MLB DEEP DIVE – 5/9/17
Max Scherzer is the most expensive pitching option on the slate, facing the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards. The Orioles are a potent offense that is particularly good against hard-throwing righties, so there is certainly some risk for Scherzer. There are also strikeouts in the Orioles lineup, however, so Scherzer and his 32.30 percent strikeout percentage should have plenty of success. It is possible that he gives up a home run or two to the powerful bats in the Baltimore lineup but, overall, there is no reason not to expect a big outing from him. There are a lot of bats to pay up for on this slate so, on sites where pricing matters, there is certainly merit to looking for cheaper arms in tournaments.
Carlos Carrasco does not carry the name value that Scherzer does, but he is in a very nice spot against, what is likely to be, a watered-down Toronto lineup. Carrasco has a 25.8 percent strikeout percentage backed up by an 11.4 percent swinging strike percentage so far this season and is available at a price discount and, likely, ownership discount from Scherzer. He makes sense as a tournament pivot on sites where it is easier to pay up for pitching since he has huge upside but will come at lower ownership.
Dan Straily faces a Cardinals team that has some right-handed power, which is Straily’s biggest weakness, but the game will be played in Miami where a lot of would-be home runs do not quite make it. Straily has shown good strikeout stuff this season, striking out 24.60 percent of hitters that he has faced and 25.8 percent of righties. Straily has been less home-run prone to lefties than righties since the start of last season, which helps to negate the threat of the Cardinals’ best hitter, Matt Carpenter. Straily makes for a very strong SP2 option on sites that require two starting pitchers.
Charlie Morton is also a strong SP2 option, or mid-range SP1 if you are paying up for bats. Atlanta is not a team that we love to target, but there are more strikeouts in their lineup than there have been in previous seasons. Morton has shown very good strikeout numbers since the end of last season, with a 26.40 percent strikeout percentage over 51.1 innings pitched. Freddie Freeman is a very dangerous bat in the middle of the Atlanta lineup but, outside of him, Morton should be able to navigate his way through the Atlanta lineup.
Matt Andriese makes for an excellent GPP pivot off of the more popular Straily and Morton. Andriese has been allowed to go deep into games this season, throwing at least 105 pitches in three of his last four starts. He is at home against a Kansas City team that has the 2nd highest O-Swing percentage, 2nd highest Swing percentage and third highest swinging strike percentage. Andriese only has a 20.60 percent strikeout percentage so far this season, but his 10.10 percent swinging strike rate suggests that should improve. He is likely to be the lowest owned of the three mid-range pitchers mentioned, but has just as much upside as any of them.
Charlie Blackmon will be facing John Lackey in Coors Field. Lackey has not been bad against lefties, but Coors Field is a different animal and Blackmon will be hitting atop the Rockies lineup. In addition to benefitting from the favorable hitting environment, Blackmon should be able to run against Lackey, who has struggled to control the running game in recent seasons. Pretty much any player in Coors is almost always in play, but Blackmon stands out as one of the top plays from the game today.
Kris Bryant, on the other side of the game, will be facing left-hander Kyle Freeland. Freeland relies on command to induce soft contact and he has done a good job of it so far this season, as he has gotten over 26 percent soft contact against right-handed hitters. Bryant, however, is one of the better hitters in baseball and has a .294 ISO, .414 wOBA and 39.4 percent hard contact against left-handed pitching so far in his career. Freeland has struck out just 8.8 percent of righties so far this season, and did not have good strikeout numbers in the minors. We should take our chances on Bryant being able to hit the ball hard against Freeland.
Trea Turner sat out yesterday’s game as he is mired in a bit of a mini-slump after starting the season on a tear. Ubaldo Jimenez is the perfect pitcher for him to face when he returns to the lineup. Jimenez is capable of being a good pitcher, at times, when his command is on. More often that not, however, Jimenez has trouble locating his pitches and is capable of giving out a lot of free passes. Turner’s value in this matchup, in addition to the upside he provides with the bat, is that Jimenez is awful at holding runners. If Turner gets on base, he should be on third base within 2 or 3 pitches with a home run worth of fantasy points. Steals are easier to predict than home runs, so Turner is one of my favorite hitters on the entire slate.
Gary Sanchez is back for the Yankees and he will get to face Tim Adleman in Great American Park. Adleman has done some things well this season, but he has not stopped giving up home runs- something that he struggled with when he came up to the Reds last season. This season, Adleman is allowing 1.69 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters and is tied with Robbie Ray for the most hard contact allowed to righties on the slate. This is not new to Adleman, as he has allowed over 40 percent hard contact to righties since last season. Sanchez, of course, has plenty of power against right-handed pitching and is playing in a great ballpark for hitters.
