FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 5/4/18

Do we need to jam in Gerrit Cole on tonight's main slate? Or are there other viable options at cheaper prices?

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 Arizona Diamondbacks
FanDuel Price: $11,000

Gerrit Cole has turned a lot of the soft contact he generated in 2017 into strikeouts in 2018. He has seen his strikeout percentage jump from 23.1% last year with the Pirates to a league-leading 39.4% this year for the Astros.

Cole is the biggest favorite of the night (-187) and his opponent, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are projected for the slates' second-lowest run total (3.63 runs). Also working in Cole's favor is that Chase Field has seen a decline in offensive production due to the addition of a humidor this season.

The D'Backs' offense provides a good matchup for Cole, as they are tied for third in the Majors in strikeout rate (25%) and are just middle-of-the-pack in team wOBA and hard-hit percentage against right-handed pitching. There are a few other options to consider in cash tonight, but Cole provides the best combination of safety and built-in upside.

Mid-Range Play

JA Happ, Toronto Blue Jays

at Tampa Bay Rays
FanDuel Price: $9,500

J.A. Happ has been on a tear to start the season, and he gets a prime matchup tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jays' left-hander has whiffed at least eight batters in all but one start so far in 2018. He has also tallied 52 FanDuel points in three of his last four starts, and has not walked a batter over his last 14 innings. And Happ's current marks of a 34% strikeout rate and a 4.8% walk rate are both career-bests.

The Rays have the third-highest OPS and wOBA against left-handed pitching this season, but at home they drop to 14th in both of those categories. To add to that, Tampa's Tropicana Field is a substantial upgrade in terms of being a pitcher's park in comparison to Toronto's Rogers Centre.

Happ gives Gerrit Cole a run for his money as the best cash option tonight. With 15 games on tap, there will be plenty of high-end bats to choose from. Taking the savings from Cole to Happ could mean a major upgrade to your hitters without sacrificing a whole lot of production.

Value Option

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $7,700

"Buehler......Buehler....." How can you not say that out loud to yourself when you see Walker Buehler's name?

Anyway, the 23-year old right-hander gets the best matchup on the board, in terms of opposing offense and ballpark. The Padres have the worst strikeout rate (26.9%) in the major leagues, the second-lowest wOBA in the National League, and Petco Park has long been known in fantasy circles as a pitcher's paradise.

Buehler himself has been sharp through his first two starts with the Dodgers, registering a 1.80 ERA with a solid 25.6% strikeout rate through 10 innings. The one concern we always have with Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts is his quick hook to the bullpen, as Buehler has only thrown five innings in both of his starts. Given the matchup, however, he should be able to do enough damage to pay off this price tag, even in limited action.

Buehler provides a great floor tonight, and if the Dodgers are more flexible with his pitch count, he could end up being the best point-per-dollar play on the slate. Fire him up as a value option if you want to load up on higher-priced bats.

Contrarian Play

Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins

at Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $8,400

It will be interesting to see where Twins' hurler Jose Berrios' ownership lands tonight following two subpar outings in a row. Game-log checkers will see his dud against the Yankees in New York (4 IP, 5 ER) followed by a disaster against the Reds (3 IP, 4 ER, 0 Ks) and quickly move on to other options. Before those two starts, the young gun had racked up at least 40 FanDuel points in three of his first four starts.

Despite not recording a strikeout in his last appearance, Berrios' strikeout percentage sits at a healthy 26.3% on the year. His FIP of 2.84 is nearly a full run below his current ERA (3.63) and his 4.4% walk rate is currently a career-best.

The right-hander already dominated this White Sox' offense once this year, as he punched out 11 over 7 scoreless innings on April 12. Chicago has the third-highest strikeout rate (24.7%) in the American League, as well as the fifth-lowest ISO at home (.143), which sets up well for Berrios to dominate again.

Berrios is even in cash-game consideration if you want to drop below the prices of Cole ($11,000) and Happ ($9,500). His ownership should be low given his recent form, but he's due to bounce back tonight in Chicago.

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.