MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/12/17

PITCHING

 

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] vs. CHC We’ll discuss Stephen Strasburg in a moment but I’d like to start with deGrom, who offers a steep discount across the industry. deGrom’s last two starts have been dreadful; he surrendered 15 runs on 18 hits across eight forgettable innings, with eight strikeouts and six walks in the process. While on the surface these numbers are alarming, deGrom will not continue to pitch at such an underwhelming pace. If he does, however, deGrom will officially become the most unlucky pitcher in baseball.

Here’s the thing: deGrom is sporting a 3.05 DRA and 3.24 xFIP. His .350 BABIP is well above average and 51 points above his career mark. His 14.7 percent swinging strike rate is a career-best mark by two full percent and ranks fifth among all qualified starters, while his 69.1 percent Contact rate ranks sixth. Moreover, deGrom is experiencing increased fastball velocity, and according to Baseball Prospectus, he is throwing the best four-seamer in all of baseball with a mammoth 37.2 percent whiff/swing rate this season.

Walks have been a problem for deGrom, who is issuing free passes at a career-worst 9.6 percent clip, but that’s been the only glaring weakness in his game this season. He’s boasting elite strikeout totals, has gained, not lost velocity, yet is somehow lugging around a 4.75 ERA through 72 innings of work. Needless to say, I won’t be avoiding deGrom on Monday when he faces a Cubs squad that ranks 24th in wOBA (.307) vs. right-handed pitching. The Cubs have been far from impressive this season, and have now seen their K-rate rise to 22.3 percent.

With upside in mind, deGrom is far underpriced across the industry. There’s clearly some blowup risk here, as evidenced by recent starts, but I’m more than willing to roll the dice on a pitcher capable of racking up 13 strikeouts in any given matchup.

 

Stephen Strasburg [RHP – WAS] vs. ATL Strasburg is arguably enjoying the best season of his career. At the least, he’s enjoying the best stretch of baseball for his career, with 41 strikeouts and five earned runs allowed over his last four starts (27.2 IP). Strasburg has surrendered more than three runs in only one of his first 12 starts, while failing to pitch six-plus innings only once in the process (5.2IP/0ER/5K). Actually, Strasburg lasted seven or more innings only 10 times in 2016. He has already pitched seven-plus innings eight times this season in half as many starts. His 27.6 percent K-rate, 11.5 percent swinging strike rate and 21.3 percent soft-hit rate are all fantastic marks, while his 2.18 DRA serves as one of the premiere numbers in baseball.

Strasburg has already faced the Braves twice in 2017, striking them out at an elite 36.2 percent clip despite their 19.4 percent strikeout rate against right-handed pitching. Atlanta’s splits vs. RHP have taken a turn for the worse since Freddie Freeman hit the shelf, as they now rank 22nd in wOBA (.312) and 29th in ISO (.138) through two-plus months. Strasburg is a massive -222 ML favorite at home, while the Braves own the night’s lowest implied run total at 3.6. He won’t come cheap, but it’s hard to argue against rostering Strasburg on a night where pitching is rather thin. Some severely underpriced hitters on DraftKings and FantasyDraft makes pairing Strasburg and deGrom a very realistic approach on Monday night.

 

Jameson Taillon [RHP – PIT] vs. COL Jameson Taillon will make his first major-league start since being diagnosed with testicular cancer only five weeks back. He made three minor-league rehab starts, ramping up his pitch count in each and looking more dominant than ever. Taillon allowed five runs in his final tuneup appearance, but struck out nine batters across six innings and 97 pitches thrown. Overall, Taillon struck out 21 batters in 14 innings and showed no signs of struggle at the Triple-A level. He’ll face a Rockies team on Monday that boasts more talent than any minor-league squad, but owns league average numbers away from Coors and baseball’s ninth highest K-rate (23.6%) this season.

Taillon’s strikeout totals in the majors haven’t been illustrious, but we know he can pull the string when necessary. He sits on a 95 MPH four-seamer and two-seamer, of which the former misses bats and the latter induces ground balls at a 61 percent clip. Taillon has begun to throw more two-seam changeups, too, as a way to pair spin and arm speed in order to get batters out in front. Those results should become apparent as he moves forward in 2017. Taillon poses some risk on Monday in his first major-league start in over a month, but he’s a quality right-hander who will take the mound inside one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball. He makes for a fine pairing with Strasburg and deGrom if you aren’t inclined to pay for both of your pitchers.

