MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/26/17

PITCHING

 

Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] vs. SDP Scherzer is arguably underpriced on a night where he’s facing the hapless Padres at home. Not only is he a -225 ML favorite in the pitcher-friendly Nationals Park, but the Padres are striking out at the second highest clip in baseball vs. right-handed pitching (24.5 K%) while owning the fourth worst wOBA (.298) and fifth lowest wRC+ (84) in 2017. Moreover, Mad Max has been stupendous against same-handed hitters, holding them to a .214 wOBA this season and a .263 wOBA for his career. He’s striking righties out at a Goliath 43 percent clip with a 2.09 xFIP and .64 WHIP. The bulk of San Diego’s talent comes from the right side of the plate, and Ryan Schimpf is their only healthy left-handed power threat. Actually, Schimpf and Yangervis Solarte will likely be the only left-handed bats in the Padres’ lineup tonight, and they are batting a combined .207 on the year.

There is simply no way I fade Scherzer tonight, in any format regardless of ownership. He has a legitimate path to a complete-game shutout with double-digit strikeouts, so the edge you might initially find in fading his price point is obliterated shortly after lock. Andy Green will run out another six-righty lineup against a pitcher who leads the league in strikeouts vs. right-handed hitters. Don’t get cute. The Padres’ 2.9-run implied total is the lowest of any team on Friday night.

 

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] and Chris Archer [RHP – TB] both draw exploitable matchups, but you’d be hard-pressed to justify using either of them over Scherzer. deGrom faces a Pirates squad that ranks 24th in wOBA vs. RHP but is striking out at league-low 17.9 percent clip on the year. They aren’t good, but they also aren’t inclined to go down swinging. A favorable park shift helps deGrom, though, and he’s been so electric this season (32.3 K%, 15.2 SwStr%) that I wouldn’t blame anyone for deploying him.

Archer has recorded 40 strikeouts over his last four starts and continues to fan batters at an unbelievable clip. He’s holding right-handed hitters to a .249 wOBA with .45 HR/9 allowed on the year, and most of Minnesota’s power comes from the right side of the plate. Archer is the riskiest option of these three high-end arms, but offers immense upside whenever he’s on the mound. I can’t see myself using him on Friday, though, as Scherzer feels like a lock and isn’t that much more expensive than Tampa Bay’s ace right-hander.

 

Zack Godley [RHP – ARI] @ MIL It isn’t difficult to see why Godley makes sense on Friday, weighing in at $6,300 on DraftKings and $12,600 on FantasyDraft away from Chase Field. Sure, Miller Park remains a hitter-friendly venue, but unlike Chase, it doesn’t lead the league in every offensive category this season. Vegas won’t inspire much confidence in Godley truthers tonight, as he’s a slight road dog with the Brewers owning a 4.4-run implied total at home, but a dirt cheap price tag and above average strikeout upside should mitigate those concerns..

Godley leans on a 90-93 MPH sinker that doesn’t have much movement but is inducing ground balls at an elite 75 percent clip. This pitch, while it won’t do much in terms of swinging strikes, serves as an ideal primary offering inside the homer-happy Miller Park. Hitters simply can’t help but roll over on his sinker, spraying easy ground ball outs across the infield. Godley’s curveball is a plus pitch that misses more than enough bats (48.4% Whf/Sw) and generates ground balls at a 60 percent clip. His changeup needs work, but Godley appears to have widened the velocity gap from his fastball and is getting a surprising amount of swinging strikes with the pitch. Ultimately, a well-working sinker/curve combination will be enough to get him through Friday’s meeting with the Brewers.

Godley’s 65 percent groundball rate is a stellar mark, especially when paired with his 13.7 percent swinging strike rate. The Brewers have been slipping a bit recently, too, seeing their wOBA and ISO vs. RHP drop to ninth and fourth, respectively. Those are still solid marks, but with the third highest K-rate (24%) and an absent Ryan Braun, this matchup begins to look a whole lot more appealing. Godley is way too cheap on Friday night, making him a perfect pairing with Scherzer across all two-pitcher sites.

