MLB Deep Dive – 4/21/17 (Free Preview)

Atlanta Braves (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson)

Colon vs. Phillies Bats

The seemingly ageless Bartolo Colon continues to get the job done taking the ball every fifth day, and might have some appeal against this strikeout-prone Phillies team (24.8% K-rate vs. right-handers, 5th highest in MLB) if the Braves were more willing to extend his pitch count when he is pitching well. In two of his first three games this season. Bartolo has pitched very effectively through 6 and 7 innings, respectively, yet been pulled after just 80 and 85 pitches. For a lower-upside pitcher like Colon, that’s usually not going to be enough work to get the job done. Still, at a reasonable price point at every site across the DFS landscape, he’s in play as a price-saving option.

Colon does a lot of things well: he doesn’t allow many baserunners, controls the running game, and limits damage from right-handed bats. He does have a clear weakness against left-handed power (1.72 HR/9 given up to lefties in 2016), but the Phillies do not have any hitters that really fit this description. The Phillies are an offense to avoid tonight.

Hellickson vs. Braves Bats

 On the surface, it looks like Hellickson’s swinging strikes and strikeouts have disappeared in 2017, but when you look at who his opponents have been, it makes a lot more sense. Hellickson has had the unfortunate task of facing the Nationals twice and the Reds once, two of the teams that are swinging and missing at some of the lowest rates so far in 2017. Dig a bit deeper into Hellickson’s 2017 start, and he looks like the same pitcher we saw last year: a solid if unexciting option who is deployable in DFS in the right match ups. This is not the right matchup to use Hellickson in, as the Braves do a good job of limiting strikeouts and feature a few hitters who are locked in right now. Hellickson is not in play tonight.

Freddie Freeman finally came back to planet earth last night, taking an 0-4 against Stephen Strasburg and company. While the matchup with Hellickson is not perfect for Freeman, he is still very much in play in all formats with how well he is playing. He still continues to be generally under appreciated by DFS players, and is always one of my favorite tournament plays with his power and what is usually low ownership due to the Braves generally have low team totals. Fire him up again tonight. On a 15-game slate, the other Braves can really only be deployed as deep tournament options or perhaps in a contrarian stack. Outside of Freeman, there just is not enough upside in any of the Braves’ bats to make them strong one-off plays in this mediocre matchup and hitting environment.

Boston Red Sox (Drew Pomeranz) @ Baltimore Orioles (Dylan Bundy)

Pomeranz vs. Orioles Bats

Red Sox’ left-hander Drew Pomeranz has a very, um, Drew Pomeranz start to the season. The strikeouts have been there, but despite two cake matchups against the Orioles and Rays, he has only been able to throw 6 and 4.1 innings. Despite what seems like a scary matchup full of big-name Orioles’ bats, this is a cake matchup for left-handed pitchers. The Orioles feature the third highest strikeout percentage vs. left-handed pitchers on the season (27.7%), along with the 4th lowest walk rate (4.8%), and the 21st highest wOBA (.282). A case could be made for the Orioles being the best overall team to target with left-handed pitchers so far this season. Pomeranz certainly has the stuff to get the job done here, but his inefficiency with pitches and the fact that his swinging strikes are down this year despite facing two very swing and miss heavy teams make him somewhat of a volatile play. Still, at a reasonable price point across the industry, Pomeranz is very much in play in all formats and should be near the top of your pitching list.

Until they show something, the Orioles are going to be a fade for me especially in a tough matchup like the one they have tonight against Pomeranz. If you are dead set on deploying the Orioles, use a full stack and hope that the walk-prone Pomeranz loses his command early and start putting guys all over the bases.

Dylan Bundy vs. Red Sox Bats

Orioles’ RHP Dylan Bundy has been phenomenal in the early parts of 2017 and the results look sustainable. If he keeps pitching like this, he is going to be near the top of my pitching lists in many upcoming matchups, but it is still very difficult to recommend using him against the Red Sox, who strike out at the 2nd lowest rate in MLB against right-handed pitchers and also feature a top-10 wOBA vs. righties. I will not be rostering Bundy due to the tough matchup, but I will also be completely fading the Red Sox because of how good Bundy has been. Avoid both sides here.

