FanDuel MLB DFS Pitching Primer for 2024 Opening Day

Nicholas Vazquez
Nicholas Vazquez@nickvaz

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.

All stats come from FanGraphs and Baseball Savant unless noted otherwise.

MLB DFS Pitching Primer

Top Options

Corbin Burnes, Baltimore Orioles ($10,200)

With the Atlanta Braves being rained out for Thursday (meaning we lose Spencer Strider), Corbin Burnes ($10,200) becomes the top pitcher on the slate.

One of the big trades of the offseason saw Burnes move from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Baltimore Orioles. A year ago, Burnes' strikeout rate fell below 30% for the first time since 2019, but it was still a respectable 25.5%.

Burnes also had good underlying metrics. His expected ERA (xERA) was 3.38, and his barrel rate and hard-hit rate were the second-lowest marks of his career.

The Orioles get a good matchup to open the season, facing the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels had a 24.4% strikeout rate against right handed pitchers last season, and they obviously will not have Shohei Ohtani's bat in the lineup this year.

Baltimore is a -178 moneyline favorite on FanDuel Sportsbook, so we should see Corbin pick up the W in his debut with his new team.

Jesus Luzardo, Miami Marlins ($9,100)

If you can't quite get Burnes' salary into your lineup, Jesus Luzardo ($9,100) is another great an option to consider.

It may have gone a bit under the radar how good Luzardo was last season. He had a 28.1% strikeout rate and 14.1% swinging-strike rate. He also sported a very solid 3.69 skill interactive ERA (SIERA).

Luzardo is in a good spot today for a few different reasons.

He'll be a home, and the Miami Marlins' ballpark, loanDepot park, is great for pitchers. For park factor, it rated 21st overall and was 24th for home runs.

He also gets a good matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were 21st in wOBA and struck out at the fifth-highest rate against lefties in 2023.

Luzardo had eight games above 50 FanDuel points last season, and he has the upside to do something similar here at a salary that is easy to like.

The Next Tier

Cole Ragans, Kansas City Royals ($8,800)

Cole Ragans ($8,800) is close in salary to Luzardo, and it'll be interesting to see how draft percentage shakes out between the two of them. If one is projected to be significantly less popular than the other, give me the one who is going under the radar.

I'm guessing Ragans won't slip through the cracks given the buzz he generated late last year.

Ragans was one of the best pitchers in the league after he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. He had a 31.1% strikeout rate and 15.1% swinging-strike rate with KC. Overall, his xERA was a nice 3.47.

He'll face a Minnesota Twins lineup that was not good against left-handed pitching last season. They were in the bottom 10 in wOBA and wRC+ against southpaws while also striking out at the 13th-highest clip in the split.

The Royals lost 106 games last season, but they aren't large underdogs in this game. With what Ragans displayed last season, he's definitely in play on Opening Day.

Value Play

Frankie Montas, Cincinnati Reds ($7,500)

With so many high-salaried pitchers going on Opening Day, we don't have many value options. Of the low-salary plays, Frankie Montas ($7,500) checks some boxes.

The 2023 season was almost a non-existent year season for Montas. He made just one appearance for the New York Yankees, and it was out of the bullpen.

He signed with the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason and is hoping to have a healthy season and get back on track. He was fairly unimpressive in Spring Training, but the fact that he was able to make it through five innings in his last spring start is encouraging.

There's a reason the Yankees traded for Montas to boost their pitching staff in 2022. He had a 3.74 SIERA that season with a 23.4% strikeout rate. He's good when he's right.

We can target Montas on this slate for two main reasons. One is the salary, as he's by far the best option below $8,000. The second is the matchup against the Washington Nationals. Washington had the second-worst wOBA (.305) and the third-worst wRC+ (89) against righties in 2023. The Nats' poor offense helps compensate for this game being at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park.

If you want to load up on high-salary bats, Montas is a viable value target.

Quick Mound Visits

It's worth considering Tarik Skubal ($10,100) for just $100 less than Burnes. Skubal was incredible down the stretch last season, sporting a 32.9% strikeout rate and 2.77 SIERA across 80 1/3 innings. He also gets a good matchup against the Chicago White Sox, who are projected to score the third-fewest runs in the league this season.

On the other side of that Royals-Twins game, Pablo Lopez ($9,700) is definitely a pitcher who could go overlooked on this slate -- early draft percentage projections around the industry have him not being very popular at all. Lopez had the best season of his career across the board a season ago, including a 29.2% K rate and 14.5% swinging strike rate. Kansas City's lineup isn't one we should really fear, especially with an ace like Lopez.

Tyler Glasnow ($10,000) was definitely not the biggest-name acquisition the Los Angeles Dodgers made this offseason, but he shouldn't be discounted for what he's done over the last few seasons. He hasn't had a strikeout rate below 30% since 2018. The St. Louis Cardinals are a quality lineup, but Glasnow can mow through anyone if he's dialed in.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.