MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/13/17

PITCHING

Trevor Cahill is on the slate, which means he is a top pitching option.  His price continues to rise, but he also continues to dominate opposing hitters and gets a friendly matchup against the Chicago White Sox.  The White Sox own the sixth highest strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season, at 23.6 percent, to go along with a well below average .276 wOBA and 72 wRC+ against righties.  Cahill has been outstanding this season, with a 30.1 strikeout percentage, 13.9 swinging strike percentage and 3.09 xFIP.  He is pounding the strike zone with 64.4 percent first-pitch strikes and is getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone 33.7 percent of the time, which ranks 7th amongst starting pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings this season.  Cahill has three different secondary pitches that he gets at least 20 percent whiffs on, with his curveball coming in at 20.5 percent, his slider at 28.3 percent and his change-up at 22.8 percent.  This should be another very good outing for Cahill.

Tyler Anderson is pitching in Coors Field, but he has a very nice matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’s active roster has struck out 23.2 percent of the time with a .304 wOBA and 90 wRC+ against left-handed pitching since the start of last season.  Anderson has been better in Coors Field than away from it so far in his young career and, while that is unlikely to continue, it does highlight that he has the stuff to be successful in altitude.  His ERA so far this season is ugly (6.69), but his xFIP is a very respectable 3.92 and suggests he has been getting rather unlucky.  We should also see improvement in his strikeout numbers, as his 12 percent swinging strike rate suggests that his 21.1 percent strikeout percentage should climb.  Anderson has had a swinging strike percentage greater than 10 percent in every start this season, with the exception of a start against the Giants.  He was pushed back a couple of days with knee inflammation, which can be a little bit of a concern going into today’s start, but at just $6,300 on DraftKings and $6,200 on FanDuel, the risk of injury and of Coors Field is priced in.

Taijuan Walker is another pitcher that has a good matchup in a dangerous park.  He will be facing an ice cold Pirates team in Chase Field.  Walker has looked good so far this season, pitching to a 3.86 xFIP with a 23.3 percent strikeout percentage and 10.5 percent swinging strike rate.  He was a candidate for a big bounce-back season as he had dealt with some injuries in the past and he is living up to the hype so far this season.  The Pirates are striking out just 19 percent of the time against right-handed pitching so far this season, but they also have a .290 wOBA and 78 wRC+.  Over the last two weeks, they are striking out 23.1 percent of the time with a .264 wOBA and 62 wRC+ and several different pitchers have flirted with no-hitters and/or complete games against them.  Walker’s strikeout numbers are generally a little better against lefties than righties, but he is capable of striking out hitters on either side of the plate.  He is a strong pitching option despite the tough ballpark.

After Cahill, Anderson and Walker, things start to get pretty dicey at pitcher.  The next three pitchers are only in consideration in GPPs and come with a lot of risk attached (even more than Anderson in Coors and Walker in Chase).

Alex Wood has been excellent this season, striking out 31.2 percent of hitters with an 11.3 percent swinging strike rate.  The Rockies are not particularly good against lefties, with their active roster striking out 20.8 percent of the time with a .330 wOBA and 88 wRC+ against lefties since last season.  One concern with Wood is how deep he will be allowed to go into games.  He has gone 6 innings just once this season, and he was pulled at 77 pitches in that game despite giving up just 1 hit.  He has thrown more pitches in each of his subsequent starts, 94 and 88, but those are still not high pitch counts and he was pulled after 5 innings in both starts.  The second concern with Wood is that he does not throw a lot of strikes.  His 61.5 percent first-pitch strike rate is good, but his 44.7 zone percentage is below average as he relies on batters to chase pitches out of the zone (and is good at it as evidenced by his 32.1 O-swing percentage).  The good news, is that the Rockies are have the 10th highest O-swing percentage and 6th highest swing percentage in the majors so there is a chance that Wood will continue to have success.  It is just a very risky spot pitching in Coors Field as a pitcher that does not throw many pitches in the strike zone because things can go downhill very quickly if you are putting extra runners on base.

Sonny Gray is not a pitcher that I generally think is particularly good, but he is facing a Texas offense that is a good offense to roster pitchers against.  Texas has the 7th highest strikeout percentage against right-handed pitching this season, 23 percent, and is around average with a .322 wOBA and 101 wRC+.  The game is being played in Texas and it is expected to be around 80 degrees at gametime, so the weather is not ideal.  Gray has not put up big numbers in either of his first two starts since returning from the DL, but his velocity has been good and his 9.1 percent swinging strike percentage is just a shade below league average- certainly high enough that his 12.8 strikeout percentage should climb.  There is a ton of risk in rostering Gray, but there is some upside against these Texas bats if you need a relatively cheap SP2 and do not want to roster a pitcher in Coors.

Nate Karns is a pitcher that I will be rostering a lot this season, as I believe he is a better pitcher than people realize and he gives a lot of strikeout upside for his relatively cheap price.  Karns is throwing his knuckle-curve almost two miles per hour harder this season than last season, and his whiffs have climbed from 13.6 percent to 23.6 percent.  The improvement in what was already an effective pitch, makes him a high upside target against the Orioles in Kaufmann Stadium.  The reason that I am not as high on him today as I was against the White Sox and the Rays in his last two starts is that, in the past, he has been very susceptible to right-handed power- which the Orioles have a lot of. Since the start of last season, Karns has allowed 1.44 home runs per 9 innings to right-handed hitters, but there is reason to be optimistic that he will be better against righties this year, since he generates more swings and misses, but there is still a lot of risk facing this Orioles offense.