 

Joe Musgrove [RHP – HOU] vs. TEX Musgrove was purely a control pitcher in 2016, which got him into trouble when he wasn’t hitting spots. 2017 has been slightly different, though, as he’s been missing more bats (10.7 SwStr%) and getting more whiffs/swing on his secondary pitches (39% CH/38.1% CU). Musgrove will never be a strikeout artist, but he should offer higher-than-usual upside against the Rangers, who strike out at the fifth highest clip away from Arlington (25.4%) and rank 25th in wOBA (.294) on the road.

Musgrove is actually favored over Yu Darvish on Monday — a testament to how well the Astros have been hitting — while the Rangers own one of the lowest implied run totals (4.0) on this 9-game slate. There’s some risk associated with rostering Musgrove, but at a very reasonable price point I can see why he’d warrant some appeal.

 

FADE: Yu Darvish [RHP – TEX] @ HOU That $8,800 price tag on DraftKings sure is enticing, but I’d urge you to consider the downside before taking the bait on Darvish. The Astros not only rank second in baseball with a .350 wOBA vs. right-handed pitching, but they’re striking out at a league-low 18.1 percent clip. With power littered throughout their lineup and a favorable park to hit in, Houston could once again lay waste to their opposition. I’ll personally be avoiding Darvish despite the ultra-low salary, as he’ll almost certainly get into some trouble in this bottom-two matchup.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Mookie Betts [OF – R]/Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] vs. Eickhoff [RHP] Handedness shouldn’t matter much on Monday when the Red Sox take on Jerad Eickhoff inside a scorching hot Fenway Park. Game-time temperatures will be hovering around 91 degrees on a night where Boston owns a slate-high 6.7-run implied total at home. I was actually considering Rick Porcello [RHP – BOS] as a viable mid-range pitching option until noticing the weather and over-under in Boston, where it appears hitters will have the upper hand.

Eickhoff has experienced some serious regression this year, lugging around a 4.71 xFIP, 8.5 percent swinging strike rate and a greatly inflated 8.5 percent walk rate through 64.2 innings pitched. He’s also generating only 39 percent fly balls, which won’t play well on Monday. Eickhoff has primarily struggled against left-handed hitters, allowing a robust .361 wOBA, .218 ISO and 1.47 HR/9 across 166 TBF.

Mitch Moreland [1B – L] becomes a very appealing play based on those numbers, and a Red Sox stack is definitely on the table. I prefer lefties against Eickhoff, but Betts is too fairly priced to ignore across the industry. Overall, you’re going to want some exposure here, whether it’s to Benintendi, Betts, Moreland or even Jackie Bradley Jr., who appears to be heating up at the bottom of the order.

 

Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP] Foltynewicz has undeniably been better this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s impervious to getting rocked by one of baseball’s top hitters. Left-handed bats are still touching Folty up to the tune of a .342 wOBA this season, with a 34 percent hard-hit rate and 11.1 percent soft-hit rate thus far (6th worst in baseball). Harper’s .448 wOBA and .358 ISO vs. RHP is elite, accompanied by his 44 percent flyball rate and Goliath 26.9 percent HR/FB rate. If you’re paying up for non-Red Sox hitters, Harper needs to be at the top of your list.

 

Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Gallardo [RHP] Sano is my top-ranked third baseman on a night where the Twins own a massive 5.6-run implied total at home against the decrepit Yovani Gallardo. Seattle’s veteran right-hander has been tortured by same-handed hitting this season, serving up a .407 wOBA, .226 ISO and 2.30 HR/9. He induces ground balls at a respectable clip, but is allowing 38 percent hard contact and 27.6 percent HR/FB across 145 righties faced.

Sano not only leads the league in average exit velocity (96.3 MPH), but ranks first in hard-hit rate (51.3%) and fourth in Barrels (25) this season. He’s hammering righties (.411/.288 wOBA/ISO) in all facets of the game, but what’s most impressive is his 32.5 percent HR/FB rate despite hitting 45.5 percent fly balls. You know what to do here — Sano makes for a top play in all formats across the industry, and I’ll be making a concerted effort to work him into almost every lineup.

