MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/21/17

PITCHING

 

Chris Sale [RHP – BOS], Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] and Alex Wood [LHP – LAD] can be used on Friday, but I don’t see them as necessary cash game option. If you feel like paying a premium for any of the three, Sale would be the guy, facing an Angels squad that ranks 27th in wOBA (.291) vs. left-handed pitching. Wood could surely dominate the Braves, who own a slate-low 2.8-run implied total at Dodger Stadium, but do we pay close to $12K for a pitcher who likely won’t throw more than 90 pitches?

And yeah, Scherzer is a dominant force regardless of matchup, but Friday’s slate is chock full of excellent pitching plays, leaving him less valuable than he’d be on almost any other night. Keep in mind, however, that Scherzer should be firmly in play if Arizona runs out a 7-righty lineup; Max is striking them out at a near 47-percent clip this season, and has been virtually unhittable against same-handed bats.

This is why I’d rather take a closer look at Yu Darvish [RHP – TEX], as he draws a great matchup with the Rays, is markedly discounted from any of the abovementioned pitchers, and offers double-digit strikeout upside on Friday night. Darvish isn’t on the same level as those guys from a skill set perspective, but he isn’t priced like it, either. We’re talking about someone who sports a 30-percent K-rate and 3.32 ERA for his career despite having to throw half of his games in Arlington. He faces a Tampa Bay club that strikes out at a sky-high clip vs. right-handed pitching (24.3%), and even when they score runs are likely to facilitate big games to opposing pitchers.

 

Jeff Samardzija [RHP – SFG] is another reason to consider going cheaper at the position. He’s not overpriced for a home matchup with the Padres, is pitching inside the spacious AT&T Park, and has enough strikeout upside to do damage at his current salary. Samardzija has endured some struggles against left-handed hitters this season, but he’s striking them out at a 28.4-percent clip, and San Diego has virtually no talent from the left side of the plate. Their LHH will likely consist of Carlos Asuaje, Hector Sanchez, Corey Spangenberg, and Erick Aybar — not exactly Murderers’ Row.

Manuel Margot is on the paternity list, Yangervis Solarte still hasn’t been cleared to return, and Austin Hedges remains out with a concussion. It’s hard to envision any way Samardzija encounters the same struggles as he did last week in Petco Park. The Padres own a 3.3-run implied total on Friday night, higher than only the Angels (vs. Sale) and Braves (@ Wood).

 

Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] finds himself facing the K-heavy Brewers at Citizens Bank Park, and Alex Cobb [RHP – TB] actually makes for an intriguing low-owned tournament play against the hapless Rangers, but Trevor Cahill [RHP – SDP] is my top mid-range option on Friday night. The Giants don’t strike out much vs. right-handed pitching, but Cahill has been too good to ignore at what is still a very affordable price point. San Francisco remains dead last in both wOBA (.290) and ISO (.132) vs. RHP, while walking at the fifth lowest clip (7.3%) in 2017. This is a bad baseball team, one that should struggle against Cahill inside the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Cahill’s career-best 13.4-percent swinging strike rate and 29.5-percent K-rate are just two of the reasons he’s been such a fantasy darling this year, but his 56-percent groundball rate and ability to limit home runs (.94 HR/9) has also been huge. It also doesn’t hurt to have a 52-percent Whf/Sw rate on his slide, 46.3-percent on his curveball and 34-percent on his changeup. Cahill should be in line for another strong outing on Friday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get his pitch count back over 100 for the first time since being activated.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Williams [RHP] There’s no need to elaborate here; Blackmon facing a pitch-to-contact righty at Coors with an implied run total of 6.5 is all we need to know. Williams is striking left-handed hitters out at a 13-percent clip while allowing 38-percent fly balls on the season. The home runs haven’t been there, but he also hasn’t pitched in Colorado. Assuming Blackmon was removed from Wednesday’s game for precautionary purposes as the Rockies were dismantling the Padres, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be leading off on Friday night. Nolan Arenado [3B – R] is obviously a top play at third base, but you already knew that.

 

Joey Votto [1B – L] vs. Urena [RHP] It’s really hard not to love some of these Reds lefties tonight, facing a contact righty inside one of the best hitter’s parks around. Votto, especially, makes a ton of sense in this matchup, as Urena owns an 11-percent K-rate vs. LHH to accompany his 6.79 xFIP and 51-percent flyball rate. Votto is mashing righties to the tune of a .422 wOBA and .282 ISO this season, and he’s been even better at home.

Cincinnati owns a 5.2-run implied total against Urena, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them mount 8-plus runs with temperatures creeping up around 90 degrees at GAB. Moreover, Urena has been rather lucky this year, striking out less than 16 percent of batters faced and inducing only 39-percent ground balls, but somehow sports a sub-4 ERA across 89.1 innings pitched. Scooter Gennett [2B/OF – L] and Scott Schebler [OF – L] also make for nice mid-range plays against Urena. A mini Reds stack should be on the table this evening, and Votto should lead the charge.

