MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/11/17
Dallas Keuchel faces the red-hot New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Keuchel has been excellent to start the season, posting a 3.25 xFIP, 21.1 percent strikeout percentage and 6.7 percent walk percentage in 52.2 innings. Keuchel has done an excellent job of limiting hard contact, as he has induced 26.6 percent soft contact while allowing just 20.9 percent hard contact so far this season. In addition, he has an excellent groundball-to-flyball ratio of 2.74. The only knocks on Keuchel are that he is pitching in Yankee Stadium and that his strikeout numbers are lower than most other pitchers that you will find in his price range. These reasons are enough to make fading him in GPPs a viable strategy, but he is still a strong play as the Yankees strike out at the 11th highest percentage against lefties and Keuchel’s ability to generate groundballs and induce weak contact negates some of the threat of Yankee Stadium.
Michael Pineda is a slight favorite at home against the aforementioned Keuchel. There will probably not be a slate all season long where Pineda does not at least get an obligatory mention from me. This is not my favorite spot for Pineda, as the Astros strike out at the 2nd lowest rate in baseball against right-handed pitching and there is plenty of right-handed power in the lineup- which is what Pineda is most susceptible too, probably because he throws more sliders to righties and more sliders equals a greater likelihood of hanging a slider. That being said, any time that you can roster a pitcher that has a 28 percent strikeout percentage and 14.1 percent swinging strike rate since the start of last season for less than $10,000, he is worth mentioning as a GPP option even though the matchup and stadium is not ideal.
J.C. Ramirez will be facing a Detroit team that is leaving hitter-friendly Chase Field to come to pitcher-friendly Angels Stadium (or whatever it is called). The Tigers are a right-handed heavy lineup and Ramirez is striking out 28.6 percent of righties so far this season. His overall strikeout percentage is 24.1 percent, with a 10.4 percent swinging strike rate. Ramirez had a tough matchup in his last start against the Astros, generating just 2.2 percent swinging strikes, but in his four starts before that he had swinging strike rate of 13.3, 18.1, 14.1 and 9.9 percent. The Tigers are in the middle of the pack in swinging strike percentage this season at 10.0 percent, but they have the 11th highest strikeout percentage against righties at 22.1 percent. As we saw last night with Zack Godley, there is plenty of strikeout upside against this Tigers team. Ramirez does a good job of mixing his slider and curveball with his fastball and should be able to keep the Tigers off balance. One concern for Ramirez is that his fastball velocity has been lower over his last two starts, dropping from an average of 96.5 miles per hour in his first three starts to 94.0 miles per hour two starts ago and 94.7 miles per hour last start. Still, his price leaves plenty of room to take on risk and he offers a lot of tournament upside.
Tyler Anderson is pitching in Coors Field but we should not let that scare us as much as it would for most pitchers. Anderson was slightly better at home than on the road last season, with a higher strikeout percentage and lower xFIP and the same is true to start this season. The point of noting this is not to suggest that he is likely to remain better at Coors Field than away from it long-term, but to point out that he has proven he is capable of having success despite the hitter-friendly nature of the stadium. A quick look at his stats suggests that he has been terrible this year, but that is not the case. While he has a 6.69 ERA, his xFIP is almost three runs lower at 3.92. His strikeout percentage is a healthy 21.1 percent and his 12.0 percent swinging strike percentage suggests that his strikeout rate could climb some more. He has had a swinging strike percentage greater than 10 percent in six of his seven starts this season, with the one that it was not being against the Giants. In his last four games, his average swinging strike percentage is 12.9 percent. Now, let us factor in his matchup. He is facing the Los Angeles Dodgers who, despite sometimes stacking their lineup with righties, have a .303 wOBA, 86 wRC+ and 20.4 percent strikeout percentage against lefties so far this season. If we go a little further back and look at the Dodgers’ active roster against lefties since the start of last season, they have a .301 wOBA, 89 wRC+ and 23.1 percent strikeout percentage. Anderson is $6,200 on FanDuel, $5,900 on DraftKings and $11,700 on FantasyDraft. There is always risk to rostering someone in Coors, but it is built into his price and he has massive upside in this spot.
