MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/16/17
Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] @ NYM – The Mets are in trouble. Not only has their pitching staff been decimated by injuries, but now Neil Walker joins Michael Conforto and Asdrubal Cabrera on the shelf. New York’s left-handed presence is no longer formidable, and that should work in Scherzer’s favor tonight. On the season, Scherzer is holding right-handed hitters to a miniscule .172 wOBA with a 1.56 xFIP and an unfathomable 44 percent K-BB rate (47% K, 3% BB). Lefties have found some success against him, but the Mets will be without at least three of their top-five left-handed bats on Friday night. Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda will likely be the only two opposite-handed bats to pose any threat at Citi Field.
Through nearly three months, Scherzer ranks second in swinging strike rate (15.6%), contact rate (69.5%) and K-BB rate (29.2%) behind only Chris Sale. Against righties, however, Scherzer leads the league in K-rate (47%) by a massive margin, and has been virtually unhittable across 168 total batters faced. New York unsurprisingly owns the lowest implied run total (3.5) on Friday’s 15-game slate, making Scherzer the top overall pitching option across the board. Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes hardly create much concern from the left side of the dish.
Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] @ OAK – Jordan Montgomery didn’t have his best stuff on Thursday, allowing four runs to the A’s in 5.2 innings of uninspiring work. He wasn’t terrible, but he failed to take advantage of such a strong matchup despite recording a 14.5 percent swinging strike rate on the night. Severino will draw an opportunity to redeem the Yankees’ rotation on Friday, where he’s a -129 ML road favorite against an Oakland squad that owns the second lowest implied run total (3.8) on this 15-game slate.
Severino relies primarily on a fastball/slider combination to work his magic. The four-seamer sits around 97 MPH and leads the league in velocity, while his slider is thrown hard and generates an incredible amount of ground balls (71.2%). Severino’s changeup isn’t special, but he’s throwing it enough to limit predictability.
Oakland is striking out at a 24.6 percent clip vs. right-handed pitching this season, good for third most in baseball. They offer no shortage of power from either side of the plate, but Severino has done an impressive job of limiting hard contact (28.6% HH) and fly balls (28.6% FB) and ranks among the league leaders in both of those categories. This game will also take place at O.Co, which serves as a much friendlier venue for right-handed pitchers than Yankee Stadium. I don’t see any reason to avoid Severino on Friday night, and will look to pair him with Scherzer where at all possible.
Joe Biagini [RHP – TOR] vs. CWS – Biagini has come back down to earth following a few stellar outings to begin the year, but that shouldn’t take him out of play on Friday night. The 27-year-old right-hander has thrown 95-plus pitches in each of his last three starts, and while the results haven’t been spectacular, they certainly haven’t been troubling, either. Biagini has combined to pitch 20 innings of six-run ball with 18 strikeouts over that three-game stretch, last six-plus innings with five-plus strikeouts in each of those games.
Biagini’s numbers are perfectly acceptable for a pitcher in his price range, as he’s sporting a 21.4 percent K-rate, 5.4 percent BB-rate and 9.2 percent swinging strike rate across 56 innings pitched. He boasts a 3.52 xFIP and is ceding only .48 HR/9, while also inducing ground balls at an excellent 59.4 percent clip.
I have no problem targeting Biagini against a White Sox team that ranks 28th in wOBA (.302), 24th in ISO (.150), 10th in K-rate (22.8%) and 30th in BB-rate (6.1%) vs. right-handed pitching. Chicago has looked better of late, but the bulk of their production has come against left-handed arms. They boast virtually no presence from the left side of the plate, which is led by Melky Cabrera, Yolmer Sanchez and Omar Narvaez.
Biagini is a heavy favorite at home (-162 ML), where the White Sox own the third lowest implied run total (3.9) of any team on Friday’s slate. He should receive some run support, too, as the righty-heavy Blue Jays square off against a struggling southpaw in Jose Quintana. At $6,900 on DraftKings and $13,800 on FantasyDraft, Biagini makes for an ideal pairing with Scherzer or Severino this evening.
