We all love this time of year. Baseball is back in our lives and whether you're attending a game, watching it or listening on the radio, the chance to enjoy the game we love during this special time of year is wonderful.
Of course, the experience is made even better with daily fantasy baseball. FanDuel offers up plenty of exciting contests for daily fantasy baseball players to choose from. Maybe your preference is getting involved in the early slate of games so you have something to enjoy during those early hours of the work day and to help make the time go by, FanDuel offers you a nice selection of early-only contests. You might prefer to get the work ahead of time then rush home, grab a chair and sit back to watch and enjoy the afternoon or 'main' slate of contests, once again FanDuel covers you for that.
Whatever your preference is, one of the first decisions you must make when setting a daily fantasy lineup is who to start as your pitcher. A look at Wednesday's probable pitchers shows us a selection of some excellent mid-rotation, high-upside hurlers who could dramatically change whether or not we finish outside of the green or in a cash-positive position. We only need one pitcher to make things happen, but eDraft Sports will provide you with an array of options for multiple lineups.
So let's help get your lineup off to the right note and talk about some pitchers for you to target on Wednesnday.
1.) Carlos Carrasco, CLE vs. DET, ($9,300)
One of the top strikeout artists in baseball last season, Carrasco is set to face one of the easiest opponents he'll encounter all season. Entering Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers lineup held the fifth-worst wRC+ (77), sixth-worst wOBA (.282) and 13th highest swinging-strike rate (11 percent) thus far in 2018. A lineup headlined by Leonys Martin .219 batting average and Jeimer Candelario's .179/.273/.256 slash line is not one that puts any amount of fear into a pitcher's mind.
Carrasco continues to miss bats at a high rate, seen in his 11.6 SwStr%, and maintains excellent command with only one walk allowed across 46 batters faced. Whether you're looking for a strong floor, strikeout-win upside or an elite fantasy ace to count on, Carrasco checks off every box you look for when making a decision on pitchers. He is the safest bet on Wednesday's slate and should be in a heavy percentage of DFS lineups.
2.) Lance McCullers Jr., HOU @ MIN, ($8,800)
While the Minnesota Twins lineup carries a sizable amount of respect and currently ranks amongst the top-12 teams in many key offensive categories, the team also greatly benefited from playing multiple upper echelon pitchers. Dylan Bundy and Justin Verlander held them scoreless, while Minnesota's bats beat up on the likes of Kevin Gausman, Andrew Cashner and Ivan Nova. When the matchup is right, Minnesota offers a nice collection of bats to stack. When the matchup is wrong though, this is a lineup we can target pitchers for.
In the case of McCullers, we'll side with the pitcher on this one. Since the 2016 season, the 24-year-old southpaw has shined in his time with the Houston Astros. Across 210 innings pitched, McCullers struck out 28.1 percent of batters faced, walked just 9.8 percent of hitters and registered a 3.01 FIP. It all bodes very well as he prepares to face Minnesota. Currently, the Twins have ninth-highest SwStr rate (11.5 percent) and ninth-highest strikeout percentage (24.7 percent) this season. Furthermore, Minnesota ranked 18th last season in isolated power versus southpaws (.412). In this instance, give us McCullers over Minnesota's bats.
3.) James Paxton, SEA @ KC, ($8,400)
Paxton's 2018 season is off to a rough start. Through his first two outings, which lasted a combined 9 2/3 innings, the southpaw has allowed 10 hits, eight earned runs, five walks and three home runs with just 11 strikeouts. Fortunately, we saw a much better version of Paxton in his second outing as he struck out seven batters and allowed just one walk and one home run over five innings of two-run ball. For "The Big Maple" it was a sign of the pitcher we saw in 2017 and relied upon in DFS on countless occasions.
Set to face a Kansas City Royals lineup that entered Tuesday with the fourth-lowest wRC+ (76), fifth-worst wOBA (.279) and the fourth-worst ISO (.101) in the majors, Paxton should have a great matchup to take advantage of. It may not be driven greatly by strikeouts, given Kansas City's bats strike out less than 17 percent of the time this season, but it is an opportunity to work quickly through a lineup and potentially go for six-plus innings with fewer than two runs allowed. If he pairs it with five strikeouts and Seattle can tack on a few runs against Danny Duffy, this could be a very nice DFS outing for the Canadian southpaw.
4.) Luis Castillo, CIN @ PHI, ($6,900)
Our focus here is all about cheap upside. Castillo, one of the most underrated hurlers in baseball last year. In addition to a 3.63 SIERA in 2017, Castillo struck out 27.3 percent of the batters he. faced and registered a 12.6 swinging-strike rate. Selected as a pitcher to take an even greater step forward this season, we've seen 2018 start off a little rocky for the 25-year-old righty. In his first outing Castillo, struck out six batters but allowed two home runs and six earned runs across five innings. On his next trip to the mound, Castillo wiped out the home runs but walked three batters and only struck out three in five innings.
We remain very optimistic about Castillo. He is generating more swinging strikes this year (16.2 percent) and his first-pitch strike percentage is up from last season. While he is finding the zone less to start the year, his zone percentage is down 10.9 percent, opponents are making contact less as well. The largest concern is his fastball velocity being down 1.7 miles per hour and a 2.3 mph drop in his slider, but he is now mixing in his changeup more. Facing a Phillies' lineup that strikes out 25 percent of the time and held the fourth-lowest contact rate (73.5 percent), Castillo is an arm we're willing to take a gamble on.
5.) Robbie Ray, ARZ @ SFG, ($9,700)
We get the upside with Ray, it's the type of strikeout ability that when everything clicks can propel a DFS lineup from receiving a few bucks into the type of cash someone would make in a single year. He's also facing a San Francisco Giants lineup with the lowest walk percentage and the 13th highest strikeout rate (23.8 percent) on the season. Additionally, San Francisco's bats rank in the bottom 10 in wRC+, wOBA and ISO.
It all makes sense and many will target Ray, but he also carries some serious danger with him that could prove to cripple a team given he is the most expensive pitcher on the slate. When Ray's command is pinpoint, he'll walk three batters and get into multiple full counts that limit him to six innings at most. When his command is off and he loses the repeatability of his mechanics, we could very well be looking at a game with five-plus runs, five-plus walks and even more disappointment. We're not saying to avoid Ray, but look at the other options available and consider if they are a better use of your available cap.
6.) Nick Pivetta, PHI vs. CIN, ($7,500)
If you haven't read it already, be sure to read Paul Martin's breakdown of Pivetta and what is helping him really come into his own this year, it's an insightful piece and @PaulTheMartin also makes for a great follow on Twitter.
Pivetta is set to face the Cincinnati Reds, who frankly aren't doing very well at the plate. Joey Votto is in the midst of an awful April, while Scott Schebler is on the disabled list, the two-hole hitter entered Tuesday with a .200 OBP and the team held a collective strikeout rate near 24 percent on the season. Pivetta flashed plenty of dominant stuff in his most recent outing with nine strikeouts amongst 21 batters faced, a 15.5 SwStr% and a 65.1 percent contact rate. Against Cincinnati's lineup, this could prove to be another dominant outing for Pivetta with the fastball-slider -curveball combination carving through the bats and generating enough wind to power a city and your DFS lineup.
All stats from FanGraphs.