FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 4/18/18

Gerrit Cole looks to continue his hot start tonight against the Mariners. Who are the other top plays on Wednesday'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

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

at Seattle Mariners
FanDuel Price: $10,600

Gerrit Cole has been a complete stud through his first three starts this season. An exit from the Pittsburgh Pirates and their pitch to contact philosophy has allowed Cole to find new life as a bonafide ace in Houston.

Consider these numbers Cole has put up so far: 36 strikeouts in 21 innings, a 46.8% strikeout rate and a 0.67 WHIP. While attaining these numbers, the right-hander has allowed only 14 base runners while holding opposing batters to a .139 average en route to a 1.29 ERA.

Cole has surprisingly only won one of his three dominant starts, but his Astros are a slate-high -173 moneyline favorites against the Mariners tonight. And if you needed another reason to deploy him, Seattle's Safeco Field ranks as the second-worst park for offense.

It's not recommended to fade Cole in any format at this point -- fire him up with confidence.

Mid-Range Play

Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians

vs. Minnesota Twins (In Puerto Rico)
FanDuel Price: $9,300

Carlos Carrasco is off to a good start in 2018, winning each of his first three starts for the Cleveland Indians.

After posting a 28.3% strikeout rate in 2017, Carrasco has seen his K percentage drop to 18.2% to this point. We can probably chalk up the decline in whiffs to a small sample size, and it wouldn't be surprising to see that number start to normalize starting tonight vs the Twins.

Despite the lack of punchouts, Carrasco has been limiting hard contact and demonstrating impeccable control, sporting a measly 3.9% walk rate. The right-hander dominated the Twins over three starts last season, winning all three matchups and striking out 30 batters in 19.2 innings.

We can throw park factor out the window, as this game will be played at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the ball tends to carry more in the heat, I'm sure Carrasco won't mind escaping the frigid temperatures that have plagued the midwest.

If you find it hard to squeeze in Gerrit Cole and his high salary, consider plugging in Carrasco as a solid mid-tier selection.

Value Option

Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels

vs. Boston Red Sox
FanDuel Price: $7,600

Venturing to the value tier is not recommended fro tonight's cash games, but it could be a nice way to differentiate your lineups in GPPs.

Tyler Skaggs has quite the opposite of a plus matchup against Red Sox, as Boston leads the major leagues in team batting average (.283) and OPS (.831) while ranking second in runs scored (99). But the Angels southpaw is off to a great start this season, tossing 16 innings with a 1.69 ERA through three starts.

Skaggs has been especially tough on left-handed batters so far in 2018, holding them to a .212 wOBA. This should at least help Skaggs to neutralize some of the Red Sox' lefties, such as Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley.

While the low-cost options are thin tonight, consider Skaggs if you're in need of some salary relief.

Contrarian Play

Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks

vs. San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $9,500

Anytime you want to go for a contrarian option at pitcher, upside is key. A good barometer when identifying such plays is asking yourself whether or not that pitcher has the potential to notch double-digit strikeouts. In the case of Robbie Ray, the answer is almost always yes.

Ray's struggles are with control and hard contact, and 2018 has been no different in that regard. He has walked 15.5% of the batters he has faced while also allowing a 48.6% hard-hit rate. The good with Ray is, as advertised, his potential to strike out a ton of batters. And he has showcased that upside in his first 3 starts. Ray's 32.4% strikeout rate is right on par with his 32.8% career average. The Giants have struggled offensively so far and will be without one of their lefty mashers in Evan Longoria.

Ray should check in as a low-owned option tonight, with other guys worth rolling out in tournaments. He has the potential to outscore the field and is a top contrarian play given his ridiculous strikeout upside.

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.