FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 5/30/18

Max Scherzer headlines the pitching options on tonight's main slate. Does he have competition for the number-one spot?

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

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

at Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $11,800

Max Scherzer showed that he was actually human in his last start, as he managed to strike out only four Miami Marlins on his way to scoring a season-low 24 FanDuel points. The four earned runs he allowed also marked the only time this season he has allowed more than two earned runs. Other than that, yes, he has been that good.

We aren't going to let one mediocre outing put a dent into what Max has done to this point, or what he is about to do tonight against the Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals' ace still possesses a career-best 38.2% strikeout rate, along with a 0.91 WHIP and .180 opponent batting average.

The Orioles have the second-highest strikeout rate in the American League at 24.7%, and they are implied at only 3.54 runs tonight. Scherzer has the ballpark and the addition of the designated hitter working against him, but his strikeout upside in this matchup is immense.

Checking in as one of the biggest favorites on the slate (-207), Scherzer is the clear high-end play if you can afford him. And you definitely want some exposure in tournaments as well.

Mid-Range Play

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

vs. Texas Rangers
FanDuel Price: $9,800

An argument could be made that James Paxton is just as good of a cash play as Scherzer tonight. Paxton and the Seattle Mariners are the largest favorites (-275) on the slate, and the Rangers are implied to score a slate-low 2.88 runs as of this afternoon.

Paxton has been awesome of late, tallying at least 55 FanDuel points in four of his last five starts. The lefties' strikeout rate is also a career-high (32.7%), and his opponent batting average (.185) is right there with Scherzer.

The Rangers strike out a ton against left-handers (26%), but their ISO is second in the American League against them (.190). Paxton is only allowing 1.03 home runs per nine innings, so he should be able to neutralize the Rangers' boom-or-bust power.

Paxton and Scherzer have similar floors tonight, and, although Max probably has a higher ceiling, you can save $2,000 here. That is going to go a long way with another Coors Field game on the slate.

Value Option

Joe Musgrove, Pittsburgh Pirates

vs. Chicago Cubs
FanDuel Price: $5,500

If you want to go off the board a bit and pay minimum salary for a pitcher coming off of a gem, look no further than Pirates' hurler Joe Musgrove.

Musgrove finally made his 2018 debut last week and promptly tossed seven shutout innings with seven punchouts against the Cardinals. The efficiency with which Musgrove rolled was quite impressive, as he needed only 67 pitches to cruise through 7 innings.

The matchup is not ideal against a Cubs offense that is third in team wOBA (.337), fifth in ISO (.176) and doesn't strike out a ton (eighth-lowest K%), but the potential upside of loading up on hitters tonight is certainly attractive for GPPs.

On the plus side, the Cubs' ISO also does drop to .166 away from Wrigley Field, and PNC Park is a much better pitcher's park, so there is hope that Musgrove is able to keep the ball in the yard here. If he can manage a quality start and rack up a few strikeouts, you will be sitting pretty with the hitters you will be able to fit in your lineups.

Contrarian Play

Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics

vs. Tampa Bay Rays
FanDuel Price: $8,200

Sean Manaea has pieced together a solid season to this point for the Oakland Athletics, although he has struggled a bit since tossing a no-hitter back on April 21st. Still, his ERA is a respectable 3.34 despite a strikeout rate that is now down to 18.9%.

The good news for the left-hander is the matchup at home with the Tampa Bay Rays is one of the best on the slate. The Rays strike out at a 24.7% clip versus southpaws (third-most in the AL), giving Manaea a chance to improve on his pedestrian totals to date. And to make matters better, Tampa's .150 ISO against lefties is also 20th in all of baseball.

Manaea has shown better splits at home, as his .235 wOBA allowed is much better than his .300 wOBA on the road. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is one of the best pitcher's parks in the American League, further boosting his floor here.

Manaea has considerable upside in this spot, and figures to be very contrarian with Scherzer and Paxton dominating ownership this evening.

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.