MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/18/17

PITCHING

Jordan Montgomery [LHP – NYY] @ KC New York’s rookie southpaw has faced some tough matchups of late, with the Cubs, Astros and White Sox all crossing his path over the past month. He’s managed to post respectable numbers despite those suboptimal draws, though, and will finally get rewarded with a favorable one on Thursday. Furthermore, Montgomery has managed to maintain a 22.5 percent K-rate on the season, while his 13.4 percent swinging strike rate and 71.3 percent contact rate (71.3%) both rank inside the top-20 at 16th and 18th, respectively.

Kansas City’s splits vs. left-handed pitching couldn’t be worse. On the season they rank 29th in wOBA (.258), 29th in ISO (.96) and 27th in walk rate (7.3%), while striking out at a 20.7 percent clip (17th). Amazingly, Salvador Perez is the Royals’ only right-handed hitter with double-digit RBI on the year, yet all of home eight home runs have come against same-handed pitchers and he owns a .176 wOBA vs. LHP. Montgomery should have no trouble silencing these Kansas City bats from both sides of the plate, and he’ll get a favorable park shift inside Kauffman Stadium. With pitching being absolutely abysmal on Thursday’s night slate, Montgomery should be considered a top option across the board. He is more than affordably priced for this matchup.

Hyun-Jin Ryu [LHP – LAD] vs. MIA Jordan Montgomery isn’t the only lefty on this slate to draw some tough matchups this season; over his first six starts Hyun-Jin Ryu has already faced the Rockies in Coors twice. Simply put, Ryu isn’t nearly as bad as the surface stats may suggest. He’s boasting career-high marks in K-rate (23.6%) and swinging strike rate (11.4%), while limiting hard contact in the process. I do worry about Ryu’s fastball velocity, which is down a tick or two since 2015, but he’s missing a lot of bats with his secondary options, predominately the changeup and curve.

The Marlins are hitting left-handed pitching well this season, but they are hardly a dominant force. They rank top-10 in wOBA (.333) and 12th in ISO (.162) across 314 plate appearances, but remain huge dogs on the road (+165 ML) this evening. Fortunately, Ryu has fared well against right-handed hitters for his career, holding them to a sub-.300 wOBA with a 3.29 xFIP and 22 percent K-rate. Ryu has also done an excellent job of limiting home runs (.71 HR/9), and pitching at Dodger Stadium should bolster his value on Thursday. With Miami owning the lowest implied run total of any team on this 5-game slate (3.4), pairing Ryu with Montgomery on two-pitcher sites certainly feels like the optimal approach.

Sam Gaviglio [RHP – SEA] vs. CWS Seattle’s rookie right-hander isn’t the most promising young pitcher, but he is facing the White Sox inside one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball. Gaviglio didn’t post elite strikeout totals in the minors, but he did have strong control of his pitches (6.1% BB) and limited home runs. Safeco Field should help keep the ball in the yard, so Gaviglio will just have to avoid any blowup innings to post respectable numbers against the hapless White Sox.

I’m not suggesting you play him in cash, but some tournament exposure to Gaviglio makes sense on a night where pitching is devoid of talent. The Mariners are -157 ML favorites at home, while Chicago surprisingly owns the second lowest implied run total on this slate (3.8). With a .285 wOBA (29th), .139 ISO (27th), 23.2 percent K-rate (5th) and 6.1 percent BB-rate (30th) vs. right-handed pitching, the White Sox more than capable of making a pedestrian pitcher look like an ace.

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Duffy [LHP] Danny Duffy has struggled with right-handed hitters since he entered the league in 2011. The 28-year-old southpaw dominates same-handed hitters (.253 wOBA), but the .333 wOBA he’s allowed to righties across 2248 batters faced could cripple him on Thursday. Duffy’s fastball velocity is also down this year, although he did appear to dial it up a bit in his last start. Nevertheless, the Yankees own a 4.5-run implied total at Kauffman Field, and I’m expecting Aaron Judge to contribute nicely at the dish.

Judge has been outstanding in his rookie campaign. He is tied for the league lead in home runs (14) while boasting a Goliath .470/.400 wOBA/ISO to boot. Judge hasn’t seen enough plate appearances against left-handed pitching to accurately gauge his splits, but it’s hard not to love his power against a southpaw with true platoon splits. Judge won’t come cheap, but he will offer GPP-winning upside against Duffy and Co. this evening.

Gary Sanchez [C – R] is equally appealing here, and although he hasn’t hit LHP for average at the major-league level, the power-hitting backstop boasts a .317 ISO with the platoon advantage. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Duffy get knocked around tonight, as the Yankees’ .334 wOBA vs. LHP serves as the third highest mark in baseball.

Nelson Cruz [OF – R] vs. Covey [RHP] Dylan Covey is terrible. Seriously, I don’t know how he is still pitching at the major-league level after posting a 7.98 ERA with a 5.29 xFIP and 14.4 percent K-rate through his first six starts. Covey has been especially bad against right-handed hitters, allowing a behemoth .542 wOBA and .382 ISO across 77 batters faced. Wait, it gets worse — Covey owns a 7.52 xFIP with a 43 percent hard hit rate vs. righties, while his negative K-BB rate (-2.6%) is simply icing on the cake. The Mariners unsurprisingly own the highest implied run total (4.8) on Thursday’s slate, which is rather impressive when you consider how much Safeco Field suppresses runs.

Nelson Cruz is always a preferred play when he draws the platoon advantage, but his .405/.269 wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed pitching this season makes him equally enticing. Cruz’s 44 percent flyball rate will also work in his favor against Covey, whose only hope of getting him out will be on warning track shots. Cruz easily makes for a top overall play on Thursday night, and I’ll be sure to have ample exposure to him across the board.

