MLB Deep Dive – 4/10/17

PITCHING [EARLY]

 

Justin Verlander [RHP – DET] vs. BOS – I could change my mind once we get more news, but there’s a good chance Boston will release another substandard lineup on Monday. The Red Sox have been dealing with a debilitating case of the flu, and they may still not be out of the woods yet. The line continues to shift in favor of Verlander (DET -113), and Boston owns an uncharacteristically low implied run total of 3.5. Verlander looked outstanding in his Opening Day start, had good movement on his breaking pitches, and posted a 13.6 percent swinging strike rate against the White Sox. That was only one game, but it’s good to see Verlander has everything working for him to start the year.

Boston was decimated by three different strains of influenza over the first week of baseball, and I’m hoping they remain at less than full strength on Monday. The Sox still boast a potent lineup with plenty of power from both sides of the plate, but Hanley Ramirez is sidelined until Tuesday at the earliest, Jackie Bradley Jr. is out with an ailing knee, and David Ortiz is… retired. Xander Bogaerts is expected to return, but Boston will still be shorthanded against a revitalized Verlander. On a day where DraftKings has inexplicably priced every batter not named Mallex Smith through the floor, Verlander is a very easy fit, and his matchup could become a whole lot better based on what John Farrell is forced to do with his lineup.

 

James Paxton [LHP – SEA] vs. HOU – Paxton has really good stuff, as evidenced by Wednesday’s road start against Houston, where he pitched six scoreless innings of two-hit baseball while racking up five strikeouts on 100 total pitches. Paxton sits on a near 97 MPH fastball, induces ground balls at a 50-plus percent clip, and spiked his strikeout rate to 23 percent in 2016. Paxton posted a 3.79 ERA across 121 IP last year despite being the recipient of some bad luck (.347 BABIP, 66% LOB, 3.35 xFIP), and is poised for a true breakout campaign in 2017.

Houston has gotten off to a very slow start this season, likely the result of them hitting a lot of ground balls and making poor contact. This is a team that swings for the fences on every pitch, so it’s not surprising to see them go through some slumps. The Astros are no scrubs, though, and they boast enough right-handed power to make any lefty pay.

Paxton has done a phenomenal job of limiting home runs over his young career (.68 HR/9), and has managed to hold right-handed batters to a .279 wOBA across 1009 batters faced. Heavy use of the curveball has allowed the southpaw to neutralize opposite-handed bats, while his 96.7 MPH fastball was the third highest velocity in baseball last season behind only Noah Syndergaard and Nathan Eovaldi. The Mariners are -132 ML favorites on Monday, and the Astros own the lowest implied run total on the slate (3.5 TT). I could see people fading Paxton based on a bad perceived matchup, but I’ll be targeting him heavily in a spot where he should shine.

 

Chris Sale [LHP – BOS] @ DET – I wouldn’t be recommending Sale on a larger slate where pricing was tighter, but DraftKings makes it ridiculously easy to fit him on Monday afternoon. I’m not a fan of this matchup, and Sale’s price point is far from enticing, but it’s worth pointing out that you can pair him with Verlander and still make a very solid team. Sale was sharp in his Red Sox debut against Pittsburgh and showed flashes of his pre-2016 self, so while the matchup isn’t perfect, he’s still elite enough to shine. I still prefer the Verlander/Paxton pairing on DraftKings, but Sale is easy to fit if you don’t feel comfortable with any of the mid-range arms.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Michael Pineda [RHP – NYY] is an enigma, and that’s not exactly a favorable characteristic for fantasy purposes. Immense strikeout potential draws huge appeal for Pineda, but unpredictable command can overshadow his strengths. He’ll also have to pitch at Yankee Stadium, which serves as the best lefty-power park in the game. 37 of Pineda’s 48 home runs allowed over the last two seasons have come at home. I’ll certainly have some GPP exposure against the K-heavy Rays, but also understand how ugly things could get against a lineup that boasts a number of talented lefties at the top of their lineup.

