MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/12/17
Rick Porcello [RHP – BOS] vs. TB – The reigning AL Cy Young winner (lol) is in play by default on Friday, where quality pitching options are at a premium despite the 15-game slate. There is some reason to be encouraged by Porcello and some reason to worry, so naturally we’ll start with the positive. He’s sporting a career-high 11 percent swinging strike rate, career-high 23.7 percent K-rate and a miniscule 4.7 percent walk rate in 2017. Porcello has registered five-plus strikeouts in each of his seven starts this season, while walking more than two batters only once in that span. Control hasn’t been an issue, and neither has his ability to miss bats. Having said that, when Porcello isn’t missing bats he’s coughing up home runs, as evidenced by his 1.66 HR/9 allowed on the year. Porcello has never allowed home runs at such a high clip, but he’s also never owned such a high fly ball rate. We may just have to live with the inflated home run rate and hope it’ll be mitigated by elevated strikeout totals.
Tampa Bay leads the league in strikeouts vs. right-handed pitching, fanning at a ridiculous 25.9 percent clip. They rank towards the middle of the pack in both wOBA and ISO, and sport the seventh lowest groundball rate as a team, so Porcello will absolutely need to miss bats in order to yield serviceable fantasy totals. Fortunately, Boston’s right-hander has held opposing lefties to a .268 wOBA since the start of 2016 (550 TBF), which should serve him well on Friday. The Red Sox are -165 ML favorites at home with the Rays owning the second lowest implied run total of any team on this slate (3.7).
Johnny Cueto [RHP – SFG] vs. CIN – Cueto’s natural inconsistencies on the mound make it difficult to diagnose any non-injury related issues with his game. His unorthodox delivery generally works to his advantage, but Cueto’s decline in velocity is somewhat concerning. His four-seamer is sitting 91 MPH and has never had a lower grade in his career. Cueto is also sporting his lowest groundball rate since his rookie campaign. That being said, the veteran right-hander is affordably priced on FanDuel against a Reds team that owns the lowest implied run total on Friday’s slate (3.4).
I won’t be targeting Cueto on DraftKings or FantasyDraft where he’s ridiculously overpriced, but I don’t have a problem with his $9,700 salary on FanDuel. With the amount of undesirable pitching to choose from, Cueto feels like one of the safest options for cash games, and he’ll have one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball to prevent would-be home runs. Since joining the Giants, Cueto has allowed 23 home runs — 19 of which have come away from AT&T Park.
Danny Duffy [LHP – KC] vs. BAL – Danny Duffy’s 2017 campaign has been a mixed bag, containing five strong starts (34 IP/5 ER/24 K) and two blowup outings against the White Sox (9.2 IP/12 ER/5 K). He’s been pretty solid through seven appearances, but there could be some reason to worry. First, Duffy’s fastball velocity is down two full ticks from last season, subsequently resulting in a precipitous drop in whiffs per swing from 24 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2017. His 11.5 swinging strike rate is encouraging, but it’s still down 1.4 percent from last year. Duffy boasted a 20 percent K-BB rate in 2016, a mark that has plummeted to 7.2 percent this season. Moreover, Duffy’s O-Swing is down more than four percent while his Z-Swing and Z-Contact are up four percent and five percent, respectively.
Baltimore has struggled to hit left-handed pitching despite their right-heavy lineups. On the season, the Orioles own the league’s fourth highest K-rate (25%) and 18th ranked wRC+ (91) vs. southpaws. You’d think they’d be much better against LHP with a plethora of power righties scattered throughout the order, but Baltimore’s results from 2016 suggest that maybe they just aren’t very good with the platoon advantage. I’m willing to target Duffy in tournaments on a night devoid of quality pitching, but there is significant risk in doing so. He’ll need to miss more bats in order to post serviceable fantasy totals on Friday.
Jordan Montgomery [LHP – NYY] vs. HOU – I’m not a fan of this matchup with Houston, a low-strikeout team with significant power, but pitching is so unappealing on Friday that Montgomery’s low-$7K price point puts him in play. Montgomery throws four decent pitches, none of which are elite or awful. He’s sporting a stellar 13.9 percent swinging strike rate, though, and has allowed only two home runs on the year. Actually, Montgomery owns top-10 whiff/swing percentages on both his slider and curveball, two pitches that have worked very well when he throws them close to the zone.
The Astros are a tough team to pick on, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about Montgomery on Friday. He’s cheap, though, and unlike right-handed arms, Montgomery won’t have to worry much about left-handed power at Yankee Stadium. He’s surely a risky play, but the upside is available at such a low cost. On two-pitcher sites you could make an argument for Montgomery as your SP-2.