Derek Holland deserves mention on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where he was scheduled to start against the Twins yesterday for $7,700 but the game was postponed. He is now starting against the Twins for $5,200. The Twins have dangerous hitters in their lineup, especially if Dozier returns, but Holland certainly possesses upside at his new price tag as he has been much better so far this season than in past seasons and the Twins have been surprisingly bad against lefties with a .293 wOBA and 83 wRC+. While his 4.80 xFIP suggests that he is due for regression, he has been striking out more hitters this season with a 20.3 percent strikeout rate and 9.1 percent swinging strike rate. There is certainly risk here, but he is a viable option on DraftKings and FantasyDraft where he is essentially free.
Daniel Murphy faces Dylan Bundy who, on the surface, is off to a great start for the Orioles. Bundy pitches to contact, however, and Murphy usually makes hard contact. In addition, Bundy is likely to face some home run regression in the near future, as his home run per flyball percentage against lefties this season is just 3.6 percent despite allowing 32.8 percent hard contact to lefties. Murphy has a 40.5 percent hard contact rate over the last 14 days. At a second base positon that is traditionally weak, Murphy offers plenty of upside despite a less than ideal matchup with Bundy. Bryce Harper is in play for the same reasons, although outfield is obviously deeper than second base and Harper has been struggling a bit at the plate while dealing with a groin injury.
Miguel Sano will return to the lineup against left-handed Derek Holland. While I wrote earlier that Holland is in play on some sites because of his price and improvements this season, I still am not afraid to roster hitters against him- especially on this slate where most hitters are either in a bad matchup or a bad park. Neither is the case for Sano, or any of the power-hitting Twins righties, as Holland leads the slate with 42.1 percent hard contact allowed to right-handed hitters this season. Sano leads the league by a wide margin in average exit velocity and has made 42.9 percent hard contact against lefties this season with just 4.8 percent soft contact. Since the start of last season, Sano has a .254 ISO against lefties and he gets a park boost visiting the White Sox.
Jose Abreu is an appealing bat on the other side of the Twins-White Sox, as Phil Hughes does not strike people out and is allowing 41.4 percent hard contact with just 8.6 percent soft contact to righties so far this season. On top of that, Hughes is allowing 1.42 home runs per nine innings to righties, but his home run per flyball rate sits at just 8.8 percent. Abreu has a great chance to take Hughes deep in this game.
Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon will be facing Hyun-Jin Ryu in Coors Field. While Ryu is not a bad pitcher, he is making his first start back from the disabled list and Arenado and Blackmon are exceptional hitters in Coors Field. Arenado has a career .452 wOBA and .346 ISO against lefties in Coors Field. Blackmon had a .441 wOBA against lefties in Coors last season. More importantly, it is worth noting that Ryu has allowed a higher wOBA, has a higher xFIP and has allowed more hard contact against left-handed bats throughout his career (not by a wide margin, but he is not a shut-down guy against lefties).
Adam Duvall faces Ty Blach in San Francisco. “In San Francisco” is the part of that sentence that makes the matchup a little less appealing, of course. Blach has allowed 1.26 home runs per nine innings to righties so far this season and he was just destroyed by this Reds lineup in his last start in Cincinnati. Of Duvall’s 11 home runs off of lefties since the start of last season, they all went far enough to be home runs in San Francisco. More importantly, only two of them were close enough that we would expect the lack of carry on flyballs in San Francisco to possibly keep them in the park. Duvall has the power to hit the ball out anywhere and he has upside against Blach despite the terrible hitting environment.
Carlos Correa faces Michael Pineda in Yankees Stadium. Pineda, as we know, is a very talented pitcher who struggles with the long ball. Correa has power from the right side of the plate and should be able to take advantage of any mistakes that Pineda makes. He is a top option at shortstop on this slate and it does not hurt that he has had success against Pineda in the past, with an average exit velocity of 101.6 miles per hour on 7 batted balls against Pineda over the last couple of seasons.