 

Michael Conforto [OF – L]/Jay Bruce [1B/OF – L] vs. Lackey [RHP] Lackey has been downright disastrous vs. LHH this season, coughing up a .366 wOBA and .255 ISO with an 18.6 percent K-rate and 2.35 HR/9. Lefties are hitting him hard, too, with a 38 percent hard-hit rate and 12.5 percent soft-hit rate in 2017. He should struggle against a Mets squad that boasts a lefty-heavy lineup with plenty of power (.190 ISO/7th) and a top-10 wOBA (.326) vs. RHP. Bruce, Conforto and Lucas Duda [1B – L] should all warrant consideration at their respective price points on a night where most expensive bats don’t garner much appeal.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Nelson Cruz [OF – R] @ Mejia [LHP]; Daniel Murphy [2B – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP]; Xander Bogaerts [SS – R] vs. Eickhoff [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Jose Abreu [1B – R] vs. Miley [LHP] Abreu is dismantling left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .478 wOBA and .233 ISO, while his 49 percent hard-hit rate ranks seventh among all qualified major-league hitters. Temperatures will be high in Chicago tonight, hovering around 89 degrees at first pitch, and this game owns a behemoth 10.5-run over-under at the time of writing. So while Wade Miley has been mildly impressive through two-plus months, Monday’s road tilt against the White Sox could spell trouble.

Not only will the heat and hitter-friendly conditions at Guaranteed Rate Field be working against Miley, but Chicago’s league-leading .353 wOBA vs. southpaws should make for additional problems. Abreu is affordably priced across the industry and draws the platoon advantage in one of the highest projected scoring games on the night. Count me in. Todd Frazier [3B – R] and Avisail Garcia [OF – R] also make plenty of sense at their respective positions, as both offer ample upside against left-handed arms. Chicago owns the fourth highest implied run total on Monday’s slate (5.3), so there are more than a few ways to approach this team in GPPs.

 

Mitch Haniger [OF – R] @ Mejia [LHP] Haniger hasn’t seen many major-league plate appearances vs. left-handed pitching so we don’t have many stats to go by. What we do have, however, is Adalberto Mejia’s dreadful splits vs. right-handed hitters and Seattle’s 5-run implied total on Monday night. Target Field isn’t the most hitter-friendly venue in baseball, but it’s certainly an upgrade from Safeco Field. Haniger hasn’t seen many southpaws in his short career, but he’s hitting a ton of fly balls when he does. He’s very affordably priced across the board, and becomes a stellar mid-range option at the top of this Mariners lineup.

 

Brian Dozier [2B – R] vs. Gallardo [RHP] Dozier has been rather dismal against same-handed pitching this season, but Monday’s home tilt with Yovani Gallardo should remedy those troubles. As earlier noted, Gallardo has been downright putrid vs. righties, allowing a wOBA north of .400 and well over two home runs per nine innings. With Minnesota owning a massive 5.6-run implied total against the ineffective righty, there’s no reason to avoid Dozier at the top of this lineup. Second base is a weak enough position to target him at a mid-range price point and move on without hesitation.

 

Adam Lind [1B – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP] I’ll keep this short since we don’t know whether or not Ryan Zimmerman will be back in the Nationals lineup tonight. If his back keeps him sidelined for the fourth straight day, Lind would step in at first base. Lind has been outstanding against right-handed pitching this season with a .421 wOBA and .296 ISO, while making hard contact at a 40 percent clip. If he gets the spot start against the shaky Foltynewicz, we should certainly consider him at an appealing mid-range cost. First base is deep at the middle tier, though, so I’d want to see Lind batting in the middle of this Nationals order before deploying him.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Odubel Herrera [OF – L] @ Porcello [RHP]; Joey Gallo [3B – L] @ Musgrove [RHP] [GPP]; Neil Walker [2B – L/R] vs. Lackey [RHP] [FanDuel]; Wil Myers [1B – R] vs. Arroyo [RHP]; Danny Valencia [1B – R] @ Mejia [LHP]; Mike Zunino [C – R] @ Mejia [LHP]; Max Kepler [OF – L] vs. Gallardo [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Jose Pirela [2B – R] vs. Arroyo [RHP] Second base is a weak position on Monday. Bronson Arroyo is a weak pitcher every day. Need I say more? Seriously, Arroyo has been so putrid in every facet of the game that I’m amazed by him still getting starts. He’s allowing 2.08 HR/9 with a 5.07 xFIP vs. RHH, including a .383 wOBA and .264 ISO against. Even Petco Park can’t save Arroyo, and neither can this matchup with a piss-poor Padres offense.

