FanDuel Pitching Primer: Monday 4/18/22
Nailing the pitcher slot is the first step to having success in MLB DFS on FanDuel.
While it's possible to cash if you get a bad outing from a starter, it's markedly easier to do so when you get a good or excellent showing from your pitcher.
Weighing the importance of a pitcher's skill, salary, matchup and park factors is the game within the game in MLB DFS. This piece is your home for a breakdown of the top pitching options each and every day. Let's dig in.
Top of the Heap
Frankie Montas, Athletics ($9,900)
I'm in love with this pitching slate. We have good options at varying salaries, and that makes for a lot of viable paths to lineup construction.
In my eyes, Montas is the best of the bunch tonight regardless of salary. While our projections give that honor to Clayton Kershaw ($11,000), who is taking on the Atlanta Braves, Montas has a much easier matchup at home versus the Baltimore Orioles, and the $1,100 difference in salary is significant, particularly on a Coors slate.
Montas made a leap last season, finishing with a 3.79 SIERA, 26.6% strikeout rate, 7.3% walk rate and 13.7% swinging-strike rate. He kept the ball on the ground plenty and really limited hard contact, holding hitters to a 35.2% fly-ball rate and 30.4% hard-hit rate. He's been solid in difficult road starts against the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays through two starts this season.
Dude checks a lot of boxes, and he's thrown 89 and 92 pitches in his two starts -- so he should be close to a full workload today.
It gets even better as Montas takes it to another level at home, allowing a meager .288 wOBA in the split last year with a 27.2% strikeout rate and 3.51 xFIP.
The O's are a great matchup, too. They sport the sixth-worst wOBA (.280) and second-highest strikeout rate (29.0%) so far in 2022. FanGraphs' rest-of-season projections forecast Baltimore to be the third-worst offense. Baltimore's 3.23 implied total is the second-lowest clip on the slate.
Montas has so much going for him in this one. We project the Oakland righty to amass 37.0 FanDuel points, the second-most on the slate.
Sean Manaea, Padres ($9,700)
Manaea's first two starts as a member of the San Diego Padres have gone really well. That may be a slight understatement, as he's permitted just two earned runs and six base-runners in 13 innings while fanning 13.
Now he gets to throw in pitcher-friendly Petco for the first time in 2022, and he'll be up against a Cincinnati Reds offense that's been bad so far in 2021. The Reds own the third-highest strikeout rate (27.9%) and the lowest wOBA (.250). They just struck out 11 times versus lefty Andrew Heaney, who blanked Cincy for six innings.
Manaea, a fellow lefty, could roll. He was really good in 2021, registering a 3.68 SIERA, 25.7% strikeout rate, 5.4% walk rate and 12.3% swinging-strike rate. And as we touched on, he's looked every bit the part so far this campaign.
The Reds' 3.32 implied total is tied for the third-lowest on the slate, and Manaea projects for 34.1 FanDuel points, per our model. With Manaea and Montas at nearly equal salaries, you can build similar hitting lineups and plug in either one. They're the two guys I'll have the most of tonight.
Shane McClanahan, Rays ($9,200)
On a lot of slates, McClanahan in a delightful matchup against the Chicago Cubs would be a go-to option. He might still wind up with a fairly high draft percentage, but that draft percentage will surely be capped some by the other superb options available to us.
Don't sleep on McClanahan, though, as he could torch the Cubbies, who finished 2021 with a league-high 26.7% strikeout rate.
The Rays' southpaw has been really dang good so far in his MLB career. Across 132 1/3 career frames, McClanahan boasts a 3.55 SIERA, 28.1% strikeout rate and 15.0% swinging-strike rate. He's fanned 15 hitters in just nine innings so far this year.
The lone worry with McClanahan is his lack of efficiency. He got up to 85 pitches last time out, which is a positive sign, but that got him through only 4 2/3 innings. That's been an issue for him. Going back to last regular season, he's now completed six innings in only one of his past 10 outings. For me, that keeps McClanahan a tick below Kershaw and the two guys we just talked about, but he's got the swing-and-miss stuff to do a lot of damage for however long he's in the game.
The weather should help him, too. The temperatures are expected to be in the 30s today in Chicago.
The Cubs' 3.48 implied total is a number we can attack, and our model projects McClanahan for 35.1 FanDuel points, the third-most on the slate.
Eric Lauer, Brewers ($7,100)
I rarely roster a value pitcher, especially when there are a handful of really good high-salary arms on a slate, but there are some reasons to be interested in Lauer today.
Lauer posted decent numbers last year, spinning his way to a 4.24 SIERA, 23.9% strikeout rate and 10.6% swinging-strike rate. The Milwaukee Brewers also let him toss 89 pitches in his first -- and only other -- start of 2022, so there are no worries there.
The biggest reason to be into him today, though, is the matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh was 28th in wOBA last year (.294), and they're not expected to be any better this season, with FanGraphs' rest-of-season projections ranking the Pirates as the second-worst offense. They carry a 3.72 implied total against Lauer.
While passing on all the sublime plays at the top of the pitching pool is risky, Lauer can deliver in this matchup, and the salary savings can be a huge help on a Coors slate. And he's not the only solid low-salary arm on the slate as Luis Garcia ($6,700) comes in at a tasty salary, too.
We project Lauer to score 31.9 FanDuel points, and although we have him as a worse point-per-dollar play than Garcia, I prefer Lauer's matchup against Pittsburgh to Garcia's against the Los Angeles Angels.
Tylor Megill, Mets ($9,000)
Let's get this out of the way at the jump -- there are weather concerns for the New York Mets-San Francisco Giants game. As of early Monday, it looks like rain could arrive an hour or so after the first pitch, and that makes Megill a tough sell as it is terrifying to use a pitcher in a game that carries delay risk.
It's imperative to keep up with the weather as the day progresses if you're thinking about plugging in Megill. With that said, if the forecast improves and there isn't much risk of a delay, Megill is a fun tourney play who is sure to go overlooked among a sea of good pitching choices.
Megill had a really good campaign last year that flew a bit under the radar. In 89 1/3 innings, he totaled a 3.85 SIERA with a 26.1% strikeout rate that was backed up by a 12.1% swinging-strike rate.
We need to be careful putting too much stock into two outings, but Megill might be taking a step forward this season as he's punched out 11 in 10 1/3 innings without surrendering a run or a walk. His average fastball velocity this year is 96.5 MPH -- up from a mark of 94.7 MPH a year ago. Again, we're talking about two starts, but I'm intrigued.
The Giants have a slate-low 3.13 implied total, so oddsmakers are at least somewhat buying into Megill's lights-out start.
The only concern with Megill in DFS right now -- other than weather today -- is that he's maxed out at 76 pitches so far. He'll have to be extremely sharp, as he has been, to pay off this salary if he's kept under 80 pitches. But if the leash is longer and the weather checks out, Megill has all the makings of a guy who could pop at a low draft percentage.
Quick Mound Visits:
Clayton Kershaw ($11,000): Matchup, salary and plethora of good alternatives have me looking elsewhere. He might wind up being a great leverage play.
Aaron Nola ($9,500): GPP-only option at Coors. Had a 29.8% strikeout rate last year, so he can deliver if he's on. Super risky given the other quality options.
Alex Cobb ($8,800): Ten strikeouts in his first start after a productive 2021. But tough matchup against the Mets and weather concerns.
Luis Garcia ($6,700): Recorded a 3.91 SIERA and 13.4% swinging-strike rate as a rookie. Rare to get access to those numbers for this salary.