New York Yankees (C.C. Sabathia) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Tyler Glasnow)

CC Sabathia vs. Pirates Bats

Would you believe me if I told you no offense has been more pitiful against left-handed pitching thus far in 2017 than the Pirates? The Bucs rank dead last in wOBA against left-handed pitching (.238) and feature the 7th highest strikeout percentage against southpaws. Couple that with a very nice park shift for CC Sabathia and you have the makings of a possible ceiling-game for the big left-hander. The issue, of course, is that even ceiling games for CC are not all that enticing as he no longer possesses dominant stuff. Still, his early numbers look good, and he is missing bats with a 10% swinging strike rate and getting ahead of hitters with a 62.2% first-pitch strike rate. I expect CC to pitch deep into this game and pick up some strikeouts along the way, with a good shot at the win as well. He is one of the best at limiting hard contact, and the Pirates do not feature many bats capable of hurting him. I like Sabathia in all formats but in particular he is a strong play in cash games as his ceiling is somewhat limited but his floor is very nice in this particular matchup.

The Pirates do feature a couple of hitters that have both this season and in past seasons performed well vs. left-handed pitchers in Andrew McCutchen and David Freese, but given Sabathia’s ability to limit hard-contact and the extreme difficulty of hitting home runs in PNC park, I will still be avoiding both players along with the rest of the Pirates, though they are certainly in play as GPP options.

Tyler Glasnow vs. Yankees Bats

The Pirates’ giant right-hander is talented but extremely wild, and until he improves his control is going to be a complete avoid for me in all but the best of matchups. This is certainly not the best of matchups for Glasnow against against a Yankees team that is patient (4th highest walk rate vs. RHP this year) and is also hitting the ball well (highest wOBA vs. RHP in MLB so far). Do yourself a favor and scratch Glasnow off your list….

…and load up on Yankees bats. Because of the bad park shift for home runs, I do prefer to use the Yankees in stack format, but they are one of my very favorite stacks of the night. Glasnow is extremely wild and also one of the worst pitchers in MLB at holding runners on base, and Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and even Chase Headley have all been swinging the bats well early and been active on the base paths, with 5, 4, and 3 stolen bases already. Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, and Aaron Judge likely will not be running, but have been swinging good bats and fill out this lineup nicely. If Aaron Hicks is in the lineup, he is another hitter that might be active on the base paths. It is definitely the speedy Yankees that I prefer here, but do not shy away from a full stack given how many baserunners Glasnow allows.  Load up!

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman)

Jon Lester vs. Reds Bats

 While I expect Jon Lester to be a popular DFS play tonight, I would advise caution against investing too heavily in him. The Reds offense has been surprisingly effective in the early going, posting a league-average wOBA vs. LHP and a below-average strikeout rate. It is simply not that great of a matchup for Lester, who might also get into trouble if he allows the speedsters at the top of the lineup, Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza, to reach base. Because of the lack of premier pitching options today, Lester is still in play, but I will personally be avoiding him in both cash games and tournaments as I am not expecting a big performance but am expecting heavy ownership as most people are not aware that the Reds’ offense is performing fairly well right now.

 The speedsters are who you want to roster against Lester as he is still susceptible to base stealers. This one is fairly straight forward, and it is Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza who are in play from the Reds. I cannot tell you if they will be able to reach base against Lester, but they should be running if they can. Both are boom-or-bust plays tonight that are best deployed in GPP action.

Tim Adleman vs. Cubs Bats

The Cubs, somewhat shockingly, have been poor this season as an offense, and in particular against right-handed pitching, ranking just 20th in MLB in wOBA vs. RHP. Do not expect that to last long, and they should get it going tonight against Tim Adleman, who really struggled in 2016 across 69 MLB innings (nice). Adleman does not miss many bats and was very home-run prone last year, ceding 1.68 HR/9. He is poor vs. both right and left-handed bats, and in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark, expect some fireworks from the Cubs power hitters. In terms of my interest, I’ll rank them: Rizzo, Schwarber, Bryant, Zobrist, but all of the Cubs are very much in play and a full stack here is very much advised, though it will certainly be a popular move by the field in tournaments.

Don’t roster Tim Adleman.

Houston Astros (Mike Fiers) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Alex Cobb)

Mike Fiers vs. Rays Bats

While it is not convenient for #toutlife purposes, the Rays are one of those teams against whom you can reasonably recommend pitchers and also say that many of the Rays bats themselves are in play. The Rays feature the highest strikeout rate in MLB against right-handed pitchers, but also rank well inside the top half of the league in terms of wOBA against RHP. They are a team that has sold out for power, and their results from night to night are perhaps more volatile of any team outside of the Brewers. Mike Fiers certainly misses his fair share of bats, and it is not out of the question for him to approach double digit strikeouts in this matchup. He could also get lit for multiple home runs as he is a fly ball pitcher that served up well over one HR/9 last season and for his career. Ultimately, I’ll side with the Rays’ power here, as Fiers has had very little success striking out these Rays’ hitters in the past (albeit in a small sample size). Give me some Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller, with possibly a bit of red hot Steven Souza sprinkled in.

