MLB Deep Dive – 4/22/17
Carlos Carrasco [RHP – CLE] @ CWS – The White Sox are bad — really really bad. Their .256 wOBA vs. RHP ranks behind every team not named the Blue Jays, while their 25 percent K-rate is fourth highest through nearly a month of baseball. Corey Kluber, who was off to an uninspiring start in 2017, merely needed a matchup with Chicago to remedy his struggles, tossing a 3-hit complete-game shutout on Friday night. This is a White Sox team that currently owns a league-worst 5.8 percent walk rate and 63 wRC+, lacking both patience and power at the plate. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better matchup for a right-handed thrower.
Carrasco has posted a 25-plus percent K-rate in each of his last three seasons and is off to a strong start in 2017 (26% K). He limits walks, induces ground balls at an above average clip, and hasn’t finished with an xFIP north of 3.30 since 2013. Carrasco’s five-pitch arsenal should be enough to coast through this underwhelming White Sox order, but in the event that it isn’t, the 48-degree game-time temperatures will do the trick themselves. This is as good a matchup you can find, and Carrasco is one of the best pitchers the American League has to offer. In case you were wondering, Carrasco is a -210 ML favorite on the road with Chicago owning a sub-3-run implied total.
Robbie Ray [LHP – ARI] vs. LAD – Ray won’t draw a pitcher-friendly venue on Saturday, but that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid him. The Dodgers are gutted from the right side of the plate now that Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez are on the disabled list. Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig, who got off to a hot start this season, is now 2-20 over his last five games. L.A. finished dead last in wOBA (.275) and 28th in ISO (.118) vs. left-handed pitching last season — hence the additions of Forsythe and Gutierrez — but now they are right back where they started. This is still a quality offense overall, but a far from threatening one when facing southpaws. I’m also not sold on Kenta Maeda being a road favorite in this game, and believe Ray has a legitimate shot of recording the win at home.
Ray closed out his 2016 campaign with a career-high 28.1 percent K-rate, and he’s off to an even better start in 2017 (31.6% K). Walks continue to be an issue for the 25-year-old lefty, but he isn’t enduring nearly as much bad luck as he did last season, where opposing batters owned a .352 BABIP and Ray’s 4.90 ERA was more than just a tick higher than his 3.45 xFIP. Ray stifled same-handed hitters last season, too, sporting a near 32 percent strikeout rate and a 58 percent GB-rate across 185 BF. If he can keep Puig, Justin Turner and L.A.’s remaining middling righties off the basepaths on Saturday, Ray should be in line for another stellar start. Ray’s $8,600 price point on DraftKings makes him a relatively easy pairing with Carrasco.
Tyler Skaggs [LHP – LAA] vs. TOR – I’d have a lot more interest in Skaggs if his velocity wasn’t down more than a tick from 2016. Skaggs dealt with arm weakness in the spring, and is seemingly still feeling the effects. He allowed five earned runs in back-to-back starts to begin the season, and an ineffective fastball was unsurprisingly the main culprit of his struggles. Skaggs looked much better in his third start, though, holding the Royals scoreless with nine strikeouts across seven strong innings of work. Interestingly enough, Skaggs had his four-seamer working well against Kansas City, allowing only one knock and zero extra-base hits on the offering. It’s hard to say how he’ll perform on Saturday, as the velocity is still a concern and one strong outing isn’t enough to draw any conclusions quite yet.
From a matchup perspective, Skaggs should draw the advantage. Toronto lost Edwin Encarnacion over the winter and Josh Donaldson remains sidelined for at least another week. Jose Bautista has been so dreadfully bad that his first home run came last night, while Devon Travis has still yet to record an extra-base hit this season. The Blue Jays have been significantly better against lefties than righties to start the year, but they’re striking out at a near 27 percent clip across 154 plate appearances.
The Angels are -155 ML favorites at home, and although this game is projected to see its fair share of runs, Skaggs draws an excellent shot at earning the win. L.A. should be able to tune up Casey Lawrence, who owned a 15 percent K-rate in the minors, and they own one of the highest implied run totals on this nine-game slate. Skaggs has the park working in his favor, but I’m not willing to risk him in cash with there being many question marks surrounding his status.
GPP PUNT: Chase Anderson [RHP – MIL] vs. STL
Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Lawrence [RHP] – I shouldn’t need to explain why Mike Trout is a top option on Saturday, facing a 29-year-old righty who’s making his first Major League start. Casey Lawrence owned a 15.6 percent K-rate over his seven-plus seasons in the minors, and now he’ll face an Angels team that struck out less vs. RHP than any team in baseball last season. L.A. sports a massive 5.1-run implied total inside a pitcher-friendly venue, which alone suggests Lawrence will struggle. Considering Trout boasts a massive .412/.258 wOBA/ISO split vs. same-handed pitchers over his career, it would be truly surprising to see him struggle tonight.
Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Moore [LHP] – There’s this common misconception that Arenado can’t hit left-handed pitching, likely due to the fact that he hit 69 home runs against righties over the last two seasons compared to only 14 vs. southpaws. The truth is, Arenado has hit righties for more power over the past couple seasons, but still owns a stellar .241 ISO and 45 percent FB-rate vs. lefties for his career. He’s facing a southpaw at Coors on Saturday, where the Rockies own a slate-high 5.4-run total. I won’t be avoiding Arenado because Matt Moore isn’t right-handed.
Moore owns a career 39 percent groundball rate and doesn’t have the necessary arsenal to pitch at Coors Field. He throws a sinker 2-3 percent of the time, and his curveball, which he’s been throwing at a near 20 percent clip, will lack break in the altitude. Moore has reintroduced his cutter, which has been generating ground balls at respectable clip, but it won’t be enough to evade trouble this evening. You better believe Arenado should be a top priority at third base.
Freddie Freeman [1B – L] @ Eickhoff [RHP] – Outside of Eric Thames, there hasn’t been a hotter hitter to start the season than Freeman. Across only 58 ABs, Freeman has already racked up seven home runs and 12 extra-base hits, 10 of which have come against right-handed arms. He’s working ridiculously solid at bats right now, and there isn’t a pitcher in baseball who’d be excited to see him step up to the dish.
Jerad Eickhoff continues to impress at the Major League level, but left-handed hitters have given him some trouble. Since 2015, Eickhoff is allowing a .348 wOBA and 1.67 HR/9 to opposite-handed bats, while stymieing righties to the tune of .254 and .88, respectively. Eickhoff’s K-rate drops significantly vs. LHB as well, which won’t do him any favors when facing Freeman. The RBIs have yet to come for Freeman, who plays for one of the worst offensive teams in baseball, but it hasn’t at all hindered his ability to mash on a daily basis. We should once again be considering him a top first base option on Saturday night.
HONORABLE MENTION: Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Aquino [LHP]; DJ LeMahieu [2B – R] vs. Moore [LHP]; Hanley Ramirez [1B/OF] @ Aquino [LHP] [GPP]; Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Weaver [RHP]
Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Kennedy [RHP] – I’m not buying Ian Kennedy’s hot start to the season. The 32-year-old right-hander has faced a string of weak opponents in pitcher-friendly venues, somehow managing to escape unscathed despite a 51 percent FB-rate and 43 percent hard hit rate over his first three starts. That won’t be the case on Saturday when he toes the rubber at Rangers Ballpark, where temperatures will be down but balls should still be flying. Since 2015, Kennedy is allowing 1.66 HR/9 to left-handed hitters, with a 4.55 xFIP and 30 percent groundball rate.
We should be targeting Odor heavily on FanDuel at $3,100. He crushed righties to the tune of a .247 ISO last season (.274 vs. RHP at home), and is off to an even better start in 2017. On DraftKings, however, Jose Ramirez [2B – L/R] is $3,900 in a plus matchup with Mike Pelfrey, whose numbers against left-handed hitters have been heinously bad over the past few years. Ramirez has been on an absolute tear, bats from both sides of the plate, and will continue to see good pitches hitting in the middle of an uber-potent Indians order.
Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Martinez [RHP] – In case you were wondering, Nick Martinez is not good. Across 155.2 IP vs. left-handed hitters, Martinez has allowed a .348 wOBA, 5.63 xFIP, 34.7 percent groundball rate and 11.9 percent K-rate. These numbers are awful across the board, as Martinez not only struggles to induce ground balls, but can’t generate strikeouts, either. Moustakas remains cheap, draws the platoon advantage and is sporting a .411/.317 wOBA/ISO split vs. RHP to start the year. If you aren’t paying for Arenado, Moustakas makes for a very attractive lower mid-range option at the hot corner.
I also have some interest in Maikel Franco [3B – R], who should be able to produce against the eroding arm of Jaime Garcia. Since the start of 2016, Garcia is allowing a .348 wOBA, .200 ISO and 1.57 HR/9 to opposing righties. His groundball rate continues to evaporate while his home rate soars through the roof. Franco is off to a slow start this season, but he’s also suffered some bad luck, owning a .143 BABIP and a top-40 average exit velocity on the year.
