MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/8/17

PITCHING

 

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] vs. SFG The Giants’ offense hasn’t looked this bad in quite some time. Over the past several years they’ve ranked high (or at least higher than league average) in wOBA vs. right-handed pitching, but the same cannot be said for 2017. San Francisco owns the second lowest wOBA (.272) vs. RHP this year, ahead of only the disastrous Royals. Their .112 ISO has now fallen to dead last in baseball, while their 6.9 percent BB-rate sits at a dismal 28th. The Giants don’t strike out a ton (19.9% vs. RHP), but that is the only area where they’ve been semi-competent this season.

deGrom has been outstanding in his fourth major-league campaign, ranking top-five among all starters in K-rate (31.6% – 5th), swinging strike rate (15.7% – 3rd) and contact rate (66.8% – 2nd) through his first six starts. Walks have strangely been an issue at times this year, seeing that deGrom has already turned in two five-plus walk outings in 2017, but he’s been stellar otherwise, and the Giants don’t draw many free passes to begin with. deGrom also leads the league in Whf/Sw on his four-seamer (37.4%), and ranks top-10 in average velocity (96.03), which is up nearly two ticks from 2016. His 2.16 DRA and .346 BABIP suggests that deGrom has actually been unlucky this season, so there’s really no reason not to love him on Monday.

I was surprised to see the Mets as only -150 ML favorites at home against a struggle Matt Moore, but the Giants’ 3.2-run implied total should quell any concerns. I don’t see how San Francisco can manufacture any offense against deGrom, and I’ll be using New York’s righty in every lineup I make. Bad weather in Coors and ultra-high-priced Chicago bats will make it easier to justify paying for deGrom on Monday.

 

Trevor Cahill [RHP – SDP] vs. TEX While Jacob deGrom should be the consensus SP-1 on Monday, Trevor Cahill should be the consensus SP-2, to be paired with deGrom on all two-pitcher sites. On the season, Cahill ranks top-15 in swinging strike rate (13.3%) and top 10 in K-rate (29.8%). That’s incredible. He’s also inducing ground balls at a near elite 57.3 percent clip, and has surrendered only two home runs across 30 innings of work.

A perennial back-of-the-rotation starter has entirely redefined his game, and it has nothing to do with added velocity or a brand new pitch. Simply put, Cahill is better utilizing his full arsenal of pitches, and he’s converting a ton of two-strike counts into punchouts. Get this — among all starters with 30-plus innings pitched, Cahill ranks fourth in O-Swing% (34.8) and first in Z-Swing% (55.4), meaning batters are chasing pitches out of the zone but letting strikes go by without the bat ever leaving their shoulders. Cahill is clearly confusing hitters, and it’s resulted in him getting ahead in counts. Cahill owns the lowest Zone% in baseball (36.5), but hitters can’t lay off his stuff outside of the plate.

The Rangers rank 26th in wOBA (.286) and seventh in K-rate (24.2%) away from home this season. They’ve predictably struggled outside of Arlington, and I don’t expect that to change on Monday night. Petco Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball, as evidenced by tonight’s 7.5-O/U despite Nick Martinez being on the bump for Texas. The Rangers own one of the lowest implied run totals on this 10-game slate (3.4), and Cahill is a -132 ML favorite at home. At $7,600 on DraftKings and $15,000 on FantasyDraft, there’s no reason Cahill shouldn’t be paired with deGrom in both cash games and GPPs.

 

Blake Snell [LHP – TB] vs. KC Snell’s lack of command has haunted him this season, and has effectively kept him from being a viable fantasy option at a lower mid-range cost. That being said, it’ll be hard to ignore him entirely against a Royals team that has been dreadfully bad against left-handed pitching. On the year Kansas City ranks dead last in hitting vs. southpaws, where their .231 wOBA ranks 22 points behind the 29th placed Rangers. The Royals’ .079 ISO vs. LHP is third worst in baseball, while their 23.1 percent K-rate surprisingly ranks top-10 in the game. No hitting, no power, plenty of strikeouts — what more could we ask for? Well, a competent pitcher would help, but sometimes we have to roll the dice.

Snell is very capable of racking up strikeouts despite some down numbers in 2017. He’s already faced three teams that rank bottom-10 in punchouts vs. left-handed pitching this season, while the Blue Jays are the only team he’s faced that K’s at a top-10 clip. I’m by no means looking to absolve Snell of all his struggles, but do think he’s drawn some tough matchups to start the year. We saw the young left-hander strike batters out at a near 25 percent clip in 2016, and I’d expect to see him inch closer to that number as we move forward.