Joe Biagini [RHP – TOR] vs. SEA – Pitching is really really bad on Friday, and unless you plan on using Jhoulys Chacin as a punt — Chacin owns a 6.1 percent swinging strike rate and 8.9 percent K-BB rate this season — you won’t find anything of value towards the bottom. Joe Biagini is poised to make his second start of the season tonight, and if it’s anything like last week’s outing the 27-year-old righty could become a permanent fixture in the Blue Jays’ rotation.
The problem here, however, is Biagini will be on a strict pitch count. John Gibbons limited him to 60 pitches in his last start, but Biagini required only 52 pitches to get through four scoreless frames. He’s a solid pitcher who has looked outstanding through 22.2 innings this season, but he’ll need to be flawless on Friday if we’re to benefit from his $4,900 price tag. I’ll consider him in GPP lineups if Gibbons raises his pitch count ahead of tonight’s start, but won’t have anything to do with Biagini if he’s capped at 60 pitches.
Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] @ Chatwood [RHP] – Tyler Chatwood has actually pitched well this season despite his inflated ERA. The 27-year-old righty has shown a nice uptick in velocity, has retooled his changeup (looks really good), and is throwing a curveball with a top-10 spin rate and 47 percent whiffs/swing. Chatwood is inducing ground balls at a 57 percent clip, but runs into trouble at Coors with his inability to generate strikeouts (17.7 K%). Needless to say, Chatwood is no gas can, but he’s far from impervious to getting rocked in Denver.
Bellinger has been in his first major-league with the Dodgers, having already recorded six home runs in only 44 at bats against right-handed arms. He’s also striking out less than I would’ve anticipated, which should serve him well at Coors. Bellinger has been hitting cleanup vs. right-handed pitchers, which will make him extremely difficult to ignore on Friday where the Dodgers own a slate-high 5.8-run implied run total. Again, I respect Chatwood’s improvements, but don’t envision him escaping tonight’s start unscathed, as L.A. boasts the league’s third highest wOBA vs. RHP in 2017.
Joc Pederson [OF – L], Corey Seager [SS – L] and Justin Turner [3B – R] all make for fantastic options along with Bellinger. Pederson is leading off against a righty who doesn’t miss many bats on his primary pitches, Seager is one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball, and Turner absolutely hammers same-handed pitching. The Dodgers were rather disappointing last night, but we’re all familiar with the ‘first game at Coors’ theory, and that’s not reason to avoid them on Friday. A left-handed Dodgers stack plus Turner could be a tournament-winning formula despite the obvious high ownership across the board.
A.J. Pollock [OF – R] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – As you already know, I am a Tyler Glasnow truther, fully confident that he will eventually harness his electric stuff at the major-league level. That being said, Friday’s road tilt with Arizona will not be a time for improvement. The 6’7” right-hander has only surrendered three home runs on the season, but he’s allowing far too many baserunners, as evidenced by a 13.9 percent walk rate and heinous 1.93 WHIP.
It’s imperative that pitchers keep the bases clean against the Diamondbacks, who own the second highest SPD rating on the season while ranking third in wOBA and fourth in ISO at home. Every walk from Glasnow will be equivalent to a double, as he is entirely incapable of holding runners. Pollock should eat him alive on the basepaths, and could realistically rack up 20 fantasy points without recording a hit. The stolen base upside is simply too high to ignore in this matchup, especially considering Chase Field also serves as one of the best all-around hitter’s parks in the game.
Trea Turner [SS – R] vs. Pivetta [RHP] – Turner has been a disappointment this season outside of a stellar four-game set at Coors. That’s one of the reasons I like him on Friday; Corey Seager will be the clear chalk play at shortstop and Turner will be ignored against a rookie right-hander. Turner simply can’t stay this cold forever, and a plus matchup against Pivetta could remedy his struggles.
Philadelphia’s right-hander actually has some pretty good stuff, but he has really struggled with the long ball over his first two starts, coughing up four home runs — all seven of Pivetta’s XBH’s allowed have come against RHB — across only 10 innings of work. Pivetta is surrendering a .581 wOBA to same-handed hitters early on, and just coughed up three home runs to the Nationals his last time out. Turner is well worth the gamble at a weak shortstop position.
Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R], Bryce Harper [OF – L] and Anthony Rendon [3B – R] are all very appealing bats against Pivetta, who if he continues to serve up power at such a high rate will be back in the minors by next week.
