MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/5/17
Stephen Strasburg [RHP – WAS] @ PHI – Strasburg may never live up the lofty expectations that were placed upon him as the first overall draft pick in 2009. Fortunately for us, we’ll only need him to shine on Friday when he faces the Phillies. Strasburg’s strikeout numbers have been less than impressive this season (22.6 K%, 7.97 K/9), but he’s tossed seven innings in each of his first five starts while allowing three or fewer runs in each. The strikeouts are going to return in bulk, as he sports a 28.8 percent K-rate with an 11.2 percent swinging strike rate for his career. The Phillies own the seventh highest K-rate vs. RHP and don’t boast much power from the left side of the plate.
Washington is a -168 ML favorite on the road where the Phillies own a paltry 3.5-run implied total at Citizens Bank Park. Strasburg isn’t overpriced across the industry, and doesn’t allow enough home runs for this hitter-friendly venue to scare us off. The truth is, Strasburg is one of the very best pitchers in baseball, but a slew of injuries have tarnished his reputation. He’s actually scrapped his windup this season and is pitching exclusively out of the stretch, which many believe will help to keep him healthy. Nevertheless, I like what I’ve seen in 2017, and expect Strasburg to turn in another strong effort on Friday. There’s nothing about this Phillies lineup that should deter us from rostering him at a low-$10K price point.
Danny Salazar [RHP – CLE] @ KC – Salazar will cause some serious discomfort in those who decide to roster him on any given night. He owns a sparkling 33.3 percent K-rate and 15.9 percent swinging strike rate, which among all starters ranks third and second, respectively, but is also walking batters at an 11.1 percent clip. Salazar also boasts the sixth lowest contact rate (67.7%) and sixth lowest Z-Contact rate (76.5%) in baseball, so he’s clearly done a fantastic job of missing bats. The problem with Cleveland’s 27-year-old right-hander is he’s been known to unravel when missing his spots. I do, however, think Salazar has matured over the past couple of years, and is doing a much better job of working out of jams.
Salazar is throwing his changeup 30 percent of the time this season with positive results. He’s getting 38 percent whiffs per swing on the change (10th highest), which is a massive advantage when you consider no one is inducing more whiffs per swing on their four-seamer than Salazar (38.3%). Whenever a pitcher excels with both his four-seamer and changeup, he’s going to be successful against same-handed and opposite-handed hitters.
The Royals have been so putrid this season (.283 wOBA vs. RHP) that Salazar should face little adversity in his attempts to mow them down. Kansas City walks at a dismal 6.7 percent clip vs. RHP, and haven’t been the same contact-heavy team as they were in seasons past. Salazar is a -173 ML favorite inside the pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals own an unsightly 3.5-run implied total at home. Even if he allows a couple of runs, Salazar should escape with quality fantasy totals and an efficient line overall. He’s a clear top pitching option on Friday’s 13-game slate.
Chris Archer [RHP – TB] vs. TOR – Chris Archer draws a very favorable matchup on Friday, facing the injury-laden Blue Jays at home where he’s allowed a .277 wOBA over his career. Archer has excelled inside the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field, but he’s also been highly effective against same-handed bats (.280 wOBA). Toronto lacks power from the left side of the plate outside of Kendrys Morales, and to an extent, Justin Smoak. They rank 27th in wOBA (.287), 24th in ISO (.138) and ninth in K-rate (22%) vs. right-handed pitching. Toronto also ranks dead last in speed rating this season (2.9), meaning they are hardly a threat to run once on base.
Archer possesses some elite stuff, but that should come as no surprise to anyone. His K-rate is down this season, but that won’t last, and his 11.8 percent swinging strike rate suggests the strikeouts will be coming. He’s also faced some quality contact teams thus far, so I’d expect Archer to rebound rather quickly. He’s already limited the Blue Jays to three runs across 15 innings through two starts this season, and is a favorite to win on Friday (-137 ML) where Toronto owns a 3.5-run implied total at Tropicana Field. I’m a big fan of Archer’s sub-$10K price tag on both FanDuel and DraftKings, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him go overlooked on a slate where the pitching options are bountiful.
Francisco Liriano [LHP – TOR] @ TB – The first rule of using Francisco Liriano is not to follow the game; heart attacks have been reported from those who’ve watched Liriano pitch on nights where they’ve rostered him. It’s usually easy to tell whether Liriano is going to make or break your night in the first inning. If he’s hitting his spots and generating swinging strikes, Liriano will likely stay sharp throughout the night. If his first three pitches are two feet off the plate, it’s already time to call it quits.
Unfortunately, there’s no way off telling how the veteran southpaw will pitch on Friday. What we do know, however, is the Rays are striking out at a 26.8 percent clip vs. left-handed pitching this season, and the bulk of their production as a team has come from the left side of the plate. Liriano is still getting swinging strikes and is forcing a lot of weak contact, but if he can’t locate it’ll be over before it starts. You’re taking a risk by rostering him, which could result in a massive payoff or massive regrets. I guess we’ll have to find out on our own.