James Paxton [LHP – SEA] @ TEX – Paxton was going to be a tournament-oriented target of mine on Friday until I saw the temperatures in Arlington. At the time of first pitch, temperatures will be hovering around 95 degrees at Globe Life Park, conditions that could affect even the most talented of pitchers like Paxton. I’m still intrigued by Paxton on a night where he faces a Rangers team that ranks 28th in wOBA (.285) and leads the league in K-rate (27%) vs. left-handed pitching, but sky-high temperatures and a 10-run over-under certainly curb the appeal.
Paxton has only allowed two home runs across 52 innings and owns a bottom-20 hard contact rate in 2017, so there are some encouraging signs here. He’s clearly one of the premier pitchers in baseball, but he’ll have to battle through some miserable conditions in Texas. If you’re willing to take the risk, Paxton could offer significant upside and will carry ultra-low ownership against the Rangers. He’d be a cash game lock if this game was being played in Seattle.
Junior Guerra [RHP – MIL] and Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] are two punts worth considering on Friday. Neither are particularly safe options pitching inside hitter-friendly venues, but both garner some appeal in their respective matchups. These two righties have flashed enough upside to warrant consideration at a low-$6K salary on DraftKings.
Guerra faces a Padres team that ranks 29th in wOBA (.299) and leads the league in K-rate (25.8%) vs. right-handed pitching. Their left-handed presence is virtually nonexistent, and now that Ryan Schimpf has been optioned to Triple-A the Padres are devoid of power from the left side of the dish. Guerra has displayed some reverse splits over his short career, but this matchup still proves favorable for any right-handed arm.
Nola draws a matchup with the Diamondbacks, who on paper appear to be far more formidable than they’ve actually been away from Chase Field. Believe it or not, Arizona ranks dead last in wOBA (.287) and 27th in ISO (.145) on the road, while their 25 percent K-rate is tied with Baltimore for fifth highest in baseball. They own the fourth lowest implied run total (4.1) on this 15-game slate, and could struggle against Nola if he has his better stuff. With Patrick Corbin on the bump for the D-Backs, I could see Nola getting plenty of run support early on, and he won’t need to turn in a dominant performance in order to pay off such a discounted price point across the board.
Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Samardzija [RHP] – This should come as no surprise to anyone, but Charlie Blackmon is the top overall hitting option on Friday night. Not only does Blackmon draw a matchup inside Coors Field, where he’s sporting a .525/.444 wOBA/ISO this season, but he’s facing a righty in Jeff Samardzija who’s been hammered by left-handed bats. On the year, Samardzija is allowing a .347 wOBA to LHH with a .258 ISO and 1.87 HR/9. Samardzija has been the recipient of some bad luck at times, but Coors Field won’t do much to remedy those troubles. Blackmon’s splits vs. right-handed pitching are stellar across the board (.410 wOBA, .285 ISO, 46.1% FB, 37.5$ HH), and he will almost certainly add to those brilliant numbers on Friday night.
NOTE: I’m not especially bullish on a Rockies stack tonight, as Samardzija has stymied right-handed hitters through the first few months of the year. Not only is he holding them to a .270 wOBA, but Shark’s 2.69 xFIP and .64 HR/9 allowed are among some of the best marks in baseball. Coors Field can turn any pitcher upside down, but if Samardzija performs even half as well as he’s done this season, the Rockies could struggle to generate runs with their heavy right-handed attack.
Trea Turner [SS – R] @ Matz [LHP]/Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Adleman [RHP] – I usually don’t advocate spending up at the shortstop position, but Friday’s slate presents us with two excellent options at the top. There are also enough discounted pitchers in play for us to justify paying a premium at shortstop, which is generally one of the weakest available positions.
Turner’s matchup with Steven Matz may not look enticing on the surface, but a closer look would indicate otherwise. Last season, before an elbow injury knocked him out for the year, Matz had allowed 20 stolen bases in 22 starts, good for eighth most in baseball despite his abbreviated campaign. The Matz-d’Arnaud battery has been incapable of holding runners, so if Turner get aboard he’s almost guaranteed to run. Turner ranks second in stolen bases behind only Billy Hamilton, while his nine stolen bases in June leads the entire league.