Jake Lamb has a matchup that, on paper, looks worse than it is. Justin Verlander was very good against lefties last season, but is having some struggles with them this year although it is not showing up in the stats yet. Verlander is not throwing his changeup this season which is one of the most effective ways to neutralize hitters of the opposing handedness. The result is that his strikeouts are down and, more importantly, he is inducing just 6.5 percent soft contact against lefties while allowing 37.1 percent hard contact. His swinging strikes are down across the board and Lamb can do a lot of damage in Chase Field where the altitude and dimensions help him as much as anyone. He is an excellent GPP option.
Nick Castellanos gets a huge ballpark boost going to Chase Field and he is still underpriced because his results have not yet caught up to how hard he is hitting the ball. Castellanos ranks 13th in average exit velocity and 5th in total barrels so far this season, and will be facing Robbie Ray who, while a great strikeout pitcher, is susceptible to giving up hard contact to righties and tends to struggle more in Chase Field that on the road. Since the start of 2015, Castellanos has a .221 ISO and just 12.2 percent soft contact against lefties. He will likely go unowned because of the tough matchup but he has a ton of upside as a pivot from Kris Bryant.
Avisail Garcia has gotten off to a hot start this season and will face Hector Santiago. Garcia has made hard contact 48 percent of the time against lefties so far this season and Santiago is home run prone when he does not have good command of his fastball. Outfield is, of course, very deep on this slate but Garcia is in a good spot to hit a home run for a reasonable price.
Patrick Kivlehan gets to face a home-run prone lefty in Cincinnati. Kivlehan does not have much major league experience yet, but he is a near-minimum priced right-handed bat that is in a good hitting environment facing C.C. Sabathia, who has struggled with allowing home runs to righties. On a slate this big it is unlikely that Kivlehan carries much ownership, so he makes sense as a punt one-off in tournaments if you are trying to fit Scherzer with some other expensive bats.
Yonder Alonso is absolutely crushing the ball and I think that we can expect it to continue, despite his name conjuring up images of a slap-hitting first baseman. He made a conscious effort to refine his swing this offseason in an attempt to hit more hard flyballs and it is working. His career groundball-to-flyball ratio is 1.34 but, so far this season, it is 0.54. He is also hitting the ball harder than his career averages so far, with 38.6 percent hard contact this season compared to 30.8 percent for his career. His soft contact has decreased from his career average of 15.5 percent to 11.4 percent. The result is that he has already tied his career high in home runs. He remains very cheap across the industry, however, as his consistent low ownership keeps his price down.
The Cubs and Rockies are, of course, two of the top stacks on the slate as they face off in Coors Field. The rainout last night should benefit the Cubs as they have now had time to acclimate to the altitude and their bullpen got a rest. The Cubs are the top stack, as they are facing a pitcher who has just a 5.7 percent swinging strike rate. Not only is Coors a good place to hit home runs, it is hitter friendly because of the massive outfield dimensions that create huge gaps. Any time an offense is going to consistently put the ball in play in Coors, it has the makings of a huge day. The Rockies are also a top stack as John Lackey is not missing a ton of bats this year either, and Coors is just such a great place to hit.
Speaking of great places to hit, the Tigers and Diamondbacks are playing in Chase Field. Verlander and Ray are better than the duo pitching in Colorado, but there are still reasons to like these stacks. First, they should carry no ownership. Second, the hitters are cheaper so you can pay for better pitching if you are looking to do that. As mentioned earlier, Robbie Ray has allowed 50 percent hard contact to righties this season, and 38.9 percent going back to the start of last season. The Tigers have right-handed power throughout their lineup, especially if Ian Kinsler returns to the lineup as expected. The huge boost in ballpark makes up for the difficult matchup for the Tigers bats. On the other side, the Diamondbacks are also a right-handed heavy team and we prefer to target them against lefties. There is a chance, however, that they run out more lefties in this matchup with Verlander who, like I said, is not missing bats this season (7.6 percent swinging strike rate) and is giving up a ton of hard contact and very little soft contact to lefties. Especially on dynamic pricing sites, the Diamondbacks will allow you to do a lot.
The Washington Nationals let everyone down yesterday, but we can go right back to the well against Jimenez. They are especially appealing to stack because, when Jimenez is bad he is really bad. If he is not on his game, there will be baserunners and stolen bases everywhere to go along with the home run opportunities that come from facing someone who does not have command of his pitches. The Nats should be much lower owned tonight than they were last night, but it is another great spot.