MLB Deep Dive – 4/12/17

PITCHING

 

Marcus Stroman [RHP – TOR] vs. MIL  – Extreme ground-balling, inning-eating pitcher — that’s the easiest way to describe Marcus Stroman. The 25-year-old righty isn’t going to rack up double-digit strikeouts in any given start, but he will be judicious enough with his pitch selection to work short at bats. That being said, the second half of Stroman’s 2016 campaign showed a nice rise in strikeouts, jumping to a very serviceable 23 percent over 16 starts, as he started throwing the slider and cutter more to left-handed bats. The second half of last season was a major success overall, as Stroman posted a 2.93 xFIP and 10.2 percent swinging strike rate, all while maintaining a 61.5 percent groundball rate in the process.

Wednesday’s matchup with Milwaukee is one to get excited about, but it doesn’t come without some warts. The Brewers will likely lead the league in strikeouts again this season — they’re already striking out at a 32.5 percent clip in 200 PA vs. RHP this season, which is five percent higher than the next worst team — but they do pack some power throughout the lineup, ranking second in ISO thus far. J.A. Happ wasn’t sharp last night, but he still racked up eight K’s in only 4.2 innings, so an efficient ground-baller like Stroman should be in for a very solid showing.

The Blue Jays are whopping -220 ML favorites at home, while also owning the highest implied run total on the slate. Stroman should get through six or seven innings easily, and although wins aren’t a predictable figure in daily fantasy baseball, his chances of earning one are as good as it gets. Stroman is easily the top pitching option on Wednesday night.

 

Vince Velasquez [RHP – PHI] vs. NYM Velasquez faced 20 batters in his 2017 debut… and he struck out half of them. Velasquez has some absolutely filthy stuff, but he has trouble working out of jams as evidenced by an abbreviated outing last week, and allows to much hard contact when he isn’t missing bats. It’s something that will keep him from being a reliable cash game play until he figures it out, but the tournament upside is absolutely immense.

The young right-hander posted a near 28 percent K-rate and 11.2 percent swinging strike rate across 131 innings last season, but an elevated home run rate and the tendency to gamble on his stuff when behind in counts yielded some unfavorable results. One final interesting stat I found from Velasquez’s 2016 season was he finished second to last in CSAA (Called Strikes Above Average), which should improve in 2017.

The Mets are already striking out a lot this season (24.5% vs. RHP), and aside from Tuesday’s offensive explosion, their bats have been rather quiet. As a high-upside tournament play, Velasquez should always be considered. His velocity seemed to be down a tick last week, but it didn’t affect his ability to strike batters out. It would be nice to see a bigger velocity gap between his fastball and changeup, too, but the swinging strikes were there, so I’d be hard-pressed to complain. Nevertheless, Velasquez remains a high-upside, high-volatility play with double-digit K potential on a slate devoid of much talent.

 

Shelby Miller [RHP – ARI] @ SFG This is a terrifying thought; rostering Shelby Miller in daily fantasy formats hasn’t been a reality since 2015. The once promising right-hander limped through a dismal 2016 where he posted a 6.15 ERA across 101.1 IP, and all hopes of him becoming a top of the rotation ace had been temporarily quashed. Lost velocity resulted in a putrid strikeout rate, which ultimately led to an inflated hard hit rate, more home runs, less confidence etc. etc.

The thing is, though, Miller showed a huge velocity spike in spring training and also in his 2017 debut. He allowed three runs to a tough Indians lineup early on but managed to shut them down over the final four frames. Miller’s fastball touched 98 MPH in his debut! He struck out 28 percent of batters faced, and had an 82.5 percent Z-Contact rate that reflected his increased velocity. Miller was a promising pitcher at one point. This isn’t a ‘who’s this guy’ type of scenario, but maybe more of ‘this is who we thought he was going to be two years ago.’

I can’t guarantee that Miller will be sharp on Wednesday. He still has a lot of question marks after shitting the bed in 2016. The fact is, however, that pitching is terrible outside of Stroman and Velasquez for GPPs, and Miller remains very affordable across the industry. He’ll also face a Giants lineup that will be without Buster Posey for the next week. The strikeouts may not come in bunches against San Francisco, but Miller has a very good chance of posting quality overall numbers and earning the win against Matt Cain. Taking the mound at AT&T Park won’t hurt, either.

