MLB Deep Dive – 4/25/17

PITCHING   Clayton Kershaw [LHP – LAD] @ SFG No need to elaborate here; Kershaw is a -220 ML favorite at the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park where the Giants own a 2.3 implied run total. He’s the best pitcher on earth, so matchup should hardly be a concern, but this is not the same San Francisco team from seasons past. Actually, the Giants have seen the second most plate appearances against left-handed pitchers this season, where they rank bottom-10 in wOBA, ISO and wRC+. As long as Madison Bumgarner isn’t batting cleanup, Kershaw should be just fine. You pay for safety with Kershaw, who is a virtual lock for 30-plus DraftKings Points every time he toes the rubber.
Michael Wacha [RHP – STL] vs. TOR Wacha isn’t an ace, but he isn’t a $6,800 pitcher, either. Wacha is severely underpriced on DraftKings where he draws a home matchup with the Blue Jays, who have been putrid against right-handed pitching this season. Josh Donaldson remains sidelined, Edwin Encarnacion is gone, Troy Tulowitzki just landed on the disabled list and Jose Bautista is striking out at a 30 percent clip on the year. Toronto’s 24 percent K-rate vs. RHP ranks eighth highest in baseball, and to make matters worse, they’ve stolen only three bags nearly one month into the season. Wacha owns a career ERA in the mid-3’s with a passable strikeout rate (20.6%) and a league average groundball rate (44.6%) across four-plus campaigns. Again, he doesn’t do anything at a particularly elite level, but Wacha remains a very serviceable pitcher overall. Limiting home runs and containing opposite-handed bats has been a large reason for his success, and while he doesn’t possess the most fantasy upside, Wacha offers a very safe floor and strong odds to earn the win on Tuesday. The Cardinals are -139 ML favorites at home inside the pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium where the injury-ravaged Blue Jays own an implied run total of 3.4. You’d be hard-pressed to find better value in this price range.

J.C. Ramirez [RHP – LAA] vs. OAK If you’re in need of a cheap arm to pair with Kershaw, Ramirez could be key. I’m not sold on his ability to work deep into games right now after pitching exclusively out of the bullpen for his career, but Ramirez could do enough to pay off a minimum salary price tag on Tuesday. Here’s the thing: as a lifetime reliever, Ramirez’s 17 percent K-rate is far from gaudy to say the least. He has, however, incorporated a curveball into his repertoire this season, which owns an 18 percent whiff rate across 16 innings pitched. Ramirez is also sporting a career-best 12.1 percent swinging strike rate, which has been aided by the introduction of the curve and effective use of the slider. Oakland makes for a neutral matchup overall, but they are striking out at a top-10 rate vs. RHP in 2017. They don’t boast a ton of power, and Angel Stadium is one of the more pitcher-friendly venues in baseball. On a slate where three games own run totals of 9.5 or higher, I wouldn’t blame anyone for deploying Ramirez in GPPs.
HONORABLE MENTION: Danny Duffy [LHP – KC] @ CWS; Robert Gsellman [RHP – NYM] vs. ATL; Wade Miley [LHP – BAL] vs. TB [GPP]

Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Marquez [RHP] Not much needs to be said about Harper, who has already belted seven home runs with 20 RBI on the young season, ranking second among all players in both of those categories. Harper unsurprisingly leads the league in walks, too, which is a slight concern when paying such a premium for any hitter. We don’t want pitchers to issue him free passes and waste a plate appearance, but that’s a small price to pay when dealing with a player of Harper’s status. Nevertheless, one of baseball’s best hitters draws a matchup with German Marquez at Coors Field,  which is enough to vault him to the top of our list on Tuesday. I don’t know much about Marquez, but he throws a ton of four-seam fastballs (~65%) that sit around 95 MPH. You aren’t going to beat Harper by trying to blow by him with fastballs. Any hitter who owns a career .397/.246 wOBA/ISO split vs. righties and faces a 22-year-old rookie at Coors should be considered a top overall play on the slate.

Trea Turner [SS/OF – R]/Daniel Murphy [2B – L]/Adam Eaton [OF – L] @ Marquez [RHP] You won’t be able to fit all of these Washington bats into a single lineup on Tuesday, but all of them possess a ton of appeal against Marquez. In Turner’s case, it’s more about the massive park shift that benefits him. Excellent speed, the ability to turn singles into doubles, and enough power to send one out of Coors Field. The young phenom is still trying to find his swing in his sophomore campaign, but it’s hard not to love the upside. Murphy and Eaton draw a huge advantage against the right-handed Marquez, who doesn’t have an effective out-pitch against lefties. He seemingly only throws his changeup around five percent of the time, and hasn’t had positive results whenever he uses the pitch. Marquez should really struggle to set down opposite-handed bats on Tuesday, making Murphy, Eaton and obviously Harper phenomenal high-end plays.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Ross [RHP]; Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] vs. Richard [LHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Ross [RHP]

MID-RANGE   A.J. Pollock [OF – R] vs. Richard [LHP] Clayton Richard slammed the door on Arizona last time out, holding them to one run across 6.2 innings of work. That won’t be the case on Tuesday, though, as he’ll leave the cozy confines of Petco Park to pitch at Chase Field, which serves as a top-10 hitter’s park in baseball. Richard’s ability to generate a lot of ground balls keeps him from getting hammered on a weekly basis, but he doesn’t strike batters out and allows a career .350 wOBA to opposite-handed hitters. Pollock owns excellent numbers against southpaws for his career, especially at home where he boasts a .397 wOBA and .269 ISO across 259 PA. It’s hard not to love Pollock and the many right-handed bats scattered throughout this Diamondbacks lineup.

