MLB DEEP DIVE – 4/28/17
Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] vs. NYM – In terms of raw scoring projections, Scherzer should be considered the undisputed top pitching option on Friday’s slate. Washington’s ace right-hander is as consistent as they come, and is fully capable of salvaging an otherwise poor performance with elite strikeout totals and by pitching deep into games. On the season, Scherzer is sporting a career-best 15.9 percent swinging strike rate to accompany his stellar 31.5 percent K-rate and 3.37 xFIP. He’ll allow his fair share of home runs, but they generally come as solo shots — 63 percent of Scherzer’s career home runs allowed have come with the bases empty — and in mostly hitter-friendly venues.
Friday’s matchup comes against the injury-laden Mets, who just lost their most potent hitter to a pulled hamstring. New York already ranked 29th in wOBA (.270) before Cespedes hit the shelf, and their 23rd ranked ISO (.136) should fall even further with the power-hitting outfielder sidelined. The Mets will be able to load their lineup with left-handed bats, but none of them pose much of a threat. Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson will have the platoon advantage, but each of these three lefties own career K-rates around 23 percent, which don’t improve much when facing right-handed arms. As for the other lefties or switch-hitting batters, they provide no reason to worry about Scherzer.
New York’s 3.1-run implied total is the lowest of any team on Friday’s 15-game slate, and while Scherzer is only a -155 ML favorite, much of that has to do with Jacob deGrom toeing the rubber for the Mets. Scherzer offers legitimate complete-game upside against a New York team that’s been struggling to stay afloat for weeks now. There should be no trepidation about deploying him this evening.
NOTE: Scherzer makes for an outstanding option across the board, but shouldn’t be viewed as a must play on Friday with there being a wealth of talented arms to choose from.
Carlos Carrasco has been outstanding in 2017, sporting a 27 percent K-rate and sub-3 xFIP through his first four starts. Sure, two of the righty’s first four starts have come against the White Sox, but he’s dazzled almost every team he’s faced thus far. Carrasco hasn’t been hindered at all since returning from injury, as his velocity remains consistent and all of his pitches are working wonderfully. Actually, Carrasco’s changeup looks better than ever and the curve is garnering a 26 percent whiff rate on the year. I’m not sure how much of the Indians’ right-hander I’ll have on Friday, but he sure feels like one of the safest options on the board. Carrasco is a massive -192 ML favorite at home, where he’ll face a Mariners team that lacks left-handed talent outside of Robinson Cano and a scuffling Kyle Seager.
Marcus Stroman [RHP – TOR] vs. TB/Jeff Samardzija [RHP – SFG] vs. SDP – I’ll have ample exposure to one of these upper-midrange pitchers on Friday, but haven’t decided which one it will be yet. For that reason, I’m going to lay out the numbers and let you choose for yourself, because both of these righties have a lot working in their favor. Both of them have some warts, though, which is why we’re about to break this down piece by piece.
Marcus Stroman has been ultra-efficient to start the season, with only one bad start under his belt. The 25-year-old right-hander has already tossed two complete games in April, and leads all starters in pitches per inning (13.2 PPI) through one month of baseball. Stroman is throwing the sinker at a career-high 63 percent clip, which has led to some quick innings and easy outs. Having said that, he isn’t throwing the pitch to induce swinging strikes, and his K-rate has unsurprisingly dipped to 15.7 percent on the season. Stroman’s ability to work deep into games and limit base runners has mitigated the lack of punchouts, but he carries definitive risk in the event that the Rays run up his pitch count.
Tampa Bay owns the fifth highest strikeout rate vs. RHP this season, but they rank 11th in both wOBA (.321) and ISO (.175). Stroman is surprisingly only a -132 ML favorite at home, and although he’s done a phenomenal job of limiting home runs, he’s either going to require above average strikeout totals or another 8-plus innings pitched to pay off the $9,100 price tag on DraftKings and FanDuel. I definitely have some interest in him against the K-heavy Rays, but his elevated salary keeps him from being the safest option on the slate.
Jeff Samardzija has coughed up 20 runs in 24.1 innings this season. That’s not good. He’s sporting a 7.40 ERA through his first four starts. Also not good. Samardzija will always carry the risk of blowing up, but it’s only fair to note that two of his first four starts came in Colorado and Arizona, where he was predictably shelled. Shark owns a 2.86 xFIP, 27.5 percent K-rate and 11.7 percent SwStr rate this year, so we should certainly expect some positive regression going forward. That change could come on Friday when Samardzija faces the Padres inside one of baseball’s most pitcher-friendly venues. With San Diego now leading the league in K-rate vs. RHP (26%), Samardzija is poised to turn a corner at AT&T Park.
Since 2014, the veteran righty has held same-handed hitters to a stellar .284 wOBA, but hasn’t enjoyed the same success against left-handed bats (.335 wOBA). Fortunately, San Diego boasts virtually no power from the left side of the dish outside of the rogue Ryan Schimpf home run. If there was ever a time for Samardzija to bounce back it would be tonight, but with the Shark you never know what you’re going to get. He definitely offers more upside than Stroman, but isn’t as safe now that his salary has climbed.