Pirela has been electric since being inserted into San Diego’s lineup, as he has now homered in back-to-back games out of the leadoff spot and is 11-22 on the season with five extra-base hits. At a near minimum salary price point across the board I’ll be more than happy to deploy him against the league’s worst active righty. If you aren’t paying a premium at second base, don’t hesitate to punt with Pirela in a sterling matchup.

 

Austin Hedges [C – R] vs. Arroyo [RHP] I’m not against paying a bit extra for Mike Zunino [C – R] if he’s batting seventh on Monday, but Hedges makes for a stellar punt if you don’t intend on paying at the position. Hedges isn’t going to hit for average, but he’s certainly proven capable of hitting for power against right-handed pitching, which he’s hit 10 of his 11 home runs off of this season (.264 ISO). Hedges also hasn’t been hampered by the spacious confines of Petco Park, as seven of his 11 home runs have come at home. I’ll likely have ample exposure to Hedges against Arroyo, who as earlier noted, shouldn’t even be in a major-league rotation at 40 years of age. Believe it or not, 84-MPH fastballs don’t exactly play well no matter the venue.

Elias Diaz [C – R] also makes sense if he continues to bat fifth against the left-handed Freeland. Diaz came into the league as a backstop who had virtually no power, viewed as a hit-for-average backstop with not much more to offer. Across 34 at bats, however, Diaz has racked up a respectable five extra-base hits, and has now recorded multiple hits in all five of his starts this month. I’ll definitely be targeting him at a weak catcher position if he draws the start against Freeland. Freeland has been solid in his rookie campaign, but he doesn’t generate strikeouts and is susceptible to getting hit vs. opposite-handed bats.

 

Maikel Franco [3B – R] @ Porcello [RHP] Franco hasn’t been good this season, but there’s absolutely no way he should be priced at $2,400 on DraftKings. We can’t blame everything on bad luck, but Franco’s .216 BABIP certainly isn’t sustainable, and neither is his unsightly .258 wOBA. The young third baseman is more than capable of hitting for power, and Rick Porcello is no stranger to allowing home runs.

On the year, Porcello is ceding a .354 wOBA and 1.50 HR/9 to right-handed bats, while coughing up 40 percent hard contact in the process. With game-time temperatures hovering around 92 degrees at Fenway Park, it’ll be difficult to ignore Franco at a near minimum salary cost. The only reason I’m not heavier on Franco is Miguel Sano, who makes for a top overall play on Monday’s 9-game slate.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Guillermo Heredia [OF – R] @ Mejia [LHP]; Sandy Leon [C – L/R] vs. Eickhoff [RHP] [GPP]; Jose Osuna [1B/OF – R] vs. Freeland [LHP]

 

TOURNAMENT STACKS

 

Baltimore Orioles @ Pelfrey [RHP] The Orioles should go overlooked on Monday, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for fading them in cash. That being said, they are ridiculously underpriced on DraftKings in a matchup with Mike Pelfrey. This game owns a Goliath 10.5-run over-under with temperatures rising at Guaranteed Rate field. You can actually deploy a five-player Orioles stack with both Strasburg and deGrom on DraftKings. If Pelfrey happens to implode, you could be on your way to winning GPPs with this strategy.

 

Minnesota Twins vs. Gallardo [RHP] The bulk of Minnesota’s power comes from the right side of the plate, which makes this matchup against Gallardo ideal. Max Kepler and Robbie Grossman make for solid plays from the left side of the plate, while Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier are two of the top options at their respective positions. The Twins’ 5.6-run implied total must be the highest they’ve seen on the season.

 

Philadelphia Phillies @ Porcello [RHP] We already know the Boston Red Sox make for the night’s top stack (6.7 TT), but the Phillies should go ignored despite playing in the same conditions. Porcello has struggled this season, allowing plenty of power from both sides of the plate. He’ll be pitching in sky-high temperature at the hitter-friendly Fenway Park, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle. Much like the Orioles, you can stack Phillie bats and pay for two top-end pitchers with relative ease.

 

The Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals all make for high-upside stacks, but they won’t be nearly as low-owned as either the Orioles or Phillies. That said, I’ll have plenty of each, as it’s impossible to overlook their matchups — especially Miley and