MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/17/17
Michael Pineda [RHP – NYY] @ KC – Baseball is a funny sport. Good teams fail and bad teams succeed. Ace pitchers implode and trash pitchers — like CC Sabathia — shut down the Royals. In fairness, baseball is most predictable when Kansas City is involved. The Royals have been so bad offensively that some of the league’s least talented pitchers have posed as Cy Young candidates if just for a night when facing this hapless brigade. On the season, Kansas City owns a bottom-five wOBA (.292), ISO (.141) and walk rate (7.2%) vs. right-handed pitching. They’re also striking out at an uncharacteristically high 21.1 percent clip thanks to the additions of Brandon Moss and Jorge Soler.
Pineda has performed much better at home through seven total starts this season, but I would urge you to weigh those splits lightly. Yankee Stadium serves as the friendliest lefty power park in baseball, whereas Kauffman Stadium ranks 25th in home runs overall. Pineda is unleashing hell on his opposition this year, boasting a 13.6 percent swinging strike rate, 49.1 percent O-Swing rate and a much improved 71 percent F-Strike rate in 2017. He is also limiting hard contact while inducing ground balls at a career-high 51.4 percent clip.
Pineda is a strange case study; he doesn’t throw a conventional fastball — BrooksBaseball classifies it as a cutter — and none of his pitches have much, if any, glove-side break. As a result, he doesn’t display any true platoon splits. This should aid Pineda’s performance on Wednesday, as the Royals’ lineup is split down the middle in terms of handedness. Armed with a filthy slider (45.3 Whf/Sw) and an improved changeup that complements his cutter well, Pineda should have no trouble fooling such a punchless Royals squad on Wednesday night. He easily makes for the top overall pitching option on this 11-game slate.
Matt Shoemaker [RHP – LAA] vs. CWS – I was very leery of Matt Shoemaker coming into the 2017 season, as the bulk of his second-half success last year resulted from the increased usage of his splitter. Hitters hadn’t adjusted to Shoemaker’s updated pitch mix, but that was before they had 20-plus starts to analyze. It’s hard to envision Shoemaker sustaining the same level of success from last season, but he remains in play when matchup outweighs the risk.
Shoemaker has pitched to mixed results through his first eight starts this season. He’s not missing the same amount of bats as he did in 2016, but a 22.2 percent K-rate and 10.7 percent swinging strike rate remains above average. He’s also facing the White Sox, who lug around the league’s second lowest wOBA (.281) and third lowest ISO (.136) vs. right-handed pitching. Chicago’s 22.8 percent K-rate (7th) pairs nicely with their dismal 6.2 percent walk rate, which ranks dead last in baseball.
Shoemaker is a -171 ML favorite inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium where the White Sox own the lowest implied run total (3.3) of any team on Wednesday night. Even if he coughs up a couple of runs, the 30-year-old right-hander should register enough strikeouts, eat up enough innings and earn the win at home. He’s the easy SP-2 option on two-pitcher sites.
Jhoulys Chacin [RHP -SDP] vs. MIl – Chacin will likely be the popular punt option on Wednesday, facing a K-heavy Brewers team at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Milwaukee strikes out at a 24.6 percent clip vs. right-handed pitching, but they also rank sixth in wOBA (.335) and lead the league ISO (.213). There’s plenty of risk that accompanies this play, but also some encouraging factors that could lead to a strong performance from San Diego’s right-hander. Chacin owns a highly underwhelming 18 percent K-rate and 6.5 percent swinging strike rate on the season, but the bulk of his struggles have come against left-handed hitting. Lefties carry a .382 wOBA against Chacin, who is striking them out at a pathetic 10.8 percent clip. They have clearly been his biggest problem, but with the Brewers potentially being without Eric Thames for another night, Milwaukee won’t boast a ton of power from the left side of the dish. Chacin has stymied righties, though, boasting a 24.3 percent K-rate and a .276 wOBA against.
Chacin has performed much better at home as a member of the Padres, and Vegas tends to believe he’ll impress again on Wednesday. The Brewers own an uninspiring 3.6-run implied total, which serves as the second lowest mark on this 11-game slate, and Chacin is a -127 ML favorite at Petco Park. He’s cheap enough to deploy as a second pitcher on two-pitcher sites, but Chacin might not be a necessary play considering the Cubs bats are ridiculously underpriced across the board. Nevertheless, he’ll be there if you need him.