Thanks to DraftCheat for pointing out this surge in velocity. Once digging in a bit deeper you find that Miller is nothing without his fastball, but with it he becomes viable again.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Jimenez [RHP] Boston facing Jimenez at home is a recipe for success, depending on which side you’re on. Jimenez has always fared better against same-handed bats, which is to be expected, but he simply doesn’t stand a chance in this matchup. The Sox are finally getting healthy, and now they’ll face a righty inside the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. Betts is off to a slow start, too, but he’s going to see some very hittable pitches on Wednesday. Last season, Betts smoked righties to the tune of a .388/.208 wOBA/ISO, with 23 home runs, 92 RBI and 23 stolen bases to boot. On a non-Coors slate I’m willing to pay for him — especially considering we won’t have to pay for pitching.

 

Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Griffin [RHP] A.J. Griffin coughs up a lot of home runs, with a career 1.69 HR/9 allowed to both lefties and righties over 404.2 Major League innings. Pitching at Globe Life hasn’t done him many favors, but it’s Griffin’s sub-30 percent ground ball over the last two years that’s plagued him the most. He’ll get a favorable park shift in Anaheim tonight, but I don’t see him escaping unscathed.

Mike Trout boasts a ridiculous .412/.257 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP over his career, and hasn’t seen any of his power sapped when hitting at Angel Stadium. I’m leaning slightly towards Betts as my top high-priced outfielder, but only because I like Boston more as a team. Individually, however, Trout is arguably the best top-tier option on Wednesday’s slate. Any time you pit someone with Trout’s power up against a flyball righty, destruction usually ensues.

 

Kyle Schwarber [C/OF – L] vs. McCarthy [RHP] Schwarber should be on your radar every time he’s facing a questionable righty. McCarthy doesn’t lack the skill to pitch well, but he’s been plagued by so many injuries and even a case of the yips that it’s hard to gauge where he’s at from year to year. With Schwarber, we know he brutalizes right-handed pitching (.394/.266 wOBA/ISO), and leads off for a power-laden Cubs offense. The total on this game is low and Chicago’s implied run total is barely above four, but Schwarber offers too much upside atop this lineup to ignore.

 

Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] @ Cain [RHP] – Goldy will likely go overlooked due to the matchup at AT&T Park, but he might be my favorite first base play on Wednesday night. See the Jake Lamb writeup for more information on this matchup.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Correa [SS – R] @ Gallardo [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Fiers [RHP]; Starling Marte [OF – R] vs. Garrett [LHP]

MID-RANGE

 

Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] vs. Jimenez [RHP] Boston’s rookie outfield will be the first player slotted into my lineups on Wednesday, drawing a matchup with Ubaldo Jimenez at Fenway Park. Benintendi has only seen 110 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, but he’s been stupendous, sporting a .400 wOBA, .222 ISO and 41 percent flyball rate. Jimenez, on the other hand, has been brutal against left-handed hitters. He no longer gets swinging strikes on his slider, owns a miserable 6.8 percent K-BB rate, and surrendered a .378 wOBA to lefties in 2016. Moreover, Jimenez’s splitter, the one pitch he can rely upon to get batters out, wasn’t working at all for him in his 2017 debut. The cold weather can be partially blamed for his struggles, but Jimenez simply doesn’t have it anymore. I’ll put my money on Boston’s no.1 prospect on Wednesday and see where it takes me.

 

Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Cain [RHP] Matt Cain is washed up and there’s nothing he can do about it. The 32-year-old right-hander hasn’t posted an ERA under 5 since 2014, and his last three seasons have been brutal to say the least. Since 2015, Cain has allowed a whopping .394 wOBA to left-handed bats, with a .235 ISO and 5.04 xFIP. Even AT&T Park can’t save him from himself, and I’d be very surprised to see Cain make it through the season in the rotation.

Lamb has had the luxury of hitting at Chase Field in half of his starts, but even away from him he’s posted serviceable splits against right-handed arms. The park shift won’t favor him on Wednesday, but he should still be able to tee off on Cain’s fastball, that sat at 88 MPH in his 2017 debut (down exactly two MPH from 2016). I’m willing to overlook an unfavorable park when the pitching matchup is pristine, and that’s what we’ll get with Lamb on Wednesday.

