MLB Analytical Angles 9/22/16

Thursday’s slate includes 10 games total and is actually shaping up as an excellent cash game slate due to a variety of high-floor hitters drawing incredibly favorable matchups. Certainly there are some stackable offenses as well, so tournaments will still be fun, but this slate personifies the “80-20” rule in terms of what percentage of money in play to use in cash games versus tournaments (especially for beginners).

Anyway, without further ado, here are some individual hitters worth rostering tonight:

Note: All prices are based on FantasyDraft salaries unless otherwise specified

Premium:

George Springer, Astros, $8,000 – The short porch in left field at Minute Maid Park always enhances George Springer’s value slightly because he doesn’t have to hit the ball quite as far in order to take it out. On Thursday, Ricky Nolasco and his 18 HRs allowed to RHHs will step into this hitter-friendly park and attempt to shut down a powerful Astros offense. Since the All-Star Break, Nolasco has allowed 11 HRs in 74.0 IP (1.34 HR/9) which is actually an uptick in HR rate from the first half (1.24 HR/9). Furthermore, RHHs have produced a HR/9 rate of 1.66 against him comparatively to just 0.85 for LHHs. Since Nolasco has played on multiple teams, his home/away splits are sort of skewed, but he has allowed a 4.93 ERA on the road this year. If rostering Springer, you’re looking for a bomb (or at least an extra-base hit or two), and Nolasco presents a perfect opportunity for him to deliver.

David Ortiz, Red Sox, $11,100 – While David Ortiz has strongly preferred hitting at home this season, Camden Yards has allowed HRs to LHHs above the league-average rate consistently. By now, you’re probably aware Ortiz is amidst the greatest final season ever for a player and it has a lot to do with his .325/.417/.694 slash line against RHPs. In 36 career ABs against Chris Tillman, Ortiz has only put five balls in play, but for an average exit velocity of 95.5mph (and he’s walked five times as well). The numbers aren’t fantastic (other than how hard he’s hit the ball) but Chris Tillman has regressed rather drastically since the All-Star Break. After allowing a 3.41 ERA and .308 wOBA prior to the break, he has allowed a 4.38 ERA and .320 wOBA since then. Most importantly, his K rate has dropped from 7.78 batters per nine innings to 6.66…so the odds of him striking out Ortiz once again is slim-to-none. If Tillman isn’t going to K Ortiz, look for Ortiz to hit some more rockets.

Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, $9,900 – Probably my favorite play of the entire night is Yoenis Cespedes and his .451 wOBA against LHPs squaring off against Adam Morgan. In a limited sample against Morgan, Cespedes has put the ball in play four out of five ABs for an average exit velocity of 97.1mph. Considering Morgan has allowed 19 HRs (out of 21 total), a .308/.349/.576 slash line and .385 to RHHs this season, none of those numbers are surprising. This is a classic case of David versus Goliath and you won’t want to miss out on this kind of mismatch.

Eduardo Nunez, Giants, $9,900 – Against a lefty (Christian Friedrich), Eduardo Nunez is likely destined to lead off and that requires your attention (especially in cash games). Nunez is slashing a respectable .272/.304/.480 against LHP this year with a .208 ISO and .329 wOBA but he has also stolen nine bases against the handedness. Although Friedrich hasn’t allowed a ton of hard contact, he has still struggled versus RHHs to the tune of a .269/.351/.416 slash line and .332 wOBA. Over his last 56.2 IP, Friedrich is sporting a 5.08 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 4.30 FIP, 5.11 xFIP and measly 5.72 K/9. As evident by Nunez’s low OBP, he prefers to just go up there hacking, and he’s a tough guy to strike out as-is. Since Friedrich struggles to force any hitter to swing-and-miss, Nunez has the potential to put his entire five tool skill set on display in this matchup.