Trevor Story [SS – R] vs. Moore [LHP] – Story is much closer to high-end pricing than his is to being a mid-range play, but at $4,300 on DraftKings and $3,900 on FanDuel he’s actually discounted when the Coors factor is taken into account. Since the start of his rookie campaign in 2016, Story has tortured left-handed pitching to the tune of a .417/.339 wOBA/ISO split across 138 plate appearances, recording a home run per every 10.7 at bats. Story was never going to sustain his ridiculous production to start the 2016 season, but he still boasts immense power from the right side of the plate and and benefitted greatly from hitting in altitude. When I can get some form of discount on a player with the platoon advantage against a league-average pitcher at Coors, I’m certainly going to consider it.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Maeda [RHP]; Joey Gallo [3B -L] vs. Kennedy [RHP] [GPP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] @ Pelfrey [RHP] [DraftKings]; Christian Yelich [OF – L] @ Weaver [RHP]; Yasiel Puig [OF – R] @ Ray [LHP] [GPP]; Nomar Mazara [OF – L] vs. Kennedy [RHP]
Kike Hernandez [3B/OF – R] @ Ray [LHP] – Hernandez is set to receive a good amount of playing time vs. lefties until the Dodgers get healthy, and he should lead off again on Saturday night with Robbie Ray set to start. Hernandez generally only sees at bats when he has the platoon advantage, but the 25-year-old outfield does own a strong .365/.223 wOBA/ISO split vs. southpaws over his career. Assuming he leads off for the banged up Dodgers, Hernandez should make for a fine play at $2,800 on DraftKings. Ray is an excellent fantasy pitcher, but he’s still susceptible to coughing up the longball and struggles to set down right-handed bats.
Cameron Rupp [C – R] vs. Garcia [LHP] – I have no problem targeting Rupp at a discounted price point tonight, as he’s facing a lefty in Jaime Garcia who has collapsed upon himself. As earlier noted, Garcia’s home run rate vs. righties has skyrocketed while his groundball rate is no longer elite. He’ll have to pitch inside the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, and although the temperatures will be rather low, Garcia is likely to give up plenty of hard hit balls to opposite-handed bats. Believe it or not, Rupp owns a whopping .250 ISO across 165 career plate appearances vs. southpaws while boasting an equally respectable .374 wOBA.
Buster Posey [C – R] will cost you a premium at Coors and J.T. Realmuto [C – R] draws an elite matchup but will have to hit at Petco Park. Rupp costs next to nothing and draws the platoon advantage inside a hitter-friendly venue, making him a nice one-off Phillie bat against Garcia.
Chris Young [OF – R] @ Aquino [LHP] – I can’t guarantee Young will be in the Red Sox lineup on Saturday, but if he is we’ll have to consider him against Baltimore’s rookie southpaw. Young has yet to record a home run this season, but for his career he owns a an above average .365/.212 wOBA/ISO vs. left-handed pitching. Young should bat sixth in the order if he starts, and draws a favorable park shift at Camden Yards. Kevin Pillar [OF – R] is also in play if he leads off against Skaggs, whose velocity dip is still a concern.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Altherr/Daniel Nava [OF – R – L/R] vs. Garcia [LHP]; Scott Van Slyke [1B/OF – R] @ Ray [LHP] [GPP]; Justin Bour [1B – L] @ Weaver [RHP]
TOP TOURNAMENT STACKS
Baltimore Orioles vs. Wright [RHP] – The right-handed knuckleballer is entirely unpredictable, as is almost any pitcher who throws the knuckleball as his primary pitch. Baltimore lit him up for eight runs and four home runs across only 1.1 innings earlier this season, but we shouldn’t view that as an indicator of future results. Wright could be on, or he could be off, which is why the Orioles make for an excellent GPP stack with immense power upside on Saturday.
Texas Rangers vs. Kennedy [RHP] – Kennedy is a homer-prone righty who will be pitching inside the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark tonight. Temperatures being low could help him a bit, but this is still a spot for Kennedy to get rocked, and Texas has some very appealing lefty bats scattered throughout their lineup.
Toronto Blue Jays @ Skagg [LHP] – This one could go two different ways, with Skaggs harnessing his stuff and increasing his velocity or Toronto jumping on him early. The Blue Jays have been awful this season, but they’re at least hitting southpaws at an above average clip and offer depressed price points across the industry. If Skaggs is back to not being able to effectively throw his four-seamer he could be in for a very long night. Furthermore, Toronto bats should be ultra-low-owed on Saturday.
Colorado Rockies vs. Moore [LHP] – Coors Field, flyball pitcher, Coors Field, Coors Field.
L.A. Angels vs. Lawrence [RHP] – I generally hate stacking the Angels, but this is a very enticing spot. Lawrence does not belong in the majors, as he sports a 15 percent career K-rate, doesn’t induce ground balls and doesn’t have an out pitch.