HONORABLE MENTION: German Marquez [RHP – COL] @ MIN [GPP]
Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Feldman [RHP] – Bryant is the first of many Cubs bats to be featured in Wednesday’s Deep Dive, as this team is inexplicably cheap in a home matchup with Scott Feldman — where the wind just so happens to be blowing 21 MPH out to left-center field. Bryant isn’t especially cheap, but he is a top overall play across the industry. Chicago boasts a massive 6.6-run implied total at Wrigley Field, and although Feldman has looked sharp to start the year, there’s no way he’s leaving the mound unscathed.
Cincinnati’s right-hander is generating ground balls at a pedestrian 42.6 percent clip and doesn’t miss enough bats to be effective in these harsh conditions. Game-time temperatures will also be around 81 degrees, so there isn’t much to dissuade us from loading up on Chicago bats outside of their ultra-high ownership. Bryant is as close to a lock as it gets, and he shouldn’t be hard to fit in lineups with the amount of value on the table.
Trea Turner [SS – R] @ Cole [RHP] – Gerrit Cole’s eight stolen bases allowed this season ranks third worst among all starting pitchers. This isn’t a fluke, either, as Cole has finished each of his last four seasons in the bottom-10 in this category despite two abbreviated campaigns over that span. Cole cannot hold runners to save his life, and that figures to be a problem if Turner reaches safely. Cole is pitching well this season, though, so this shouldn’t be viewed as a free pass for Turner to produce.
Washington’s young phenom was electric in his rookie campaign, but 2017 has been less convincing. That being said, he’s still an elite talent with massive upside in good running matchups like this one with Cole. The shortstop position is unsurprisingly weak on Wednesday, so Turner should be viewed as a top option at PNC Park. In 374 career at bats vs. right-handed pitching, Turner is sporting a sexy .376/.238 ISO split, so that’s not exactly a bad thing, either.
Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Gonzalez [RHP] – Mike Trout needs no introduction. The best player in baseball is currently on pace for around 50 home runs, 115 RBI and 33 stolen bases, while hitting same-handed pitching to the tune of a .498 wOBA and .440 ISO with a 232 wRC+ across 100 at bats. Needless to say, a matchup with Miguel Gonzalez shouldn’t concern us. Chicago’s 32-year-old right-hander has been solid to start the year, but he’s still someone who allows 1.32 HR/9 with a 16 percent K-rate vs. right-handed hitting for his career. Trout has racked up four home runs, six RBI and three stolen bases over his last five games, and I’d expect him to keep rolling on Wednesday. If you can afford him, play him. That’s usually the plan when it comes to Trout.
Gary Sanchez [C – R] @ Vargas [LHP] – Sanchez has posted some surprisingly modest numbers against lefties since entering the league in 2016, but power hasn’t been an issue. He owns a .333 ISO vs. southpaws, which is really all we need when considering no one is paying a premium for singles and walks. Jason Vargas has been stellar in 2017 but these elite numbers aren’t sustainable. The large majority of home runs Vargas has allowed over his career have come against right-handed hitters, too, so there’s a definite path to success for Sanchez, who should be lower owned than normal on this 11-game slate. Having said that, Sanchez is best suited as a tournament play, with either Willson Contreras or Miguel Montero being the preferred backstop options in cash.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joey Votto [1B – L] @ Hendricks [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Leake [RHP]; Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Vargas [LHP]
Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] vs. Feldman [RHP] – Scott Feldman has displayed some reverse splits over his career, but it’s certainly not going to keep me from playing Rizzo on Wednesday. Rizzo is severely underpriced across the industry, weighing in at $4,400 on DraftKings, $3,900 on FanDuel and $8,700 on FantasyDraft for this plus home matchup. Winds are blowing 21 MPH out to left-center at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs own a slate-high 6.6-run implied total. Rizzo should victimize Feldman in these conditions, as the Reds’ right-hander hurler is striking lefties out at a paltry 14 percent clip while owing a 16.7 percent HR/FB rate on the year. Don’t overthink the process here. Take the savings and move to second base.
Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] also makes for an elite mid-range play against Feldman, leading off for the potent Cubs in extremely hitter-friendly conditions. Five plate appearances is all but guaranteed for Schwarber, who across 288 career at bats vs. right-handed pitching owns a .366 wOBA, .243 ISO and 43 percent flyball rate. He hasn’t been stellar this year, but this is too good a spot to overlook. Schwarber, like most of these Cubs bats, will be chalk on Wednesday, but fading could yield disastrous results.
Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Eflin [RHP] – In case you were wondering, I’m not buying Zach Eflin’s success. The 23-year-old right-hander is stranding 82.2 percent of runners and is striking batters out at a 13 percent clip. Eflin’s 5.8 swinging strike rate ranks sixth worst among all starters this season, while his contact rate bests only Phil Hughes, Ty Blach and Bartolo Colon. Needless to say, Eflin isn’t exactly in elite company, but his early season results suggest otherwise. His production is completely unsustainable, and I’m expecting the Rangers to expose him on Wednesday.
Texas boasts the third highest ISO (.194) vs. right-handed pitching in 2017, and with temperatures peaking at 88 degrees in Arlington tonight, they should steamroll the luck-laden arm of Eflin. Odor has been a boom-or-bust option at the second base position, but he’s proven that power isn’t an issue (.220 ISO vs. RHP). Odor has also been much more productive at home, so there’s plenty of reason to love him on Wednesday. I’m willing to pay a mid-range price for him on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, but will be targeting him especially heavy on FanDuel where he sits at a mouthwatering $2,800.
Joey Gallo [3B – L] is also reasonably priced on FanDuel, and boasts more than enough power to pay off a $3,200 salary against Eflin. He’ll be a far more appealing play if Jeff Banister finally moves him up in the order. Eflin is ceding a career .341 wOBA to left-handed bats with a 5.43 xFIP and 2.23 HR/9 allowed. That suits Gallo’s skill set quite nicely.
Kendrys Morales [1B -L/R] @ Foltynewicz [RHP] – Anthony Rizzo will be the chalk play at first base tonight, but Kendrys Morales makes for an excellent tournament pivot against Mike Foltynewicz. Despite some slightly improved overall numbers this season, Foltynewicz’s struggles against left-handed hitters remain pronounced. He’s serving up a .349 wOBA with a 5.38 xFIP and 36 percent groundball rate vs. LHB, which won’t do him any favors inside the lefty-friendly Suntrust Park.
The switch-hitting Morales has hit righties for ample power over his career, and that trend has continued in 2017 where six of his seven home runs have come from the left side of the plate. He is very affordable across the industry, and is especially appealing on FantasyDraft where you can roster more than one first baseman.
HONORABLE MENTION: Billy Hamilton [OF – L] @ Hendricks [RHP]; Nomar Mazara [OF – L] vs. Eflin [RHP]; Scott Schebler [OF -L] @ Hendricks [RHP]; Tommy Joseph [1B – R] @ Perez [LHP]
Ian Happ [2B – L] vs. Feldman [RHP] – I would be shocked if Happ wasn’t Wednesday’s highest owned hitter. The rookie infielder is priced at an inexplicable $2,700 on DraftKings, $2,300 on FanDuel and $5,200 on FantasyDraft, which becomes even crazier when you consider he’s been batting cleanup for the power-laden Cubs. Feldman’s success in 2017 should deter no one from rostering Happ tonight, as the 21 MPH winds and 6.6-run implied total for Chicago easily outweigh the risk. Even in tournaments where contrarianism is key, Happ should still be considered a top play at his price point. This is one of the wildest pricing discrepancies on the season and we should take full advantage of the opportunity.
Willson Contreras [C – R], Addison Russell [SS – R] and Miguel Montero [C – L] round out the Cubs stack on Wednesday, All of them are underpriced across the industry at two of the weakest positions on the board. Depending on who’s in the lineup, we’ll want to consider them as excellent low-end bats. You already knew that, though.
Matt Joyce [OF – L] @ Bergman [RHP] – Joyce is a far from exciting baseball player, but he remains affordable across the board. What we get from Joyce is a dirt cheap price tag, a spot atop the Athletics’ order and a plus matchup with a weak right-hander. Joyce won’t hit for average, but he possesses enough power to pay off his salary with one swing of the bat. Bergman has displayed some extreme reverse splits in his short career, but he’s simply not good no matter who he’s facing. I likely won’t have much exposure to Joyce tonight, but it’s nice to know he’s there if we need a cheap outfield bat with the platoon advantage.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] @ Bergman [RHP]; Robinson Chirinos [C – R] vs. Eflin [RHP]