Alex Cobb vs. Astros Bats

Alex Cobb has pitched so few innings over the past few seasons due to injury that he is difficult to accurately project. Once a promising young pitcher, his results (in a small sample size) have been poor the last two seasons, though his velocity and pitch mix appears mostly intact from when he was an effective pitcher. He has recently been especially poor vs. left-handed hitters, though unfortunately the Astros do not feature many left-handed hitters worth targeting. If Josh Reddick is hitting near the top of the order tonight, he would make for a solid play in all formats. Otherwise, given a tough park shift for the Astros and the uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of Cobb, I will be taking the safe route and steering clear of the Astros bats.

Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark) @ New York Mets (Jacob DeGrom)

Tanner Roark vs. Mets Bats

The Nationals’ RHP is up to his old tricks again, generating a ton of weak contact and ground balls while missing just enough bats to stay relevant for DFS purposes. He is a pitcher I almost NEVER target hitters against, but also very rarely roster. That will be true again tonight. Avoid both sides here.

Jacob DeGrom vs. Nationals Bats

This is another matchup where I do not see myself investing in either side. The Nationals are just so tough right now, sporting the 5th highest wOBA in the league vs. right-handed pitchers while striking out at the 5th lowest rate in the league vs. righties. Vegas certainly seems to believe in DeGrom to some degree, but I have a hard time justifying paying for him in such a tough matchup. That said, he does appear healthy again after a tough 2016 season where he had some injury issues, and he is still capable of dominating if completely on top of his game. Because of DeGrom’s effectiveness, I will be avoiding all of the Nationals’ bats outside of perhaps Bryce Harper, who is insanely hot right now and has had a lot of success against DeGrom in the past (just 3 strikeouts in 19 plate appearances with a. 95.9 average exit velocity).

Kansas City Royals (Nate Karns) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels)

Nate Karns vs. Rangers Bats

The Rangers should have a good chance of bouncing back after last night’s pathetic offensive show in Arlington. They feature one of the highest totals per Vegas on the slate and are expected to score around 5 runs. Karns has displayed some reverse splits so far in his career, and has also been a bit home run prone despite pitching in a pitchers park in Tampa for half of his starts. Indeed, last year, when on the road facing right-handed hitters, Karns gave up an incredible 2.41 HR/9 on the back of a 33% line drive rate and 43% hard contact rate. While all of the Rangers bats are in play here, I have particular interest in the power hitting right handed bats from the Rangers, particularly Carlos Gomez, Mike Napoli, and Jonathan Lucroy, who is my favorite catcher tonight assuming he is in the lineup. A full stack is also certainly in play here though I do favor the right-handed hitters from the Rangers.

Cole Hamels vs. Royals

In what has been an underwhelming start for Hamels in 2017, it does not get easier tonight back in Arlington where he has struggled over the course of his career. Hamels is still a good pitcher, but was very hittable last year at home against right-handed hitters, and continues to struggle to hold runners on base. I will be avoiding Hamels tonight given that he’s at home, and will be loading up on a ton of Lorenzo Cain, who has been one of the best hitters in baseball against left-handed pitchers over the past few seasons, and has also been very active on the base paths early this season. This is a perfect matchup for Cain who will likely go overlooked given the big name that Hamels carries. Outside of Cain, I do not have a ton of interest in the Royals bats with Salvador Perez likely to get a day off, though if any right-handed speedsters bat near the top of the lineup again I would be inclined to go there.

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana)

Corey Kluber vs. White Sox

The White Sox stink! SAD! Sporting the 6th highest K percentage 2nd to last wOBA vs. right-handed pitchers of any team in MLB, the White Sox are a prime target to use right-handed pitchers against. That remains true tonight with Corey Kluber who will have to go on the road to Chicago but will get the benefit of pitching in a chilly environment. Kluber has not had a fantastic start to the season, but his velocity and movement appears intact and he should be in line for his first big start of the year tonight in Chicago. He is my top pitcher of the night and I will likely be deploying him in all formats.

