MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/3/17
Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] @ ATL – Jacob deGrom has been next-level good this season, sporting a career-high 34.4 percent K-rate and 17.6 percent swinging strike rate through his first five starts. deGrom’s 63.2 percent contact rate not only leads the league, but it leads the league by a wide margin. You’d be hard-pressed to put any pitcher not named Chris Sale ahead of him right now, as deGrom has notched double-digit strikeouts in three straight starts, two of which came against the red-hot Nationals.
Atlanta doesn’t strike out much vs. right-handed pitching, and they’ve actually hit them rather well to start the year. That being said, deGrom has been so good that a fringe average Braves lineup should hardly concern us on Wednesday. If you’re looking for a safe option at the top of the position, deGrom figures to make the most sense.
Carlos Carrasco [RHP – CLE] fits the bill, too, as his matchup with Detroit is slightly worrisome, but the Tigers own a 3.2-run implied total and the Indians are -160 ML favorites on the road. Carrasco is holding right-handed hitters to a .199 wOBA this season, which should serve him well against the righty-heavy Tigers.
Drew Pomeranz [LHP – BOS] vs. BAL – Tempers have been flaring in Boston this week, with both the players and fans playing a role in the madness. There’s always some fear that a pitcher could get caught up in the melee, but the odds of this actually happening are slim. Pomeranz is striking batters out at a near 30 percent clip this season, but his 34.5 percent groundball rate and 22.5 percent HR/FB rate have overshadowed the positive.
Pomeranz isn’t a bad pitcher. Actually, since 2015 the 28-year-old left-hander owns a 3.50 DRA and a swinging strike rate just shy of 11 percent. He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, though, (much like fan favorite Dicky Hill) who relies on a rising fastball and biting knuckle-curve to fool both left and right-hander batters. When working, these pitches can be extremely difficult to hit, as we’ve seen with Hill and to some extent, Lance McCullers.
Outside of an expectedly higher home run rate to right-handed hitters last season, Pomeranz has virtually no platoon splits, and actually owned a lower xFIP against opposite-handed bats. A similar pattern can be observed this season, too, as four of Pomeranz’s five home runs have come against RHB but he’s allowing a mere .304 wOBA to righties in the process.
Pomeranz draws a matchup with an Orioles team on Wednesday that’s striking out at a 27.2 percent clip vs. left-handed pitching (2nd highest). Baltimore also owns a bottom-six wOBA (.287) and walk rate (7.3% BB) vs. southpaws despite a heavy right-handed presence. They do lead the league in line drive rate vs. LHB and sit top ten in fly ball rate, so there’s always the concern that the homer-prone Pomeranz could cough up some hard contact. That being said, he possesses more than enough upside to deploy on a night where the Red Sox are -142 ML favorites at home.
Charlie Morton [RHP – HOU] vs. TEX – This marks the first time Charlie Morton has been featured in the Deep Dive this season, facing a Rangers team that has struggled outside of Arlington. I’m not entirely sold on Morton being ‘good,’ but he’s good enough to capitalize on a matchup that leans towards the favorable side. The Rangers’ road splits are almost identical to last season, where they finished 23rd in wOBA, yet in 2017 they’re striking out at a much higher clip (23.2%). Power is scattered throughout this lineup, namely Joey Gallo, Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor, but sky-high strikeout rates should mitigate that concern. Morton allowed two home runs in his last start but struck out 12 across seven innings of work. I could see a similar scenario shaping up on Wednesday to a lesser extent.
Morton’s most used pitch, the two-seamer, is sitting 96 on the season. He’s inducing a 53 percent groundball rate on the sinker, while the curveball is generating swinging strikes at a stellar clip. A mid-90’s fastball and an arguably elite curveball (51% Whf/Sw) should keep the strikeout totals in play, but it’s also nice to see that Morton is a -176 ML favorite at home. At his price point on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft, Morton makes for a strong SP-2 option in both cash and GPPs.
Antonio Senzatela [RHP – COL] @ SDP – Senzatela will likely be one of the more popular pitcher punts on Wednesday, and I understand the reasoning behind the play. The rookie right-hander has been impressive to start the season and weighs in at a dirt cheap price point across the board. That being said, I’m not sold on Senzatela being a solid option. Through his first five starts, Senzatela owns a 14 percent K-rate, 5.5 percent SwStr rate, .232 BABIP and 82 percent strand rate. His DRA (Deserved Run Average) sits at 6.46 and his xFIP is currently 4.50 on the year. I’m not saying Senzatela can’t produce serviceable fantasy totals against a strikeout-heavy Padres club, but he carries a lot of risk despite the pitcher-friendly venue.
