FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 4/6/18

It's another main slate where pitching options are scarce in daily fantasy baseball. Which arms should you target 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

Lance McCullers

vs. San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $8,600

Tonight's slate is lacking in upper-tier pitchers. For safety and the best matchup on the board, look no further than Lance McCullers of the Houston Astros.

McCullers gets the gold mine that is the San Diego Padres' offense. The Padres are averaging a paltry 3.57 runs per game to this point in 2018 en route to winning only 1 of their first 7 games.

McCullers also gets the benefit of taking the hill in his home ballpark where his ERA was a full two runs lower than on the road last season. He allowed only a .290 wOBA at Minute Maid Park in 2017 while striking out 63 batters over 52 innings of work.

The Astros' righty racked up 10 punchouts in 5.1 innings in his season debut and could approach similar numbers versus the struggling offense of the Padres.

Mid-Range Play

Luis Castillo

at Pittsburgh Pirates
FanDuel Price: $7,100

Things get a little dicey as we head into the mid-tier. One play that has upside for his price is Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds.

Castillo struggled in his debut versus the Washington Nationals, allowing six earned runs in five innings. That start was at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati while tonight Castillo gets the advantage of pitching in the more spacious PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Pirates' stadium ranks 17th in numberFire's park factor metric.

Castillo, though, was able to flash some of the upside that made him a popular breakout candidate this season as he tallied six strikeouts in his five innings of work versus the Nationals. Last season, his 27.3% strikeout rate ranked among the league leaders in the National League. The Pirates' offense is ripe for the picking in this category, striking out 44 times through their first 6 games, including 3 games with double-digit punchouts.

On a night when the mid-tier pitching options lack appeal, Castillo is a worth a look as someone who could post a solid outing.

Value Option

Parker Bridwell

vs. Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Price: $5,700

A true dart throw who lacks a ton of upside but had some success last season, Parker Bridwell checks in as a value option tonight.

The Los Angeles Angels right-hander had a strong 2017, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.64 ERA. His peripherals suggest he wasn't as good as he appeared to be, especially his 5.06 SIERA. Bridwell also doesn't strike out many batters, registering a measly 14.8% strikeout rate last season.

This is Bridwell's first start of 2018, but we did see him have pretty neutral home/away splits in 2017. A big concern is his history with the Oakland Athletics. Last season he was pounded for 13 earned runs in 6 innings pitched across 2 starts, so tread with caution.

If you see a bunch of high-priced bats that you want to fit into your lineups tonight, the cheap pitchers are few and far between. If you find yourself landing in that area, however, Bridwell is a guy who can give you six strong innings with two to three earned runs allowed and a handful of strikeouts. On a night where pitching is so thin, that may be all you need if your hitters go off.

Contrarian Play

Kenta Maeda

at San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $9,000

While most will lock in Lance McCullers due to his matchup and the slight price discount, Kenta Maeda may be close in terms of the top option for tonight's slate. (NOTE: Tonight's Dodgers-Giants game has since been postponed.)

The Los Angeles Dodgers hurler dominated in his first start against these very same San Francisco Giants, striking out 10 batters in only 5 innings of work. The concern with Maeda is never his ability; it's his inability to pitch deep into games. He averaged only 5.1 innings per start in 2017 and had only 3 starts out of 25 last more than 6 innings. Basically, Maeda has to dominate the way he did in his first start, racking up strikeouts and hopefully being in line for a victory.

The good news when it comes to the Giants' offense is they have a bunch of high-strikeout hitters in their lineup. As a team, they are averaging 7 strikeouts per game while scoring only 16 runs in the 6 games they have played to this point.

Another reason Maeda may be overlooked is his home/road splits in which his ERA is nearly three runs higher away from Dodger Stadium. However, if his first start versus the Giants is any indication, he has a chance to breeze through this lineup once again and be a great contrarian play.

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.