FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 7/20/18

Even on a hot night in Texas, Trevor Bauer is top dog among Friday's pitching options. Who else should you target?

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

Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians

at Texas Rangers
FanDuel Price: $12,200

Trevor Bauer comes out of the All-Star break looking to build off the success he enjoyed in the first half of the season. The Indians' righty posted a shiny 31.4% strikeout rate in the first half, with a 3.08 SIERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He's already had eight double-digit strikeout games this year, and he has a good chance to rack up another one tonight against the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers have the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the big leagues (24.8%), and they are in the bottom of the half of the league in wOBA (19th) and OPS (20th). The implied run total for Texas opened at about 4.4 runs, but has since dropped to 4.04. Bauer does get a negative park shift in Arlington, and it is going to be blistering hot, so he does have a few things working against him here.

Paying all the way up for Bauer tonight offers the most safety, but there are a ton of good mid-tier options on this slate. If you can get to him with some value bats, go for it, but he is certainly not a must-play tonight. That said, it's hard to argue with his production.

Mid-Range Play

Jake Arrieta, Philadelphia Phillies

vs. San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $8,000

One of those strong mid-tier options going tonight is the Phillies' Jake Arrieta. Arrieta has perhaps the most limited upside of any pitcher, but he does have one of the highest possible floors. Since reinventing himself as more of a soft-contact, ground-ball pitcher, Arrieta has seen a drastic decline in strikeouts over the last several years. He was up over a 27% strikeout rate in 2014 and 2015, then dropped a bit to just above 23% in 2016 and 2017, and now is sitting at just 17.0% this season. While the fantasy appeal has waned, Arrieta is still a good "real-life" pitcher, as evidenced by his 3.23 ERA.

The biggest reason Arrieta is in play tonight in cash games is the matchup he gets with the San Diego Padres. We all know the drill by now -- righties against the Padres are always appealing, and there is built-in upside with San Diego's league-worst 25.5% strikeout rate. The Padres are also at or near the bottom in almost every major offensive category.

The veteran right-hander would be an even better play if this game were being played at Petco Park, as Philly's Citizen's Bank Park is much more favorable to offenses. Still, San Diego is projected for just 3.55 runs tonight, and Philadelphia is a large -163 favorite. Look for Arrieta to post a quality start with a handful of strikeouts, while allowing you to spend up on some of the high-priced bats in the Boston and Cleveland lineups.

Value Option

Nathan Eovaldi, Tampa Bay Rays

vs. Miami Marins
FanDuel Price: $7,200

Nathan Eovaldi is coming off a real stinker of a game against the Twins, where he was rocked for 8 earned runs over 2.2 innings. The good news is that prior to that start, Eovaldi had allowed only 2 earned runs with 23 strikeouts over his previous 19 innings. On the year, the Rays' right-hander has posted a 22.5% strikeout rate with a solid 3.58 SIERA. A good matchup with the Miami Marlins should get him back on track, too.

Miami really struggled offensively in the first half, as they ranked last in ISO (.123) and 27th in wOBA (.298). They do get to add a DH tonight moving to an American League park, but Vegas still has them pegged for a slate-low 3.32 runs. With so many solid pitchers going tonight, it is certainly interesting that Eovaldi's opponent is the team with the lowest projected run total.

Eovaldi is an excellent source of salary relief in both cash games and tournaments. He has a solid floor given the matchup with the Marlins, and he has shown some upside in his recent starts. Overall, he is one of the best point-per-dollar plays on the board.

Contrarian Play

Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals

vs. Minnesota Twins
FanDuel Price: $7,500

Danny Duffy has been rolling of late, posting 43 or more FanDuel points in 4 of his last 5 starts. Despite the recent surge in production, though, Duffy and the Kansas City Royals are still +112 underdogs, and the Minnesota Twins are projected for 4.41 runs. As a result, Duffy should go largely ignored tonight, making him an intriguing contrarian play.

The Twins have the sixth-highest strikeout rate (23.8%) against southpaws in the majors, and they have the third-lowest ISO against lefties (.128). They do jump up to 18th in team wOBA (.308) against lefties, but this is a team that has generally struggled in the split.

To be frank, I'm not really sure why the Twins are projected for so much success against a very hot pitcher on the road, and in a pitcher's park at that. Perhaps Vegas is leaning heavily on Duffy's horrendous home splits, where he has a 6.75 ERA over 37.1 innings. The sample is pretty small there, and historically Duffy has pitched to just a 4.08 mark at home in his career.

Duffy represents a tremendous bargain tonight, and while I won't go as far as recommending him for cash games, it would be smart to go overweight on him in tournaments.

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.