I touched on Nick Martinez [RHP – TEX] and his velocity spike in an edition of last week’s Deep Dive. He surrendered three runs to the Angels, but managed to pitch six useful innings with seven strikeouts on only 84 pitches. If you’re looking to punt the position with an unowned pitcher, Martinez actually makes some sense. It’s a very risky proposition against the Astros, but considering most people likely still view Martinez as a well below average pitcher, the potential upside is enticing. Having said that, he should only be considered in GPPs, and I wouldn’t recommend using him unless you’re running 10-plus lineups and he finds his way into one or two of them.
Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R] vs. Ray [LHP] – Zimmerman has been otherworldly this season. Through one-plus months of baseball, the oft-injured first baseman leads the league in RBI (29), ranks second in home runs (11) and leads the league in batting average (.419). He’s drawn only 13 at bats against lefties thus far, but has amazingly racked up three home runs, three doubles and seven hits in those appearances. His career numbers vs. left-handed pitching (.385 wOBA/.209 ISO) are also well above average, and although he’ll certainly cool off sometime soon, Zimmerman is a hard hitter to avoid while he’s running this hot.
Robbie Ray is no stranger to coughing up the long ball to right-handed bats, having allowed 1.49 HR/9 to RHB since the start of 2016. He’s a quality southpaw with excellent strikeout upside, but Ray isn’t unhittable by any stretch, especially not against the righty-heavy Nats. Zimmerman has recorded a home run or double in eight straight games and in 10 of his last 11 starts. Hot streaks aren’t predictive, but wow, this guy is en fuego.
Hanley Ramirez [1B/OF – R] vs. Gausman [RHP] – Hot streaks in baseball always make for interesting discussion, but here’s the bottom line: hot streaks are real but they don’t offer much use for DFS purposes, as we have no idea when they will start or end. Ramirez is notorious for running hot before falling off a metaphorical cliff. Right now he’s running hot, with four home runs and seven RBI over his last five games. The good thing about Ramirez on Wednesday is I wouldn’t care how he was hitting leading up to this matchup with Kevin Gausman.
Baltimore’s struggling right-hander has coughed up 18 earned runs and six home runs on 24 hits over his last three outings (14 IP). Five of those six home runs came against right-handed hitters, to whom he’s allowing a .432 wOBA on the year. Gausman isn’t this bad, but he’s certainly looked the part of late, and the Red Sox own a 5-run implied total at home. Hanley should also be much lower owned than Zimmerman on Wednesday, which makes him that much more appealing for GPPs.
Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Gausman [RHP] – The Red Sox currently own the highest implied run total of any team on Wednesday’s slate, facing a righty in Kevin Gausman who has been absolutely decimated over his last three starts. Betts isn’t off to the greatest start in 2017, but he’s still one of the best hitters in baseball and owns solid career splits vs. same-handed pitching. Gausman, on the other hand, has allowed a .346 wOBA to RHB over his career, while serving up a whopping 1.54 HR/9 in the process. You have to think he’ll see some positive regression going forward, but Gausman is still a homer-prone righty who will have to face a potent Boston lineup inside the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. My money’s on the Red Sox tonight, as Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi make for a nice little four-player stack against Kevin Gascan.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nolan Arenado [3B – R] @ Weaver [RHP]; Trea Turner [SS – R] vs. Ray [LHP]; Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] @ Weaver [RHP] [GPP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Iwakuma [RHP]
Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Santiago [LHP] – This one is rather simple — Khris Davis has smashed lefties to the tune of a .263 ISO over his career, and Hector Santiago has dealt with serious struggles against power-hitting righties. Santiago has coughed up 1.50 HR/9 to RHB with a 5.01 xFIP and sub-30 percent groundball rate. He could struggle to navigate around an Oakland lineup that, despite their poor numbers vs. LHP to start the year, offers plenty of power from the right side of the plate. Davis simply offers too much upside to ignore at a mid-range price tag across the industry. Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] is another nice mid-range outfield option against Kevin Gausman, but doesn’t possess the same power potential as Davis.
Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Graveman [RHP] – Kendall Graveman is enjoying a strong 2017 campaign, but he shouldn’t scare you at all. First, Graveman has been rather lucky, as he owns a completely unsustainable 91.4 percent strand rate and .239 BABIP. His career 14.4 percent K-rate is far from frightening, and neither is 1.39 HR/9 allowed to right-handed bats. In fairness to Graveman, though, his 1.60 DRA suggests that he’s pitching better than we’ve seen over the past couple years.
Here’s why Graveman’s improved pitching doesn’t worry me when it comes to Sano: Minnesota’s power-hitting third baseman leads the league in average exit velocity (100.7 MPH) by a shockingly wide margin, and shouldn’t have to worry much about strikeouts against a contact pitcher. Sano remains underpriced across the board despite his recent surge in production, which features 12-20 hitting at the plate with four home runs, 13 RBI and four multi-hit performances over his last five starts. Sano has the upper hand in this matchup, and you won’t even need to overspend in order to use him.
