FanDuel Pitching Primer: Wednesday 8/15/18

Gerrit Cole is primed for a big night as he and the Houston Astros host the Colorado Rockies. Which arms should you be targeting for cash and tournaments on Wednesday night?

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

vs. Colorado Rockies
FanDuel Price: $10,400

Just like last night, with teammate Justin Verlander (struck out 11 in 6 innings), Gerrit Cole finds himself in a plus matchup tonight against the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies are a much different offense away from Coors Field, where they rank in the upper echelon of offenses in most statistical categories. However, on the road, Colorado drops to the bottom-half of the majors in isolted power (ISO; 15th), weighted on-base average (wOBA; 21st) and on-base plus slugging (OPS; 21st). Vegas has them pegged for just 3.17 runs in this one, which is the lowest mark on the slate.

Cole continues to truck along in a stellar 2018 season, posting a 2.75 ERA with a 34.2% strikeout rate, while limiting hard contact to just 33.0%. His home versus road splits essentially mirror each other, but he has allowed just a .248 wOBA to opposing batters at Minute Maid Park, compared to .265 on the road.

With Houston being a large -195 favorite here, Cole is the easy decision for cash games. His price is more than affordable, as there are once again some cheap bats that we can take advantage of in good spots.

Mid-Range Play

Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians

at Cincinnati Reds
FanDuel Price: $7,900

Shane Bieber certainly didn't disappoint his last time out, as he punched out 8 White Sox over 6.2 scoreless innings on his way to 48 FanDuel points.

Bieber's strikeout numbers have been consistently good throughout the year, and he checks into this one with a solid 24.3% strikeout rate. His peripherals aren't ideal, as his 41.4% hard-hit rate is a little high for our liking, but his 3.51 SIERA does outpace his 4.24 ERA by a good margin.

The matchup here is nothing special, as Cincinnati has above-average bats like Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez littered throughout their lineup. As a team, the Reds have the 10th-lowest strikeout rate, at 21.3%, but they are just 25th in ISO against right-handed pitching (.141). Bieber gets a fairly substantial park downgrade, as Great American Ballpark tends to be rather kind to offenses. He doesn't have to deal with the DH, however, and gets the added bonus of facing the opposing pitcher a few times.

If you want a high-upside tournament play in the middle tier, Bieber stands out as an intriguing choice tonight. Cleveland is a -166 favorite, so Vegas certainly expects Bieber to notch another win in this one.

Value Option

Kevin Gausman, Atlanta Braves

vs. Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $7,200

Kevin Gausman looks to be way too cheap tonight, and he is a guy we can target at a low cost in order to afford some high-priced hitters.

Gausman will be making his third start for the Atlanta Braves since coming over from the Baltimore Orioles, and he absolutely dominated in his last appearance, racking up 55 FanDuel points against the Milwaukee Brewers. The "stuff" has always been there for Gausman, but now he gets a better opportunity with his move to the National League. Specifically for tonight, Gausman gets to toe the rubber against a team that he profiles positively against. His major blip has always been hard-contact and high fly balls to both sides of the plate, but he should be able to skate by tonight.

The Miami Marlins are a team that projects to struggle against a pitcher like Gausman, as they tend to play into the hands of fly-ball pitchers due to their league-worst .122 ISO. With the loss of Justin Bour --- who was recently traded to the Phillies --- this lineup becomes even more targetable. Miami is also 11th in terms of strikeout rate versus righties (22.6%), and they've struck out a combined 13 times against starters Mike Foltynewicz and Anibal Sanchez so far in this series. Atlanta is also the largest favorite on the board tonight, at a -224 moneyline.

While Gausman is certainly a salary-saving tournament option, I don't think you're crazy if you play him in cash tonight. The $3,200 saving from Cole is significant, and if you are stuck on paying up for some stud hitters, Gausman allows you to do just that. He has a pretty stable floor due to the matchup, and as he showed his last time out, has a considerable ceiling as well.

Contrarian Play

Zack Wheeler, New York Mets

at Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $10,000

Zack Wheeler will likely go overlooked for a few reasons tonight. First and foremost, he is at an awkward price point just below Gerrit Cole, but a bit pricier than the mid-tier. Most will just find the extra $400 to pay up for Cole, especially in cash games. Furthermore, seeing "$10,000" next to Wheeler's name just doesn't look right. And lastly, people are going to shy away due to the context of the matchup, including a very negative park shift to Camden Yards, as well as Wheeler having to face a DH instead of the opposing pitcher.

Despite being a bit overpriced, Wheeler deserves to be the second-most expensive pitcher on tonight's slate. I did a double-take when looking at his game logs, as he has quietly put together quality outing after quality outing for the Mets. Here are his FanDuel point totals over his last eight outings, starting with his most recent appearance: 49, 58, 49, 34, 38, 29, 32 and 46. He has been extremely consistent, and his 23.8% strikeout rate should play well tonight against the Orioles.

Baltimore's offense has been better recently despite losing Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, but they are still an offense we would like to pick on at this point in the season. Overall, they rank 23rd in wOBA versus righties (.308), and they strikeout at the sixth-highest clip (23.9%). They do have the ninth-highest ISO against righties, at .170, but that number is inflated by the departing stats of Machado and Schoop. Over the last two weeks, their ISO has remained steady at .175, but their strikeout rate has jumped all the way up to 25.9%.

Wheeler will be contrarian tonight in tournaments, and while I want Gerrit Cole in cash, Wheeler is just as appealing as the Astros' stud for GPPs. The favorable hitting conditions in Baltimore, as well as the Orioles' 4.44 implied total, will scare people off. At lower ownership, Wheeler is a great pivot off of Cole at the top.

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.