MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/20/17
Chris Sale is far and away the top pitcher on an underwhelming slate for pitchers, despite the presence of 15 games. Sale has been elite this season, striking out 35.2 percent of hitters that he has faced (first among qualified starters), with a 16.1 percent swinging strike percentage (first among qualified starters) and a 35.7 percent o-swing percentage (6th among qualified starters). Sale will face off against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, which is a ballpark boost for Sale. The Royals have struck out just 17.6 percent of the time against left-handed pitching this season, but they have also been below average offensively with a .305 wOBA and 86 wRC+. Over the last 14 days, Kansas City has struck out 22.7 percent of the time with a 13.5 percent swinging strike percentage and a 33.8 percent o-swing percentage. Sale is catching them at a good time as they have had a less disciplined approach at the plate which has resulted in more offensive production (.349 wOBA and 116 wRC+ over the last 14 days) but gives Sale more strikeout upside. Sale has been elite against hitters from both sides of the plate, striking out 28.9 percent of lefties with a .310 xwOBA allowed and striking out 36.1 percent of righties with a .239 xwOBA allowed.
Zack Greinke, in my opinion, is the highest upside pitcher on the slate outside of Chris Sale. Greinke has been phenomenal this season. He has the fifth-highest strikeout percentage (29.1 percent), the fourth-highest swinging strike percentage (13.9 percent) and the second-highest o-swing percentage (36.8 percent) among qualified starters this season. He is pitching in Coors Field, which is obviously a dangerous park for any pitcher, but he plays his home games at Chase Field in Arizona which is one of the best places to hit outside of Coors Field. Greinke primarily relies on a four-seam fastball, a slider and a change-up, so his pitch mix is less vulnerable to the altitude than other pitchers who rely more on curveballs and pitches with vertical movement. Greinke carries plenty of risk in this matchup and is not a recommended cash game option, but it is worth noting that his salary is down across the industry as a result of the matchup. With the risk baked in to his price, he makes for a very appealing tournament option because of his upside. While it is early and I have not yet built any lineups, it would be surprising if any of my tournament lineups do not have at least one of Chris Sale or Zack Greinke tonight.
Brandon McCarthy jumps off the page as an SP2 option on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, where he is priced too low. McCarthy has limited upside in terms of raw points because Dave Roberts does not allow him to go deep into games- he has not thrown more than 90 pitches in any of his last five starts. McCarthy is a good pitcher, however, and 85-90 pitches should be enough for him to post good enough results to justify a $6,400 price tag on a slate where mid-tier pitching is lacking. McCarthy’s strikeout numbers are nothing to get excited about- he has struck out 20.3 percent of hitters with a 9.0 percent swinging strike percentage- but his o-swing percentage of 34.6 percent suggests that his stuff is good and that he is capable of fooling hitters. He has done a very good job of limiting quality contact against him, as lefties have a 24.3 percent hard contact rate and a 29.9 percent soft contact rate and righties have a 22.7 percent hard contact rate with 21.3 percent soft contact. His xwOBA allowed is almost identical to lefties and righties, at .268 to lefties and .266 to righties. McCarthy is an excellent SP2 in any format.
Francisco Liriano is a tournament pivot off McCarthy if the weather in Texas cooperates and it is a cooler than normal night in Texas. Liriano is incredibly risky and we prefer rostering him at home, but Texas offers plenty of strikeout upside if Liriano is on his game because they are a team that will chase pitches out of the strike zone and swing and miss frequently. The spot is probably a little too risky for me to personally have exposure but, especially in lower dollar, large-field tournaments, Liriano makes some sense since he offers massive upside at low ownership and that is what you need to outscore 50,000+ other lineups.
