FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 8/17/18

Max Scherzer is the top cash-game play, but Carlos Carrasco is one of a few high-ceiling arms we can look to in tournaments. Which other pitchers should be on our radar?

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

Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

vs. Miami Marlins
FanDuel Price: $12,200

At this point, what else is there to be said about Max Scherzer? Any time he toes the rubber, he is the best play on the board. It's just a matter of if we make the salary the work, and with some cheap(ish) bats in Texas, it's certainly doable in cash games.

Scherzer checks into this one with a 15-5 record, 2.19 ERA and a jaw-dropping 34.6% strikeout rate. He's allowing minimal hard contact (30.9%), and he's been at another level recently, as he has whiffed double-digits in three of his last four outings. Just three weeks ago, he dominated this Marlins squad to the tune of eight scoreless innings with 11 punchouts en route to a whopping 67 FanDuel points.

Miami is certainly an offense worth targeting with opposing pitchers, especially after they dealt slugger Justin Bour. Their .118 ISO is the worst in baseball, and that number drops to .092 over the last two weeks, also the worst in baseball, and that includes seven days of Bour in the lineup.

Mad Max is the lock-and-load cash play, but it's at least intriguing to consider some cheaper arms with upside in tournaments. As a -360 favorite in this one, it's hard to see him not dominating once again.

Mid-Range Play

Charlie Morton, Houston Astros

at Oakland Athletics
FanDuel Price: $9,800

If you are looking to be different in tournaments tonight while still possessing some upside, Charlie Morton is at the top of that list in the mid-range.

Morton has certainly experienced some regression after a blistering start, but his numbers --- 12-3 with a 2.88 ERA --- still look great at first glance. Looking deeper, the Astros' righty has failed to eclipse 8 strikeouts in each of his last 6 starts, after exceeding that number in 7 of his first 17 outings. He still has a reasonably high floor in this spot, and he has shown an ability to hit his ceiling frequently throughout the season (7 starts with more than 50 FanDuel points).

Vegas has this A's offense projected for just 3.64 runs in this one, and Oakland is a decent matchup for strikeouts (21.8% strikeout rate against righties). Their .180 ISO is concerning, but the ballpark should help in that regard. The matchup overall isn't a great one, but that should help to keep Morton's ownership relatively low.

Morton is great mid-tier tournament option, although I'd try to find the extra funds to get up to Scherzer or even Carlos Carrasco -- more on him later -- in cash.

Value Option

Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks

at San Diego Padres
FanDuel Price: $8,300

With Scherzer over $12,000 tonight, this $8,300 price tag on Robbie Ray has to be considered "cheap."

While the Padres have been infamous this season for their struggles against right-handed pitching, they are actually closer to league-average when facing southpaws. They are 11th in ISO (.167) but still have the third-highest strikeout rate (24.0%). Ray will have to navigate some talented right-handed hitters with high ISO's against lefties, like Hunter Renfroe (.233), Christian Villanueva (.407) and Wil Myers (.281), but his strikeout upside should help to nullify the power threats.

Ray has been as frustrating as ever to roster in 2018 -- sometimes looking like Cy Young, sometimes looking more like Cy Yuck. Overall, he has a 4.83 ERA but a 3.75 SIERA, to go along with a 30.7% strikeout rate, but also a high 11.9% walk rate. At least we know what we are going to get with Ray --- complete unpredictability. Due to the upside he frequently flashes, however, it's usually smart to have some exposure in tournaments. With a start in the most pitcher-friendly park in the major leagues, his path to a quality start is much clearer than normal.

Ray has a very wide range of outcomes, but you can't ask for much better in terms of matchup and context. He's a very interesting value option in tournaments, but don't even think about it in cash games due to his volatile nature.

Contrarian Play

Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians

vs. Baltimore Orioles
FanDuel Price: $11,000

With Max Scherzer likely garnering so much ownership, Carlos Carrasco may go somewhat overlooked despite being in a prime matchup against the Baltimore Orioles.

The Indians' hurler predictably tossed a gem his last time out against the White Sox, striking out nine over seven scoreless innings. He's been especially sharp lately, cracking at least 44 FanDuel points in four of his last five appearances. Carrasco hit the 50-FanDuel-point mark against these Orioles way back on April 23rd, as he struck out 7 over 7.1 innings in the victory. With the subtractions of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop from this Baltimore offense at the trade deadline, Carrasco should have an even easier ride tonight.

Speaking of the Orioles' offense, they continue to strike out a bunch (7th-most), while providing occasional pop (16th in ISO). Carrasco gets a slightly better pitching environment by avoiding Camden Yards, and he is actually the biggest favorite on the board tonight (-380). Baltimore's projected lineup is just 13-for-54 (.241) lifetime against Carrasco with 1 homer, so he has had sustained success in this spot in the past.

Carrasco may have at least half the ownership of Scherzer tonight, and it isn't inconceivable to think he could challenge Scherzer for the highest raw points score on the slate. Fire him up in GPPs as an excellent contrarian option.

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.