MLB Deep Dive – 4/15/17
NOTE: Strong winds will be blowing out at Wrigley Field for the first time this season, currently forecasted at 20 MPH out to dead center. The wind physics appear to have changed at Wrigley since its remodeling, but I don’t see the need to risk using pitchers from this game. Jake Arrieta [RHP – CHC] loses significant value as a result, and I’ll seemingly have to wait another week before jumping back on the Tyler Glasnow [RHP – PIT] mobile. Believe you me, I’ll be there when the young righty explodes onto the scene, and it will be glorious.
Chris Sale [LHP – BOS] vs. TB – Rick Porcello was awful last night, but that was more a reflection of him coming out flat than it was Tampa Bay being an offensive juggernaut. Pitchers have easily dispatched the Ray this season, and even if they give up runs, the strikeouts accompany that damage. Sale appears to be back to his pre-2015 form, which means more strikeouts and less pitch-to-contact silliness. He owns a 32 percent K-rate and 12.7 percent swinging strike rate over his first two starts, while pitching seven-plus innings in both. Sale is a bonafide top-of-the-rotation ace when pitching to miss bats and not to hit them, which is why we should all be targeting him on Saturday.
Sale is a -211 ML favorite against the Rays, who no longer have Logan Forsythe batting atop the order vs. left-handed arms. Save for Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay’s right-handed bats, including Derek Norris, Tim Beckham and Steven Souza, are far from threatening. Even Rickie Weeks, who packs some combination of power and strikeouts into his hole-filled bat, is day-to-day with an ailing shoulder. Sale should see ample opportunity to rack up the K’s but also work deep into this game. He won’t come cheap, but the upside is far greater than the floor on a day where Sale offers legitimate double-digit strikeout upside at Fenway.
Lance McCullers [RHP – HOU] @ OAK – Feel free to go back and read my full analysis on McCullers from previous Deep Dives, where I attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis on why this guy has legitimate Cy Young-winning potential. I’ll spare you the novel on Saturday, but it’s worth reiterating that McCullers is one of, if not the only pitcher in baseball capable of throwing a knuckle-curve more than 50 percent of the time while still being highly effective. He throws the curve for strikes but can also force batters to chase, owning a whopping 23 percent swinging strike rate on his go-to pitch. McCullers is sitting on a near 95 MPH fastball this season, which allows him to set up the curve, and although he is mostly a fastball-curveball pitcher, the young righty is capable of mixing in a changeup when necessary. To put things simply, McCullers commands and manipulates his knuckle-curve so well that it becomes nearly impossible to hit.
Oakland doesn’t boast a threatening lineup outside of Khris Davis, who McCullers will have the platoon advantage over. McCullers is ceding a career .316 wOBA to left-handed bats, but with a 24 percent K-rate and only .89 H/9 allowed, he’s managed to limit the damage. He strikes same-handed batters out at a filthy 31 percent clip and owns a 50-plus percent groundball rate against hitters from both sides of the plate. Pitching at O.Co should work in his favor, even though McCullers has struggled on the road over his short career. Nevertheless, he remains a -148 ML favorite against an unthreatening Oakland lineup, and possesses more than enough upside to pay off his slightly inflated salary on DraftKings. I’ll be sure to have my McCullers shares in GPPs.
Matt Moore [LHP – SFG] vs. COL – Matt Moore’s career numbers are fine. They aren’t stellar, but they’re certainly fine. A 21.5 percent K-rate and 3.88 ERA are serviceable, but Moore’s 9.9 percent BB-rate and 39 percent groundball rate have held him back over the years. Still, he’s a -125 ML favorite on Saturday, and gets to pitch a AT&T Park, where runs have been known to be suppressed. Colorado is a below average team away from Coors, owning the league’s fourth highest K-rate (24%) and 26th ranked wOBA (.300) on the road since the start of 2016. Moore draws a legitimate shot at earning the win, and is priced low enough to return value on sites that include the 4pm games.