Mike Montgomery is my preferred tournament pivot in the lower price tier. The San Diego Padres lineup is full of strike outs and it does not appear that the wind is blowing out at Wrigley. There are some quality right-handed hitters in the Padres lineup, but Montgomery is cheap enough that he can afford to give up a couple of runs and still produce a very nice line for his price. He threw 88 pitches in his last start after throwing 73 in his previous one, so he should be fully stretched out for tonight’s start. He has below average strikeout numbers this season, with just an 18.5 percent strikeout percentage and 8.8 percent swinging strike percentage but, at $5,500 on DraftKings, he is a viable tournament option against the strikeout-happy Padres.
Jake Lamb is a better hitter at home than on the road, but that should not be something we are concerned about during this series in Colorado since Coors Field is at even higher altitude than Chase Field and balls there will carry a long way. Lamb is expensive, but will face German Marquez who seems like he should be giving up more home runs to lefties than he is. He has allowed just 0.68 home runs per 9 innings to lefties, despite a 35.4 percent hard contact rate and just 12.7 percent soft contact. His home run per flyball percentage is just 6.9 percent, which also suggests that he should be allowing more home runs. Lamb is a strong option if you are looking to pay all the way up for a bat.
Anthony Rizzo is one of a couple of power-hitting Cubs who should have success today against Jhoulys Chacin. Chacin is very good against right-handed hitters, but struggles against lefties. He has allowed a .357 xwOBA to lefties this season with 2.3 home runs per 9 innings. Rizzo has a .395 xwOBA and .214 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and is a very strong play tonight.
Josh Donaldson will be facing a righty, but it will be in the hitter-friendly confines in Texas. While Nick Martinez manages to keep teams from doing too much damage against him in most of his starts, he is home run prone. He has allowed 2.43 home runs per 9 innings to righties this season and Donaldson is hitting the ball very well since his return from the disabled list. Over the last 14 days, Donaldson has the fourth-highest hard contact percentage among qualified hitters at 60.0 percent with just 10.0 percent soft contact. Donaldson has a .291 ISO and .363 xwOBA against right-handed pitching this season and is in a great spot against Martinez.
Eric Thames is in a great matchup for what feels like the fifth or sixth consecutive day. While Chad Kuhl’s numbers against righties are very good- and I am sure we will hear more about them later when I join DraftCheat on the Deeper Dive- he struggles against lefties. Kuhl has allowed a .334 xwOBA to lefties with 1.67 home runs per nine innings this season and he will have to face Thames at Miller Park, which is a much better place to hit than Kuhl’s home park in Pittsburgh. Thames has a .333 ISO against righties in his first season back from Korea and makes for a strong play in any format. He is particularly valuable on DraftKings and FantasyDraft since it is possible to roster other first basemen alongside him.
Brandon Drury may go somewhat overlooked tonight even though he is playing in Coors Field. Drury usually bats sixth for the Diamondbacks and he tends to be an under-owned part of Diamondbacks stacks even when Arizona is popular. German Marquez has allowed 1.32 home runs per nine innings to righties this season and he has a higher xwOBA against righties than lefties at .330 compared to .296 against lefties. Drury, somewhat surprisingly, has a .340 xwOBA against right-handed pitching this season and, since the start of June, that number is all the way up to .436. Drury has the third-highest hard contact percentage among qualified hitters over the last 14 days at 62.5 percent with just 9.4 percent soft contact and he makes for an excellent second base option on a pretty deep slate for second basemen.
Speaking of second base options, Brian Dozier gets to face off against Derek Holland. Holland showed some flashes of potential earlier in the season, but quickly returned to his normal form where he cannot get righties out and gives up a ton of hard contact and home runs. He has allowed 2.04 home runs per nine innings to righties this year with 42.1 percent hard contact. He has allowed a .382 xwOBA to righties this season in addition to the home runs. Dozier has hit very well against lefties over the years, and this year is no different as he has a .413 xwOBA and a .256 ISO against southpaws.
J.D. Martinez and the Tigers will face left-hander Ariel Miranda in Seattle. Miranda is a decent pitcher, but he is prone to the long-ball. He has allowed 1.89 home runs per nine innings to righties this season and Martinez has been destroying baseballs since his return from the disabled list. He has a 60.0 percent hard contact percentage over the last 14 days and a .279 ISO against lefties since the start of last season.