 

Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Sale [LHP] This is the first time I’ve written any hitter up against Sale this season, and it will probably be the last. But look, Trout is arguably the best hitter in all of baseball, and his salary is depressed on DraftKings and FantasyDraft as a result of tonight’s matchup. We all know Sale is elite, but if you’re looking for a hedge play in tournaments, Trout is more than appealing at a mid-$4K price point.

 

Justin Bour [1B – L] @ Bailey [RHP] Homer Bailey really isn’t as bad as he’s looked to start the year, but he’s certainly no ace, either. Bailey has already surrendered six home runs in only 21.1 innings pitched, is allowing 36-percent hard contact to left-handed hitters, and won’t have much help on Friday having to toe the rubber at Great American Ballpark.

Bour’s power has been unmistakable this season, as he’s impressively hit 12 of his 21 home runs at home inside the pitcher-friendly Marlins Park. He’s making 45-percent hard contact vs. RHP, and is hitting behind some very solid bats in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. Expect Bour to see some great pitches to hit on Friday.

Justin Turner [3B – R] vs. Garcia [LHP] As of now, Jaime Garcia is set to pitch for the Braves on Friday night, but his status still remains somewhat unclear. It looked like Garcia was headed to Minnesota yesterday before the deal appeared to fall through, but Atlanta is shopping him heavily right now, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him scratched before first pitch. The great thing about Justin Turner, however, is pitcher handedness hardly matters when it comes to his production at the plate.

Turner has been a peculiar case study throughout his career, struggling against southpaws but raking against righties. That hasn’t been the case this year, though, as he leads the entire league in wOBA (.549) vs. left-handed pitching, while ranking third in ISO (.395) across 105 PA. Amazingly, Turner has the fifth lowest K-rate (8.6%) vs. lefties, so there’s really no reason to ignore him on Friday if Garcia is on the mound. Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] has also been phenomenal with the platoon advantage, and he should lead off again tonight against Atlanta’s veteran left-hander.

 

Jose Altuve [2B – R] @ Jimenez [RHP] Altuve won’t come cheap, but he will be worth every penny against Ubaldo Jimenez. We generally like to target left-handed hitters against Jimenez, but Altuve’s speed and excellent splits against same-handed pitching (.410 wOBA, .195 ISO) should make not having the platoon advantage far less important. Jimenez is incapable of holding runners, so I’d expect Altuve to run the moment he gets on board. Moreover, Jimenez has been miserable at home this season, with a 5.38 xFIP, 8.13 ERA and .417 wOBA against, so Altuve brings plenty of value to the table before we even considered his stolen base upside.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] @ Hoffman [RHP]; Ian Desmond [1B/OF – R] vs. Williams [RHP]; George Springer [OF – R] @ Jimenez [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Josh Reddick [OF – L] @ Jimenez [RHP] Reddick makes for a stupendous play against Jimenez, drawing the platoon advantage against a putrid righty inside Camden Yards. Not only do the Astros boast a 6.1-run implied total tonight, but temperatures will be hovering around 90 degrees in Baltimore. Jimenez allows too many fly balls and too much hard contact to mitigate the weather, but even if it was 38 degrees by first pitch we’d still be playing Reddick.

Jimenez is allowing a .426 wOBA, .362 ISO and a mammoth 3.26 HR/9 to left-handed bats this season. He’s also walking them at a 12-percent clip, so this could legitimately be considered a top-five overall matchup for Reddick, who has swiped a respectable seven bags on the year. With plenty of power and enough speed to do damage against one of the worst righties in baseball, Reddick should undoubtedly be considered a top mid-range play across the board. His $2,900 price tag on FanDuel is impossible to ignore.

 

Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Matz [LHP] I’ll break down Steven Matz’s struggles more in depth once we get to the value section, but for now let’s focus on Davis. It’s crazy to think Khrush has tallied only two home runs against southpaws this season, as he’s making a ridiculous 54.1-percent hard contact, which leads the league among all hitters with at least 70 PA vs. LHP. Matz is ceding 43-percent fly balls to righties with a 5.34 xFIP and 2.43 HR/9 allowed. Ignore Davis’ struggles with the platoon advantage, as he’s been very unlucky through the first half of 2017. He’s much more appealing in cash on DraftKings/FantasyDraft than he is on FanDuel, but I love him there in tournaments where his ownership will be depressed.

 

Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Scherzer [RHP] You’d be hard-pressed to find a better tournament option than Lamb on Friday, as his price tag has dropped considerably for a matchup with Max Scherzer. We targeted Freddie Freeman against Scherzer a couple weeks back and he rewarded us. We even used Lamb against Scherzer earlier this season and he didn’t let us down.

