FanDuel Pitching Primer: Thursday 4/14/22

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. Which pitchers should you consider on today's main slate?

High-Salaried Play

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

Vs. Cincinnati Reds
FanDuel Salary: $10,500

There are a lot of reasons to be bullish on Walker Buehler tonight, and it's no surprise that he stands out with the top projection among pitchers, per our algorithm.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will take aim at reliever Luis Cessa in what appears to be a bullpen game for the Cincinnati Reds. Cessa has pitched twice in middle relief this season, and once you get past him, the Reds boast the sixth-worst team FIP in baseball (4.92). LA is a -128 moneyline favorite, so Buehler has a good shot to get the win.

As for Buehler's skills, he's established himself as one of the game's elite arms. Since the start of 2020, he's spun a 3.74 SIERA with a 26.3% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate.

While we have a few other quality hurlers on the slate, they all have tougher matchups than Buehler does. Shohei Ohtani faces a revamped Texas Rangers lineup that ranks 12th in team wOBA thus far and has been one of the toughest in the league to strike out (16.1% strikeout rate). Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove square off against one another, meaning it could be hard for either to nab a win. Kevin Gausman (New York Yankees) and Sandy Alcantara (Philadelphia Phillies) face top-10 offenses.

All of this makes Buehler a no-brainer pick as the slate's top pitcher. We project him for 35.5 FanDuel points.

Low-Salary Option

JT Brubaker, Pittsburgh Pirates

vs. Washington Nationals
FanDuel Salary: $6,300

After a bit of a rough season-opening go, JT Brubaker might seem like an odd recommendation. Bear with me.

While it's scary to use a lot-salary arm on a slate with so many good pitchers on it, I think Brubaker makes some sense, and using him can help you load up on Coors bats. And Brubaker's numbers last year were probably better than you might think, as he finished with a 4.04 SIERA, 24.0% strikeout rate, and 12.0% swinging-rate. That's not bad at all, especially for a $6,300 salary.

The matchup works, too. The Washington Nationals -- despite the otherworldly performance of Juan Soto -- have stunk at the plate. Their paltry hitting marks read like a warning sign -- fourth-worst in team wOBA (.266), third-worst in ISO (.108), and all paired with a healthy 25.2% strikeout rate.

Another reason to be into Brubaker today is the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates' offense has a spicy matchup against Joan Adon. It's been a brief MLB career for Adon (only 9 2/3 innings pitched), but he's permitted 2.08 home runs per nine. The Pirates are actually favored, giving Brubaker good win equity.

All of this makes Brubaker a respectable dart throw if you're looking for a low-salary pitcher.

Contrarian Play

Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs

at Colorado Rockies
FanDuel Salary: $6,500

Alright, you wanna get nuts? Let's. Get. Nuts.

This game easily sports the highest over/under of the day at 11.0 runs, and with the Rockies favored in this contest, that would naturally imply that Chicago Cubs starter Justin Steele doesn't make for a great play. And I won't pretend like Steele getting torched isn't a possibility. It's Coors.

But, let's go under the hood a little bit with Steele's season-opening start -- five scoreless innings, five whiffs, and a sparkling 23.4% called-plus-swinging-strike rate. He posted a 23.8% strikeout rate and 11.2% swinging-strike rate last year across 57 innings.

While the Rox boast a very solid .340 team wOBA, their .161 ISO and 6.9% walk rate aren't exactly terrifying.

Obviously, as I warned a minute ago, this could go poorly. But Steele won't be in hardly any lineups, and I think he has a shot to turn in a serviceable outing.

Matt Kupferle is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Matt Kupferle also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username MKupferle. 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.