Lance Lynn [RHP – STL] vs. CIN – Lynn might be my favorite low-owned pitcher on Friday night, as I have trouble believing he’ll be above 10 percent on two-pitcher sites. No one actually looks forward to rostering Lynn, a 280-pound meathorse who missed the entirety of 2016 with Tommy John surgery. That being said, the 29-year-old right-hander is actually a solid pitcher, owning an above average strikeout rate (22.8%), home run rate (.68) and xFIP (3.71) for his career. Lynn has been especially effective at home where he boasts a stellar 2.78 ERA and .282 wOBA against for his career. He’s also been dominant against same-handed hitters, allowing a .277 wOBA, 2.87 xFIP and nonexistent .48 HR/9.
Friday’s matchup with Cincinnati meets all the requirements needed to roster Lynn, as he’s pitching at home against a Reds team that’s starved of left-handed talent. Outside of Joey Votto and the stray Scott Schebler home run, Cincinnati isn’t the most formidable offense for right-handed arms. They started the season on a tear but have predictably come back down to earth of late, losing seven of their last eight games with a 25 percent K-rate in that span. They’ll also be pitching Tim Adleman on Friday, who will not only be an easy out at the plate, but should serve up enough runs to give Lynn the lead. There’s some legitimate upside with Lynn, who at $7,800 on DraftKings makes for a very enticing SP-2 pairing with one of the expensive arms on this 15-game slate.
HONORABLE MENTION: Robbie Ray [LHP – ARI] vs. COL [GPP]
Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Martinez [RHP] – You’d be hard-pressed to find a better hitting option than Trout on Friday night, as he squares off against Nick Martinez inside Coors Southwest. In 152.1 career innings pitched vs. right-handed hitters, Martinez is allowing a .353 wOBA with a 13.6 percent K-rate. He doesn’t induce enough ground balls to own such a dismal strikeout rate, especially when Trout tattoos righties for a .413 wOBA and .259 ISO over his career.
It’s worth noting that Martinez’s four-seamer is sitting 93 MPH this season, which is significantly higher than his career average of 90.8 MPH. That being said, this game still owns a 9.5-O/U, the Angels are sporting a 5-run implied total, and Mike Trout… well he’s Mike Trout. It’s hard to argue against Trout being the top overall hitter tonight.
Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] vs. Freeland [LHP] – If you were to argue against Trout being Friday’s top hitting option, Paul Goldschmidt would be a good place to start. Arizona’s power-hitting first baseman is on an absolute tear to start the season, having already racked up 11 extra-base hits (4 HR, 7 2B), 18 RBI and six stolen bases. The speed factor makes him one of, if not the most reliable fantasy bat in all of baseball, especially when you consider he ranks second in walks behind only Bryce Harper with 19 on the season. Goldschmidt is also one of, if not the best lefty masher in the league, boasting a career .432/.260 wOBA/ISO split in 849 PA against southpaws.
Kyle Freeland was Colorado’s sixth-ranked prospect and fourth-ranked pitching prospect in 2016. He is a command pitcher with a five-pitch arsenal and low-to-mid 90’s fastball. Most would label him as a middle-back of the rotation starter with a number of average-grade pitches that could find success if located well. That being said, the rookie left-hander will have a difficult time navigating around a Diamondbacks lineup that since that start of 2016 ranks second in both wOBA (.341) and ISO (.195) vs. LHP. Arizona owns a 5.1-run implied total inside the hitter-friendly Chase Field, where Goldschmidt owns a mouthwatering .464/.303 wOBA/ISO vs. southpaw pitching.
Carlos Santana [1B/OF – L/R]/Edwin Encarnación [1B – R] vs. Miranda [LHP] – Ariel Miranda disappointingly shut down the Marlins at home before serving up four runs and two home runs to the A’s in his very next start. I’d expect to see more of the homer-happy Miranda than Cy Miranda on Friday, where he leaves the comfy confines of Safeco Field to face a star-studded Indians lineup in Cleveland. Progressive Field isn’t a hitter’s haven, but that shouldn’t matter tonight, as Miranda has struggled mightily to contain right-handed bats. He’s already allowed five home runs to RHB on the season (2.81 HR/9) and has now surrendered 16 home runs to righties across only 63.1 innings pitched.
The Indians own a whopping 5.3-run implied total on Friday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lay a beating on Miranda. Santana has always hit for more power against righties, but he’s still leading off vs. lefties and is poised to see an easy five plate appearances tonight. Encarnacion isn’t off to the greatest start in 2017, but his career .232 ISO vs. LHP would suggest that this matchup with Miranda is a better spot than ever for him to get back on track. Santana’s outfield eligibility on DraftKings now allows for a perfect Indians stack against one of the most homer-prone southpaws in baseball.