Charlie Morton [RHP – HOU] doesn’t excite me. I understand that his velocity has been up and he looked good in spring training, but I don’t see him having a high enough K-rate to be DFS-viable when his numbers begin to stabilize. Cheap enough on DraftKings, but without the win he’ll leave you wanting more. Most importantly, however, is the fact that Morton isn’t even close to being necessary on Monday. He would only be playable as an SP-2 on DraftKings, where hitting pricing is so soft that his savings won’t get you anywhere you couldn’t already go.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Paul Goldschmidt [1B – L] @ Moore [LHP] Goldschmidt won’t have the luxury of hitting inside Chase Field on Monday, but he’ll still be facing an erratic left-hander and is priced down on DraftKings. Matt Moore isn’t a bad pitcher, but he owns a concerning 10.5 percent walk rate against righties over his career, and induces ground balls at a below-average 37 percent clip. Goldschmidt walks against southpaws at a 15.7 percent clip, and owns a ridiculous .433/.261 wOBA/ISO split for his career. AT&T Park won’t do much to favor the batter, but Goldy boasts more than enough power to produce in any given park. Arizona is a lefty-mashing team that could get to Moore this afternoon, and if that happens to be the case, Goldschmidt will have something to do with it. I prefer him much more on DraftKings where he is inexplicably priced at $4,300.

 

Robinson Cano [2B – L] vs. Morton [LHP] You’ll hear a lot of chatter about Charlie Morton’s velocity being up and his subsequent K-rate spike making him a much better pitcher. That may very well be the case, and Morton generates enough ground balls to be effective if he stays healthy, but he still figures to struggle against left-handed bats. Over his career, Morton is allowing a massive .374 wOBA to opposing lefties, while his BB-rate soars against opposite-handed bats, too. Morton predictably sees a drop in strikeout rate and ground ball rate against lefties, so even if he continues to improve overall, he’ll be far from unhittable when batters have the platoon advantage.

Cano finally woke up in 2017, torching the Angels with a home run, double and 5 RBI on Sunday afternoon. I’m willing to go back to the well again on Monday at a weak second base position, especially considering we can pay for whoever we want on DraftKings. Safeco Field won’t do the veteran infielder any favors, but the pitching matchup alone is enough to warrant consideration on a small five-game slate. Kyle Seager [3B – L] also makes sense against Morton, as he’ll bat in the middle of Seattle’s order with the platoon advantage on Monday. I don’t mind paying a $4K price tag for him on DraftKings, as salary really doesn’t matter on this slate.

 

George Springer [OF – R] @ Paxton [LHP] – Spring makes for a fine GPP play on Monday, but I won’t be deploying him in cash. Maybe I have more respect for Paxton than I should, but he just isn’t a pitcher who serves up many home runs — especially inside the cavernous Safeco Field. Springer has been stellar to start the season, though, and owns a career .251 ISO vs. southpaw pitching. He’s the one Astro I could see doing some damage against Seattle’s starting lefty, but I wouldn’t blame you for deploying some Jose Altuve [2B – R] or Carlos Correa [SS – R] in tournaments, either.

 

MID-RANGE

 

A.J. Pollock [OF – R] @ Moore [LHP] Pollock is more expensive on FanDuel than he is on DraftKings, but remains a solid option across the industry. As earlier noted, Matt Moore has struggled with keeping right-handed batters off the basepaths, as evidenced by a career 10.5 percent walk rate and 1.35 WHIP. He’ll have the spacious confines of AT&T Park to mitigate his below-average groundball rate vs. righties, but Arizona poses a very tough matchup for any lefty at any park. Pollock not only owns strong career numbers against left-handed arms, but is a very capable base stealer who’s capable of manufacturing fantasy points in a variety of ways. His $3,500 price tag on DraftKings is flat out silly.

 

Brad Miller [SS – L] @ Pineda [RHP]As we already know, Michael Pineda is no stranger to implosion games; the 28-year-old right-hander has certainly endured some bad luck over the past couple years, but he’s also contributed to much of his own misfortune. When Pineda isn’t getting calls or when his defense makes mistakes behind him, he tends to unravel. As we saw in last week’s start at Tampa Bay, Pineda was unable to settle down after a few should-be outs turned into base hits. Throwing fastballs over the heart of the plate with the hopes of a swing and miss or called strike doesn’t work in this league, and Pineda has been punished over and over again as a result. He’ll have to pitch at Yankee Stadium on Monday, where he’s allowed 37 home runs over his last two campaigns.