Christian Yelich, Marlins, $10,400 – Josh Collmenter will draw the start against the Marlins this evening and he has struggled against both sides of the plate this year equally. In fact, both lefties and righties have produced exactly a .353 wOBA against him to this point. Throughout the course of his career, Collmenter has relied almost solely on his deceptive windup to retire opposing hitters, but now there’s enough tape on him where he isn’t fooling anyone. Meanwhile, Christian Yelich is slashing a whopping .306/.391/.521 against RHP this year with a .216 ISO and .388 wOBA. It’s going to take more than a herky-jerky windup to retire a professional hitter of this ilk so Collmenter is in trouble. Start Yelich with confidence.

Mike Napoli, Indians, $9,600 – No team is implied to score more runs on this slate than the Indians’ 5.3. Opposing starter Jason Vargas will be making only his second start of the season since returning from Tommy John Surgery. In his first game, he only last 3.0 IP and 13 total batters faced before having to be replaced, and I’d expect a similar outcome in this game. While his pitch count may go up, the Indians are a formidable opponent against the handedness so they may cause his rock to be a bit rockier than his start against the White Sox. The Indians are led by Mike Napoli and his .270/.372/.474 slash line, .204 ISO and .362 wOBA against LHP. Napoli’s kryptonite is his 31.1-percent K rate versus lefties and even a healthy Vargas has only average 5.90 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his 11-year MLB career. He only struck out one hitter in his first outing so it’s unlikely he’ll be able to avoid Napoli’s powerful bat in this game. Therefore, expect the Indians to come close to their Vegas projection, and it could be bombs away for Mr. Napoli.

Jose Reyes, Mets, $8,100 – This season, Jose Reyes has been a much better hitter as a righty as opposed to a lefty, meaning he has preferred hitting against LHPs. While he has only hit .236 against right-handers, Reyes is slashing .386/.471/.733 with a .508 wOBA against left-handers in 44 ABs this season. These numbers, while inflated, tell a similar story to his career trends as well. Morgan is a pitcher to target multiple ABs, and one Mets hitter simply isn’t enough, so start Reyes alongside Cespedes at the much more affordable price.

Value Plays:

Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers, $6,300 – It has only taken Yasmani Grandal 118 games and 429 ABs to hit 25 HRs this season and drive in 64 runs. Typically, catchers are not worth rostering on FantasyDraft simply because you are not required to but this bargain is tough to pass on. Sure opposing starter Tyler Chatwood has produced a 1.77 ERA on the road so I wouldn’t go stacking the Dodgers but Grandal’s talent/cost combination deems him an intriguing one-off. He’ll never hit for average but he is slugging .488 against RHPs with a .266 ISO and .343 wOBA. Chatwood forces opponents to pound the ball into the ground at an impressive rate (56.7-percent GB rate) but Grandal has fared well against him in a small sample size in the past. In four ABs, Grandal has put two balls in play at an average exit velocity of 99.5mph. If he were listed as $8,000, he would be unrosterable, but it’s hard to pass on a guy with this sort of power in the preferable side of his platoon split at this cost.

Justin Bour, Marlins, $7,500 – Picking on Collmenter is an interesting proposition and the Marlins stack is one that should go overlooked on this slate. The guy throws averages 85.9mph on his four-seam fastball so his struggles this season should come as no surprise. Collmenter walks too many hitters, has allowed 1.98 HR/9 and only owns a career GB rate of 35.9-percent, so a power hitter like Justin Bour is an excellent spot against him. Bour has hit the ball hard a healthy 37.1-percent of the time this year and righties have hit the ball hard 34.2-percent of the time against Collmenter. That should be music to fantasy owner’s ears and Bour rates as one of the top tournament targets on the slate.

Yuli Gurriel, Astros, $5,600 – Last but certainly not least is the consistently underpriced Yuli Gurriel. I’m not really sure what the pricing algorithm’s beef is with Gurriel’s skill set but I’m not going to complain either. As mentioned in the Springer tidbit, Ricky Nolasco’s reverse splits are rather drastic, so RHHs are the preferred play against him. Considering Gurriel is slashing .310/.339/.483 against the handedness with a .348 wOBA in his short stint as a Major Leaguer, there is almost no downside to rostering him at this basement price.