HONORABLE MENTION: Eric Thames [1B – L] vs. Colon [RHP]; Freddie Freeman [1B – L] @ Anderson [RHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] @ Ray [LHP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] @ Pomeranz [LHP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] vs. Miranda [LHP]
A.J. Pollock [OF – R] vs. Freeland [LHP] – Pollock is simply way too cheap on DraftKings, sitting at $4,200 despite some stellar numbers to start the year and a career .220 ISO vs. left-handed pitching. Pollock, much like Goldschmidt but to a lesser extent, boasts a nice power/speed skill set, and although he’s recorded only two home runs on the young season, the D-Backs’ leadoff man has racked up 11 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases. It’s hard not to love Pollock on DraftKings where his salary is identical to that on FanDuel. Expect another strong performance against Kyle Freeland, who draws the pleasure of facing one of the best lefty-mashing teams in the game.
Chase Headley [3B – L] vs. Gausman [RHP] – Kevin Gausman has been absolutely putrid to start the season, sporting a 5.45 SIERA, 14.2 percent K-rate and 12.5 percent BB-rate through his first five starts. Life won’t get any easier for him on Friday, where he’s forced to pitch at Yankee Stadium, which by almost every account is the most lefty-friendly hitter’s park in baseball. Gausman owns a career 39 percent groundball rate vs. LHB, a number that could plagued him tonight.
I’m perfectly fine with deploying any of these New York lefties at the top/middle of the order. None of them are overpriced on a night where the Yankees own a 4.7-run implied total on a warm day in the Bronx. Whether it’s Headley, who is smoking righties to the tune of a .448/.241 wOBA/ISO this season, Brett Gardner [OF – L] or Jacoby Ellsbury [OF – L], I’m willing to give all of them a look. If you plan on stacking the Yanks against Gausman, Aaron Judge [OF – R] should also be considered based on his immense power potential alone.
Ian Kinsler [2B – R] vs. Pelfrey [RHP] – Kinsler is priced nicely for this matchup with Mike Pelfrey. Detroit boasts a very healthy 4.8-run implied total at home, so Kinsler leading off should see an excellent opportunity for extra plate appearances. He’s been slightly underwhelming over the first month of baseball, but the power has still yet to come. If you aren’t looking to punt second base entirely, Kinsler offers a nice mid-range price point in a great matchup with one of the worst right-handed starters in baseball.
HONORABLE MENTION: Yasmany Tomas [OF – R] vs. Freeland [LHP]; Carlos Gomez [OF – R] vs. Skaggs [LHP]; Nick Castellanos [3B – R] vs. Pelfrey [RHP]; Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] vs. Colon [RHP]; Elvis Andrus [SS – R] vs. Skaggs [LHP];
Chris Owings [SS – R] vs. Freeland [LHP] – Owings has been great to us this season, offering discounted production at the top of Arizona’s power-packed lineup. As earlier noted, the Diamondbacks boast the best speed rating in baseball (6.4 Spd), and Owings has contributed with six stolen bases over the first month. He double donged last night and now has four home runs, four doubles, one triple and an eye-popping 19 RBI on the year. Owings is hitting both lefties and righties much better than he has in previous campaigns, and there is simply no reason we should be avoiding him on Friday. At $3,600 on DraftKings and $3,200 on FanDuel, Owings still remains cheap enough to target in all formats across the board.
Alex Avila [C – L] vs. Pelfrey [RHP]/Robinson Chirinos [C – R] vs. Skaggs [LHP] – Alex Avila isn’t very good, but the catcher position is worse. If he continues to bat sixth for the Tigers I’ll have no problem deploying him at a near min-sal price point against Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey is one of the worst pitchers set to take the mound on Friday, so targeting Avila with the platoon advantage simply makes sense. He has enough power to pay off his salary with one swing of the bat.
Chirinos has been moved around a lot in the Rangers’ order, batting as high as sixth and as low as eighth this season. If he’s batting sixth or seventh on Friday I’d be on board with using him against Tyler Skaggs, who is one of the more inconsistent lefties in baseball. Game-time temperatures will be around 84 degrees in Texas, which should create an even more conducive run-scoring environment this evening.
Delino DeShields [OF – R] vs. Skaggs [LHP] – DeShields is a terrible hitter. No one is arguing that point. If he gets on base, however, DeShields is going to run. We saw DeShields swipe two bags in his last start where he led off against another weak left-hander, and while Skaggs isn’t Hector Santiago, he’s been inconsistent enough to pick on. I’m willing to roll the dice on a dirt cheap DeShields if he leads off against Skaggs, cause I’m a sucker for speed and that’s one thing he can offer in bulk.
Josh Harrison [2B/3B – R] @ Conley [LHP] – Harrison is demolishing left-handed pitching to start the season, and he’ll draw another opportunity to impress on Friday against Adam Conley. Conley has demonstrated some reverse splits over his short career, but has allowed much more power to right-handed bats. Harrison isn’t your prototypical power hitter, but with Starling Marte out of the lineup, Harrison will continue to lead off for the Pirates. At an affordable price point and weak second base position, you could do a whole lot worse than Harrison, who has the platoon advantage against a fringe-average southpaw.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jaff Decker [OF – L]/Matt Joyce [OF – L] @ Morton [RHP] [GPP]; Tyler Collins [OF – L] vs. Pelfrey [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Gibson [RHP]