineup itself is much improved with the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. However, the Brewers have a tendency to strikeout in bunches, and Martinez's pitching style leads to punchouts, finishing fourth in the National League with 217 strikeouts a year ago.

Despite some concerns with the opponent and the ballpark, Martinez makes for a fine mid-tier selection, given the limited options at the top.

Value Option

Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays

vs. Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $6,200

As he was in his first start of the year (priced at $5,900), Aaron Sanchez is once again a great low-cost option tonight versus the Chicago White Sox.

Sanchez is two years removed from being an All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays, and he possesses the kind of high-upside stuff we're looking for in this price range. His first start of 2018 was quite mediocre but that was against a very talented New York Yankees lineup. All in all, it wasn't terrible, as Sanchez allowed 12 baserunners and 4 earned runs while striking out just 2 in 5 2/3 innings. We should be willing to overlook his debut considering the opponent.

Speaking of opponent, the White Sox offense is off to a blistering start this season, leading the majors in team OPS at .952. But they should soon show signs of slowing down at the dish, as this almost identical lineup posted the 24th-best OPS just a season ago.

Sanchez is one of the few attractive options in what is a very weak lower-tier of arms tonight.

Contrarian Play

Jon Gray, Colorado Rockies

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $8,000

If you're looking to differentiate your pitcher spot from the rest of the pack, give a strong look to Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies

Gray experienced somewhat of a breakout campaign last season, posting a 10-4 record with a 3.67 ERA. His peripheral stats checked out as well, as he racked up 9.14 strikeouts per 9 innings and allowed only 0.82 home runs per 9. With strong strikeout indicators and a propensity to limit hard contact, a matchup with the San Diego Padres gives Gray a good deal of upside.

Like teammate Kyle Freeland, Gray is surprisingly a full run better at home in Coors Field, in terms of ERA. However, working in Gray's favor tonight is the pitcher-friendly Petco Park. When you also consider the Padres' offense ranks 22nd on the young season in runs scored, it further bolsters Gray's outlook here.

Considering the matchup and ballpark -- and that Gray could go under-owned -- he is an ideal contrarian pivot from the more popular arms.

Drew Crawford is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Drew Crawford also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username squid0308. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.