If he can harness his stuff on Monday, Snell could produce some fringe-elite fantasy totals against what is arguably the worst offense in baseball. If you plan on risking the Coors weather and want to spend on bats, pairing Snell with Cahill would make the most sense. There’s plenty of risk here, but also ample upside in the event that Snell can command his pitches.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Nate Karns [RHP – KC] @ TB; Nick Martinez [RHP – TEX] @ SDP [GPP]

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Arrieta [RHP] Weather looks rough in Denver right now, but if it happens to clear up prior to first pitch, Blackmon should be considered the top overall play in this contest. Yes, I’m ranking Blackmon ahead of Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] and Kris Bryant [3B – R], who are both fantastic plays against Antonio Senzatela, but not as fantastic as Colorado’s leadoff man. For what it’s worth, teams have been known to struggle in their first game of the series at Coors, which slightly lowers my opinion of these Chicago bats. That’s not why I have Blackmon ranked ahead of them, though.

The reason I’ve listed Blackmon ahead of them is twofold: first, he has been otherworldly at home this season, averaging 14.9 DKPT/G with seven home runs, five doubles, four triples and 20 RBI across 66 at bats. 16 of Blackmon’s 21 extra-base hits and 20 of his 27 RBI have come at home, where he’s sporting a jaw-dropping .568 wOBA and .515 ISO through one-plus months. Second, Arrieta is incapable of holding runners, so although Blackmon has recorded only one stolen base on the season, I’d expect that number to rise tonight.

Arrieta could really struggle at Coors, as he relies heavily on movement with all of his breaking pitches to set batters down. I’ll have ample exposure to Blackmon if this game looks clear enough to play. He is my top overall hitting option on Monday’s 10-game slate, offering both speed and power in what should be a high run-producing atmosphere at Coors.

 

Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Davis [RHP] Aaron Judge is responsible for four of the eight hardest hit balls in baseball this season. The rookie outfielder has been fantastic at the dish, and now he’ll draw a matchup with Rookie Davis at Great American Ballpark, the best righty power park known to man. Judge won’t come cheap but his 2017 performance justifies the elevated price point, as is he sporting a filthy .460/.432 wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed pitching this season. Judge owns an insane 46.4 percent HR/FB rate and a 40 percent flyball rate overall — you do the math. If he makes contact at Great American he’ll be a virtual lock to homer. Rookie Davis is striking righties out at a 12.5 percent clip with the Reds while sporting a 5.79 xFIP and a 37 percent GB-rate. Yeah, Judge is going to torture him tonight.

 

Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R] @ Gausman [RHP] Kevin Gausman has been dreadful this season, having already allowed five home runs to right-handed hitters while serving up a .429 wOBA and .264 ISO in the process. He’s displayed some reverse splits over his career, too, allowing a .349 wOBA to RHB with a league-average 20.5 percent K-rate. Zimmerman, on the other hand, is absolutely murdering right-handed pitchers to the tune of a .536 wOBA and .413 ISO across 100 PA this season.

Zimmerman, without the platoon advantage, leads the league in home runs (10) and hits (38) vs. RHP, while ranking second in batting average (.413) behind only Justin Turner. He’s recorded a home run or double in fourteen of his last sixteen starts, and is poised to make it fifteen of seventeen on Monday. Gausman’s struggles have been well-documented, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll turn it around against the best offense in baseball. If you aren’t using Rizzo due to his astronomical price point or because Coors is rained out, Zimmerman should be your first consideration at first base.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Trea Turner [SS – R] @ Gausman [RHP]; Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] @ Senzatela [RHP]; Manny Machado [3B – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP]; Ian Desmond [OF – R] vs. Arrieta [RHP]; Daniel Murphy [2B – L] @ Gausman [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Brett Gardner [OF – L] @ Davis [RHP] Gardner, like most of this Yankees lineup, has been scorching hot of late, with five home runs and 10 RBI over his last eight games. New York’s leadoff man has been on a tear, and he’ll draw an opportunity to keep it moving on Monday when he faces Rookie Davis at Great American Ballpark. Davis has looked dreadful through his first four major-league starts, but that shouldn’t come as much surprise considering the 24-year-old righty owned a 13 percent K-rate in Triple-A.

Gardner is hammering righties this season to the tune of a .404 wOBA and .250 ISO across 91 plate appearances. Usually I’d downgrade Gardner quite a bit when he leaves Yankee Stadium, but Great American Ballpark remains one of the most hitter-friendly venues in the game. I’ll be looking to stack the Yankees in a number of lineups, with Gardner and Judge headlining the show.

Gary Sanchez [C – R] is an strong tournament option on DraftKings where he’s overpriced, but is viable in all formats on FanDuel at only $3,200. Starlin Castro [2B – R] ranks second in baseball with 43 hits this season and remains very affordable on both DraftKings ($3,800) and FantasyDraft ($7,500). Also worth including in Yankee stacks are Chase Headley [3B – L/R] and Didi Gregorius [SS – L], who offers decent value at a weak shortstop position. New York owns one of the highest non-Coors implied run totals on Monday’s slate.

 

Anthony Rendon [3B – R] @ Gausman [RHP] Third base is chock full of talent on Monday, but it’ll be hard to ignore Rendon at a mid-range price point. Washington’s third baseman got off to a miserably slow start this season but has turned it on of late, with five home runs and 18 RBI over his last seven games. Sure, three of those homers and 10 of those RBI came in a historic performance against the Mets last week, but there’s no denying how good Rendon has been over the past week.