NOTE: I really like some Diamondbacks stacks in GPPs tonight, as people will avoid them based on the park. If Cain’s velocity stays below 90 MPH he’s going to get rocked, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him unravel.

 

Devon Travis [2B – R] vs. Anderson [RHP] Chase Anderson appears to be one of the few true reverse splits pitchers in baseball, which is interesting because, according to the facts, Anderson actually pitches more like a lefty than a righty. Eno Sarris points out in “Wait, That Guy Isn’t A Lefty” that left-handed pitchers, on average, throw softer, throw more changeups, and throw more four-seamers than sinkers. Last season, only six pitchers threw more changeups than Anderson, whose changeup actually moved like it was being thrown by a lefty. He also sits on a 91 MPH fastball. The point here is that Anderson’s reverse splits actually make sense, unlike many pitchers who have yet to gather a large enough sample size (AJ. Griffin actually shares very similar characteristics to Anderson, which is why some Angels righties could also be in for a big night).

Devon Travis, who will be squaring off against Anderson on Wednesday, has gotten off to a dreadful start in 2017, going 3-27 at the plate with zero extra-base hits. I’m still willing to take a flier on him, though, as he should lead off for Toronto, and is hitting RHP for a respectable .344 wOBA over his career. Anderson has surrendered a career .361 wOBA to right-handed bats, while coughing up a .209 ISO with a 19 percent K-rate and 1.49 home runs allowed per nine.

If Travis can’t find his swing on Wednesday I’ll have to move on for the time being. Having said that, Toronto owns a slate-high implied run total of five, and Travis should see plenty of hittable pitches with the power that lurks behind him in this Blue Jays lineup.

NOTE: A Toronto Blue Jays stack makes a lot of sense tonight considering they’ve been struggling to start the season. Josh Donaldson’s [3B – R] expected absence doesn’t help, but there’s still a lot to like from top to bottom.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Billy Hamilton [OF – L/R] @ Nova [RHP]; Seth Smith [OF – L] @ Wright [RHP]; Kendrys Morales [1B -L/R] vs. Anderson [RHP]; Denard Span [OF – L] vs. Miller [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Triggs [RHP] Moustakas will remain a viable value play until sites adjust his salary. He’s still hitting second in the Royals’ order, draws the platoon advantage on most days, and has enough power to pay off his price tag with one swing of the bat. Andrew Triggs looks to be a decent pitcher, but I’m more focused on the savings here and not the matchup. If you need to free up cap space and aren’t satisfied with the punts at other positions, Moustakas makes for an easy fit at $3,400 on DraftKings and $2,700 on FanDuel.

 

David Peralta [OF – L] @ Cain [RHP] As earlier noted with Jake Lamb, I’m not too worried about the unfavorable park shift on Wednesday. Matt Cain’s velocity is down significantly and he doesn’t have any out pitches to sit down left-handed bats. Peralta is well underpriced on DraftKings, bats in the middle of Arizona’s order, and draws the platoon advantage against a sub-par righty. He should be ultra-low-owned across the board, and is very capable of belting a homer at any park.

 

Jordy Mercer [SS – R] vs. Garrett [LHP] Mercer is really only serviceable when facing a southpaw, but he’ll draw a matchup with Amir Garrett on Wednesday and should lead off for the Pirates. Mercer’s .366 career wOBA vs. LHP is more than enough reason to consider him at a dirt cheap price point, even if this game is being played at PNC Park. Cincinnati’s young southpaw doesn’t figure to generate many strikeouts and is making his second career Major League start. I could think of worse spots for Mercer to be in this evening.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Brandon Crawford [SS – L] vs. Miller [RHP]; Jose Peraza [2B/SS – R] @ Nova [RHP]

 

TOP TOURNAMENT STACKS

 

Boston Red Sox vs. Ubaldo Jimenez [RHP]

Arizona Diamondbacks @ Matt Cain [RHP]

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Chase Anderson [RHP]

Los Angeles Angels vs. A.J. Griffin [RHP]