Brad Miller, or “Bad Miller” depending on the day, gives us an affordable left-handed bat with a career .202 ISO vs. right-handed pitching. Miller owns a slightly above-average 36 percent FB rate against righties over his career, and now he’ll draw a matchup with the volatile Pineda inside the most lefty-friendly park in baseball. Assuming he bats cleanup, Miller should see ample opportunity to produce in this matchup, and he is one of several Tampa Bay lefties that should be considered on Monday afternoon.

 

Corey Dickerson [OF – L] @ Pineda [RHP]Dickerson is actually my favorites Rays bat on Monday, leading off against Pineda at Yankee Stadium on a day where game-time temperatures will be above 70 degrees. Dickerson looks strong to start the season, already recording two home runs, two doubles and 4 RBI. A litany of injuries makes it easy to forget how well Dickerson has hit righties over his career, but a .375/.265 wOBA/ISO should refresh your memory. Dickerson is very affordable across the board, and could see five at bats against Pineda and Co. this afternoon. I’ll have heavy exposure to him on a day where the conditions are perfect. Don’t forget about Kevin Kiermaier [OF – L], either, as he should bat second and have the platoon against Pineda. A left-handed Rays stack with some Evan Longoria [3B – R] could take us a long way if Pineda comes out flat.

 

Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Kennedy [RHP] Targeting Ian Kennedy is generally a recipe for success in daily fantasy baseball, as the veteran righty is one of the most homer-prone fly-ballers in the game. Khris Davis, on the other hand, offers a ton of power from the right side of the plate, and as we’ve already seen this season, owns double dong upside in quality matchups. Oakland currently owns the highest implied run total on Monday’s early slate (4.5 TT), and Davis owns a career 41 percent fly ball rate against right-handed arms. Extreme flyball pitcher vs. flyball hitter… Where do I sign?

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Brandon Belt [1B – L] vs. Walker; Brett Gardner [OF – L] vs. Cobb; Buster Posey [C/1B – R] vs. Walker

 

VALUE

 

Stephen Vogt [C – L] @ Kennedy [RHP] – . Matt Joyce [OF – L] is near minimum salary across the board, and while I’m not sure you’ll even need the savings, he’s batting towards the top of Oakland’s order against the homer-prone Kennedy. A top/middle of the order stack works well here, where you can easily fit whoever you want. Kennedy allows 1.28 HR/9 to lefties over his career, while serving up fly balls at an unsightly 45 percent clip. Life didn’t get any easier for Kennedy last season, where his flyball rate jumped north of 50 percent and his K-rate dipped to a league average 20.8 percent across 101 innings. The catcher position is weak, but Vogt makes for a perfect stopgap who has home run upside at Kauffman Stadium, where winds are blowing 15 MPG out to left-center field.

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Cotton [RHP] Moustakas will continue to be in play until sites decide to raise his salary. He’s dirt cheap across the board, bats second in the Royals’ order, and faces a righty in Jharel Cotton, who despite his his strikeout upside remains volatile in his rookie campaign. Moustakas simply makes for a cheap bat with the platoon advantage, and the winds at Kauffman should aid his home run attempts on Monday. He is by no means a must play at third base, but makes for a very solid value option with the power to pay off his price tag with one swing of the bat.

 

Chris Owings [SS – R] @ Moore [LHP] Owings is batting second against left-handed pitchers, which means I’m willing to consider him at a very accommodating price point. We’ve seen Owings produce with the platoon advantage and he won’t hesitate to take off once he’s aboard, which creates some additional appeal against Moore, who walks righties at a 10.5 percent clip over his career. Owings won’t require much more than a hit and a stolen base for us to feel good about rostering him, but there’s upside for more against the Southpaw, as evidenced by two huge fantasy performances already through only six starts this season.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Brandon Crawford [SS – L] vs. Walker [RHP]; Ryon Healy [1B/3B – R] @ Kennedy [RHP] GPP