Eric Thames [1B – L] vs. Feldman [RHP] What more can we say about Thames? The one-time Korean baseball god hit two more homers last night and now sits atop the league with 10 on the season. He’s mashing lefties and righties alike, and just as it seems he’s about to come back down to earth, the 30-year-old sluggers erupts once again. Until sites start pricing him among baseball’s elite bats we need to keep deploying him. Scott Feldman isn’t the answer needed to silence Thames’ scorching hot bat, especially not at Miller Park which ranks as a top-five power park in the league.

Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] is now hitless in 24 PA against left-handed pitching this season, but his numbers vs. righties aren’t nearly as disturbing. I’ll continue to use him as a low-owned, high-upside GPP play in a plus matchup with Feldman. Having Tucker Barnhart behind the plate should do nothing but boost his stolen base potential on Tuesday.

Max Kepler [OF – L] @ Cashner [RHP] Game-time temperatures will be hovering around 82 degrees in Arlington tonight, and Andrew Cashner surely isn’t as effective as he looked his last time out. He’s already walked seven batters in 11.1 innings and owns a sky-high xFIP to start the year. Rangers Ballpark won’t be as friendly to him as it was last week, especially considering the Twins boast significantly more power than the punchless Royals. Cashner is also allowing a .384 wOBA to opposing lefties since the start of 2015, while coughing up 1.56 HR/9 in the process. The Twins own a whopping 4.8-run implied total on Tuesday, making Kepler a strong mid-range outfield bat at the top of their order. He should be very low owned on this 14-game slate, but possesses the upside to offer a massive payoff in the event that Cashner becomes Cashner again.   HONORABLE MENTION: Miguel Sano [3B – R] @ Cashner [RHP]; Chris Davis [1B – L] vs. Ramirez [RHP] [FanDuel]; Yasmany Tomas [OF – R] vs. Richard [LHP]; Manuel Margot [OF – R] @ Corbin [LHP] [GPP]

VALUE   Austin Hedges [C – R] @ Corbin [LHP] Patrick Corbin has looked fine on the young season, but he’s about to run into the buzzsaw know as Austin Hedges. San Diego’s 24-year-old backstop has now racked up six home runs and 13 RBI on the season, three of which have come at Petco Park. I’ll happily use him at Chase Field against the left-handed Corbin, who is still allowing a .357 wOBA with a 4.70 xFIP vs. RHB on the year. The Padres own a 4.4-run implied total on the road, and Hedges is poised to bat fifth in a lineup that isn’t particularly skilled, but much better vs. left-handed arms.  

Chris Owings [SS – R] vs. Richard [LHP] Owings is priced as a value bat despite some strong numbers on the year and a spot atop the D-Backs’ order. Batting second behind Pollock and ahead of Goldschmidt will provide Owings with ample hittable pitches inside the hitter-friendly Chase Field. His splits with the platoon advantage won’t drop any jaws, but Owings has literally everything else working in his favor this evening. Shortstop is one of the weakest positions on the board, so it would make sense to free up cap space by rostering Owings.

Jaff Decker [OF – L] @ Ramirez [RHP] Decker is minimum salary across the board, which would make him a strong outfield punt if he leads off against J.C. Ramirez. Decker has been leading off against right-handed pitchers, so assuming he continues to bat atop the order he’ll be in play on Tuesday. I’m not enthusiastic about Decker’s game, as he doesn’t do anything particularly well, but four or more plate appearances at the dead minimum is worth considering on a night where Kershaw eats up 29% of your cap space on DraftKings. Simply put, Decker opens a lot up for us to work in bats from Coors, Arlington and Chase.

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Covey [RHP] Moustakas remains ultra-cheap on DraftKings, which once again puts him in play against rookie right-hander Dylan Covey. Covey was torched in his last outing, coughing up eight runs on 10 hits against the Yankees, and while I don’t expect another blowup on Tuesday, Covey still poses a solid matchup for the Royals. On the season, Moustakas is sporting a .411/.333 wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed pitchers, which should serve him well inside the hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Park. If you’re in need of a cheap third base bat to squeeze into your Kershaw lineups, look no further than Moustakas.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jason Castro [C – L] @ Cashner [RHP]; Daniel Vogelbach [1B – L] @ Zimmermann [RHP]; Kike Hernandez [SS/OF – R] @ Blach [LHP]