MLB Analytical Angles 9/19/16

We have a nice 10 game slate tonight with three aces on the mound and then a bunch of pitchers that we can target hitters against.  Finding value amongst hitters will be very important today because the best approach may be to try and find a way to roster two of the three high upside pitchers, which obviously requires finding some underpriced hitters.  Pricing seems tighter on FanDuel than on DraftKings today, so there will be more DraftKings-specific plays than usual.  Outfield is the deepest position on the board today, so the best approach may be to load up on value bats in the outfield so that you can take the elite options at other positions since there is less value to be had there.

Note:  FanDuel pricing is used unless otherwise noted.


David Ortiz (1B)- BOS at BAL- $4,600

Ortiz travels to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to face Dylan Bundy and the Orioles tonight.  In 12 starts this season, Bundy has had swinging strike rates above 10 percent in eight of them.  Two of the four that he did not, however, were against the Red Sox (5.3 and 5.4 percent swinging strikes in those starts).  I expect the Red Sox to be able to do some damage against Bundy and Ortiz is likely to be the main culprit.  Despite doing a good job of limiting hard contact, Bundy has been home run prone, allowing 1.29 home runs per nine innings to left-handed hitters.  Ortiz has been elite against right-handed pitching in his final season, posting a .444 wOBA and .360 ISO to go along with 46.5 percent hard contact and only 12.1 percent soft contact.  In addition, Ortiz has an average exit velocity of 96.5 miles per hour against fastballs in Bundy’s velocity range and an average exit velocity of 94.5 miles per hour against changeups from right-handed pitchers.  The fastball and changeup are the primary pitches that Bundy uses to attack left-handed hitters, so this bodes well for Ortiz.  Finally, against Bundy’s pitch types, Ortiz would have an additional 10 home runs this season (based on spray charts), if he played every game at Camden Yards.  Ortiz is the top option at a strong first base position today.

Hanley Ramirez (1B)- BOS at BAL- $3,700

Staying in the same game, rostering Hanley against right-handed pitchers is always a great way to be contrarian since people can’t roster him and Ortiz together on most sites.  Ramirez has been on fire lately, as he has been hitting the ball in the air more frequently and it has led to a huge uptick in home runs.  Even before the offensive explosion, Ramirez has been solid against right-handed pitching this season with a .344 wOBA and .185 ISO along with 37.3 percent hard contact.  Bundy mainly uses fastballs and curveballs to attack right-handed hitters, and Ramirez has average exit velocities of 93.2 and 93.8 against those pitches, respectively.  Most Red Sox right-handers lose home run potential when they go to opposing parks that don’t have a wall 310 feet away in left field, but Ramirez would actually have one more home run this season if he played all his games at Camden Yards so I don’t expect the ballpark to hurt him.  My approach between him and Ortiz will probably be to mostly roster Ramirez on FanDuel, where he is $900 less, and mostly roster Ortiz on DraftKings, where there is only a $300 difference in price.

Chris Davis (1B)- BAL vs BOS- $3,600

When I said that first base was strong on this slate, I mainly meant this game.  Davis gets a tough matchup with Rick Porcello, but it is one that I think he can do well in.  Porcello has been getting somewhat lucky against left-handed hitters when it comes to home runs.  He has only allowed 0.66 home runs per nine innings to lefties, but that is depressed by a home run per flyball rate of 6.5 percent (his career home run per flyball rate is 11.1 percent against lefties).  Part of the reason for the decreased home run per flyball percentage is that Porcello has an infield flyball rate of 11.4 percent against lefties this season.  I expect that to eventually regress, however, because his career infield flyball percentage against lefties is only 7.7 percent and his pitch selection this season is about the same as previous seasons so I don’t see a real explanation for the increased pop-ups and decreased home runs.  Porcello also does not generate many swinging strikes, despite having a respectable strikeout rate.  Pitchers who don’t get swinging strikes can have trouble with Davis since he has so much power when he does make contact.  Porcello uses a sinker a little more frequently than his four-seam fastball against lefties.  Davis has an average exit velocity of 96.5 miles per hour against sinkers and 94 miles per hour against four-seam fastballs in Porcello’s velocity range.  Porcello’s main offspeed pitch to lefties is his changeup, and Davis has an average exit velocity of 92 miles per hour against changeups from righties.  In addition, Chris Davis is way too cheap on DraftKings ($3,800).  He is a nice contrarian option on FanDuel where he is priced pretty fairly, and a great way to save money while locking in upside on DraftKings where he is mispriced.

