MLB Deep Dive – 4/14/17

PITCHING

 

Clayton Kershaw [LHP – LAD] vs. ARI This is one of those days where paying for Kershaw actually isn’t that difficult. There are plenty of mid-range bats worth targeting, while the high-end hitters aren’t exactly priorities outside of maybe one or two. Kershaw is just too automatic to avoid. I won’t waste time running down the list of superlatives to describe the left-handed ace, but pointing out a K-rate that hasn’t fallen below 31.5 percent since 2013 should suffice.

Kershaw holds left-handed and right-handed hitters to similar numbers because he has the nastiest breaking stuff in baseball, finishing 2016 with the top-ranked slider among all starters, a top-10 curveball, and of course a top-15 fastball. What’s even more terrifying, though, is the talk of Kershaw throwing a changeup on Opening Day, where he threw about six pitches that resembled a change against San Diego. If this is actually the case, and Kershaw manages to add this pitch to his arsenal in even a limited capacity, he’ll become virtually unhittable — yes, more than he already is. It’s hardly important, though, as Kershaw is a machine in human form.

The Dodgers are -240 ML favorites at home with Arizona currently owning a slate-low implied run total of 2.3! Strange things occur every day in baseball, and ‘locks’ do not exist, but Kershaw is the closest we’ll ever get to having one. The D-Backs have plenty of potent righties throughout their order, but they’ll strike out at a high clip against southpaws and won’t have the luxury of hitting at Chase Field. Fading Kershaw carries the risk of knowing a complete-game shutout is always in play.

 

Johnny Cueto [RHP – SFG] vs. COL Cueto is actually a very strong play on Friday, but he’s also entirely too expensive on DraftKings at $11,600. On FanDuel, however, where Cueto sits at an inexplicable $9,000, he makes for a very enticing option against the Rockies. There are seven pitchers priced above Cueto on FanDuel, only one of which I prefer over him in cash (Kershaw). Noah Syndergaard [RHP – NYM] always warrants consideration in GPPs, and might even become a cash play if Miami releases a watered down lineup following Thursday’s 16-inning loss, but Cueto is simply too cheap to overlook.

Colorado is far from imposing away from Coors, and has even struggled at home to start the season. They strike out at a very high clip on the road, and won’t be able to maximize their power at AT&T Park, where Cueto held opposing hitters to a .265 wOBA and .083 ISO in 2016. Cueto doesn’t boast an elite K-rate, but he works deep into games and pitches efficiently every week. As a price play, you can’t do any better than Cueto, who remains a -130 ML favorite in the second lowest projected scoring game of the night.

 

Felix Hernandez [RHP – SEA] vs. TEX King Felix will never recapture his pre-2015 form, but that may not be necessary on Friday. The former Cy Young winner has worked to reinvent himself as a pitcher, acknowledging that he wouldn’t last much longer in this league with declining velocity and spotty command. Felix’s training staff pushed him to get stronger and sturdier; he responded by putting on almost 20 pounds over the winter and strengthening his lower body. Even a slight uptick in velocity will work in his favor, especially if he’s working to improve his mechanics.

Hernandez never needed to work hard, as he was physically gifted enough to get by on skill alone. Those days are over, though, and Felix isn’t ready to hang up the cleats. He’ll never be a top-of-the-rotation ace again, but there’s reason to believe Felix can still be effective. An 11.5 percent swinging strike rate over his first two starts in 2017 is encouraging, especially considering he has yet to walk a batter across 11 innings of work. The downside, however, is Felix has already surrendered three home runs and hasn’t exactly been unhittable.

Texas isn’t the same team away from Arlington, and they have plenty of strikeouts scattered throughout their lineup. The Mariners are still favorites on Friday (-133 ML) and the Rangers’ 3.6 implied run total isn’t exactly worrisome. There’s plenty of risk here, but also significant upside. Felix has the luxury of starting at one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball, and as far as we know, isn’t dealing with any nagging injuries, either. An $8,600 price tag on DraftKings creates plenty of intrigue on a night where we should get a true look at which Felix we’ll be seeing for the rest of the season.

 

Julio Teheran [RHP – ATL] vs. SDP Teheran may be one of the more popular second pitcher options on Friday, facing a weak San Diego offense at SanTrust Park. Teheran is a league-average pitcher, though, and I think that’s something people tend to overlook. A few seasons with a low-3 ERA has likely inflated his perceived value, but Teheran hasn’t finished with an xFIP below 4.13 since 2014, strikes batters out at a league average rate, and induces ground balls at a pedestrian 37 percent clip. Teheran throws a variety of pitches, but none of them are plus offerings, and his fastball velocity continues to decline. He also struggles with left-handed hitters, having allowed a .325 wOBA with a 5.54 xFIP in 2016.