Nick Castellanos gets the same home run friendly matchup against Ariel Miranda that J.D. Martinez has, and Castellanos is available for just $3,500 on DraftKings, $2,800 on FanDuel and $6,800 on FantasyDraft. He will most likely hit second in the order with the lefty on the mound. Since the start of last season, Castellanos has a .231 ISO and .364 xwOBA against lefties and he has a 52.6 percent hard contact with just 2.6 percent soft contact over the last 14 days. He is an elite value option with a ton of upside tonight.
Ian Happ gets the same great matchup with Jhoulys Chacin as Anthony Rizzo. Happ has a .357 xwOBA against right-handed pitching with a .325 ISO against righties since being called up to the major leagues for the first time earlier this season. Second base is surprisingly deep tonight, but Happ is a strong option.
Jason Kipnis faces Chris Tillman and, perhaps more importantly, the Orioles bullpen tonight in Camden Yards. Kipnis started out slowly this season as he dealt with injuries, but he has turned things around nicely. Since the start of June, Kipnis has a .388 xwOBA against right-handed pitching and tonight he will face Chris Tillman, who has looked absolutely awful this season, and an Orioles bullpen that is missing two of their three best arms in Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. It also looks like it is expected to be warm and humid in Baltimore tonight which should help the hitters.
Brandon Belt was moved down to 7th in the lineup yesterday and hopefully that was a temporary move. Belt has a .404 xwOBA against right-handed pitching this season and goes largely overlooked because he plays in the worst hitter’s park in baseball. Tonight’s game is in hitter-friendly Atlanta and he will be facing Julio Teheran who has had trouble with left-handed hitters throughout his career. This season, Teheran is allowing 2.34 home runs per nine innings with a .370 xwOBA against lefties. Belt is also 7-12 with 2 home runs and 2 strikeouts against Teheran in his career, with an average exit velocity of 97.9 miles per hour on 3 batted balls in the last 2 seasons.
Arizona Diamondbacks- The Diamondbacks are expensive and it will be tough (or impossible, I am not sure) to stack them with Chris Sale. They are in a nice spot, however, as German Marquez is a decent, but not great, pitcher and the Diamondbacks have plenty of power in their lineup. The Rockies bullpen has struggled lately, posting the fourth-highest xFIP in the majors over the last 30 days. It probably goes without saying, but the Diamondbacks are a top option.
Cleveland Indians– The Orioles are absolutely terrible right now. They are in the process of trying to make history, as they have allowed opposing teams to score at least 5 runs in 16 consecutive games- leaving them four games shy of the major league record. The starting pitching has been terrible and, even when the starters have been able to hold it together, the bullpen has been awful as they struggle without Darren O’Day or Zach Britton. The weather looks good for hitters tonight in Baltimore and the Indians have upside throughout their lineup that lets you get creative with your stacks. Fire them up at will.
Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles will benefit from the same hitting conditions as the Indians, against Josh Tomlin who has allowed 1.47 home runs per nine innings to righties this season. Tomlin has allowed a .359 xwOBA to righties and the Orioles lineup will most likely have seven of them. Seth Smith at the top also has plenty of power and can do damage against Tomlin. The downside to an Orioles stack is that the Indians bullpen is good, so it will be tough for the Orioles to add on runs in the late innings.
New York Yankees- The Yankees return to Yankees stadium from their west coast trip. They will face rookie right-hander Parker Bridwell. Bridwell appears to be a decent pitcher based on his minor league numbers, but the Yankees have way too much power up and down their lineup to expect Bridwell to succeed in this spot. In a very limited sample size, Bridwell has allowed 50.0 percent hard contact against righties with a .535 xwOBA. Obviously, those numbers will not last, but he has not been great against righties in his brief time in the big leagues. The Yankees are in a nice spot and currently have the highest implied run total on the slate.