MLB Deep Dive – 4/18/17

PITCHING

 

Yu Darvish [RHP – TEX] @ OAK Darvish is much too cheap on DraftKings, priced at $10,700 in a matchup plus matchup with Oakland. He’ll also gain a huge park boost moving from Globe Life to O.Co, one of the best pitcher’s parks in baseball. Darvish holds same-handed hitters to a .271 wOBA over his career, while still holding lefties below .300 in the process. The Athletics don’t boast much of a power threat to begin with, but even if this was something we were concerned about, their power comes almost exclusively from the right side of the plate. Darvish owns a career 32.2 percent K-rate vs. RHB, sporting a 3.03 xFIP and .129 ISO against. He should have no trouble shutting down Oakland’s lefties, either, as Stephen Vogt, Matt Joyce, Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso should hardly have us shaking in our boots.

On the season, Oakland is striking out at a 23.7 percent clip vs. right-handed pitching. They’ve made hard contact and managed to keep the ball off the ground, but haven’t faced many, if any arms of Darvish’s caliber. The Athletics own one of the lowest implied run totals on Tuesday’s slate, which only does more to affirm Darvish’s value. I prefer Darvish over Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS], who although he is facing a weak Braves lineup and is a heavy favorite on the road, is significantly more expensive than Darvish despite offering a similar ceiling.

 

Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] vs. CWS New York’s young right-hander planted his flag on the mound of Yankee Stadium last week after decimating the Rays in his first elite Major League start. Severino allowed two runs on only five hits across sevening innings, whiles racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts to only one walk. It was a dazzling performance from the 23-year-old Dominican native, as he maintained control throughout the night, didn’t slip up during his second or third time through Tampa Bay’s order, and struck out five of his final six batters faced.

Severino now owns a 10.9 percent swinging strike rate and 35.4 percent K-rate through two starts, and although the latter figure will certainly regress, these are some numbers we can get behind. Moreover, Severino has walked only two batters across 12 innings pitched, as he now owns a 17:2 K/BB ratio on the year. The longball is definitely a concern, especially at Yankee Stadium, but the White Sox have been so dreadful offensively that we shouldn’t be writing Severino off for that reason alone. Chicago owns a 28th ranked .276 wOBA vs. RHP to start the season, with a bottom-10 ISO and sixth highest K-rate (24.2%) across 322 plate appearances.

I have some reservations about rostering Severino on Tuesday, but he’s simply too cheap to ignore across the board. His $6,500 price point on DraftKings is especially enticing, where saving on your second pitcher goes a long way. The Yankees are massive -194 ML favorites at home, while Chicago’s unimposing 3.1-run implied total only reinforces the appeal. I’ll be going back to the well again on Tuesday, hoping Severino can build off of last week’s breakout performance.

NOTE: I’m expecting Severino to be ultra-high-owned on tonight, which is why the next pitcher we’ll discuss should offer plenty of value in GPPs where he’ll be much lower owned.

 

Shelby Miller [RHP – ARI] @ SDP The 26-year-old right-hander formerly known as “Shellme Miller” is going to throw a gem soon, and I’m going to be there when it happens. All of the indicators are present, like increased velocity and a track record that proves he can perform. Miller hasn’t been stellar through his first two starts in 2017, but he’s sporting a significantly improved swinging strike rate and a four-seamer that’s topping out at 98 MPH. He’s also faced two teams in the Giants and Indians that don’t give pitchers many free outs.

Miller’s matchup is more than appealing on Tuesday, facing a Padres team that resides in the basement of almost every relevant statistical category vs. right-handed pitching. San Diego is unsurprisingly second to last in runs scored against RHP this season, while they continue to strike out at an above average clip. The left-handed talent on this team comes in the form of Yangervis Solarte, Ryan Schimpf, Erick Aybar and Travis Jankowski. Schimpf strikes out at a 30-plus percent clip for his career, Jankowski has struck out 13 times in 35 at bats this season, and Aybar is batting .147 with the power of a wounded fly.

