FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 5/2/18

Wednesday's slate features plenty of high-strikeout arms, which could allow James Paxton to go overlooked. Which other pitchers should we target in MLB DFS?

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

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

vs. Atlanta Braves
FanDuel Price: $10,500

Jacob deGrom is the clear top option from the upper-tier of pitchers going tonight. He has scored at least 40 FanDuel points in all but one of his starts so far this season, and his last three starts have been especially good.

Coming off an outing where he struck out 8 Padres over 7.1 scoreless innings, deGrom previously struck out 10 Braves over 7 scoreless on April 21. The rematch tonight is at New York's Citi Field, where deGrom has a career ERA of 2.35 versus 3.47 away from home. deGrom's Mets are also the one of the top favorites on the board (-152), increasing his chances of a win tonight.

deGrom features the slate's lowest xFIP (2.72) and second-highest strikeout rate (31.0%). With the recent success he's had, coupled with his stellar track record at home, deGrom profiles as the number-one cash play on a slate that lacks other high-end options.

Mid-Range Play

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

vs. Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Price: $8,800

After deGrom, the pitching options tonight thin out pretty quickly. The middle tier is littered with upside, but has plenty of question marks as well. While Dylan Bundy and Zack Godley are typically mid-tier targets, they both have tough matchups against the Angels and Dodgers, respectively. The more solid, safer play in this price range is Mariners' lefty James Paxton.

Paxton has an eye-popping strikeout rate at 31.2% (ahead of deGrom), but has a few more glitches on his 2018 resume. His ERA sits at 5.12, but his xFIP of 3.78 suggests that a reversal of fortune is around the corner. Paxton currently has the highest walk rate of his career (4.26 BB/9), so some of the misfortune has been of his own doing.

Fortunately for him, tonight's opponent, the Oakland A's, hit left-handed pitching well, but they have the lowest walk-rate against southpaws in all of baseball (6.2%).

Despite the blemishes that come with a quick glance, Paxton has still registered 46 FanDuel points in three of his last four starts. To boot, Seattle checks in as a huge favorite (-173) in this game, so Paxton should be in line for a win if he can pitch efficiently.

While deGrom is the clear option at the top, Paxton could be a low-owned difference maker in the mid-tier.

Value Option

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels

vs. Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $7,700

A common theme this year has been to attack the San Diego Padres and the Baltimore Orioles offenses, especially with high-strikeout pitchers. Both teams have struggled to score runs and rank first and second in the majors in strikeouts.

Tonight, we get a value option in Andrew Heaney, who profiles very similarly to the aforementioned Paxton. Heaney has registered an astounding 22 punchouts in only 14.1 innings pitched (34.4 % K rate), but his 6.91 ERA is going to scare many away for obvious reasons. A closer look at his peripherals, however, show that he has been much better than his mainline statistics indicate. His .429 BABIP can be attributed to bad luck more than anything else, as his hard-hit rate (34.4%) and 2.35x FIP don't appear to be causes for concern.

The Orioles' offense is attackable, and has been for several seasons, particularly against left-handed pitching. Their 25.7% strikeout rate against lefties is the third-highest in the American League. And to make matters worse, the O's lead the majors in strikeout rate away from home (28.4%), as they are tonight.

Heaney has the potential to twirl a gem tonight. His underlying stats indicate a breakthrough could be on the horizon.

Contrarian Play

Aaron Nola

at Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $8,900

Aaron Nola has been a model of consistency so far in 2018, giving up less than three earned runs in all but one of his six starts. His 18.5% hard-hit rate is the lowest in all of baseball by a full 4% over the closest pitcher, Brandon McCarthy.

The problem with Nola from a fantasy perspective is that his strikeout rate is currently the lowest of his career (19.1%). While he has been a great real-life pitcher for the Phillies, his fantasy production has been somewhat limited.

Fortunately for Nola, he gets to face a Marlins offense that has the sixth-highest strikeout rate (24%) in the National League. Collectively, the Marlins sport the Majors' third-lowest wOBA over the last two weeks (.295), as their early-season hot streak has worn off at the dish.

While, historically, Nola has pitched better at home, he gets a significant ballpark upgrade by getting away from Citizens Bank Park.

If Nola can rediscover his strikeout prowess and continue to induce soft contact, he is going to mow through this Marlins lineup. He has a high floor and the potential to tap into his ceiling, making him a terrific contrarian option tonight.

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.