FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 4/11/18

After an ace-filled Tuesday, pitching options are a bit thin on Wednesday. Who should you target on tonight's main slate?

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

Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs

vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
FanDuel Price: $9,100

Following Tuesday's slate, where we had to decide between four high-level arms and a solid grouping of mid-tier options, things are little more clear at the top tonight.

Jon Lester checks in as the safest play on the board, as his Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. The veteran lefty is coming off an impressive outing against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he fanned six across six scoreless innings of work. The Pirates have been a surprisingly competent offense to this point in the young season, but look for Lester to stymie them in his home park, where he posted a 3.73 xFIP in 2017.

The top-tier is thin tonight, so starting your rosters with a safe option like Jon Lester makes a ton of sense.

Mid-Range Play

Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays

at Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $8,100

An argument could be made for a potential breakout game for Kevin Gausman on the other side of this matchup, but the struggling Baltimore Orioles offense needs to be targeted until they prove they are past their early-season funk.

Marco Estrada usually raises red flags anytime he toes the rubber in a hitter's park like Camden Yards because of his tendency to allow a ton of fly balls. Early in the season, however, the ball is not carrying in the cold weather as much as it will later in the summer, making Estrada's fly-ball tendencies less of a concern.

The matchup versus the Orioles' offense has proven to be a big boost for opposing pitchers' strikeout numbers -- they lead the major leagues with 127 punch outs through 12 games (10.6 per game). To put that into perspective, the Houston Astros are second in the major leagues with 109 total strikeouts.

Estrada himself is coming off of a seven-strikeout performance against the Texas Rangers as the Toronto Blue Jays hurler has seen his strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) increase over each of the last three seasons. Given FanDuel's scoring and the premium value placed on strikeouts, Marco Estrada is a great target against the Orioles tonight.

Value Option

Zach Wheeler, New York Mets

at Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $6,000

Former top prospect Zack Wheeler will be making his first start of 2018 tonight against the Miami Marlins. As we have seen early on this season, the Marlins are a team we should be looking to attack any chance we get.

Wheeler struggled across 86.1 innings last season for the New York Mets, posting a 5.21 ERA and an alarming 1.59 WHIP. He does have a 21.9% strikeout rate in his career, as well as a 33.3% K rate in AAA so far this season.

Although his strikeout upside is intriguing, Wheeler's true value is certainly found in tonight's matchup. The Marlins are top-5 in the National League in strikeouts as a team and, despite their roughing up Jacob deGrom Tuesday night, they are also bottom-5 in the National League in runs scored to date.

If Wheeler can flash some of the upside that made him a highly touted prospect a few years ago, he could pay off his cheap salary in a big way.


Nick Pivetta

vs. Cincinnati Reds
FanDuel Price: $7,500

Nick Pivetta figures to be pretty low owned tonight, despite a high strikeout probability against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pivetta is off to a nice start this season, racking up a 30.8% strikeout rate through a pair of starts. His career mark is 24.4%, so some regression is to be expected. The Reds, however, have scored the third-fewest runs in Major League Baseball to this point, and have quite a few players susceptible to the swing-and-miss.

The Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander had considerable reverse splits in 2017, allowing a .409 wOBA versus right-handed batters compared to only a .306 wOBA against lefties. Joey Votto always looms as a threat in this Reds offense, but his matchup isn't as advantageous as it seems, given Pivetta's effectiveness versus lefty bats.

Pivetta comes in as a potential contrarian target tonight, and one that could end up paying big dividends in an exploitable matchup.

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.