FanDuel Pitching Primer: Monday 7/11/22

Max Scherzer was excellent in his first start off the shelf. Should you roster him in a tough spot at the Braves, or should you save salary at pitcher in an effort to stack Coors?

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

Max Scherzer, Mets ($10,700)

Scherzer looked a lot like the usual Scherzer in his first start off the injured list, fanning 11 in six shutout innings at the Cincinnati Reds. It was glorious.

The only thing that was atypical of a Scherzer start was the low pitch count, which was to be expected as he ramps back up. Scherzer got to 79 pitches, but with him throwing 80 in one of his rehab starts, he probably had more in the tank. The New York Mets will likely be more willing to let him push closer to 100 pitches tonight.

While the matchup is a tough one against the Atlanta Braves, a team boasting the third-highest wOBA (.330), Scherzer is still the top guy in my eyes -- and by a healthy margin.

His season-long 32.7% strikeout rate is a slate-best mark by nearly five percentage points, and Atlanta has plenty of swing and miss in their lineup, holding baseball's fourth-highest strikeout rate (24.4%). Atlanta's 3.91 implied total is a number we can feel pretty good about.

The only issue with using Scherzer tonight is his $10,700 salary on a slate where Coors is super appealing (11.5-run over/under). However, the Coors salaries aren't too bad, and there's enough value out there overall that you can roster Scherzer and still get plenty of Coors.

There's some risk here due to the Braves' power and this being only Scherzer's second start off the shelf. He's still the clear SP1 for me, though.

Tournament Options

Aaron Nola, Phillies ($10,100)

Both of these tournament options are quality pitchers in tough matchups, and as of early Monday, I'm operating under the assumption that Scherzer winds up being a good bit more popular than either of these two.

Our model is super into Nola and not as high on Scherzer, projecting Nola for a slate-best 39.9 FanDuel points -- 6.0 more than Scherzer. I'm not quite on board with that, but there's definitely a case to be made for pivoting to Nola if he's expected to be a lot less popular than Scherzer.

Although the matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals is far from ideal, the Cards' 3.64 implied total is the third-lowest of the night. Nola has the ability to deliver in this spot. He's spun a 2.92 SIERA, 27.8% strikeout rate, and 3.5% walk rate in 2022. The walk rate and SIERA are career-best numbers.

Draft percentage projections will shape how much I'm willing to play Nola in GPPs. In cash games, I will find the extra $600 for Scherzer.

Max Fried, Braves ($10,400)

I almost always have a hard time getting excited to plug in Fried in DFS. He is a really good pitcher in real life, but for DFS, I worry about his upside due to a good-not-great strikeout rate, which stands at 23.5% this season. He just doesn't get the whiffs that Nola and Scherzer do, and that lowers his ceiling.

With that said, if you're playing a large number of lineups, it's worth it to sprinkle in some Fried. He's been incredibly reliable in DFS, scoring between 40 and 49 points in seven of his past eight outings, including four straight.

The New York Mets are in a funk offensively of late, sitting just 23rd in wOBA (.302) over the last 30 days, and they rank 19th in wOBA against lefties (.310) for the campaign. The Mets' 3.59 implied total is the second-lowest of the night.

We project Fried for 36.1 FanDuel points, and with a salary between Nola's and Scherzer's, he might slip through the cracks.

Low-Salary Plays

Alex Cobb, Giants ($8,400)

The story continues with Cobb -- he's pitching much better than the results he's getting. He'll continue to be a serviceable value pick until his salary rises, something that won't happen until the results improve.

That process can start today during a home date with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona checks in 26th in wOBA (.300) with the 11th-highest strikeout rate (26.2%). They're a superb matchup, showing the lowest implied total (3.41). Oracle Park helps, too, as it is third-lowest in home run park factor.

Cobb has recorded a 3.04 SIERA, 24.1% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate. He's been hard done by in terms of BABIP (.348, fourth-highest among pitchers with 50-plus innings) and strand rate (56.9%, lowest among said group).

Cobb is a viable way to save coin on the bump and will allow you to stack Coors in ways those who use the three aforementioned pitchers can't.

Brayan Bello, Red Sox ($6,000)

If you want to get weird, you can take a shot on Bello.

Let's start with the positives. The $6,000 salary gives you the freedom to go nuts with your bats -- read: stack up Coors while nabbing elite high-salary one-offs elsewhere. And Bello was dominant this year in Triple-A, posting a 34.4% strikeout rate and 16.2% swinging-strike rate in 51 1/3 innings. He's capable of doing work versus a Tampa Bay Rays lineup that is 25th in wOBA (.301) and will be without Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier.

On the contrary, Bello is salaried where he is for a reason. In his MLB debut last week, which came against these same Rays, Bello managed just four innings and allowed four earned runs while walking three and fanning just two. Not good. Walks were an issue for him in Triple-A (10.0% walk rate), as well. He also threw just 79 pitches, although he was likely removed due to ineffectiveness instead of pitch-count concerns.

Admittedly, there is gobs of risk here. Bello could turn in another dud, or even if he does well, he might top out around just 20ish FanDuel points, something that is unlikely to get the job done on a slate with Scherzer, Nola and Fried.

But his minor-league stats are super intriguing, and so is the salary on a Coors slate. He's at least worth thinking about as a dart throw.

Quick Mound Visits:
Lance Lynn ($8,600): Best of the rest for me. Taking on the Guardians, who just made Zack Greinke look good yesterday. Has a 12.6% swinging-strike rate through 27 innings this year. Gone at least 99 pitches in three of his five starts, so the workload is excellent.
Miles Mikolas ($8,800): Might offer more strikeout juice than what we're used to. Strikeout rate is at 21.1% over his last six starts, with single-game strikeout rates of 39.1% and 34.6% in that span. Matchup with Phillies isn't too scary.

Spencer Howard ($5,900): The Athletics' offense is hot trash, and Howard owns a decent 23.6% strikeout rate since the start of 2021. An attackable 3.81 implied total for the A's. Could instead target low-salary bats against Howard.