 

Mike Clevinger [RHP – CLE] vs. KC Cleveland’s 26-year-old right-hander has looked outstanding this season, sporting a 2.74 FIP with a 29.2 percent K-rate through 17.1 innings of work. Walks have been a problem, as Clevinger is issuing 5.71 BB/9, but the high strikeout upside has made up for some shaky command. Having said that, I’m concerned about Clevinger’s ability to produce going forward. His windup and delivery are downright horrible, and are the likely culprit for his sky-high walk rate,  while his .171 BABIP is sure to increase in coming starts. Clevinger throws a below average fastball and hangs a lot of his breaking pitches. This isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

If you buy into Clevinger’s strikeout potential and think he can keep the basepaths relatively clean against a sub-par Royals offense, then by all means, pull the trigger. There’s definitely upside here, but I worry the risk may outweigh the reward. Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] and Dan Straily [RHP – MIA] are similarly priced righties and I actually prefer both of them over Clevinger in both cash and GPPs. I’d also expect Clevinger to be the highest owned of the three in tournaments.

 

Tim Adleman [RHP – CIN] @ PHI I know this sounds insane, but Tim Adleman may actually be a viable tournament punt on Friday. The Phillies have been so bad lately that almost any pitcher with a pulse has found success. Over the last three weeks, Philadelphia owns the second lowest wOBA and seventh highest K-rate, while losing 17 of 22 games in May. Odubel Herrera might be the worst hitter in baseball right now, while Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Aaron Altherr have gone cold themselves.

Adleman is striking right-handed hitters out at a 24.1 percent clip with a 3.66 xFIP and 6.3 percent walk rate this season. He’s been awful against lefties, though, and I wouldn’t consider him on Friday unless the Phillies have five RHB in their lineup. As a flyball pitcher, any park is an upgrade from Great American, especially considering the Phillies rank 25th in ISO (.146) vs. RHP. Adleman is an obviously risky play on a night where there is no shortage of quality pitching options, but the Phillies have been so dismal offensively that 20-plus DraftKings points is actually feasible.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] vs. CIN; Junior Guerra [RHP – MIL] vs. ARI [GPP Only on 2-pitcher sites]

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. Perdomo [RHP] When looking for two-home run upside among the night’s most expensive hitters, Bryce Harper jumps off the page. Luis Perdomo has been absolutely tortured by left-handed hitters dating back to last season, allowing a .383 wOBA with 1.93 HR/9 across 376 total batters faced. His 14.6 percent K-rate isn’t especially strong, either, especially when coupled with a 40 percent hard hit rate for his career. He should struggle against the middle of a Nationals order that features two of the league’s premiere lefties in Harper and Daniel Murphy [2B – LHP].

On the season, Harper is brutalizing righties to the tune of a .466 wOBA and .382 ISO with a 189 wRC+ and 44 percent flyball rate across 123 at bats. His 13 home runs vs. RHP ranks second in baseball behind only Mike Trout. If you’re paying up at outfield or second base, Harper and Murphy make for stellar plays against a righty with some startling platoon splits.

 

Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Senzatela [RHP] Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: this is the Cardinals’ first game at Coors, so the theory that they’ll struggle remains alive. It’s not that I don’t subscribe to this theory, but I won’t allow it to push me off of Carpenter at $4,600 on DraftKings and $9,000 on FantasyDraft. Carpenter isn’t hitting for average this season, but he’s knocking righties around to the tune of a .391 wOBA and .264 ISO across 106 at bats. His 51.3 percent flyball rate and 43.6 percent hard hit rate are not only elite, but they should serve him well in the altitude at Coors Field. The Cardinals’ slate-high 5.5-run implied total is just one more reason to deploy the veteran infielder on Friday night.

Dexter Fowler [OF – L/R] has struggled lately, but he’s leading off against a suspect righty inside baseball’s most hitter-friendly venue. Tonight is a better time than ever to break out of his current 1-24 slump at the dish.

 

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Martinez [RHP] The thought of fading Blackmon in any matchup right now is quite terrifying. In the month of May alone, Blackmon has tallied four home runs, 18 RBI and 13 XBH (4 HR, 3 3B, 6 2B). He’s torching righties for a .425/.297 wOBA/ISO on the season and leads the entire league in RBI with 42. Blackmon has undeniably been the best leadoff hitter in baseball, as evidenced by being the only leadoff man to rank top-15 in RBI and one of only three leadoff men to rank top-20 in home runs.