Seager draws an immensely favorable park shift moving from Dodger Stadium to Great American Ballpark on Friday night. Tim Adleman, in 55.2 innings against left-handed hitters, has allowed a .336 wOBA, .228 ISO and 1.94 HR/9, while lugging around an unsightly 5.68 xFIP in the process. Not only does Adleman lack the stuff to generate strikeouts (17.7 K%), but he’s ceding a 52.7 percent flyball rate to left-handed bats. The Dodgers’ 5.6-run implied total is one of Friday’s highest projected marks, making Seager a clear top option at his position.
Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] can be paired with Seager to create a stellar one-two punch against Adleman. The rookie slugger’s .348 ISO vs. right-handed pitching is superb, as he’s averaging a home run per every 10 at bats (13 HR/132 AB) and boasts an average exit velocity (91.3 MPH) identical to that of Bryce Harper’s.
Josh Donaldson [3B – R] vs. Quintana [LHP] – Year after year, Josh Donaldson has been an absolutely dominant force against left-handed pitching. Since 2013, the power-hitting third baseman is boasting a .427 wOBA, .306 ISO, 45 percent flyball rate and 39 percent hard-hit rate vs. southpaws, while amazing striking out at a mere 14.1 percent clip. I’m willing to consider Donaldson whenever he’s facing a non-Kershaw lefty, especially on Friday when he faces the struggling Quintana inside the homer-happy Rogers Centre.
Quintana has allowed 10 home runs this season, nine of which have come against right-handed bats. He’s coughing up a .346 wOBA to righties while walking them at a 10.4 percent clip. Toronto boasts a 5.1-run implied total at home and is capable of running a nine-righty lineup against the southpaw. Donaldson is one of several viable Blue Jay bats on Friday night, and I’ll be sure to have exposure in both cash games and GPPs.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Nola [RHP]; George Springer [OF – R]/Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Pomeranz [LHP]; Brandon Belt [1B/OF – L] @ Senzatela [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Mike Fiers [RHP]; Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Newcomb [LHP]
Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] vs. vs. Diaz [RHP] – Thames has undoubtedly come back down to earth after an unprecedented start to the season, but he’s still more than capable of torching weak right-handed arms. On the year, Thames is sporting a stellar .429 wOBA, .336 ISO and 43.4 percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP. He’ll face Miguel Diaz on Friday who has been blasted by opposite-handed hitters in limited plate appearances, having already allowed three home runs and a .442 wOBA across 50 TBF.
Diaz will likely be limited to around 50-60 pitches, but even so, San Diego’s bullpen has struggled mightily in 2017. The Brewers own the third highest implied run total on tonight’s slate (5.6) and Thames is very affordably priced across the industry. He makes for a stellar play in all formats against Diaz and the Padres’ inferior relievers.
Matt Carpenter [1B – L] also needs to be considered in a plus matchup with Kevin Gausman. Baltimore’s all-potential righty has never lived up to expectations, and 2017 has been his worst showing yet. Gausman has struggled across the board, and more against righties, but his 6.30 xFIP and near 40 percent flyball rate vs. lefties is enough to place Carpenter firmly in play.
Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Samardzija [RHP] – He’s been bad. He is bad. He is Carlos Gonzalez. He is also dirt cheap at Coors Field against a righty in Samardzija who has struggled against left-handed bats. Not much thought is required here; Gonzalez makes for a top cash game play if he’s in the Rockies’ lineup, as they still own the highest implied run total on this 15-game slate (5.9). As earlier noted, Samardzija’s biggest problems have come against opposite-handed hitters this season, and no matter how bad Gonzalez has been, he remains far too cheap to ignore on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.
Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Ross [RHP] – Triple-A tuneup games are just that — tuneup games. At least that’s what Tyson Ross is telling himself after allowing 16 runs in 18.1 Triple-A innings this season. Ross coughed up three home runs in his final rehab appearance and hit two batters en route to coughing up eight runs on 10 hits across five innings of forgettable work. Now, it’s reasonable to suggest Ross was taking more risks in meaningless outings, but no matter the spin, he didn’t look sharp.
Cano offers a solid mid-range bat at a weak second base position, and the 95-degree temperatures at Globe Life Park certainly don’t hurt his appeal. He’s been more than serviceable vs. right-handed pitching this season (.368 wOBA/.215 ISO), and that’s with half of his plate appearances coming inside the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. With Seattle boasting a 5.4-run implied total inside one of the most homer-happy venues in baseball, both Cano and Kyle Seager [3B – L] warrant consideration at their mid-range price points.
