MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/24/17

PITCHING

Chris Sale [LHP – BOS] vs. TEX Clayton Kershaw tossed nine one-run innings accompanied by 10 strikeouts last night, and it took him only 104 pitches to complete the job. Dominant Kershaw is back, and we should all take notice. Chris Sale, however, was back on day one of the season. Since his April debut with Boston, Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball, sporting an unfathomable 38.6 percent K-rate, 16.4 percent swinging strike rate, 2.36 xFIP and 2.16 SIERA across nine starts — all of which lead the league by a rather wide margin. Sale’s Z-Contact rate is an inexplicable 73.4 percent, while his contact rate sits at 67.1 percent — both of which also lead the league.

You simply cannot find anything wrong with Sale’s pitching outside of maybe a slightly underwhelming ground ball rate, but who cares about generating ground balls when you’re missing this many bats. The 28-year-old southpaw has recorded double-digit strikeouts in eight straight starts, and has failed to last 7-plus innings only once this year.

Sale is a Goliath -245 ML favorite at home against a Texas team that sports a 3.2-run implied total on the night (seems high to me). The Rangers rank 24th in wOBA (.293), 19th in ISO (.144) and fourth in K-rate (24.6%) vs. left-handed pitching this season. Adrian Beltre has still yet to return and Carlos Gomez recently joined him on the shelf, so this isn’t exactly a team that boasts a myriad of right-handed talent.

In case you still aren’t convinced that paying for Sale is the way to go on Wednesday, allow me to come full circle. Here are the top individual strikeout rates vs. LHP for Ranger bats projected to be in tonight’s lineup: Mike Napoli (35.7%), Delino DeShields (30.6%), Ryan Rua (29.7%), Joey Gallo (48.7%), Robinson Chirinos (33.3%). Elvis Andrus and Jonathan Lucroy don’t strikeout, but there’s a good chance Chirinos will be penciled in over Lucroy. Either way, Sale is easily the top option on this 10-game slate, and there’s no way I will fade him in any format on any site. Not happening.

Kyle Hendricks [RHP – CHC] vs. SFG Hendricks is currently my preferred SP-2 option on two-pitcher sites, facing a dreadful Giants team at Wrigley with winds blowing in 18 MPH from left-center field. San Francisco owns the lowest implied run total (3.0) of any team on Wednesday’s slate, which should come as no surprise when you factor in the weather and an incompetent Giants offense. The Giants rank dead last in wOBA (.279) vs. RHP, .11 points behind the 29th-place White Sox. They also rank 29th in ISO (.132) and 27th in BB-rate (6.9%), so while the strikeouts aren’t exactly bountiful, San Francisco makes up for that with many other inefficiencies.

Hendricks has certainly regressed after posting career-best numbers across the board in 2016, but I’m expecting him to shine on Wednesday. He still owns a strikeout rate north of 20 percent while inducing ground balls at a 51 percent clip, and although walks have been a problem this season, San Francisco is far from imposing in that department.

I don’t have much faith in Hendricks, but I do believe in the Giants’ putridity. Chicago is a heavy favorite at home (-180 ML) where game-time temperatures are expected to hover around 50 degrees. I could see Hendricks tossing eight strong innings tonight even if he doesn’t miss a ton of bats. He shouldn’t have much trouble earning the win against Matt Moore, either. Finally, Hendricks has drawn the short straw from a matchups standpoint this season, as five of his eight starts have come against teams that rank top-10 in both ISO and wOBA vs. right-handed pitching, while another came against the Rockies at Coors. Expect a bounce back outing on Wednesday night.

Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] vs. KC I’m a fan of Luis Severino, but I certainly have some concerns now that he’s priced close to $10,000 on both FanDuel and DraftKings. Severino leads all of baseball in fastball velocity, sitting at a filthy 97.6 MPH on the season. He’s inducing a solid 22 percent whiffs/swing on the four-seamer, which he’s throwing 55 percent of the time. Severino’s slider (37% FREQ) is his go-to out-pitch, owning a .173 batting average against with 35.3 percent whiffs/swing. Both of those pitches have been very solid and continue to stymie batters. Severino is sporting a 28 percent K-rate and 11 percent swinging strike rate on the season.