Needless to say, I’m not all that concerned about tonight’s matchup with Carlos Martinez. Sure, he’s an ace-caliber righty with some filthy stuff, but still allows a .326 wOBA to LHB with a paltry 7.7 percent K-BB rate for his career. Colorado’s 5.1-run implied total combined with Blackmon’s ridiculous surge at the dish is enough to use him despite a sub-optimal matchup on paper.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Khris Davis [OF – R] vs. Tanaka [RHP] [GPP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Martinez [RHP]; Nelson Cruz [OF – R] @ Rodriguez [LHP] [GPP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Gallardo [RHP]; Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Martinez [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Kendrys Morales/Justin Smoak [1B – L/R] vs. Griffin [RHP] A.J. Griffin is not good; he’s allowing a .368 wOBA with a 6.12 xFIP vs. LHB this season across 62 batters faced. The sample is small, but Griffin’s career numbers don’t inspire much confidence, as he is ceding 1.72 HR/9 with a 47 percent flyball rate. Matt Carpenter is the clear top option at first base, but if you’re looking for some lower owned pivots, both Smoak and Morales make sense at their very respectable mid-range price points. Rogers Centre is still a homer-friendly environment, and neither of the two switch-hitting veterans are strangers to the occasional long ball.

 

Evan Longoria [3B – R] @ Santiago [LHP] Third base is a very ugly position tonight, so if you aren’t playing Nolan Arenado in a sub-optimal yet fairly price position against Martinez, Longoria should be next in line. Longo’s splits with the platoon advantage are terrible this year, but he owns a career .374/.248 wOBA/ISO vs. southpaws, which is more than solid enough to target him at a depressed price point. Longoria is $3,700 on DraftKings and a ridiculous $2,700 on FanDuel, which makes him hard to resist against a homer-prone lefty.

 

Seth Smith [OF – L] @ Musgrove [RHP] Seth Smith routinely becomes a strong mid-range play when he’s leading off against an exploitable right-hander. Fortunately, Joe Musgrove has been rather lousy this season, allowing a .350 wOBA to LHB with a sub-20 percent K-rate. He doesn’t have much swing and miss potential and unravels when he isn’t operating with pinpoint command. If you’re in need of a lower end mid-range outfielder, Smith remains firmly in play. His career .200 ISO vs. RHP is enough to put him on the radar. Baltimore owns a respectable 4.3-run implied total at Minute Maid Park.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Russell Martin [C – R] vs. Griffin [RHP]; Kolten Wong [2B – L] @ Senzatela [RHP] [GPP]; Carlos Correa [SS – R] vs. Gausman [RHP]; Devon Travis [2B – R] vs. Griffin [RHP]; Josh Reddick [OF – L] vs. Gausman [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] @ Tanaka [RHP] At $2,300 on FanDuel, Jed Lowrie makes for the best value play at any position. Not only is he $300 north of minimum salary, but Lowrie has been trashing right-handed pitching this season, boasting a .397 wOBA and .238 ISO across 130 at bats. Lowrie’s 47 percent flyball rate and 40 percent hard hit rate are also well above average, which sets him up perfectly at Yankee Stadium. I’m willing to play Lowrie across the industry against a struggling Tanaka, but he should be locked into FanDuel lineups in all formats this evening. The massively favorable park shift cannot be ignored, and neither can Tanaka’s 2.19 HR/9 allowed to left-handed bats.

 

Tim Beckham [SS – R] @ Santiago [LHP] The shortstop position is terrible despite having 14 games to choose from. By default, Beckham becomes a rather enticing punt at $2,800 on DraftKings and FanDuel. Beckham’s splits against left-handed pitching are underwhelming, but leading off against a homer-prone southpaw is more than enough to put him in play. For his career, Hector Santiago is allowing 1.48 HR/9 to RHB with a 5.03 xFIP and massive 53 percent flyball rate. He isn’t a terrible pitcher, but he is susceptible to having blowup innings. I’ll have some Beckham exposure at a bad position.

 

Juan Centeno [C – L] vs. Gausman [RHP]/Derek Norris [C – R] @ Santiago [LHP] Brian McCann isn’t expected to be activated from the 7-day disabled list until tomorrow, which should keep Centeno in the lineup for one more night. I don’t expect him to continue hitting bombs every night, but at a near minimum salary price point across the industry Centeno makes for a stellar punt at a putrid position. Kevin Gausman has flashed some talent this season, but much like every other year, there’s been more bad than good.

Norris has enough power with the platoon advantage to consider against Santiago, and a mid-$2K price point puts him firmly in play. Santiago’s primary issue has been allowing the long ball to opposite-handed hitters, so with Norris’ ability to pay off his salary with one swing of the bat, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be considered.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Joyce [OF – L] @ Tanaka [RHP]; Chad Pinder [2B/SS – R] @ Tanaka [RHP]