I’m not saying Teheran isn’t in play, but I would be careful about how heavily you target him. The Padres are bad, but they do have enough of a left-handed presence to cause some problems. Teheran’s mid-$8K price point on both FanDuel and DraftKings is in the “take it or leave it” range for me, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see him post solid numbers this evening, I won’t be prioritizing him in any of my lineups.

 

Rick Porcello [RHP – BOS] vs. TB I’m expecting Porcello to go overlooked on Friday, which is why I’ll be targeting him in GPPs. Luis Severino racked up a career-high 11 strikeouts against this paltry Rays team last night, following rookie Jordan Montgomery’s seven K’s in only 4.2 IP the previous day, and Pineda’s 11 punch outs on Tuesday en route to a stellar overall performance. Tampa Bay is now striking out at a league-high 28.7 percent clip against right-handed arms, which alone makes Porcello an intriguing upper-mid-range play at home. I expect Porcello’s ownership to be low on a 13-game slate, especially considering he isn’t listed at a discounted price.

GPP PUNTS: Wade Miley [LHP – BAL] @ TOR; Trevor Bauer [RHP – CLE] vs. DET

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] @ Feldman [RHP] Villar has been nothing short of frustrating to start the year, failing to produce in plus matchups but coming alive in tougher draws. He’s hit three home runs in his first 10 games, but has only swiped one bag and is batting .163 overall. You won’t catch me avoiding him on Friday, though, as Villar draws a stellar matchup against Scott Feldman at Great American Ballpark. Feldman has displayed some reverse splits tendencies over his career, but he still struggles against left-handed hitters. In 2016, Feldman coughed up a .377 wOBA to LHB and owns a 4.52 xFIP against them over his career.

Villar bats from both sides of the plate, should see five plate appearances on Friday, and is capable of producing fantasy points in a myriad of ways. I’m not jumping off the bus now just because we’ve hit a couple of bumps. Ryan Braun [OF – R] is one of the few high-priced outfield bats I’ll be targeting on Friday, as he also finds himself in a very favorable spot against the aging right-hander. Pairing these two Milwaukee bats makes plenty of sense, but there’s another Brewers bat we’ll be discussing shortly that makes for one of my favorite overall plays on the slate.

 

Todd Frazier [3B – R] @ Mejia [LHP] The Todd Father is one of my favorite tournament options on this 13-game slate, facing the left-handed Adalberto Mejia at Target Field. Frazier will never hit for average, but he owns a career .249 ISO vs. LHP and has as much power as anyone in baseball. This game owns a 9-O/U between two inexperienced pitchers, but I’d still expect Frazier to go highly overlooked with him recovering from an illness, getting off to a slow start on the season, and being slightly overpriced across the industry. Mejia has some pretty decent stuff and commands his 94 MPH fastball pretty well for a young lefty, but he throws strikes and is definitely susceptible to serving up the longball to a power-hitting right-handed like Frazier.

 

Adam Duvall [OF – R] vs. Milone [LHP] Yoenis Cespedes was going to occupy this spot in the Deep Dive, but with Adam Conley forced to pitch out of the bullpen in Thursday’s 16-inning loss, Miami will turn to Edinson Volquez to make the start. Cespedes offers enough power upside to be viable in any matchup, but I much preferred him against the left-handed Conley. Duvall makes for a more than serviceable replacement, though, and was already someone I was looking to target on Friday.

Cincinnati’s 28-year-old outfielder exploded onto the scene last year with 33 home runs and 103 RBI. He sported a .246 ISO and 48 percent flyball rate vs. left-handed pitching, and absolutely demolished southpaws at home to the tune of a .361 wOBA and .305 ISO. Great American Ballpark is arguably the best righty power park in baseball, and Duvall should earn every opportunity to prove it on Friday with Tommy Milone set to toe the rubber for Milwaukee.