HONORABLE MENTION: Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] vs. Glasnow [RHP]; Jay Bruce [1B/OF – L] @ Garza [RHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Kershaw [LHP] [GPP]; Brian Dozier [2B – R] @ Tomlin [RHP]; Gary Sanchez [C – R] vs. McCullers [RHP] [GPP]
Miguel Sano [3B – R] @ Tomlin [RHP] – Since 2014, Josh Tomlin has allowed a .363 wOBA, .233 ISO and 1.93 HR/9 to right-handed bats. That is NOT GOOD. Seriously, those are some dreadful marks, and we haven’t even mentioned his sub-20 percent K-rate yet. Tomlin coughs up a lot of power, especially to same-handed hitters, and he could struggle on Friday against the top of this Minnesota lineup. Sano is hitting the ball so hard right now that this matchup with Tomlin becomes as mouth-watering as it gets. The Twins’ third baseman is smashing both left and right-handed pitchers, and he’s somehow priced fairly across the industry. His .447/.357 wOBA/ISO split vs. RHP is simply icing on the cake.
David Peralta [OF – L] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – Peralta is simply too cheap across the industry, making him difficult to ignore in a home matchup with Tyler Glasnow. Peralta draws a big park advantage at Chase Field, and should have ample RBI opportunities with Glasnow likely walking the bases loaded a few times throughout the night. Peralta clearly hasn’t been afraid to run this season, either, having already recorded three stolen bases on four attempts. This is a great spot to save on a power bat who’s also willing to take off against a pitcher with no ability to hold runners. A Diamondbacks stack could yield excellent results without them even needing to leave the park.
Francisco Cervelli [C – R] @ Corbin [LHP] – I generally don’t like to pay for catchers, but Cervelli would make for a very interesting play against Corbin if he continues to bat second for the Pirates. Seldom do we find a catcher batting towards the top of the order with the platoon advantage at a mid-range price point, even if he isn’t a particularly good catcher. Cervelli draws a very favorable park shift, too, in a game that sports a slate-high 10-O/U. While you’d be spending a bit more at a weak position, Cervelli’s respectable career .359 wOBA vs. LHP makes this a justifiable play. It also doesn’t hurt to know that Corbin is allowing a .358 wOBA to opposing righties in 2017.
Josh Harrison [2B/3B – R] also serves as a nice mid-range infield play, leading off for the Pirates at Chase Field. Harrison is torching southpaw pitching this season (.446/.306 wOBA/ISO) and will be a hard player to avoid at such an appealing cost (DK: $3,800; FD: $2,900).
HONORABLE MENTION: Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Glasnow [RHP]; Kolten Wong [2B – L] vs. Butler [RHP]; Chris Owings [SS – R] vs. Glasnow [RHP]; Max Kepler [OF – L] @ Tomlin [RHP]; Christian Yelich [OF – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP]; Michael Conforto [OF – L] @ Garza [RHP] [DraftKings]
Joey Rickard [OF – R] @ Duffy [LHP] – Rickard owns a very respectable .367 wOBA across 117 career plate appearances vs. left-handed pitching. He’s also poised to leadoff for the Orioles on Friday. His opponent, Danny Duffy, has seen a significant dip in velocity and strikeout rate in 2017, and allows a career .333 wOBA to right-handed bats. With Rickard being so ridiculously cheap across the industry, we can definitively list him as a top value play in all formats if he does in fact lead off for Baltimore.
Chris Herrmann [C – L] vs. Glasnow [RHP] – Cervelli is my preferred catcher play at a slightly elevated cost, but Herrmann could become an excellent value option if he’s slotted into the Diamondbacks’ lineup on Friday. The left-handed backstop is $2,100 on FanDuel, and with how wild Glasnow can get, there’s no reason to ignore this discount. Herrmann would be even more appealing if he bats sixth, and believe it or not, he actually stole four bases last season across only 148 at bats. I’m pretty certain that even Herrmann will have the green light to run if he gets on base, which is added value at a position where swipes are nonexistent.
Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] @ Cashner [RHP] – Oakland’s switch-hitting second baseman has been excellent from the left side of the plate this season, boasting a .380/.204 wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed arms. All four of Lowrie’s home runs, along with 11 of his 12 extra-base hits, have come against right-handed pitching in 2017. Andrew Cashner is a far from imposing righty, sporting a pathetic -3.4 percent K-BB rate (yes, that’s a negative), and a 5.81 xFIP to start the year. This contest owns a sexy 9.5-O/U on Friday and Oakland owns one of the higher implied run totals on the slate. Lowrie’s dirt cheap price point puts him in play at a rather weak second base position.
Justin Bour [1B – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP] – I don’t plan on punting first base tonight, but Bour would be the answer if I did. He offers plenty of power vs. right-handed pitching and Mike Foltynewicz’s problems with left-handed hitters have been well-documented over his short career. Bour is a boom-or-bust value play whose ownership should be through the floor on this 15-game slate.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jose Osuna [OF – R] @ Corbin [LHP]; Tyler Collins [OF – L] @ Shoemaker [RHP]; Jordy Mercer [SS – R] @ Corbin [LHP]