Ryan Schimpf (2B)- SDP vs ARZ- $3,100

Schimpf has quickly become one of my favorite hitters in baseball.  Tonight he gets to face Braden Shipley, who is very home run prone against left-handed hitters (2.43 home runs per nine innings) while giving up 36.9 percent hard contact and only inducing 11.7 percent soft contact.  Schimpf has been hitting flyballs in over 80 percent of his at-bats lately and the combination of his hard contact percentage (39.3 percent against right-handed pitching) and Shipley’s inability to induce soft contact leads to him having a very good chance to hit a home run tonight despite the ballpark.

Jake Lamb (3B)- ARZ at SDP- $3,500

I expect there to be a lot of offense in this game even though it is being played in Petco Park.  I already mentioned the hard contact that Shipley gives up, and Paul Clemens isn’t any better.  Clemens has allowed 41.9 percent hard contact with only 9 percent soft contact against left-handed hitters this season.  Lamb has a 43.1 percent hard contact rate against righties and only hits the ball softly 13.4 percent of the time.  He definitely hits the ball hard enough to get it out of Petco against Clemens.

Carlos Correa (SS)- HOU at OAK- $3,500

The Astros are in a sneaky good spot against Jharel Cotton tonight.  Cotton has been solid in the major leagues so far, and the game is in Oakland, so I think the Astros will go overlooked.  I love the matchup for the Astros, however, because I expect Cotton to be a reverse splits pitcher- at least early in his career.  His best pitch is his changeup, which is usually more effective to hitters from the opposite side of the plate.  My expectation is backed up by Cotton’s miniscule strikeout rate against righties since being called up- albeit in a very small sample size- and his ERA against righties in the minors being over 2 runs higher against righties than lefties.  Correa is a very good hitter against right-handed pitching with a .360 wOBA and .196 ISO against them.  Shortstop is pretty weak today and Correa provides a great opportunity to roster the highest scoring player at the position at ownership lower than it should be.

Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)- NYM vs ATL- $3,400

I expect Cabrera to be the most popular shortstop tonight, except for maybe one of the guys in Coors Field, and for good reason.  He gets to face Aaron Blair in his first start off of the disabled list.  I like the Mets in general tonight, but Cabrera is one of my favorite New York hitters.  Blair has allowed 1.98 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season.  Although his home run per flyball rate is elevated (19.4 percent) he will still be home run prone even after some regression.  He also only strikes out 9.9 percent of lefties and gives up 32.3 percent hard contact- although he does induce 23.2 percent soft contact.  Blair mainly uses a fastball and changeup to attack lefties.  Cabrera holds his own against the fastball with an average exit velocity of 89.3 miles per hour (11 of the 108 balls he has put in play against fastballs in Blair’s velocity range since the start of last season would have been home runs at Citi Field).  Against changeups, however, he has an average exit velocity of 93 miles per hour.  I really like to roster hitters who are good against more than one pitch in the pitcher’s arsenal, since teams have advanced scouting reports and know how to pitch to a hitter’s weaknesses.  The pitcher has a much more difficult path to success when a hitter regularly hits both of his main pitches hard, and that will be the case tonight when Blair faces Cabrera.

Charlie Blackmon (OF)- COL vs STL- $4,900

Carlos Gonzalez (OF)- COL vs STL- $4,300

David Dahl (OF)- COL vs STL- $3,900

I love all of the lefties in the Rockies outfield today against Carlos Martinez.  Martinez has been worse against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters throughout his career, so that is already going in the favor of the Rockies’ power-hitting outfielder.  Martinez will be pitching in Coors Field tonight and I expect him to struggle against lefties even more because of his pitch selection.  I think he will be okay against righties because he throws over 30 percent sliders against them and sliders don’t lose much movement in Coors.  Against lefties, however, he only throws his slider about 13 percent of the time, and replaces it by increasing his changeup usage.  His main two pitches to lefties are a sinker and changeup, which both suffer in Coors Field because they rely on vertical movement as opposed to horizontal movement.  This should lead to his splits being even more drastic than they normally are, and the Rockies’ outfield triumvirate having very strong games.