Milone has faced 677 righties since the start of 2015, allowing a .347 wOBA with a 15 percent K-rate and 1.45 HR/9. Righties also own a 25 percent line drive rate against Milone over that stretch, and pitching at GAB won’t do him any favors this evening. Duvall should be on all of our radars on a night where the Reds own one of the highest implied run totals of any team on this slate.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Brian Dozier [2B – R] vs. Covey [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Duffy [LHP]; Freddie Freeman [1B – L] vs. Chacin [RHP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] vs. Norris [LHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] @ Feldman [RHP] Thames will be a player we continue to target for as long as he’s drawing the platoon advantage atop the Brewers’ order. Batting second against right-handed pitchers Thames has not disappointed, having already racked up two homers, three doubles and five RBI in 23 AB vs. righties this season. Thames checks all the boxes on Friday, and is especially enticing on FanDuel where he remains priced at an inexplicable $2,500. I’m still willing to pay $4K for him on DraftKings, though, as he’s proven capable of being a valuable fantasy option in quality matchups. Feldman has faced only 20 lefties this year, but he’s already allowed two home runs and three extra-base hits. He was also dreadful in 137 lefties faced last season, with a .377 wOBA allowed.

 

Max Kepler [OF – L] vs. Covey [RHP] Kepler is set to bat second against rookie right-hander Dylan Covey on Friday, and the Twins own a whopping 5.1-run implied total at home. Covey doesn’t possess any strikeout upside, was pedestrian at best in the minors, and has never made a Major League start. I’m not sure what more we could ask for. Kepler showed last year that he’s capable of hitting for power against right-handed pitchers, and he remains more than affordable across the industry. He’s one of the best mid-range options available on Friday night.

 

Jose Peraza [2B – R] vs. Milone [LHP] Peraza draws the platoon advantage against Tommy Milone on Friday, is batting second in Cincinnati’s order, and is a very capable base stealer, having already racked up five swipes on the year. The Reds boast a 4.7-run implied total against Milone, who should struggle to navigate around a lineup that offers plenty of right-handed bats. Peraza’s career .351 wOBA vs. southpaws is more than enough to consider him when we factor in his base-stealing upside and potential for added at bats in what should be a high-scoring affair.

NOTE: Dee Gordon [2B – L]  is an appealing tournament play at the second base position. Getting on base will be the hard part for Gordon, but in the event that he gets aboard, he’ll be a virtual lock to steal against Syndergaard.

 

Tyler Saladino [3B/SS – R] @ Mejia [LHP] Saladino won’t hit for power and isn’t a particularly skilled player at the dish, but leading off against Adalberto Mejia is enough to put him in play on Friday. He should see five plate appearances and won’t hesitate to steal once he’s aboard. You’re getting him at a mid-$3K price on DraftKings and a sub-$3K salary on FanDuel. He’s also eligible at a rather weak shortstop position. Mejia, as earlier noted, has some decent stuff, but he’s far from polished and throws a ton of strikes, which should afford Saladino ample opportunity to make contact and put balls in play. Tim Anderson [SS – R] also makes sense at a similar price point, batting directly behind Saladino with the platoon advantage against Mejia.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Eugenio Suarez [3B – R] vs. Milone [LHP]

 

VALUE

 

Salvador Perez [C – R] vs. Ramirez [RHP] J.C. Ramirez has pitched 131 Major League innings, but all of them have come in relief. He’s struggled with righties out of the bullpen, though, allowing a .353 wOBA (319 BF), .228 ISO and a whopping 2.12 HR/9. Perez, like most catchers, doesn’t possess stellar numbers at the dish, but I’m more than willing to take a flier on him in this matchup. He’ll likely see a few at bats against the Angels relievers, which shouldn’t be a deterrent either, and the backstop position is unsurprisingly weaker than any other position on Friday.

Russell Martin [C- R] is also in play on FanDuel, where he’s the preferred option over a $3,100 Perez. Martin, along with the rest of this struggling Blue Jays team, is off to a miserable start, but we simply can’t ignore him on a night where he draws the platoon advantage against Wade Miley at the Rogers Centre.

Jason Castro [C- L] vs. Covey [RHP] Castro will actually become my favorite catcher option on Friday if he bats in the middle of Minnesota’s order against Covey. Chicago’s rookie right-hander shouldn’t scare any of us away from these Minnesota bats, and Castro remains dirt cheap across the board. Castro’s career .179 ISO vs. RHP is better than most catchers, and considering the Twins’ high implied run total, he should see several opportunities to knock in runs or cross the plate himself.

 

Steve Pearce [1B/2B – R] vs. Miley [LHP] Toronto is off to an unbelievably miserable start, but there’s no better remedy to these struggles than facing Wade Miley at home. Now, I’m not saying they’ll wake up on Friday, but this is perfect spot to do so, and Pearce should leave off against the southpaw. Pearce offers enough power at the top of the order to be a viable low-end option in the event that these Blue Jays actually show up.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Ramirez [RHP]; Michael Conforto [OF – L] @ Volquez [RHP]; Matt Adams [1B – L] @ Tanaka [RHP] GPP ONLY