FanDuel Pitching Primer: Monday 5/8/23

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, and it's darn near impossible to take down a contest without a big score from your hurler.

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 on today's slate.

All betting references come from the MLB lines at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Top of the Heap

Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks ($11,300)

Gallen has elite numbers and draws a dreamy matchup with the Miami Marlins. He is my SP1 tonight, and he gets that nod by a comfortable margin despite there being some other quality options who are much lower in salary.

Gallen owns a 2.46 SIERA, 35.2% strikeout rate, 13.4% swinging-strike rate and 3.1% walk rate. Like I said, elite numbers.

He's taking on a Miami offense that is 28th in wOBA (.297) with the 11th-highest strikeout rate (23.8%). The Marlins' 3.38 implied total is the slate's second-lowest clip.

While I get the appeal of saving salary by using any of the night's other top pitchers, that's not as big of a deal on this slate as most of the top offenses are pretty low in salary.

Give me Gallen, who I consider to be in his own tier tonight. Our model does, too, projecting Gallen for 37.6 FanDuel points -- 4.7 clear of the field.

Second Tier

Nestor Cortes, Yankees ($9,300)

Cortes checks a lot of boxes and will likely be the night's most popular hurler.

The New York Yankees' southpaw gets a tasty home matchup with the Oakland Athletics. Oakland has the 6th-highest strikeout rate (24.5%) and is 23rd in wOBA (.303). Their 3.51 implied total is a number we can feel good about.

Cortes has a 25.4% strikeout rate, 6.5% walk rate and 11.0% swinging-strike rate through his first 33 frames of the season. But there are also a few warning signs -- namely a 64.8% fly-ball rate, which has led to 1.64 homers per nine. That's a worry, especially when Cortes is pitching at Yankee Stadium.

I like Cortes tonight and will have some of him, but I can't slot him above Gallen.

Logan Gilbert, Mariners ($9,500)

Gilbert is another good midrange play.

The Seattle Mariners' righty might be on the cusp of a breakout season. Gilbert's 3.18 SIERA is a career-best mark, and you can say the same for his 29.6% strikeout rate -- which is up 6.9 percentage points from his 22.7% clip from a campaign ago. He's also trimmed his fly-ball rate to 34.5%, another career-best number.

There's a lot to like.

However, his swinging-strike rate is only 10.7%, which is right in line with last season's 10.8% mark, meaning there's likely negative regression coming in the strikeout department. On top of that, Gilbert is taking on a stout Texas Rangers offense, giving him a much tougher matchup than what Gallen, Cortes and the next guy have.

All in all, I think Gilbert is a fine play, and Texas' 3.62 implied total tells us oddsmakers are backing him tonight. Our model pegs Gilbert to score 32.1 FanDuel points, which puts him right in the mix among the night's best non-Gallen options.

Tournament Option

Dylan Cease, White Sox ($9,100)

Cease is pretty much exactly what you want in a tourney play, and he's a fun pivot off Cortes and Gilbert.

In 2022, Cease was one of the game's best pitchers, registering a 3.48 SIERA, 30.4% strikeout rate and 15.0% swinging-strike rate. He hasn't lived up to those numbers so far in 2023, amassing a 4.36 SIERA, 26.2% strikeout rate and 12.2% swinging-strike rate across 35 1/3 innings. Walks are still a big issue for him as he's got an 11.6% walk rate.

On the bright side, Cease is dealing with some bad luck. His strand rate is a lowly 64.8%. That's down significantly from both his career average (75.8%) as well as his 2022 strand rate (82.3%). And while his strikeout numbers are down from last year, he's still missing a lot of bats.

Cease could pop for a ceiling game today versus the Kansas City Royals, an offense that is 27th in wOBA (.298) with a strikeout rate (23.5%) that is slightly above the league average. Cease saw KC three times last year and punched out at least eight in all three starts.

Outside of Gallen, Cease will be the pitcher I turn to most today, especially if he's going to go overlooked, which is what early draft percentage projections around the industry are expecting.

Quick Mound Visits:
Hunter Brown ($9,600): Likely the best of the rest. Sporting a 25.7% strikeout rate and 11.3% swinging-strike rate. Can have success against the Angels if he can navigate past Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
Anthony DeSclafani ($10,200): Nationals don't present much danger but also have baseball's lowest strikeout rate (18.5%). Hard to prioritize him over the lower-in-salary Cease, Nestor and Gilbert.
Freddy Peralta ($10,000): Has a 27.9% strikeout rate and 14.1% swinging-strike rate but gets a brutal matchup versus the Dodgers. Dodgers do have the fifth-highest strikeout rate (24.9%), so Peralta is worth a roll of the dice in some GPP lineups. He won't be popular at all.
Marcus Stroman ($9,800): Cardinals have the night's lowest implied total (3.21). Stroman just doesn't possess top-notch strikeout upside, though. His strikeout prop is at 5.5 with plus-money on the over.
Jon Gray ($7,400): Best value option. Mariners carry the third-highest strikeout rate (25.7%), but Gray's numbers -- including a 14.5% strikeout rate -- are way down early this season.