Justin Smoak faces Chase De Jong who has struggled with home runs in the majors so far this season. In the minors, he was more home run prone against righties despite being right-handed. Smoak will be hitting from the left side, but he still has a very nice matchup for a very low price. Smoak is historically better from the right side, but he has been crushing the ball left-handed to start the season. He has a hard contact rate of 36.7 and soft contact of just 11.7 percent against righties this season and a hard contact rate of 43.6 percent with just 7.7 percent soft contact over the last 14 days.
Kennys Vargas is another Minnesota righty that we can target against Derek Holland. Like I said earlier in the Sano section, Holland is allowing plenty of hard contact to righties and he is due for some home run regression going forward. Vargas has a .265 ISO against right-handed pitching in 151 plate appearances since the start of last season. He provides plenty of cheap upside tonight.
Matt Davidson will be a sneaky play if he is in the lineup tonight, as Hughes has allowed a ton of hard contact and home runs to righties and Davidson has shown the ability to hit the ball hard against righties this season, with 40 percent hard contact in his 36 at-bats so far. He also showed plenty of home run power in the minor leagues, so we can expect the power to be there. The downside to Davidson is that he is first base or third base eligible depending on site, so it is not very appealing to roster him. Still, he will be a low-owned GPP option with upside.
David Peralta will be facing Gerrit Cole in Chase Field. The matchup with Cole is not ideal but, if you are in need of a cheap outfielder, Peralta has upside. Aside from hitting in the second-best park on the slate, Peralta has stolen three bases so far this season and the Diamondbacks have shown a willingness to be aggressive on the bases. Gerrit Cole is awful at holding runners and Francisco Cervelli behind the plate does not help matters. If Peralta reaches base against Cole, he should be able to pick up a stolen base or two.
There is not a stack that I have fallen in love with yet, as most of the teams in good parks are facing good pitchers and most of the teams facing bad pitchers are in really bad parks. It is a night that I may not do very much stacking on DraftKings, where stacks are less important. Here are the top stacks that I am looking at so far, however:
Colorado Rockies- Any team playing in Coors or in Chase is always in play in GPPs as a high upside option because so much can go right. We want to look for a little more than that, however, and the Rockies could be in a good spot with Ryu returning from the DL and having already seen him twice in this young season. Ex-players often talk about your stuff needing to be better each additional time that you face a hitter or a team in a short span, and it makes sense because, if a hitter sees your best fastball in his first at-bat, every fastball after that will seem easier to hit. It is reasonable to think that Ryu may not be at his sharpest tonight and Colorado would have the advantage. The Dodgers bullpen has the third-best xFIP in the majors so far, which could limit the Colorado upside even if they get to Ryu but, in general, I am always willing to take my chances against a bullpen.
Arizona Diamondbacks- Arizona does not have an easy matchup with Gerrit Cole, but they are in one of the best hitting environments in baseball. In addition, Cole has had lower strikeout numbers against righties than lefties going back to the start of last season, although they have improved so far this season. Arizona also is not as good against righties as they are lefties. The main appeal to an Arizona stack, other than the ballpark, is that Cole is terrible at holding runners and the Diamondbacks lead the major leagues with 38 stolen bases. If they are able to get on base against the Cole-Cervelli battery, they should be able to run at will and really create problems for Cole. The stolen bases plus park factor are enough for me to target the Diamondbacks in an otherwise subpar matchup on a slate where there are flaws with pretty much every stacking option.
Baltimore Orioles- This is a hit or miss spot for the Orioles. A.J. Cole struggles with right-handed power, as one of his most effective pitches is his changeup, and the Orioles have plenty of it. Cole also does a good job of hiding the ball, however, and his deception can make it very difficult for hitters when he is on. If Cole has his “A” game, this will likely be a long night for the Orioles bats. He is a young, inconsistent pitcher who tends to struggle with his control, however, so the upside is certainly there for the Baltimore bats if he is walking hitters and/or falling behind in counts.