Nelson Cruz (OF)- SEA vs TOR- $3,800

Marco Estrada has been difficult to figure out, as he seems like he should get blown up a lot more often than he does.  One thing that makes sense about him, however, is that he is more home run prone against righties than lefties (it makes sense because of his heavy reliance on changeups to both sides of the plate- changeups are less forgiving against hitters from the same side of the plate compared to the opposite side).  He has allowed 1.41 home runs per nine innings this season to righties with a sustainable home run per flyball rate of about 11 percent.  Cruz, although he is known as a lefty masher, hits righties very well.  He has posted a .367 wOBA and .230 ISO against them this season.  Estrada’s fastball is nothing to write home about, so it is important to see how hitters do against his secondary pitches- primarily the changeup.  Cruz has the highest average exit velocity on the entire team against right-handed changeups at 93.6 miles per hour, so he is my favorite play against Estrada tonight.

Khris Davis (OF)- OAK vs HOU- $3,600

I have been targeting Brad Peacock ever since he came back to the majors and it has not worked so far.  That will not deter me from rostering Khris Davis tonight.  Peacock has been better in a small sample size this season than he has in his career so, for now, I am pretty much ignoring his numbers from this season because I just don’t think he is good.  In his career, he has allowed 1.41 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters.  Davis, like Cruz, is known for krushing (sorry) lefties, but he is perfectly fine against righties with a .346 wOBA and .274 ISO.  He makes for a very nice contrarian play in GPPs tonight as Peacock is home run prone against righties, and the Astros’ best long reliever also struggles with right-handed hitters.

Mark Trumbo (OF)- BAL vs BOS- $3,200

Trumbo is my favorite play on the Orioles tonight.  His price is reasonable on FanDuel and he is criminally underpriced on DraftKings at $3,700.  He missed a couple of games recently with back issues, but homered yesterday in his first game back so I am not concerned with his back.  Porcello throws his sinker more often to righties than he does to lefties, at the expense of his four seam fastball.  Trumbo has an average exit velocity of 95.8 miles per hour and an ISO of .360 against sinkers in Porcello’s velocity range.  He also has a little bit of history against Porcello, with 7 hits in 22 at-bats including 3 home runs.  He has hit the ball twice against Porcello since the start of last season and has an average exit velocity of 113 miles per hour.  I love Trumbo as a one-off or, especially on DraftKings, as part of an Orioles stack.


Wilson Ramos (C)- WSH at MIA- $3,600 DraftKings

Ramos is a good play on any site today, but he is a great value on DraftKings specifically.  Wei-Yen Chen is making his first start since returning from the DL, and didn’t even get to face any live hitters on a rehab stint since the minor league seasons are over.  Chen is very home run prone against righties, allowing 1.83 home runs per nine innings.  Ramos has a .389 wOBA and .292 ISO against lefties this season and offers a lot of upside against Chen.

Evan Gattis (C)- HOU at OAK- $3,700 DraftKings

Gattis, like Ramos, is a good play at a weak position regardless of site but is very underpriced on DraftKings.  Other than Carlos Correa, Gattis is my favorite hitter on Houston.  Cotton has been a flyball pitcher since coming to the big leagues, and Gattis has been much better throughout his career against flyball pitchers.  Although he only has a league-average wOBA this season, Gattis has displayed power against righties with a .233 ISO.  He has also had success against changeups from right-handed pitchers (Cotton’s best pitch) with a 90.3 average exit velocity against the pitch since the start of last season.  I think Ramos will be very popular on DraftKings and Gattis makes for a nice pivot off of him in GPPs.