Justin Verlander [RHP – DET] @ CLE – It’s worth noting that although his matchup with Cleveland is tough, Verlander is inexplicably priced at $8,500 on DraftKings. The Indians don’t strike out much and possess a plethora of power throughout their lineup, but if Verlander continues pitching at an elite level he should have no trouble paying off such a depressed price tag. He makes a ton of sense in tournaments where you’re looking to jam in bats without sacrificing a huge talent drop off at the pitcher position.
NOTE: FanDuel decided to exclude all of the 4pm games from Saturday’s early slate, meaning all of the top pitching options on DraftKings can’t be used on FanDuel unless you’re playing their small 3-game afternoon slate or all-day slate. The six-game early slate, however, offers a bunch of volatile pitchers, including Carlos Martinez [RHP – STL] at Yankee Stadium, Jake Arrieta [RHP – CHC] in 20 MPH winds at Wrigley and Ervin Santana [RHP – MIN] at Target Field where rain is forecasted to pour down throughout the day. I’d almost be tempted to just pitch Arrieta and hope the wind plays a minor role, or take my chances on Martinez and pray he can keep the ball in the yard. There’s no right answer here, though, and I would suggest getting the bulk of your action in on sites that weren’t dumb enough to exclude the afternoon games from the early slate.
GPP PUNTS: Sean Manaea [LHP – OAK] vs. HOU
Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – I’m a Tyler Glasnow truther, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll eventually emerge as one of the league’s better young arms, but Saturday likely won’t be turning point. Winds are blowing 20 MPH out to dead center field at Wrigley, which already hurts the 6’7” righty’s chances of escaping unscathed, but factor in his control issues and inability to hold runners and things begin to look increasingly worse. A hitter of Bryant’s ability should be able to exploit this matchup, and although Manny Machado [3B – R] also makes for a very nice high-end third base play against the homer-prone Marco Estrada, Bryant tops the list as our go-to hot corner play of the day.
Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] also makes for a top play at Wrigley, drawing the platoon advantage against Glasnow with the wind at his back. Rizzo isn’t much of a speed guy, but he’ll run when the opportunity is available, and Glasnow is incapable of holding runners to begin with. Moreover, Glasnow has unsurprisingly struggled to set down lefties in 55 career BF. Rizzo will take walks, but he’s also more than capable of exploiting this matchup if Glasnow falls behind in the count. Joey Votto [1B – L] also makes for a very strong high-end first base play against Zach Davies, and although he doesn’t have a multi-hit game to his credit this season, the veteran lefty is at least hitting for power.
Ryan Braun [OF – R] @ Finnegan [LHP] – Finnegan’s improved changeup should keep him from getting shelled on most days, but boy, this matchup with Milwaukee is not a spot for him to excel. Finnegan’s 27 home runs allowed to right-handed hitters last year was the most in baseball, as he coughed up a .217 ISO and 1.83 HR/9 across 569 BF. He’ll face a line of potent righties in this Brewers team, headlined by Ryan Braun, who owns a ridiculous .433/.289 wOBA/ISO split vs. southpaws over his career. This matchup also comes at Great American Ballpark, where power righties thrive. Furthermore, Braun’s base-stealing ability significantly cushions his value, as Finnegan owns a career walk rate north of 11 percent. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better overall hitting option than Braun on Saturday.
Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] @ Finnegan [LHP] – In yesterday’s Deep Dive I urged the readers to stick with Villar through his mini early season slump. If you followed suit and loaded up on the switch-hitting infielder, you were handsomely rewarded, as Villar went 1-3 with a double and three stolen bases against Scott Feldman and Co. While I’m not expecting another three-swipe performance on Saturday, you best believe I’ll be going back to the well with Villar. Brandon Finnegan not only served up a league-high 27 homers to RHB last season, but walked them at an 11.3 percent clip! Villar will have his disappointing performances, but he’s also capable of winning tournaments with his power/speed combination. I see no reason to avoid him this afternoon.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joey Votto [1B – L] vs. Davies [RHP]; Carlos Correa [SS – R] @ Manaea [LHP]; Manny Machado [3B – R] @ Estrada [RHP]
Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – DraftKings removing Schwarber’s catcher eligibility is a travesty, not because he’s actually in the squat each night, but because the position becomes that much worse with his removal. Nevertheless, we should be considering Schwarber in the outfield against Glasnow, who as earlier noted could be in a world of trouble on Saturday afternoon. A high walk rate and spotty command won’t do you any favors against the Cubs, especially not when you’re fighting 20 MPH winds in the process. I just can’t ignore Schwarber’s career .389/.259 wOBA/ISO vs. right-handed pitchers, and his 14.6 percent walk rate certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Ben Zobrist [2B/OF – L/R] is also in play for Chicago, especially on FanDuel where he’s priced at $2,900.