Josh Harrison [2B/3B – R] @ Davis [RHP] – Harrison has been very good to us of late, and I don’t anticipate him letting us down on Wednesday. The 29-year-old infielder has excelled in the leadoff spot of late, with four home runs, eight RBI and three multi-hit efforts over his last six starts. Harrison remains affordable across the board and is eligible at a weak second base position. He also draws a mouthwatering matchup with Rookie Davis, who has looked every bit like his first name at the major-league level. Davis has been rocked by hitters from both sides of the plate, and having to pitch at Great American Smallpark won’t do him any favors this evening. I’ll continue to deploy Harrison until his price point begins to reflect his production atop the Pirates’ order.
Russell Martin [C – R] @ Sabathia [LHP] – Martin was slotted into the three-hole last night against Tanaka, and would become a top backstop play on Wednesday if nothing changes with Toronto’s order. Seldom will we find a catcher batting third with the platoon advantage, especially when facing a homer-prone lefty like CC Sabathia. Martin’s 2017 campaign is off to a slow start, but he’s looked a bit better of late, with three home runs and five RBI over his last 10 games. It’s hard to not like him against Sabathia, who’s allowed five home runs to righties — over his last three starts. Sabathia did a good job of limiting hard contact over his first couple starts, but that has come to an abrupt end, which is a huge problem for someone who can no longer generate strikeouts. Russell and Salvador Perez [C – R] are the two mid-range catchers I’ll be considering tonight, but I’m also not against punting the position depending on who’s available.
HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] vs. Gausman [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R] @ Arrieta [RHP] [GPP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Pelfrey [RHP]; Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Samardzija [RHP]; Xander Bogaerts [SS – R] vs. Gausman [RHP]; Billy Hamilton [OF – L/R] vs. Taillon [RHP]
Jay Bruce [1B/OF – L] @ Colon [RHP] – Jay Bruce was great to us last night, belting two home runs inside the lefty-friendly Suntrust Park. I’d imagine the casual DFS player is still oblivious to the fact that Atlanta’s new venue heavily favors left-handed hitters, and this is something we can use to our advantage. Bruce is one of the more underrated power hitters in baseball, having racked up 30-plus home runs in four of his last six campaigns. He’s on pace for north of 50 home runs in 2017, and he doesn’t even have the luxury of hitting at Great American Ballpark anymore.
Wednesday’s matchup with Bartolo Colon is rather enticing, as Bruce is hammering righties this season to the tune of a .495 wOBA and .414 ISO across 78 PA, and boasts a .350/.234 wOBA/ISO split vs. RHB for his career. It’s hard to argue against targeting Bruce when he’s facing a 43-year-old who throws 90 percent fastballs and is serving up a 38 percent hard hit rate on the year. Bruce is simply way too cheap on both DraftKings ($3,200) and FantasyDraft ($6,400).
Josh Bell [1B – L/R] @ Davis [RHP] – Josh Bell is in play for two simple reasons: Rookie Davis and Great American Ballpark. It’s tough not to like the switch-hitting first baseman when he’s batting second against an absolutely atrocious righty. Not much thought is needed for this one — Bell is cheap, can hit from both sides of the plate, and won’t have anyone to blame but himself if he can’t produce against Davis.
Adam Rosales [2B/SS – R] @ Santiago [LHP] – Rosales is far from a quality baseball player, but he’s near minimum salary across the industry in a plus matchup with Hector Santiago. Rosalez doesn’t hit for power and lacks speed for a middle infielder, but he’s been leading off or hitting second against left-handed pitchers, which that alone should put him in play. Santiago owns a below average strikeout rate vs. RHB, serves up 1.50 HR/9 and induces ground balls at a sub-30 percent clip. So while Rosales doesn’t do much for us on his own, the matchup with Santiago is favorable enough to use him in lineups where pitching is prioritized.
Elias Diaz [R – C] @ Davis [RHP] – Look, Elias Diaz isn’t going to offer any power at the major-league level. It’s simply not going to happen. He recorded 26 home runs in 2316 minor-league plate appearances, so that’s that. However, Diaz can hit for average, which is all we’d need him to do if he bats sixth again on Wednesday. Two singles and a run scored against Rookie Davis, who’s allowed 12 runs on 18 hits across 9.2 innings with the Reds, would be more than enough to justify a roster spot at $2,200 on DraftKings. The catcher position is dreadful on a nightly basis, so I’d have no problem punting Diaz in the middle of the lineup against a putrid right-hander. 7-9 DraftKings points would get the job done here and it would allow us to upgrade at the power-laden positions.
HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Phegley [C – R] @ Santiago [LHP]; Chris Owings [SS/OF – R] @ Gonzalez [LHP]; Michael Conforto [OF – L] @ Colon [RHP]; Derek Norris [R – C] @ Conley [LHP] [GPP]