Jose Quintana vs. Indians

This is another matchup that, on a 15-game slate, I will be avoiding both sides of. Quintana has not been great so far this year, but he generally does not get blown up and the given the tough hitting conditions tonight I do not expect even a potent Indians lineup to do too much damage. That said, the Indians are too good of an offense to roster Quintana, so just avoid this one altogether.

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago)

Justin Verlander vs. Twins Bats

Coming off a start where Verlander was rocked vs. the Indians, he may carry lower ownership tonight than his skills and matchup warrant. Verlander has had a rough start to the year with two tough matchups out of three, but the skills are intact, and the velocity is actually up from last year. It’s a mediocre matchup against a Twins team that does feature a lot of power but also plenty of strikeouts (especially if Byron Buxton is in the lineup). Expect Verlander to bounce back in a big way tonight and go deep into the game at Target Field. I have him behind Kluber, but not by much, and he’s my second favorite pitcher of the night if spending at the position.

Hector Santiago vs. Tigers Bats

While Santiago is off to a solid start this season, nothing has changed with him, and he should continue to be hit very hard by right-handed hitters like he was last season, when he gave up 1.62 HR/9 to right-handed bats along with a whopping 5.53 xFIP. This could be a field day for the Tigers’ right-handed bats. Of course, Miguel Cabrera tops the list of targets, but do not sleep on Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, or even Victor Martinez. I absolutely love the Tigers tonight and am expecting big things in Target Field for the Tigers tonight.

St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta)

Adam Wainwright vs. Brewers Bats

Ummmm, Eric Thames anyone? Still far underpriced for his performance level, Thames is clearly the top overall point per dollar play on the slate on nearly every site across the industry. After homering again last night and in a solid matchup tonight, expect him to carry heavy ownership in tournaments. Even so, he’s a very tough fade with how well he’s playing. Travis Shaw has also been red hot and is in play here vs. a struggling Wainwright, and indeed a full Brewers stack could be one of the top performers of the night. Wainwright does not seem to have much left in the tank and should be avoided tonight even against a strikeout happy Brewers squad.

Wily Peralta vs. Cardinals

Peralta remains unrosterable and should be targeted, specifically with left-handed bats. Despite his powerful fastball, Peralta does not generate many strikeouts, and Matt Carpenter in particular has had a TON of success against Peralta in the past. He is by far and away the best Cardinals hitter to roster tonight, thought Dexter Fowler hitting out of the leadoff spot is also very much in play, and a complete Wily Peralta blow up could also be very much in the Cards.

San Francisco Giants (Johnny Cueto) @ Colorado Rockies (Tyler Chatwood)

I’ll make this brief. This game is a complete fade for me in all formats. It’s supposed to be cold in Denver tonight and both of these pitchers are the types that can find success in Coors. I can’t reasonably roster either pitcher in Coors Field, but I’ll also be avoiding the bats which are certain to be somewhat popular if only because of the field they will be playing in.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Taijuan Walker)

Alex Wood vs. Diamondbacks Bats

Alex Wood was borderline dominant vs. right-handed hitters last year, with a 2.54 ERA and 2.94 xFIP to back it up, giving up just 0.78 HR/9. Still, this is a very tough matchup heading into Chase Field vs. lefty-mashers like AJ Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, and Yasmany Tomas. I won’t roster Wood given how difficult this matchup is, but I will also likely mostly steer clearly of the Diamondbacks bats given my respect for Wood who really is a very good pitcher. This matchup is an avoid on both sides for me.

Taijuan Walker vs. Dodgers

The Diamondbacks talented young right-hander just dominated the Dodgers in his last start, striking out 7 hitters over 5 innings while allowing just one run in Los Angeles. It is a tough ask for him to do it again, but Walker has looked very good and has generated a large number of swinging strikes despite facing three offenses (Giants, Giants, Dodgers). The Dodgers do feature one of the highest totals of the night, and if I’m going anywhere here it’s to righty-masher Corey Seager at a thin shortstop position. But honestly I’m not all that excited about rostering anyone vs. a surging Walker who I expect to continue to pitch well tonight. The hitting environment in Arizona is certainly a good one, however, and may overcome his talent. Chase Field is too dangerous to recommend Walker, though I do expect some strikeouts here and a solid performance overall if he can keep the ball in the yard.

Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) @ Oakland Athletics (Sean Manaea)

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. A’s Bats

I fear the end is near for Iwakuma, a once effective pitcher who has been in decline for years and appears to not have much left in the tank, having lost a couple miles per hour of velocity on nearly all of his pitches. The A’s should destroy him tonight and are one of my favorite stacks of the night. Everyone is in play here from both sides of the plate, with Khris Davis in particular being one of my favorite overall plays on this 15-game slate. Iwakuma has given up nearly as many home runs as he has struck batters out this season, and he is going to be in store for a rough night in Oakland despite a mediocre hitting environment. The A’s stack should fly under the radar, but make sure you get exposure to these guys, particularly Khris Davis, Ryon Healy, and Matt Joyce. Fire up the A’s stack!

Sean Manaea vs. Mariners Bats

There are going to be a lot of slates where I recommend Sean Manaea this season, who is currently featuring one of the highest swinging strike rates of any pitcher in MLB. It’s tough to recommend him tonight however against a Mariners team that is simply not striking out and is also displaying patience with just a 12.7 K% and 11.8 BB%. The Mariners also have some very dangerous right-handed bats in their lineup (read: Nelson Cruz) and although Manaea’s upside is still somewhat intriguing and he should be in line for a win here, the matchup mitigates what he’s great at so I will likely look elsewhere for my pitching options tonight. Cruz and the other power right-handed bats from the Mariners lineup are solid, if not spectacular plays against Manaea tonight.

Toronto Blue Jays (Mat Latos) @ Los Angeles Angels (Alex Meyer)

Mat Latos vs. Angels Bats

Things seem unlikely to go well for Mat Latos in Los Angeles tonight, as the once near-ace pitcher for the Reds has fallen off a cliff in the last couple of years. The Angels, unfortunately, don’t feature many high-upside hitters in their lineup, but tonight could be a time for Albert Pujols to break out of his slump. The key play here (shocking, I know) is Mike Trout, who should destroy Latos both at the plate and on the base paths, where Latos struggles to hold runners. Trout has a strong claim as the top overall hitter tonight and should be on as many of your rosters as you can fit him.

Alex Meyer vs. Blue Jays Bats

The Blue Jays have been absolutely pathetic this season vs. right-handed pitchers, featuring the 8th highest K percentage against RHP and the worst wOBA in the league. They will also, of course, be without star third baseman Josh Donaldson tonight. Meyer is making this start called up from triple-A, and he does have strikeout stuff, though his lack of command at all stops of his professional baseball career is certainly unsettling. Still, the matchup is good enough and the strikeout upside high enough that one can make a case for Meyer tonight, as he’s ridiculously cheap across the industry and allows you to roster any bats you want along with a stud starting pitcher. You’ll likely be annoyed watching him pitch and walk guys, but as long as he records a few strikeouts along the way, he should be fine. I can’t recommend any Blue Jays right now with how bad they’ve been.

Miami Marlins (Adam Conley) @ San Diego Padres (Trevor Cahill)

Adam Conley vs. Padres Bats

Adam Conley continues to be a somewhat enticing play based on the eye test and looking at his pitches, but he simply does not get the job done and allows a lot of hard contact to right-handed bats. I’m sure he will be a somewhat popular play tonight, but I will be steering clear and prefer the power bats from the right-hand side of the plate for the Padres, specifically Wil Myers, but also Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe who may be able to take the fly-ball prone Conley deep, even in spacious Petco Park.

Trevor Cahill vs. Marlins Bats

 Well, if you made it this far you deserve the gold, and you’ve found it. Trevor Cahill, yes Trevor Cahill is my favorite GPP (and maybe cash) play of the entire slate. Despite facing two contact oriented teams, Cahill ranks THIRD in all of MLB (of pitchers to throw a minimum of 10 innings) in swinging strike percentage at 16.9% through two starts. He’s also got a ground ball rate north of 50%, which is very good, and gets a middle of the pack matchup against a Marlins team in the midst of a long west coast road trip. For Cahill, it’s all about his devastating knuckle curveball, which has generated a whiff on 66% of the times he has thrown it this year on a decent 48-pitch sample size. If you’re not familiar with whiff percentages, that’s truly incredible. It will regress some over the course of the season, but the point is Cahill possesses a truly elite weapon right now, is at home in a solid matchup, is dirt cheap, and will go very under owned tonight. That’s an elite GPP play any way you slice it, and I’ll be riding the Trevor Cahill train to glory or bust tonight. Join me if you dare.

Good luck out there tonight! ~ DraftCheat