George Springer [OF – R] @ Manaea [LHP] – I’ll continue to target Springer until his price tag is adjusted to reflect his early-season production. The 27-year-old outfielder has already racked up 5 home runs on the young season, yet DraftKings still has him priced as the 13th most expensive player at his position. Sean Manaea is a talented young southpaw, but he still shows homer-prone tendencies against right-handed bats, and Springer leading off for Houston is just an added perk.
Scott Schebler [OF – L] vs. Davies [RHP] – This one is simple: Schebler is batting cleanup for the Reds at the best righty power park in baseball. He owns a palatable mid-range price point and faced a pedestrian right-hander in Zach Davies. Cincinnati also owns one of the highest implied run totals on Saturday (4.7). Schebler isn’t exactly a special player, but he won’t need to be special so long as he’s batting fourth at Great American Ballpark.
Willson Contreras [C – R] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – The catcher position is so shallow on Saturday that I would recommend either using Contreras against Glasnow or punting the position entirely. I’m not even a huge fan of Contreras, but he’s affordable and batting in the middle of a Cubs lineup that should afford him ample opportunity to knock in runs or cross the plate. Sometimes you just have to play the numbers, and Contreras’ value comes from who’s batting around him in the order. Facing a wild Tyler Glasnow shouldn’t hurt, either.
NOTE: Contreras is batting 7th on Saturday, which significantly lowers his value.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aledmys Diaz [SS – R] @ Sabathia [LHP]; Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Quintana [LHP] GPP; Domingo Santana [OF – R] @ Finnegan [LHP]; Gregory Polanco [OF – L] @ Arrieta [RHP] GPP
Hernan Perez [3B/SS/OF – R] @ Finnegan [LHP] – Hernan Perez is off to an unsurprisingly dismal start in 2017, but hey, Brandon Finnegan can remedy those struggles. Perez doesn’t walk, doesn’t hit for power and simply doesn’t do anything at an above average clip, but if he hits in the middle of this Brewers lineup he’ll be in play. That’s really all there is to it; Perez is undoubtedly going to see RBI opportunities on Saturday, and there’s a legitimate possibilities that he sees five plate appearances as well.
I’m not denying that Finnegan has retooled a bit since the beginning of 2016, but he still has so many warts, and I don’t see him being able to mask them against Milwaukee unless he racks up double-digit strikeouts. Perez is $3,700 on DraftKings and has eligibility at a weak shortstop position. He’s outfield eligible on FanDuel but is priced at $2,100. You can see why he’s in play.
Wilmer Difo [2B/SS – L/R] vs. Hellickson [RHP] – Jeremy Hellickson isn’t a bad pitcher, but he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he doesn’t have flashy stuff. I don’t like stacking against Hellickson, but have no problems rostering Difo on Saturday, as he’s leading off for the Nationals. Difo’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate will also keep him from being pinch-hit for, so although he hasn’t gotten off to a great start in 2017, you’re getting 4-5 plate appearances in a neutral matchup at a near min-sal cost.
Adam Frazier [2B/SS/OF – L] @ Arrieta [RHP] – Arrieta is a desperation punt on Saturday, but he’s leading off for the Pirates in a game where winds are blowing 20 MPH out to center field. Furthermore, Frazier hasn’t shown much of a propensity for base stealing, but Arrieta is horrible at holding runners so I wouldn’t count out the possibility entirely. Four or more ABs at the top of a lineup isn’t a bad ask when you’re paying near minimum salary. This is a total prayer, though.
HONORABLE MENTION: Scooter Gennett [2B – L] vs. Davies [RHP]; Jason Heyward [OF – L] vs. Glasnow [RHP]; Derek Norris [C – R] @ Sale GPP