Brandon Crawford [SS – L] @ Senzatela [RHP] – If you aren’t paying for Turner or Seager at shortstop, Crawford should be your pivot. Game-time temperatures will be hovering around 91 degrees at Coors, and Crawford is significantly underpriced on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft. He isn’t the most talented hitter on Friday’s 15-game slate, but he does offer some of the best value against Senzatela. The Rockies’ rookie right-hander has struggled against lefties and isn’t generating any swinging strikes. Crawford is in play by default.
Aaron Altherr [OF – R] vs. Corbin [LHP] – Right-handed Phillie bats make for excellent plays on Friday, whether you use them as one-offs or as a cheap stack in Scherzer/Severino lineups. Altherr has proven capable of smashing left-handed pitching while Tommy Joseph [1B – L] has displayed ample power himself. Corbin is surrendering a Goliath .393 wOBA to righties with a 16 percent K-rate and 1.82 HR/9 allowed. Moreover, Corbin’s 38-percent hard contact allowed to opposite-handed hitters won’t do him any favors inside the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.
HONORABLE MENTION: Denard Span [OF – L] @ Senzatela [RHP]; Dexter Fowler [OF – L/R]/Stephen Piscotty [OF – R] @ Gausman [RHP]; Howie Kendrick [OF – R] vs. Corbin [LHP]; Alex Avila [C/1B – L] vs. Ramirez [RHP]; Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] vs. Ramirez [RHP]
Cameron Rupp [C – R] vs. Corbin [LHP] – On a night where both Max Scherzer and Coors Field are on the schedule, we’ll be forced to punt at least one position. With that being the case, why not punt Cameron Rupp in a spectacular home matchup with Patrick Corbin. As earlier noted, Corbin has been dismal against right-handed bats, allowing nearly two home runs per nine innings while striking them out at a well below-average clip. Rupp doesn’t need to be great, but even an RBI single would be enough to justify the play. Catcher is easily the weakest position on Friday night, so don’t hesitate to punt and move onto first base.
Derek Norris [C – R] is also in play against Daniel Norris for the same reasons Rupp warrants consideration. He’s cheap, offers some power against left-handed pitching, and faces a sub-par southpaw in Detroit.
Eric Sogard [2B/SS – L] vs. Diaz [RHP] – Sogard has been a pleasant surprise this season, boasting a .447 wOBA vs. right-handed pitching across 77 plate appearances. I don’t expect this to continue, but it shouldn’t end on Friday, either, as Sogard will face Miguel Diaz inside the hitter-friendly Miller Park. Sogard’s multi-position eligibility on DraftKings also enhances his value, as second base is relatively weak for a 15-game slate. Milwaukee’s 5.6-run implied total is the third highest projected mark on the night.
Troy Tulowitzki [SS – R] vs. Quintana [LHP] – I’m not a fan of Troy Tulowitzki, but I can appreciate this dirt cheap price point on a night where he faces a struggling lefty. Toronto boasts a 5.2-run implied total at the homer-happy Rogers Centre and are capable of stacking nine right-handed hitters throughout their lineup. If you plan on stacking the Jays or even getting more than just one-off exposure, Tulowitzki makes some sense.
Carlos Santana [1B – L/R] vs. Turley [LHP] – Santana hasn’t been good for about two straight months now, but he also hasn’t been this cheap all season. On a night where rookie left-hander Nik Turley toes the rubber for Minnesota, it’s only appropriate to consider Santana at a bottomed out price point. He doesn’t boast much power against southpaws, but has identical wOBA’s vs. LHP and RHP for his career. I won’t have much Santana tonight, but I also won’t ignore him, either. It’ll be hard to get too excited about him when Miguel Cabrera and Eric Thames are also underpriced at first base, though.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ben Gamel [OF – L] @ Ross [RHP]; Maikel Franco [3B – R]/Andres Blanco [2B/3B – L/R] vs. Corbin [LHP]; Carlos Beltran [OF – L/R] vs. Pomeranz [LHP] [DK GPP]; Victor Martinez [1B – L/R] vs. Ramirez [RHP]