FanDuel Pitching Primer: Tuesday 7/24/18

Matched up against the lowly Padres offense, Zack Wheeler makes for a strong play tonight. Which other pitchers should you be rolling out?

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

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

vs. San Francisco Giants
FanDuel Price: $9,300

There are a few high-end spends on the slate tonight, but they all have questionable matchups or are pitching in hitter's parks. James Paxton has question marks himself, but due to the massive discount he profiles as the clear-cut high-priced option.

Paxton left his previous start after only 0.2 innings due to back discomfort, but he has had 12 days off thanks to the All-Star break and was able to throw a 40-pitch bullpen session with no issues. Even if Paxton is somewhat limited in the sense that he may not eclipse 100 pitches, he has been very efficient this year and should have no problem tonight. Paxton's 32.2% strikeout rate jumps off the page, and his 2.97 SIERA is equally impressive.

The matchup against the San Francisco Giants is appealing, as they are bottom-ten in wOBA (21st) and ISO (24th) against southpaws this season. The Giants are a predominately right-handed offense, leading to a relatively low strikeout rate against lefties (21.4%), but Paxton has had big strikeout games against low-strikeout teams this season (double-digits against both Kansas City (2x) and Tampa Bay).

Vegas doesn't seem too concerned about Paxton's health as the Giants are implied for a slate-low 3.19 runs and the Mariners are -189 favorites. Plug in Paxton as a high-floor cash game play with some sneaky upside for tournaments.

Mid-Range Play

Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

vs. San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $9,000

Zack Wheeler is only $300 cheaper than James Paxton, but he is definitely a "mid-tier" play tonight. $9,000 is more than I want to spend on someone with Wheeler's production, but facing the Padres usually proves to be a worthwhile investment.

On the season, Wheeler's numbers look very pedestrian -- a 3-6 record with a 4.10 SIERA and a 23% strikeout rate. However, as our own Jim Sannes points out, Wheeler has been limiting hard contact at a crazy rate over the last month. If you look at his game logs, he has actually been consistently good over his last eight starts. In seven of those eight, he pitched at least six innings, and he struck out eight in the one he didn't. He's struck out at least seven in five of his last six outings, and these starts were against decent offenses or in hitter's parks. Tonight, he gets to pitch at home in a pitcher's park, and his Mets are solid -133 favorites on the moneyline.

If you've read this column throughout the year, you know what's coming next. Yes, the Padres' offense is terrible. Yes, we want to target the Padres with right-handed pitching. Rinse, repeat.

San Diego is one of the worst offenses in the league in most statistical categories, and most importantly for fantasy purposes, they strike out more than any team in the majors (25.6%).

If you are concerned with James Paxton's health in cash games, I can't fault you for pivoting to Wheeler. He offers a similar floor, and his upside may be sneaky in this matchup.

Value Option

Felix Pena, Los Angeles Angels

vs. Chicago White Sox
FanDuel Price: $7,100

The Chicago White Sox are quickly becoming the Padres of the American League. They are actually tied with the Padres for the highest strikeout rate in the bigs, and they are below league-average in ISO (18th) and wOBA (23rd) against righties.

Felix Pena gets to square off against the Sox tonight, and his Angels are massive -197 favorites. Pena has been steady in his five appearances as a starter, though manager Mike Scioscia hasn't allowed Pena to pitch more than 5.1 innings after converting him from a relief role. Pena has recorded at least five punchouts in each of those starts, however, and given the nature of the Chicago offense, this could be the spot where he is able to go deep in the game. Along with an above-average 28.3% strikeout rate, Pena has a solid 3.28 SIERA and 52.5% groundball rate to his name.

We have eight offenses projected for five or more runs tonight. If you want to save some money at pitcher, Pena gives you the most upside in a great matchup. With the strikeout-happy nature of the White Sox, he's also relatively safe for cash games as well.

Contrarian Play

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

at Colorado Rockies
FanDuel Price: $9,900

No one is going to play Gerrit Cole tonight. On most nights, I wouldn't play Gerrit Cole in Coors Field either. However, with the question marks attached to the pricey options at the top, Cole possesses a similar ceiling at quite a discount -- and certainly at lower ownership.

Cole has pitched just as well when the Astros are on the road (2.53 ERA) as he has at home this year (2.52 ERA). He pitched well in his only other career start in Colorado (two earned runs over six innings), and his strikeout "stuff" (35.2% K rate) will help to alleviate the thin air of Coors Field.

I don't need to tell you how prolific of an offense the Rockies are at home. However, you are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle here. Cole is definitely a tournament-only play, and one that you certainly don't want to have high exposure to. It is interesting that Vegas has the Rockies projected for only 4.60 runs here as they are usually around five-plus runs on most Coors nights.

If Cole throws up a bunch of zeroes with double-digit strikeouts, which he is certainly capable of doing at any venue, you are going to be up on 90-95% of the field at the pitcher position. Live dangerously, because the reward is worth the risk in this spot.

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.