Jean Segura [SS – R] is another one of many Mariners bats I’ll be targeting tonight, leading off against one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Segura is off to an excellent start in 2017, offering ample speed and enough power to post excellent fantasy totals in such an optimal matchup. He and Corey Seager [SS – L] are 1 and 1-A at the shortstop position.

HONORABLE MENTION: Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Ryu [LHP] [GPP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Gray [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

Matt Holliday [1B/OF – R] @ Duffy [LHP] Matt Holliday has trashed left-handed pitching this season (.466/.333 wOBA/ISO) and for his career (.389/.208 wOBA/ISO). He’s batting third in an ultra-potent Yankees lineup that boasts the second highest implied run total (4.5) on Thursday’s slate. I understand not wanting to stack against Danny Duffy, but the 28-year-old southpaw’s struggles against right-handed bats have been well documented over his career. I have no problem paying a mid-range salary for Holliday on a night where the first base position isn’t chock full of high-end talent. Stacking three or four Yankee right-handers feels like a viable approach against Duffy and a floundering Royals bullpen.

Justin Smoak [1B – L/R] and Kendrys Morales [1B – L/R] both make for solid first base pivots against Julio Teheran. Atlanta’s ‘ace’ righty owns some of the more pronounced platoon splits in baseball, as he is dominant against same-handed hitters but struggles mightily to set down opposite-handed bats. On the season, Teheran is surrendering a .377 wOBA and .201 ISO to lefties compared to a non-existent .224 wOBA and .035 ISO to righties.

All five of Teheran’s home runs allowed this season have come from the left side of the plate, as lefty bats are torching him for a 41 percent hard hit rate and 44 percent flyball rate in 2017. Moreover, Teheran is lugging around a putrid -5.3 percent K-BB rate vs. LHB, whereas righties have been stifled with a 20.3 percent K-BB rate this season. Needless to say, Teheran is elite vs. righties and awful against lefties, making both Smoak and Morales very solid mid-range options on Thursday night.

Starlin Castro [2B – R] @ Duffy [LHP] With Robinson Cano on the 10-day disabled list, the second base position becomes awfully thin on Thursday. Fortunately for those of us looking to avoid full-out punting the position, Starlin Castro comes to the rescue. Believe it or not, Castro leads all of baseball in hits with 54 knocks on the year, and while he also leads the league in singles (38), the 27-year-old infielder has managed to rack up 16 extra-base hits in 2017 (7 HR, 9 2B), too. All of Castro’s seven home runs have come against right-handed pitching, but he’s still sporting a .392 wOBA vs. lefties and is walking at a near 10 percent clip. His salary is beginning to rise across the industry, but you shouldn’t be pressed for cap space on a night where paying for pitching isn’t an option.

Taylor Motter [2B/SS/OF – R] vs. Covey [RHP] Motter is also worth considering if you don’t want to load up on Yankee bats. With second base and shortstop eligibility on DraftKings, Motter becomes more valuable than he is on FanDuel where he’s only available in the outfield. All five of Motter’s home runs and 13 of his 15 extra-base hits have come against same-handed pitching this season, whom he’s sporting a .353/.274 wOBA/ISO split against across 84 at bats. This places him in an excellent position to smash against Covey, who has been tortured by right-handed hitters this season to the tune of a .542 wOBA and .382 ISO with a miserable -2.6 percent K-BB rate. If Motter is slotted into the six-hole on a night where the Mariners own a slate-high 4.8-run implied total, we’ll want to consider him in both cash and GPPs.

Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] vs. Volquez [RHP] Cody Bellinger unfortunately doesn’t have outfield eligibility on FanDuel, but he’s playable there on both DraftKings (1B/OF) and FantasyDraft (IF/OF). Edinson Volquez is serving up a massive .399 wOBA and .232 ISO to opposing lefties this season, with a 5.44 xFIP and 1.71 HR/9 allowed. The Dodgers should mount plenty of runs against him (4.7 TT) and Bellinger should see plenty of opportunity to join in on the fun. Volquez’s 47 percent hard hit rate allowed to LHB won’t do him any favors, nor will his 36 percent groundball rate. Bellinger is hammering right-handed pitching in his rookie campaign (.438/.407 wOBA/ISO), and those numbers should only improve on Thursday night.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kyle Seager [3B – L] vs. Covey [RHP]; Aaron Hicks [OF – L/R] @ Duffy [LHP]; Chase Headley [3B – L/R] @ Duffy [LHP] [GPP]; Khris Davis [OF – R] vs. Velazquez [RHP]

 

VALUE

I extended today’s mid-range section because we really shouldn’t need to punt any positions on this slate. There isn’t much value to be had, anyway, and high-end pitching isn’t on the table.

If you’re looking to load up on high-end bats and need a punt, however, Leury Garcia [OF – L/R] should free up some cap space as Chicago’s leadoff man. I don’t expect the White Sox to pile on the runs — not even against Sam Gaviglio — but the matchup with a rookie right-hander is more than enough to put him in play at a discounted cost.

Unless some value opens up at the catcher position, we’ll likely be hard-pressed to find any good punts on this 5-game slate. Taylor Motter [2B/SS/OF – R] becomes a much more appealing play as a result, and I’ll likely have ample exposure to him on DraftKings where he is eligible at both second base and shortstop.

On FanDuel, Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] is ridiculously underpriced at $2,300, and frees up plenty of cap space at an ultra-weak position. I suppose Chase Utley [2B – L] could also be in play if he leads off for the second straight day, but I have more faith in Lowrie not to stick us with a goose egg against Boston’s rookie right-hander.