As earlier noted, Kevin Gausman has been hammered by right-handed bats this season, and has been a reverse splits pitcher over his young career. The Nationals own a 4.7-run implied total at Camden Yards, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them far surpass that number if Gausman continues to struggle. Rendon and Zimmerman both make for excellent options in this Washington lineup on Monday night.

 

Jedd Gyorko [2B/3B – R] @ Conley [LHP] Gyorko owns above average career numbers vs. left-handed pitching, so I’m not exactly concerned about Adam Conley’s so-called career reverse splits. On the year, Conley has been trounced by right-handed bats, surrendering a .354 wOBA with a 5.43 xFIP and 17.2 percent K-rate across 87 batters faced. The third base position is deep, and I wouldn’t be opposed to using Justin Turner [3B – R] vs. Trevor Williams or even Ryan Schimpf [3B – L] as a mid-range tournament play against Nick Martinez, but Gyorko offers solid value in the middle of this Cardinals lineup. Keep in mind, however, that there is some deep value available at third base, too, so I wouldn’t get married to any specific bat while constructing lineups on Monday.

 

Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] vs. Williams [RHP] Bellinger is one of my favorite mid-range options on this 10-game slate, facing the right-handed Trevor Williams who owns a 27.8 percent GB-rate, 6.03 FIP and 10.5 percent BB-rate in 24.1 career major-league innings pitched. Williams likely won’t throw more than four innings whether he’s performing well or poorly, but Bellinger is simply too cheap to ignore regardless of who’s on the bump.

The Dodgers’ rookie slugger has already tallied five home runs and 10 RBI across on 30 AB vs. right-handed pitching, and he’s now batting middle of the order. I’ll have ample Bellinger exposure on Monday assuming he’s back in the lineup. Corey Seager [SS – L] also makes for an elite mid-range shortstop play against Williams, while Joc Pederson [OF – L] should be considered as well. A left-handed Dodgers stack plus Justin Turner [3B – R] make a lot of sense against Trevor Williams and a long reliever.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Arrieta [RHP]; Khris Davis [OF – R] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Randal Grichuk [OF – R] @ Conley [LHP]; Brad Miller [2B – L] vs. Karns [RHP]; Aledmys Diaz [SS – R] @ Conley [LHP]; Miguel Montero [C – L] @ Senzatela [RHP]; Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] vs. Williams [RHP];

 

VALUE

 

Yonder Alonso [1B – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP] Alonso is somehow priced at $2,800 on DraftKings and $5,600 on FantasyDraft despite recording five home runs and 10 RBI over his last six starts. This isn’t just some random hot streak for Alonso, either, as he consciously adjusted his approach at the plate, and the results have been evident early on. Alonso is torching righties to the tune of a .441/.310 wOBA/ISO split this season, but it’s his ridiculous 51.5 percent flyball rate that should encourage us the most. I’ll happily deploy him against a weak right-hander in Ricky Nolasco, who has posted below average numbers against left-handed hitters for his career. To put things simply, though, Alonso is just way too cheap to ignore on DK and FDR.

 

Wilmer Flores/T.J. Rivera [1B/3B – R] vs. Moore [LHP] Both of these New York infielders make for solid value plays on Monday, squaring off against a southpaw in Matt Moore who’s been struggling mightily in almost every facet of the game. Flores’ career splits with the platoon advantage are rather insane, especially when you isolate his numbers over the past two-plus seasons. Rivera hasn’t seen many plate appearances vs. lefties, but he’s dirt cheap and should bat second against Moore.

I don’t want both of these righties in my lineup unless I’m stacking the Mets, but using one of them as a salary relief play at first or third base is a more than viable approach. Moore’s command is horrible right now, and he won’t have the spacious AT&T Field to mask his mistakes. I’d even consider Rene Rivera [C – R] as a minimum salary catcher punt if he’s batting seventh in the order. Seldom do we get a bottom barrel catcher with the platoon advantage who isn’t batting eighth or lower in his respective lineup.

 

Joey Rickard [OF – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP] Joey Rickard isn’t in play because he’s a stellar hitter — he isn’t a stellar hitter. He isn’t in play because Gio Gonzalez is a garbage pitcher — he isn’t a garbage pitcher. Rickard is, however, set to leadoff with the platoon advantage at one of the more hitter-friendly venues in baseball, and owns a career .362 wOBA vs. left-handed pitching. I have absolutely no problem targeting Rickard on FanDuel where he’s the bare minimum ($2,000), or even on DraftKings ($3,000) or FantasyDraft ($6,000). This is purely a price play where Rickard could realistically see five plate appearances inside Camden Yards. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be encouraged by that.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Matt Joyce [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Tommy Pham [OF – R] @ Conley [LHP] [GPP]