FanDuel Pitching Primer: Tuesday 5/15/18

Fading Gerrit Cole hasn't worked out well this season. Do we plug him in or consider other options 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

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

at Los Angeles Angels
FanDuel Price: $11,800

Gerrit Cole has been unbelievable so far in 2018. If the Cy Young was handed out in May, he would be the unanimous selection in the American League. Pundits have continued to espouse that Cole's numbers are so dominant that they simply aren't sustainable, especially given his history as a solid but unspectacular pitcher. But all Cole continues to do is rack up dominant start after dominant start with no signs of slowing down.

Cole has the second-best ERA (1.43 behind teammate Justin Verlander) and second-lowest WHIP (0.74) in all of baseball. He also leads the majors in strikeout rate (41.4%), xFIP (2.24) and WAR (2.8). He has already had one start against the Angels this season where he took his only loss, allowing two earned over seven innings. The eight strikeouts he had in that contest are actually the second-fewest he has registered in any start this season.

If there is any reason to even consider a fade tonight, it is the matchup with the Angels' high-contact offense. The Halos have the second-lowest strikeout rate in all of baseball at 19.6%, and their .330 wOBA versus right-handed pitching ranks third in all of baseball. That said, Cole and the Astros are still sizable favorites in this contest (-176).

Against a very competent lineup, there is a chance that Cole only reaches his floor in terms of strikeouts tonight. As we have seen, though, his floor is like other pitchers' ceiling, around six or seven. The pesky nature of the LA lineup makes Cole an intriguing fade in tournaments, but for cash you have to ride him out until further notice.

Mid-Range Play

Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

vs. Milwaukee Brewers
FanDuel Price: $9,500

The Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke is an interesting cash option in the mid-tier tonight.

Greinke is doing what he does best so far this season, striking out around a batter-per-inning (9.8 K per 9 innings) while posting a minuscule walk rate (1.11 per 9 innings). Both his xFIP (3.15) and SIERA (3.05) are better than his ERA (3.70), so he has been even better than his surface stats suggest. His strikeout rate of 27.2% is actually the highest it has been since the 2011 season when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.

And speaking of the Brew Crew, Greinke's strikeout projection gets a boost tonight against a team that has the league's sixth-highest strikeout rate against right-handers (24.6%). For a team with some punch up-and-down the lineup, the Brewers still rank in the bottom-half of the majors in wOBA (18th), OPS (17th) and ISO (21st) against righties. To boot, Milwaukee owns the fourth-lowest implied run total (3.58) on the board.

On a 14-game slate with plenty of offensive firepower in the player pool, a case could be made for paying down to Greinke tonight in cash. Cole could just be plug-and-play, but Greinke has merit as a mid-tier salary saver.

Value Option

Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins

vs. St. Louis Cardinals
FanDuel Price: $7,500

The value option for tonight is not for the faint of heart nor is it a cash game recommendation. Looking at game logs, Jose Berrios seems like a logical option to bypass tonight, but he has upside at this price.

It has been a tale of two seasons so far for Berrios, as three of his first four starts were dominant, followed by four poor showings. In each of his last four starts, Berrios has allowed at least four earned runs. He has also registered a paltry 4:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio across his last three outings. His velocity has remained consistent, but he has faced a few higher-contact offenses recently, including the Angels last time out.

Some good news for Berrios is that he gets to return home where he has a 3.74 ERA compared to 5.18 on the road. He has racked up a solid 23:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Target Field while allowing an opponent wOBA of only .240 (compared to .335 on the road).

It's highly recommended to stick with the upper-tier for cash-game options tonight (Cole, Noah Syndergaard, Greinke), but if you want a low-cost pivot to stack up some expensive hitters, the Twins' Jose Berrios enables you to do just that.

Contrarian Play

Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox

vs. Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Price: $7,800

Eduardo Rodriguez profiles very similarly to Jose Berrios. Both pitchers are young flamethrowers with high-upside strikeout potential. They are both occasionally handicapped by their walk rates as well, though.

The difference for E-Rod this season has been an increase in punchouts, which has led to a career-best 29.8% strikeout rate. An 11.8% walk rate has limited his ceiling a bit, as elevated pitch counts have allowed him to eclipse six innings in only one of his seven starts.

The A's present a juicy a matchup for left-handers, as their 6.4% walk rate is tied for the lowest in the majors, while their 23.5% strikeout rate is the seventh-highest in the American League. The Red Sox are tied for the biggest favorite (-180) on the board tonight, so Rodriguez should be in line for a win if the Boston bats get him the support.

Consider Rodriguez as a way to differentiate your tournament lineups this evening. The combination of upside and matchup make him a top contrarian option on this slate.

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.