Miller’s velocity was down in his second start, but he’s had an extra day of rest heading into tonight’s tilt and draws a much better matchup with the Padres. Moreover, Petco Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball, and Miller holds opposing righties to a .284 wOBA over his career. Assuming he can work around the small left-handed presence in this Padres lineup, Miller should be in line for his first great start of the young season.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Michael Fulmer [RHP – DET] @ TB Fulmer doesn’t possess elite strikeout stuff, but he does own above-average career numbers in this department and faces a Rays team that’s striking out at a league-high 28.1 percent clip vs. RHP. Fulmer also gets a plus pitcher’s park at Tropicana Field. The only caveat here is you’re going to overpay for Fulmer on both FanDuel and DraftKings if you decide to take this route.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP] Harper is off to a great start this season, and he should continue to surge on Tuesday against a sub-par righty. Foltynewicz has been hammered by left-handed hitters over his short career, ceding a .369 wOBA, .237 ISO and 1.74 HR/9. Folty is also inducing ground balls at a paltry 28 percent clip vs. LHB, which paired with his 4.92 xFIP won’t do him any favors on Tuesday. Harper, on the other hand, owns a career .394/.242 wOBA/ISO split vs. righties and benefits from hitting at SunTrust Park, where the right field wall is significantly shorter than the one at Turner Field. I’ll be sure to have plenty of Harper on Tuesday, as I don’t see any way Foltynewicz will be able to dispatch him by simply throwing 94 MPH heat across the plate.

 

Ryan Braun [OF – R]/Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] @ Anderson [LHP] This matchup worries me a bit, as Anderson is an extreme groundballer and doesn’t allow many home runs, but I simply can’t ignore these two Milwaukee righties on a night where the wind is blowing out to left-center field at Wrigley. Neither Braun or Villar is a must play at their respective positions, but they warrant plenty of consideration against a lefty.

Braun owns a filthy .434/.289 wOBA/ISO split vs. LHP over his career, which put simply, is as elite as it gets. Villar also tortured southpaws last year (.393/.236), boasting far more power from the right side of the plate. Amazingly, Villar had a massive 16-point difference in flyball rate vs. lefties and righties at 35.8 percent and 19.9 percent, respectively. An inflated flyball rate is what we’re looking for on Tuesday, as Anderson is great at keeping the ball on the ground but will get hurt when he doesn’t. Villar’s salary has come down to a very affordable point, and he’ll see ample opportunity to produce in this matchup.

 

Manny Machado [3B – R] @ Arroyo [RHP] Machado makes for a very enticing tournament play on Tuesday, and I don’t expect him to be high-owned in any format. Bronson Arroyo doesn’t have anything left in the tank; he’s sitting on a 87 MPH fastball, which has been hammered to start the year, and the breaking pitches haven’t been generating any swinging strikes. Pitching at Great American Ballpark will do nothing but make those issues more pronounced, including a 36 percent groundball rate and 5.98 xFIP.

Machado has done well against same-handed pitchers, owning a career .351/.203 wOBA/ISO split and a huge power surge in 2016. Machado hasn’t been stellar to start the season, but I’m expecting him to show up on Tuesday, pouncing on Arroyo when he misses his spots. Baltimore owns a massive 5.1-run implied total in Cincinnati, making Chris Davis [1B – L] another great boom-or-bust play at the first base position.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Nelson Cruz [OF – R] vs. Chen [LHP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Nelson [RHP]; George Springer [OF – R] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] vs. Nelson [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Seth Smith [OF – L] @ Arroyo [RHP] As earlier noted, Arroyo has become a human punching bag in 2017. The 40-year-old soft-tossing right-hander doesn’t have the tools to be effective, and Vegas appears to agree, as the Orioles own a Goliath 4.1-run total heading into this contest. Smith isn’t a special player, but he’s leading off for Baltimore, draws the platoon advantage against a weak righty, and has a great park to do damage in at Great American. I’ll happily roster Smith at a discounted price point across the board, as we’ll get cheap power (career .202 ISO vs. RHP) and a potential five plate appearances on Tuesday.

 

Daniel Murphy [2B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP] Murphy’s price point falls somewhere in between mid-range and high-end on Tuesday, but his matchup is as good as it gets. Foltynewicz has been tormented by left-handed hitters, and now he’ll have another disadvantage at SunTrust Park, which favors the lefty bat. Murphy doesn’t posses the same power as Harper, but he’s actually been more reliable, tied with Mike Trout among all active players for the league lead in wOBA (.421) vs. RHP since the start of 2016. You’ll definitely want some Murphy exposure on Tuesday.

Brian Dozier [2B – R] makes for an interesting tournament pivot against Josh Tomlin, who continues to serve up home runs to righties at a frightening clip. My guess is Dozier will be significantly lower owned than Murphy across the board.