Justin Bour (1B)- MIA vs WSH- $2,100

I understand that Bour is recently removed from the disabled list and may be a little bit rusty.  That being said, there is no way he should ever be close to the minimum price on any fantasy site ever.  On top of the pricing mistake, Bour matches up very well with A.J. Cole.  Cole has done a good job of limiting hard contact to lefties, but has still allowed 1.65 home runs per nine innings to them.  This is probably a result of poor command.  He either makes mistakes in the strike zone, or gets himself into hitter’s counts and then hitters can sit on his fastball.  Bour is a fairly patient hitter, with the 137th highest swing percentage in the majors among hitters with at least 50 at-bats, so it is easy to see him getting into good hitter’s counts against Cole.  Against fastballs in Cole’s velocity range, Bour has an average exit velocity of 93.6 miles per hour with a 17.3 degree average launch angle which has resulted in 10 home runs out of 61 results.  If he is able to get ahead in the count against Cole, he has a great chance at hitting a home run and being at 9x his salary by the end of the second or third inning.

Yulieski Gurriel (3B)- HOU at OAK- $2,900 DraftKings

This play is specific to DraftKings.  If he is batting second, his price is too cheap for the matchup against an inexperienced pitcher that we expect to struggle with right-handed hitters.  Gurriel has held his own against righties with a .379 wOBA and .189 ISO in a limited sample size.  I wouldn’t want to go cheap at third base on most slates, but I think it is relatively weak today and think it is a good spot to consider saving some money.

Yasmany Tomas (OF)- ARZ at SDP- $2,600

Tomas’s price on FanDuel is way too low.  Paul Clemens has been unable to strike out right-handed hitters this season- and basically throughout his career- and Tomas is not a guy that you want to let make contact.  Against righties this season, Clemens has allowed 2.67 home runs per nine innings and Tomas has a hard contact rate of 40.6 percent and soft contact rate of just 13.4 percent.  Tomas makes for a great GPP play because nobody will roster him in San Diego against a right-handed pitcher but he is very capable of hitting two home runs- especially because the Padres’ go-to long man is a lefty.

Gerardo Parra (1B/OF)- COL vs STL- $3,100 DraftKings

Another DraftKings specific play and it doesn’t have as much to do with Parra as it does his circumstances.  He is basically free and is playing in Coors Field, against a pitcher who struggles in this platoon split- and should struggle more than usual today because of his pitch selection.  This is a great spot to get cheap exposure to Coors Field and I doubt he will be overly popular in GPPs because he never is since you have to sacrifice one of the good Colorado outfielders in order to roster him.

Michael Conforto- NYM vs ATL- $2,000

If Conforto is in the lineup tonight against Aaron Blair he is a very strong play, especially at the absolute minimum on FanDuel.  As I mentioned earlier, Blair has allowed almost 2 home runs per nine innings to lefties.  Conforto has had issues this season but he has still hit the ball very hard when he makes contact, with a hard contact rate of 42.9 percent against right-handed pitching.  Overall against righties, he has a .339 wOBA and .224 ISO so there is plenty of upside.  In 83 results against fastballs in Blair’s velocity range, he has an average exit velocity of 94.9 miles per hour with 11 home runs.  I really hope that Conforto is in the lineup because he offers a ton of upside at the price and may go somewhat overlooked since people haven’t thought about him in a while.

Scott Schebler- CIN at CHC- $3,300 DraftKings

Schebler is a little too expensive for me on FanDuel, but is a great play on DraftKings.  He is actually my favorite play on Cincinnati today against Jason Hammel.  Hammel has been home run prone against lefties and mostly attacks them with fastballs and sliders.  Schebler has shown no ability to hit sliders from righties, but has shown he is a very good fastball hitter.  Hammel throws first-pitch fastballs to lefties between 60 and 70 percent of the time, and has thrown 60.7 percent first pitch strikes this season, so if Schebler is aggressive early in the count he has a good chance of getting a pitch he can drive.  Fortunately, Schebler has swung at 52 percent of the pitches he has seen this season (unlike Joey Votto who profiles the same way but only swings 41 percent of the time).  I love Schebler’s upside at his price on DraftKings for GPPs because he will go completely overlooked.

Jayson Werth (OF)- WSH at MIA- $3,900 DraftKings

This one is pretty straightforward.  Chen is coming off the DL, gives up home runs to righties, and Werth is less than $4,000 on DraftKings.  Against lefties this season, he has a .437 wOBA and .289 ISO with 46.1 percent hard contact and 11.2 percent soft contact.  Just get him into your lineups on DraftKings whether it is cash or GPPs.