 

Hitting

High-Priced

Daniel Murphy is the top option at a thin second base position, in a matchup with rookie right-hander Nick Pivetta.  Murphy has been one of the best hitters in baseball against right-handed pitching since the start of last season and Pivetta was worse against lefties than righties at AAA.  Murphy has been heating up with a 46.9 percent hard contact rate over the last two weeks, and makes for a strong play against Pivetta.  Bryce Harper is a strong play in the same matchup, but is at a deeper position.

Mike Trout homered last night against Anibal Sanchez and tonight he will get to face a lefty, in Daniel Norris, who is allowing 44.7 percent hard contact with just 8.2 percent soft contact to righties so far this season.  Trout has a .411 wOBA and 167 wRC+ against left-handed pitching since the start of last year and is a good bet to take Norris deep in this game.

Jake Lamb has the platoon split at home against Trevor Williams of the Pirates.  In his short major league career, Williams has not been particularly good against hitters from either side of the plate, but he has been worse against lefties.  Lamb has a .276 ISO against righties since last season and hits better in the altitude of Chase Field.  He is a strong option at a deep third base position.

Manny Machado is another strong option at the third base position (a position that you should have a lot of hitters from if you are playing on FantasyDraft tonight).  Machado faces Karns who, as I mentioned earlier, struggles with right-handed power.  So far this season, Karns is still allowing a lot of homers to righties with a 1.66 home runs per nine innings and Machado ranks 16th in baseball in average exit velocity so far this season.  In addition, he has an average exit velocity of 95.4 miles per hour on the 11 balls that he has put in play against Karns over the last two seasons.

Yonder Alonso did not take Andrew Cashner deep last night, but he has another opportunity tonight against Nick Martinez.  As DraftCheat has mentioned every time he has had an opportunity, Alonso refined his swing this offseason in an attempt to hit more home runs and it is paying off.  He is a legitimate power threat now and will get a huge park upgrade tonight in Texas against Nick Martinez and his 2.73 home runs per nine innings against left-handed hitters since last season.  Do not let last night’s disappointment turn you off to Alonso.

 

Value

Nick Castellanos is a borderline value play depending on the site, but he is listed with the value options because he is an absolute steal at less than $4,000 on DraftKings.  He is 21st in average exit velocity so far this season and ranks 14th amongst hitters with at least 50 at-bats in xwOBA-wOBA, which suggests that he has been getting incredibly unlucky based on the velocity and launch angles that he has been hitting the ball at.  Tonight, he faces Ricky Nolasco of the Angels, who struggled mightily with right-handed power last season and it has carried over into this season.  Nolasco has allowed 1.78 home runs per nine innings to righties since the start of last season, with 35.2 percent hard contact.  It is tough to hit homers in Angels Stadium, but Castellanos has plenty of power to get it out.

Justin Bour is one of the more underpriced hitters on the slate at just $3,300 on DraftKings in a nice matchup against Julio Teheran.  Bour ranks 4th in all of baseball in average exit velocity this season and Teheran has allowd 1.58 home runs per nine innings to lefties since last season, and it has climbed to 2.21 on just a 16.7 percent home run to flyball ratio this season.  In addition to the home run numbers, Teheran is allowing 40.6 percent hard contact with a 0.70 groundball-to-flyball ratio and 53.6 percent pull percentage to lefties.  Simply, that is a TON of hard hit pulled flyballs and Bour is capable of hitting baseballs out of any stadium.  If you needed more reason to roster Bour, his average exit velocity on 11 batted balls against Teheran is 94.5 miles per hour.  Derek Dietrich is also a very strong play against Teheran for all of the same reasons if he is atop the Marlins order again tonight.

Jonathan Schoop is an excellent GPP option at a weak second base position if you do not want to pay up for Murphy.  As mentioned a couple of times, Karns struggles with right-handed power and Schoop has a lot of it, as evidenced by his .204 ISO against right-handed pitching since the start of last season.  He has been hitting the ball hard lately with 45.2 percent hard contact over the last 14 days and he could do a lot of damage in GPPs at what will probably be low ownership against a (maybe) popular pitcher.

 

Stacks

Arizona Diamondbacks-  The Diamondbacks were popular last night and paid off nicely with 11 runs.  They will be popular again tonight against Trevor Williams, and for good reason.  Williams has struggled against hitters from both sides of the plate in his young career and the Diamondbacks provide added upside with stolen bases- especially if Cervelli is back in the lineup at catcher.  Outside of ownership, there is no reason to shy away from the Arizona bats.

Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles are in a high upside spot against Karns.  While I believe Karns is an improved pitcher this season, the Orioles are exactly the type of team that he has always struggled with.  It is possible that Karns carries some ownership tonight because of his game logs, which would make the Orioles even stronger as a leverage stack.  The right-handed power is primarily where you want to target these Orioles bats.

Detroit Tigers- The Tigers are in a similar spot to the Orioles in that they are a powerful righty heavy lineup facing a pitcher who is home run prone to righties.  The Tigers have not looked very good at the plate lately, but some of their hitters have also been hitting into a significant amount of bad luck so far this season.  It is likely that they get to Nolasco for at least a home run or two, with Cabrera, Castellanos, Upton and J.D. Martinez being the most likely candidates.