 

Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] vs. Nelson [RHP] Jimmy Nelson has looked great to start the year, allowing only two runs and nine hits across 13 IP, while striking out 13 batters in the process. Nelson’s velocity is also up quite a bit from last year, so there’s reason to believe some of this improvement could be legitimate. Furthermore, Nelson ranked dead last among all starting pitchers in CSAA last year, something that isn’t likely to continue in 2017. He’s throwing more four-seamers and less sinkers, which could explain a slightly lower ground ball rate and higher K-rate through his first two starts. I’m not saying Nelson is on his way to becoming an elite pitcher, but I will be more reluctant to pick on him than I was in seasons past.

Nevertheless, Schwarber destroys right-handed pitching and draws the platoon advantage at Wrigley Field, where wind is blowing out 11 MPH to left-center field. This will be more beneficial to right-handed hitters, but Schwarber offers too high of a ceiling to overlook. He’s reasonably priced across the industry and Chicago owns a 5.5-run implied total on Tuesday. I’m okay with rolling the dice on a leadoff lefty at Wrigley when the wind is at his back.

 

Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] @ Anderson [LHP] Thames has been absolutely ridiculous in his first season back from playing overseas in Korea, having already hit seven homers with four doubles and 12 RBI across only 48 plate appearances. No, he’ll never sustain such a ridiculous pace, which prorated across a 162-game season would bring him to 94 home runs and 162 RBI (LOL), but there’s no reason to jump off the train now while it’s chugging along so smoothly. Thames owns a .568 wOBA and .528 ISO vs. RHP to start the year (also LOL).

Anderson is not only an extreme groundball pitcher, but he’s also a southpaw, and I hate targeting left-handed hitters without the platoon advantage. That being said, Thames owns a career .201 ISO in 155 PA vs. lefties and has already hit two home runs against them in 7 PA this season. I’ll only be targeting him in GPPs, but Thames remains underpriced across the board, and especially on DraftKings.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Santana [1B/OF – L/R] @ Hughes [RHP]; Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Tomlin [RHP]; Max Kepler [OF – L] vs. Tomlin [RHP]; Domingo Santana [OF – R] @ Anderson [LHP] GPP ONLY; Logan Forsythe [2B/3B – R] vs. Freeland [LHP]; Adam Eaton [OF – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

The catcher position is awfully ugly again on Tuesday, so here is a list of value plays I’ll be considering: Jett Bandy [C – R] @ Anderson [LHP], Matt Wieters [C – L/R] @ Foltynewicz [RHP], Jason Castro [C – L] vs. Tomlin [RHP]. None of these backstops are particularly appealing, and Castro is the only one projected to hit above seventh in the order, but paying at this position just doesn’t make sense. All of them have the platoon advantage, Bandy gets the wind blowing out to left-center at Wrigley, Wieter faces a weak lefty in Foltynewicz and Castro should bat sixth against the homer-happy Tomlin. I suppose Evan Gattis [C – R] is in play against Nolasco, but only if he continues to bat fifth for Houston.

 

Adam Lind [1B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP] I won’t spend more time talking about Foltynewicz’s well-documented issues vs. lefties or the new park in Atlanta that favors left-handed bats. I’ll simply point out that Lind is dirt cheap, batting in the middle of Washington’s order and draws the platoon advantage. He’s at or near minimum salary across the board, making for a great first base punt or piece to a Nationals stack this evening.

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Cain [RHP] Moustakas is still too cheap, so we’ll still continue to roster him. He draws a great matchup with Matt Cain, who was clearly the beneficiary of some good luck in his last start, and bats towards the top of the Royals’ order. Moose is crushing righties this season to the tune of a .452 wOBA and .394 ISO across 37 PA. There’s no reason to jump off now while he’s smoking hot and still priced below most third basemen on Tuesday.

 

Taylor Motter [3B/SS] vs. Chen [LHP] Motter intrigues me on Tuesday because he’s eligible at a weak shortstop position. Safeco Field obviously benefits the pitcher, but Motter still draws the platoon advantage against a homer-prone southpaw that’s served up very high marks to righties over his career. Even if Motter doesn’t take Chen deep, he should be able to pay off his low price point assuming he hits in the middle of Seattle’s order. Motter’s sample size vs. lefties is small, but he owns a .436 wOBA in 32 Major League plate appearances.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Adam Frazier [2B/SS/OF – L] @ Leake [RHP]; Josh Reddick [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]