Andrew Triggs [RHP – OAK] vs. DET – Andrew Triggs has a lot to prove as a 28-year-old right-hander primed to pitch his first full season in the majors, but he’s looked good thus far. Triggs is inducing ground balls at a 56 percent clip, has allowed only one home run across 29.1 innings pitched, and is sporting a respectable 10.4 percent swinging strike rate in 2017. There’s certain risk in rostering him on Friday in a tough matchup with Detroit, but he’s actually favored over Michael Fulmer (-115 ML) in what’s projected to be a very low-scoring affair (7.5 O/U). Save for one blowup outing against the Mariners (4.2IP/6ER/5H/2BB), Triggs has held his opposition scoreless across the remaining 24.2 innings of work. He’s in play for tournaments if you’re looking to load up on high-priced bats.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kenta Maeda [RHP – LAD] faces the Padres at Petco Park on Friday, so he’s naturally going to be in the conversation. I don’t have a problem with rostering him, but I prefer Chris Archer at a similar price on DraftKings, and although he’s favorably priced on FanDuel you’d be passing up on several stud arms to put him in your lineups. Maeda has faced some difficult matchups this season, and he’s struggled in literally all of them. He does own a 14.3 percent swinging strike rate, though. Simply put, I don’t think Maeda is a stone lock just because he’s facing the Padres, but their league-leading K-rate and 25th ranked wOBA vs. RHP certainly puts him in play.
Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] @ Marquez [RHP] – Not much needs to be said here — Goldschmidt is one of the best hitters in baseball and draws a matchup against German Marquez at Coors Field on Friday. Not only is he hitting same-handed pitching to the tune of a .453/.247 wOBA/ISO this season, but Goldy has already swiped eight bags on the season. The power/speed combo is beautiful, and so is the Diamondbacks’ 5.8-run implied total. Goldschmidt is an elite option across the board, and his high price point is justified. You know what to do.
Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Marquez [RHP] – Jake Lamb doesn’t have the pedigree of Harper or Goldschmidt, but he does have the platoon advantage against German Marquez at Coors Field. On the year, Lamb is sporting a massive .419/.306 wOBA/ISO vs. right-handed pitching, and he’s actually been better away from Chase Field. Lamb will be the first hitter into my lineups on Friday, ahead of even Goldschmidt.
Chris Owings [SS/OF – R] and A.J. Pollock [OF – R] are legitimately two of my favorite daily fantasy hitters in the game. This Diamondbacks team runs at every chance they get, and the amount of double steals they’ve attempted (and succeeded on) this year has been astounding. You’d really have a tough time arguing against someone like Pollock, who has 13 XBH and 11 SB, or Owings, who has 5 HR, 21 RBI and 8 SB on the year. Despite not having the platoon advantage, both of these guys are hitting same-handed pitching well, and they provide a skill set that’s perfectly suited for the spacious outfield at Coors. You won’t be able to fit all of these Arizona bats on Friday, but you’ll definitely want a couple of them. The upside is simply too high to ignore.
Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Pivetta [RHP] – Nick Pivetta might actually be good. The 24-year-old righty burst onto the minor-league scene last season when his K-rate spiked through the roof, but it was his precipitous decline in walk rate to start his 2017 campaign that really accelerated his progress. In his first start with the Phillies, Pivetta averaged 95 MPH on his four-seamer and generated 42 percent whiffs/strikes on his slider. Pivetta sported an 11 percent swinging strike rate in his major-league debut. I could see him being a legitimate rotation arm for Philadelphia, but I’ll always bet on Bryce Harper in terms of the individual matchup.
Pivetta hung some sliders (or curveballs depending on how it’s classified) in his first start, and they got hammered. He has some nice release-side run on his four-seamer, but Harper will punish him if it’s flat. Harper is torturing right-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .493 wOBA and .400 ISO across 102 plate appearances. I’ll take him against a rookie righty any day of the week, but after dealing with some groin tightness on Thursday it’s unclear whether he’ll be in the lineup or not this evening. If Harper plays, you’ll want to place him at the top of your list.
Freddie Freeman [1B – L] vs. Lynn [RHP] – Freddie Freeman is an excellent tournament pivot on Friday, as I expect him to go overlooked for a variety of reasons. Lance Lynn is an above average pitcher, but for his career he’s struggled both vs. left-handed hitters and away from home. This evening, Lynn will be pitching at Suntrust Park, which has heavily favored lefty hitters, and Freeman has been phenomenal. Freeman ranks second in both wOBA and ISO vs. RHP among all hitters with 50-plus plate appearances, and I only expect those numbers to rise on Friday.
HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Greinke [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Hughes [RHP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] @ Hammel [RHP]
Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Rodriguez [LHP] – I don’t care if Eduardo Rodriguez has displayed some reverse splits over his short career. Hell, I wouldn’t care if he hadn’t allowed a run on the season heading into tonight’s meeting with the Twins. Miguel Sano has simply been too good to ignore in a matchup with a volatile southpaw. Sano leads the league in average exit velocity by a wide margin and owns a 47 percent flyball rate on the year. It’s crazy to think Sano is priced at $4,200 on DraftKings and $8,100 on FantasyDraft. If you aren’t playing Coors third basemen, Sano is the easy pivot.
Michael Conforto [OF – L] vs. Koehler [RHP] – Conforto is torching right-handed pitching this season, and he’s finally batting atop the order where he belongs. The young outfielder is absolutely mashing this season, sporting a .474 wOBA and .344 ISO vs. right-handed pitching across 61 at bats. You’re probably overpaying for him on FanDuel, but at $3,700 on DraftKings and $7,200 on FantasyDraft, Conforto is an easy a play as it gets. In case you were wondering, Tom Koehler is serving up a .543 wOBA to LHB this season, having already allowed five home runs and eight XBH across only 50 batters faced. I don’t see any justifiable reason to fade Conforto on Friday, especially now that Jay Bruce [1B/OF – L] has finally seen his salary rise.
Jonathan Villar [2B – L/R] @ Kuhl [RHP] – Chad Kuhl doesn’t scare me, and neither does Francisco Cervelli behind the dish. Actually, this sets Villar up nicely to swipe a bag or two on Friday. It seems like this entire Pittsburgh pitching staff struggles to hold runners, and Kuhl hasn’t been much of an exception. We shouldn’t see a ton of runs in this game, but Villar is leading off with the platoon advantage (switch hitter), and is very reasonably priced across the board. He isn’t off to the greatest start in 2017, but Villar has performed much better vs. RHP, and doesn’t rely solely on power to produce fantasy points.
I like Brian Dozier [2B – R] against Eduardo Nunez, too, but Villar is exponentially cheaper than him on FanDuel ($3,400). Villar, Dozier and Dee Gordon [2B – L] are all strong second base options on Friday, and I’d go with whoever is priced best across each individual site.
NOTE: Rangers bats are priced ultra-cheap on DraftKings for this matchup with Yovani Gallardo. The park will do them no favors, having to play inside Safeco Field, but Gallardo is far from intimidating. Rougned Odor ($3,900), Joey Gallo ($3,500), Carlos Gomez ($3,500), Nomar Mazara ($3,300) and the rest of these Texas bats are all well underpriced, so I think you could justify some GPP lineups with a 4-player stack and two top-tier pitchers.
HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Santana [1B/OF – L/R] @ Hammel [RHP]; Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP]; Jose Abreu [1B – R] @ Miley [LHP] [FanDuel GPP]; Rougned Odor [2B – L] @ Gallardo [RHP]; Joey Gallo [3B – L] @ Gallardo [RHP] [GPP]; Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] @ Hughes [RHP]; Josh Reddick [OF – L] @ Chavez [RHP]
Chris Herrmann [C – L] @ Marquez [RHP] – Please be in the lineup. Please be in the lineup. Please be in the lineup. If Herrmann is in the D-Backs’ lineup on Friday, and batting middle of the order, he will be the easiest play on the board. Herrmann is by no means an elite hitter. He probably isn’t even good — but if he’s in the lineup against a weak righty at Coors there will simply be no excuse to fade him. He’s priced very affordably for Coors bat, has enough power to send one over the fence in altitude, and is slotted behind some of the best hitters in baseball. You know what to do.
Tim Beckham [SS – R] vs. Liriano [LHP] – Tim Beckham has been on a tear lately, and he’s been slotted favorably into the Rays’ order. It’s impossible to tell which version of Liriano we’ll get on a start-to-start basis, but if Beckham leads off against the southpaw, we’ll have to consider him at $2,900 on DraftKings, $2,800 on FanDuel and $5,600 on FantasyDraft. With two multi-homer games over his last seven starts, Beckham has proven that he can offer power upside at a dirt cheap cost. Rickie Weeks [1B – R] is also a GPP punt if he’s batting in the middle of Tampa’s order vs. Liriano.
Seth Smith [OF – L] vs. Gonzalez [RHP] – Seth Smith enjoyed one helluva productive night on Thursday, going 4-4 at the dish with a double and two RBI. That’s as good as we’re ever going to get from Smith, but leading off against righties should keep him in play whenever he’s facing a sub-par pitcher. Miguel Gonzalez isn’t a bad pitcher, but he also isn’t dominant by any stretch. With a .334 wOBA allowed to LHB on the season, Gonzalez is just mediocre enough for us to pick on him with the very affordable smith. This is a price play and not one where we’re hoping for double dong upside, but Smith continues to be a strong cash game play at a low-end price point.
HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Joyce [OF – L] vs. Fulmer [RHP]; Tyler Collins [OF – L] @ Triggs [RHP]; Josh Bell [1B – L/R] vs. Nelson [RHP]