Here’s where my concerns come into play: Severino does not own a viable third pitch. He infrequently throws a well below average changeup which generates a dismal 12 percent whiffs/swing with 33 percent line drives allowed. Two-pitch pitchers are more volatile than other pitchers who can resort to a number of secondary pitches when their primary stuff isn’t working.

Severino will become more predictable as he faces teams for a second and third time, but fortunately this will be his first meeting with Kansas City this season. As a -192 ML favorite against a Royals squad that ranks towards the bottom of baseball in wOBA (.295), ISO (.150) and BB-rate (6.8%) vs. right-handed pitching, Severino is certainly in play. He should, however, be considered a tournament option on a night where Chris Sale is the obvious top option among the high-end arms. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Severino piece together another admirable performance, but definitely have some reservations about his ability to sustain this early-season production.

Robert Gsellman [RHP – NYM] vs. SDP Much like Kyle Hendricks, Gsellman has regressed significantly from his cup of coffee in 2016. Through 38.2 innings pitched this season, the 23-year-old right-hander has seen his strikeout rate drop to 16.2 percent, while his swinging strike rate has plummeted to 6.8 percent on the year. Gsellman’s 4.18 SIERA isn’t terrible, but his 8.28 DRA is simply heinous.

That was the bad. Here is the good. Gsellman owns a .364 BABIP and a 56.3 percent strand rate, both of which should normalize going forward. Moreover, five of Gsellman’s seven starts have come against teams that are striking out at a bottom-10 clip, including the Braves twice (22nd) and the Marlins thrice (24th) over that span. Wednesday’s matchup with the Padres should serve as a welcomed draw, as they’re striking out more than any team not named the Rays this season.

Gsellman is a -144 ML favorite at home, which is quite nice for any pitcher with such a cheap price tag. I’m not expecting a particularly dominant performance, but considering how bad San Diego has been against right-handed pitching (.296 wOBA/24.7 K%), he should have a definitive path to fantasy success. Pairing Gsellman with Sale on two-pitcher sites makes sense for those of you looking to spend up on some hitters.

HONORABLE MENTION: Rich Hill [LHP – LAD] vs. STL

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

 Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. Gaviglio {RHP] Sam Gaviglio tossed five scoreless innings in his first major-league start this weekend, but he managed only two strikeouts against the piss-poor White Sox. Gaviglio was efficient, no doubt, needing only 75 pitches on the night, but he’s about to walk into a buzzsaw on Wednesday when the Nationals step to the dish. Gaviglio owned a miserable 17.1 percent K-rate across 299.1 Double-A/Triple-A innings since 2015… That’s not going to fly against the Nats. He’s throwing an 89-MPH four-seamer 55 percent of the time with Seattle… That’s not going to fly against the Nats. He’s Sam Gaviglio… That’s not going to fly against the Nats.

Bryce Harper boasts a jaw-dropping .467 wOBA and .383 ISO vs. right-handed pitching this season. His 189 wRC+, 45 percent flyball rate and 1.154 OPS are also quite enticing. If you’re able to spend up on hitting this evening, Harper easily makes for a top overall play across the industry. The only chance Gaviglio has of escaping Nationals Park with a pulse is by lucking into warning track-distance fly balls against Harper.

Corey Dickerson [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP] I know he’s expensive, but Corey Dickerson makes for a really solid play on Wednesday night. The oft-injured outfielder has managed to stay healthy thus far, and it’s resulted in Dickerson ranking fifth in baseball with 11 home runs vs. right-handed arms. Dickerson is smacking around righties to the tune of a .424 wOBA and .328 ISO across 125 at bats, and he should improve upon those numbers tonight against Ricky Nolasco.

Only Mike Fiers, Jered Weaver and Bronson Arroyo have allowed more home runs than Nolasco this season, who has coughed up 13 long balls through only 51 innings of work. In case you were wondering, he is not in good company, as all three of those righties likely won’t be in their respective rotations come next month. Nolasco is ceding a .337 wOBA and 16.9 percent K-rate vs. left-handed hitting over his career, which is more than enough for me to target Dickerson on Wednesday. Any leadoff man with the platoon advantage and this much power is worth the price of admission against a sub-par righty.

Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Norris [LHP] Jose Altuve is one of the best lefty-hitting infielders around, which places him firmly in play on a night where the second base position is devoid of talent. Altuve’s .357 wOBA vs. LHP this season isn’t spectacular, but his .273 ISO certainly is. He’s sporting a .393 wOBA vs. southpaws since the start of 2015 (435 PA), too, which is a more than large enough sample to suggest he’s elite. The 27-year-old shortstack boasts a power/speed combo that is virtually unheard of for a player of his physical stature.

Daniel Norris isn’t a terrible pitcher, and he’s actually displayed some odd reverse-splits tendencies for a lefty, but he’s been rather awful against both sides of the plate this season. Norris is serving up a .354 wOBA to opposite-handed bats, with a 4.62 xFIP and an underwhelming 8.2 percent K-BB rate. Norris has also allowed five stolen bases this season, so he hasn’t been especially difficult to run against. If I’m spending at second base, Altuve and Daniel Murphy [2B – L] will be the only two options I consider.

NOTE: There are many high-priced bats worth considering on Wednesday, but we’ll have to be rather discriminatory since Chris Sale is a priority at pitcher.

Michael Conforto [OF – L] will probably be a popular play against Jarred Cosart, especially after Tuesday’s explosion at the plate. While Conforto is certainly a great play, I’m not very interested in stacking the Mets, as Cosart is very good at both inducing ground balls and limiting home runs despite not being a supremely talented pitcher.

Trea Turner [SS – R] generally isn’t someone I’d recommend spending on, but the shortstop position is a barren wasteland, and Turner faces Sam Gaviglio at home. You could definitely make the case for Turner being a necessary play, unless of course value happens to open up throughout the day. Corey Seager [SS – L] and Carlos Correa [SS – R] also make for solid high-end options at the position against Mike Leake and Daniel Norris, respectively. The Astros currently own the third highest implied run total on the night (5.2).

Gary Sanchez [C – R] is the only backstop worth paying a premium for, and Jason Hammel has been downright dreadful in 2017. It’s really that simple. Once again, though, we’ll have to be wise about where we spend, and catcher usually isn’t a top priority. Sanchez makes for a much more enticing play in tournaments where his ownership will undoubtedly be low.

HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Murphy [2B – L] vs. Gaviglio [RHP]; Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] @ Hellickson [RHP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Moore [LHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Ramirez [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

George Springer [OF – R] vs. Norris [LHP] Springer is enduring a rough stretch at the plate, but his price tag has decreased as a result. At $4,200 on DraftKings and $3,500 on FanDuel, it’s impossible to ignore him against Daniel Norris on a night where the Astros own a 5.2-run implied total at Minute Maid Park. Despite the current cold streak, Spring boasts a career .385 wOBA, .254 ISO and 42 percent hard hit rate vs. left-handed pitching. He’s leading off for the power-laden Astros and draws the platoon advantage against a struggling southpaw. There isn’t much more we need to play him at this depressed price point.

Logan Morrison [1B – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP] Corey Dickerson isn’t the only Rays lefty to enjoy a resurgence in 2017; across 120 at bats this season, Logan Morrison is smashing righties to the tune of a .376 wOBA and .325 ISO. That isn’t the most impressive part, though, as Morrison’s flyball rate and hard hit rate have skyrocketed to 45 percent and 44 percent, respectively. It’s no wonder he ranks fifth in baseball with 11 home runs against right-handed pitching, while racking up the fifth most RBI (30) in the process.

Yes, Morrison has actually been fantastic this season, and he’s set to bat cleanup against Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday night. Tropicana Field isn’t a hitter-friendly venue, but it hasn’t done a thing to deter Morrison from clearing the fence, as six of his 12 home runs have come at home. The fact that Morrison owns a 28.2 percent HR/FB rate vs. RHP despite his 45 percent flyball rate is a testament to how he’s refined his approach at the plate. I’ll continue to ride this wave until it crashes.

Evan Gattis [C – R] vs. Norris [LHP] Gattis is in play for the same reason Springer and Altuve make for stellar top-tier options on Wednesday night, although he isn’t nearly as good of a baseball player. That being said, Gattis is batting in the middle of a righty-heavy Astros lineup and boasts a career .230 ISO vs. left-handed pitching. That’s pretty good for a janitor, and especially good for a catcher, as this position has been devoid of power all season long.

Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] and Alex Avila [C/1B – L] also make for viable mid-range backstop plays, and should be mixed into lineups for those of you who run double-digit teams. Neither of these catchers face particularly porous pitchers, but the matchups remain exploitable at their price points. Avila, specifically, has been so good against right-handed pitching that we should hardly be concerned about this tilt with Charlie Morton.

Adam Frazier [2B/OF – L] @ Teheran [RHP] As earlier noted, the second base position isn’t particularly strong outside of the top two options. Frazier makes for a nice mid-range play in a great matchup with Julio Teheran, who is coughing up an astronomical .399 wOBA and .231 ISO to lefties this season. Teheran has always been bad against opposite-handed hitters, but 2017 has been putrid even for him, as he’s lugging around a 7.13 xFIP with 2.16 HR/9 allowed. Teheran’s 12 percent K-rate and -4.8 percent K-BB rate vs. LHB is just icing on the cake along with his 40 percent hard hit rate. Frazier and Josh Bell [1B – L/R] are two excellent ways to pick on Teheran, and I don’t anticipate either of them carrying ownership above five percent.

HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Bell [1B – L/R] @ Teheran [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Severino [RHP] [GPP]; Carlos Beltran [OF – L/R] vs. Norris [LHP]; Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R] vs. Chatwood [RHP]

 

VALUE

Matt Adams [1B/OF – L] vs. Williams [RHP] Matt Adams is receiving regular at bats with Atlanta since being acquired after Freddie Freeman fractured his wrist. This puts him firmly in play on Wednesday when he faces Trevor Williams inside the lefty-friendly Suntrust Park. Williams has only surrendered one home run to left-handed hitters this season, but he’s striking them out at a meager 13.8 percent clip while sporting a 5.63 xFIP across 58 total batters faced. Adams is not only dirt cheap across the board (particularly on FanDuel at $2,400), but he’s batting in the middle of Atlanta’s order and offers outfield eligibility on DraftKings. On a night where Chris Sale is a top priority at pitcher, Adams should free up plenty of salary while offering solid power from the left side of the plate.

Ryan Schimpf [3B – L]/Yangervis Solarte [2B – L/R] @ Gsellman [RHP] Both Schimpf and Solarte have been dismal this season, but they are ultra cheap across the board in an exploitable matchup with Gsellman. Schimpf has now homered in back-to-back games, which is an encouraging sign heading into Wednesday, while Solarte remains terrible but is close to minimum salary at a weak second base position. If you’re looking to spend on both of your pitchers and seek salary relief at the infield positions, you could do worse than these two Padres. I wouldn’t recommend using both of them in the same lineup, though, but I’m sure you already knew that.

Kevin Kiermaier [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP] Kiermaier is back to hitting second for the Rays when facing righties, which immediately puts him in play at a super low price point. Kiermaier is $3,100 on DraftKings and $2,700 on FanDuel, a highly appealing asking price for this matchup with Nolasco. He doesn’t offer the same power as Dickerson or Morrison, but makes up for it with speed and an ability to get on base. If he continues to hit second in Tampa’s order, there’s no reason not to consider Kiermaier in what should definitely be considered a plus matchup for the lefty.

John Jaso [1B/OF – L] @ Teheran [LHP] We’ve talked a lot about hitters making an effort to hit more fly balls this season. Some of them have failed and some of them have found overwhelming success. Surprisingly, Jaso has been one of the more successful participants, as he has boosted his ISO vs. RHP nearly 40 points from last season with a whopping 19 percent increase in fly ball rate (43.1%) through two months. Jaso’s 35 percent hard hit rate vs. RHP is also serviceable for a player who never possessed much power at the dish, and the lefty-friendly confines of Suntrust Park should only enhance his potential on Wednesday.

I much prefer playing Jaso on sites where he offers outfield eligibility, but the first base position is weak enough to deploy him at a bottom-barrel price point. As we know, Teheran has been so bad against opposite-handed hitters that almost any lefty warrants consideration in Atlanta.

HONORABLE MENTION: Tim Beckham [SS – R] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Nick Markakis [OF – L] vs. Williams [RHP]; Rio Ruiz [2B – L] vs. Williams [RHP] [GPP]