FanDuel Pitching Primer: Monday 5/23/22

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

Gerrit Cole, Yankees ($11,000)

Cole is the best pitching option on this slate. For the year, he's got a 2.99 SIERA, 28.5% strikeout rate, 6.7% walk rate, and 15.2% swinging-strike rate. He's been outstanding.

The New York Yankees' ace is at home against the Baltimore Orioles. He faced the O's last time out and punched out five over seven frames of two-run ball. The five strikeouts are a bit underwhelming, but Cole recorded a solid 13.4% swinging-strike rate in the start. He's also gone at least 97 pitches in three straight appearances, with a high of 114 in that span.

Baltimore's 2.79 implied total is a slate-low mark, and we project Cole to post 41.4 FanDuel points, 6.0 more than any other hurler. His floor/ceiling combination is unmatched on this slate. While Cole will be chalk and carries a big salary, I think he's chalk worth swallowing tonight.

Tournament Options

Zack Wheeler, Phillies ($10,300)

After a slow start to the year, Wheeler has picked it up of late, registering at least seven strikeouts in four straight starts. In 20 innings in May, he's allowed a measly .249 wOBA with a 31.1% strikeout rate and 2.7% walk rate. Yes, please.

If Wheeler had a great matchup, I think you could place him on the same tier as Cole, but Wheeler gets a rough draw versus the Atlanta Braves, a team FanGraphs' rest-of-season projections have as the second-best offense. Atlanta's 3.80 implied total is more than a full run above the Orioles' number.

With that said, Atlanta hasn't been a very good offense so far, and they're striking out 26.7% of the time, the highest rate in the game. Wheeler can do some damage if he's on, and he isn't going to be as popular as Cole.

It all adds up to Wheeler being a fun high-salary pivot for tournaments. Our algorithm has him scoring 35.1 FanDuel points, the second-most on the slate.

Luis Garcia, Astros ($10,100)

Garcia is another intriguing GPP play.

After a breakout 2021 in which he finished with a 3.91 SIERA and 26.4% strikeout rate, Garcia is putting up similar numbers this year, holding a 3.44 SIERA and 26.6% strikeout rate. Prior to scoring 15 FanDuel points last time out in a tough spot at the Boston Red Sox, Garcia had put up 48 and 55 FanDuel points in his past two starts.

Garcia's matchup with the Cleveland Guardians is a neutral one. FanGraphs' rest-of-projections have them as the 14th-worst offense the rest of the way, and they're 13th in wOBA so far (.313). Cleveland has been handed a 3.61 implied total today.

At a projection of 30.7 FanDuel points, per our model, Garcia rates out as the slate's number-four arm, and with Wheeler so close in salary, the Houston Astros' right-hander should slip through the cracks.

Low-Salary Options

Alex Cobb, Giants ($7,200)

This doesn't need to be complicated.

Cobb has pitched to a 2.55 SIERA, 28.1% strikeout rate, and 12.0% swinging-strike rate, and he comes in at a $7,200 salary. Even before factoring in Cobb's lowly salary, I think you can make a case for him right alongside Wheeler and Garcia in the tier below Cole. But once you toss his $7,200 salary into the mix, Cobb might be the second-best pitching option tonight.

A home matchup with the New York Mets is a somewhat difficult spot, but Cobb has been dealing at home of late, fanning 14 over 10 1/3 innings across his past two home starts. The Mets' 3.70 implied total is a number we can feel good about.

The lone blemish on Cobb's resume is his workload as he's gone past 85 pitches just once this year. But with 85 and 92 pitches in his past two outings, Cobb's pitch count is trending in the right direction.

We project Cobb for 28.3 FanDuel points, and he's a sweet point-per-dollar play.

Nick Martinez, Padres ($8,500)

Martinez checks some boxes, too.

Across his first 34 2/3 frames this campaign, Martinez has amassed a 3.76 SIERA, 25.0% strikeout rate, and 13.2% swinging-strike rate. He's flashed big-time swing-and-miss stuff in his last two appearances, racking up single-game swinging-strike rates of 18.5% and 16.0% -- though the 18.5% mark came in a four-inning relief stint.

Similar to Cobb, the workload is the biggest hurdle with Martinez. He threw 50 pitches in the aforementioned long-relief appearance, and he went only 81 pitches in his most recent start. He has, however, gotten up to 102 pitches twice in starts earlier this season, so there's a chance he's able to go fairly deep today if he's throwing well.

He gets the Milwaukee Brewers at home. Milwaukee has the 12th-highest strikeout rate (23.8%), but they also boast the 5th-best wOBA (.323). Petco Park should help Martinez.

Martinez is a notch or two below Cobb when it comes to this slate's value options, but he's a serviceable play. We forecast him to tally 27.7 FanDuel points.

Quick Mound Visits:
Adrian Houser ($9,400): Owner of an 18.0% strikeout rate since the start of last year. Ceiling isn't high enough to come close to justifying this salary.
Marco Gonzales ($8,200): Matchup with the Athletics is a great one, but with a 17.5% strikeout rate since the start of 2021, Gonzales has very little strikeout juice.
Jose Berrios ($7,500): A big name at a small salary, but the salary is deserved. Berrios has a 15.3% strikeout rate and 7.9% swinging-strike rate. Rough matchup at the Cardinals, too. No thanks.