The thing about Scherzer is he’s actually human against left-handed hitters. On the season, Scherzer is allowing 1.27 HR/9 to LHH, while his K-rate sits at 26.5 percent compared to 45.6 percent vs. righties. I’m not saying this is a particularly great matchup for Lamb, but at $4,100 on DraftKings and $3,000 on FanDuel, I’d be remiss to not mention him. He boasts a .415/.299 ISO wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed pitching, and draws this matchup inside the hitter-friendly Chase Field. With such a huge discount across the industry, Lamb could pay off his salary with one swing of the bat.

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Shields [RHP] The Kansas City Royals own a 6.1-run implied total tonight! That’s insane. Seriously, I don’t think the Royals have ever had a run total this high, or even close for that matter. James Shields is baaaad, though, and he can’t help but cough up home runs like that’s what he was put on the mound to do. He’s allowing a .426 wOBA and .367 ISO to LHH this year, while lugging around a dismal 7.99 xFIP 11.7-percent K-rate and 55.9-percent flyball rate across 94 batters faced.

Moustakas is posting excellent power numbers against righties this season (.279 ISO), and he’s also hitting a ton of fly balls (48.5%). It’s amazing to see how cheap he is against Shields, especially with the Royals owning a Goliath 6.1-run total at home. There are plenty of solid third basemen on Friday’s 15-game slate, but Moose is one of the better values at $3,600 on DraftKings and $3,200 on FanDuel.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Michael Conforto [OF – L] vs. Blackburn [RHP]; Salvador Perez [C – R] vs. Shields [RHP]; Eric Hosmer [1B – L] vs. Shields [RHP]; Asdrubal Cabrera [2B/SS – L/R] vs. Blackburn [RHP]; Whit Merrifield [2B – R] vs. Shields [RHP]; Marwin Gonzalez [3B/OF – L/R] @ Jimenez [RHP]; Trevor Story [SS – R] vs. Williams [RHP]; Starling Marte [OF – R] @ Hoffman [RHP]; Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] @ Nolasco [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Rajai Davis [OF – R]/Marcus Semien [SS – R] @ Matz [LHP] Steven Matz cannot be healthy right now. His K-rate (14.9%) is down more than eight percent from each of his first two major-league campaigns (started only six games in 2015), while his swinging strike rate has plummeted to a dismal 6.7 percent. Matz is getting only 25-percent swing outside of the zone, and his first-pitch strike rate sits at only 56 percent in 2017. He isn’t missing bats, and he isn’t fooling hitters, which has resulted in some hideous results since returning from the disabled list.

What makes hitters like Davis and Semien so appealing on Friday actually has less to do with Matz’s recent struggles and more to do with his inability to hold runners. New York’s 26-year-old left-hander has allowed a whopping 27 stolen bases in only 35 career major-league starts. Davis and Semien are very affordably priced across the industry, and I’ll be deploying both of them against a left-hander who has really struggled against right-handed hitters this season. If either of them reaches base safely, and I’m assuming both will, they’re going to run wild.

 

Gregory Polanco [OF – L] @ Hoffman [RHP] Polanco is more of a site-specific play, weighing in at only $3,600 on DraftKings despite the matchup with a righty at Coors Field. He’s having a relatively quiet season, but that’ll happen when playing half of your games inside PNC Park. Moreover, Polanco doesn’t have to be a great hitter to produce at Coors, as long as he draws the platoon advantage and continues to bat in the middle of Pittsburgh’s order.

Jeff Hoffman has been a pleasant surprise for the Rockies this year, but he has understandably struggled at home. The rookie right-hander’s strikeout rate drops from 25 percent on the road to 15 percent at home, while his hard-hit rate spikes from 28 percent to 40 percent at Coors. He’s allowed 30 earned runs on the season and 21 of them have come at home.

As you can see, Polanco makes too much sense at his inexplicably low price point. The Pirates boast a 5.6-run implied total and get a massively favorable park shift on Friday. It’s only reasonable to assume they’ll produce at least decent numbers in this matchup. Having said that, we’re all still having nightmares of the Pirates’ ‘performance’ a few years back, where they scored a combined seven runs in a 4-game set at Coors Field.

 

Yoan Moncada [2B/3B – L/R] @ Kennedy [RHP] Moncada is a wildcard on Friday, but one that could definitely make an impact if he’s batting in the middle of Chicago’s lineup. Strikeouts are an issue, but but Moncada offers a nice little power/speed combo at a discounted price point, and there’s nothing about Ian Kennedy that should scare us tonight. Kennedy is allowing ample power to left-handed hitters this season, and is striking them out at a league-average rate. He’s serving up an ISO north of .200, while ceding 50-percent fly balls and 46-percent hard contact to opposite-handed bats. I’ll happily take a flier on Moncada tonight, and don’t see him being more than a couple percent owned across the industry.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Zack Granite [OF – L] vs. Sanchez [RHP]; Kike Hernandez [OF – R] vs. Garcia [LHP] [FanDuel]; Josh Phegley [C – R] @ Matz [LHP]; Ryon Healy [1B/3B – R] @ Matz [LHP]