FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 7/21/23

Aidan Cotter
Aidan CotterAidanCotterFD
FanDuel Pitching Primer: Friday 7/21/23

When building a daily fantasy baseball lineup on FanDuel, nailing your pitcher is crucial to succeeding in any contest. Strikeouts are king -- although, innings-eaters and win potential can't be ignored.

With a pitcher serving as the backbone of your lineup, we don't want to mess around. Let's take a look at some of the top pitcher options and values, as well as some honorable mentions for today's main DFS slate on FanDuel.

Statistics are via FanGraphs unless otherwise stated.

Top Options

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels ($10,200)

Although the back end of today's pitching slate leaves a lot to be desired, the front end is loaded with viable options. That starts first and foremost with Los Angeles Angels' pitcher Shohei Ohtani in his matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ohtani struggled in his previous two starts, perhaps explaining his (relatively) low salary compared to some of the other top options. Despite giving up nine runs and walking seven over his last 10.0 innings, he's in a strong position to bounce back tonight at home against the Pirates.

Aside from their hot start in April, Pittsburgh has been one of the worst offenses in the league -- especially against right-handed pitchers. Since May 1st, the Pirates boast a measly .284 weighted on-base average against righties, the league's lowest mark. They've been a reliable source of strikeouts for opposing pitchers, as well, ranking seventh over that split with a 24.2% strikeout rate.

That's music to Shohei's ears.

Even with his July struggles, Ohtani still owns 12 strikeouts over his last two starts. He's racked up Ks all year long, ranking third with a 32.2% strikeout rate. With six double-digit strikeout games already in his belt, Ohtani has as much fantasy upside as anyone.

numberFire projects Ohtani for 39.0 FanDuel points tonight -- their highest of the slate. With the Pirates implied team total set at just 3.69 runs, he has an elite combination of high floor and ceiling.

Framber Valdez, Houston Astros ($11,200)

Houston Astros southpaw Framber Valdez is the highest-salaried pitcher of the slate but for good reason. Valdez gets a tantalizing matchup with the lowly Oakland Athletics.

Valdez has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. In addition to a stellar 27.4% strikeout rate, he ranks fourth with a 3.34 skill-interactive ERA (SIERA). His sinker has been one of the very best pitches in baseball this season, as it's one of seven pitches to record a 15+ run value, according to Baseball Savant.

Tonight, Valdez faces off against an A's team he's dominated over the past two seasons. Over his last five starts against Oakland, Valdez went 4-1, allowing just six runs and striking out 29 in 38 innings of work.

Oakland continues to sport one of the worst offenses in baseball and that holds true against lefties. Their .297 wOBA against lefties is the third-lowest in the majors, while their 23.5% strikeout rate sits in the bottom half.

That shouldn't change tonight considering the A's have far and away the lowest implied team total of the slate at just 2.91 runs.

Consequently, Valdez is projected for 37.5 FanDuel points tonight, per numberFire. However, considering he's averaged 45.4 points per game across his last five starts against the A's, that could merely be the floor for one of the safest pitchers of the slate.

Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins ($10,000)

Rounding out tonight's top pitching options, we're sticking with today's theme of strikeout-heavy arms with Minnesota Twins' righty Joe Ryan. Ryan takes on a Chicago White Sox lineup that has just a .301 wOBA against right-handed pitchers -- the fifth-lowest among all active rosters.

Chicago's south siders have been nearly pitiful in the strikeout department, doing such at a 23.5% clip. That, coupled with the fourth-highest whiff rate in the league (28%) should provide ample opportunities for Ryan to rack up strikeouts.

For the season, Ryan ranks sixth in the league with a 28.9% strikeout rate. He recorded seven-plus strikeouts in five of his previous six starts, including 26 across his last 15.2 innings.

Still, Ryan allows his fair share of hard contact and has walked six batters across his last three starts after not issuing any in his previous three. He's also allowed multiple runs in seven of his last eight after doing so just four times in his first 10 outings.

The advanced metrics still love Ryan, however, as he leads all qualified starters with a .271 expected wOBA (xwOBA) allowed. That's further reflected in his seventh-ranked 3.39 SIERA.

numberFire projects Ryan for 36.6 FanDuel points tonight -- the third-most among starting pitchers. He's a worthy starter in any format, especially given his slight discount compared to the other top options.

Value Play

Clarke Schmidt, New York Yankees ($8,000)

Tonight's slate is top-heavy because the under-the-radar names don't hold much appeal. That is, of course, aside from the New York Yankees' Clarke Schmidt. Schmidt's season-long numbers don't offer much, but his play over the last two months tells a different story.

Despite his surface level 4.31 ERA, Clarke Schmidt has been one of the most effective pitchers in baseball since May 25th. Over his last 10 starts, Schmidt has allowed just a .285 wOBA and averaged 25.1 FanDuel points per game.

He has an excellent opportunity to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have been a fantasy matchup to target all season long thanks to some truly abysmal offensive metrics. Against righties, Kansas City ranks last in both wOBA (.285) and weighted Runs Created plus (wRC+) while striking out at the fifth-highest rate (24.2%).

That bodes well for Schmidt tonight, as he is coming off his best fantasy start of the season -- a six-inning gem at Coors Field that saw him strike out eight, allow just two runs, and rack up 46 FanDuel points.

Tonight, numberFire projects Schmidt for 33.5 FanDuel points, which is the fourth-highest overall and the most among any pitcher salaried under $10,000. At his minuscule $8,000 salary tag, he's among the best value plays of the day.

Honorable Mentions

Freddy Peralta ($9,400) and Kodai Senga ($10,400) have both pitched well of late, subsequently causing their salaries to skyrocket. They've earned it, but with Peralta hosting the Atlanta Braves and Senga visiting the Boston Red Sox, they're too rich for my taste tonight.

The 2023 Lance Lynn experience has been one of the most polarizing in the league, with most fantasy players being either all-in or all-out on the veteran righty. I fall in the camp of the former and thus am intrigued with his matchup tonight. Having racked up at least six strikeouts across each of his six outings, Lynn's date with Minnesota and their league-leading 27.4% strikeout rate versus righties is one I'm happy to be a part of -- especially at his $9,200 salary.

I'd still lean toward one of the three aces tonight, but if you're going bargain shopping Kutter Crawford ($6,900) is as low-salaried as they come. Coming off a 55-point game against the Chicago Cubs, you could do a lot worse than Crawford matched up with the sputtering New York Mets tonight.

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.