MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/2/17
Clayton Kershaw [LHP – LAD] @ MIL – Kershaw ranks towards the top in almost every relevant statistical category among all qualified starting pitchers this season (50+ IP). His 76 innings pitched are the sixth most in baseball, while his 23.1 percent K-BB rate ranks fifth and his 24.8 percent soft contact rate is the league’s fourth best mark. Kershaw also ranks 12th in swinging strike rate at 12.2 percent. For most pitchers, these marks would be elite. For Kershaw, however, some people are concerned. Here’s the point: Kershaw’s numbers may be down from previous campaigns, but he’s still be fantastic on the bump, allowing a meager average exit velocity of 85.7 MPH while boasting a 2.92 xFIP through his first 11 starts.
Milwaukee is striking out at the third highest clip against left-handed pitching this season (25.4%), and while they’re enjoying above average results when contact is made, the loss of Ryan Braun will continue to hamstring their production. The Brewers are heavy dogs at home (MIL +190), owning a 2.9-run implied total against the world’s best southpaw. Meanwhile, Kershaw is holding right-handed hitters to a nonexistent .239 wOBA this season, and Milwaukee will likely run seven or eight righties out on Friday night. Needless to say, Kershaw is the top overall option on this 14-game slate, and is actually rather easy to play on a night where many positions offer little talent at the top.
Stephen Strasburg [RHP – WAS] @ OAK – Stephen Strasburg is a perfect example of how early-season statistics can be misleading. Over his first 10 starts, Strasburg has faced several teams that simply don’t strike out vs. right-handed pitching, including the Pirates (28th), Mets (27th) and Marlins (20th). If you removed those three starts from his season averages, where he recorded a combined eight strikeouts in total, Strasburg would boast a 34.1 percent K-rate. Now we can’t just pretend those games never happened, but it’s worth noting that Strasburg has fully exploited K-heavy teams in 2017. The Athletics, who strike out at a whopping 25.1 percent clip vs. RHP (3rd), have certainly been one of those teams this season.
Strasburg is arguably enjoying the best season of his career, lasting seven-plus innings in seven of his first 10 starts, while failing to make it through six frames only once (5.2 IP) in that span. For reference, Strasburg lasted seven-plus innings only 10 times last season and eight times in 2015. He’s becoming more efficient on the mound (15.7 P/IP), inducing the most soft contact (23.1%) and the second most ground balls (47.4%) of his career. Strasburg is also holding opposite-handed hitters to a miniscule .215 wOBA with 19.4 percent hard contact and only one home run allowed.
It’s hard to justify paying for Strasburg in cash on a night where Kershaw possesses legitimate 40-plus-DKPT upside, but he does make for an excellent tournament pivot against the A’s. Oakland owns the second lowest implied run total on the night (3.4), and O.Co is one of the friendliest pitcher parks around. With Strasburg appearing as confident and effective as we’ve ever seen him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him rack up double-digit strikeouts for his third straight start.
Dallas Keuchel [LHP – HOU] @ TEX – Before we move onto our second pitcher options for two-pitcher sites, I want to spend a brief moment to discuss Houston’s ace left-hander. Keuchel will go largely overlooked on Friday, but he actually profiles nicely for this road tilt with Texas. Among all qualified pitchers (50+ IP), Keuchel’s 67.6 percent groundball rate leads the league by a ridiculously wide margin. Seldom will you find a pitcher who allows only 18.2 percent fly balls yet still strikes batter out at a 24 percent clip. As a result, Keuchel has tallied 24-plus DraftKings Points in all but three of his 10 starts this season, and currently boasts a flawless 8-0 record through two months of baseball.
The Rangers have been absolutely dreadful against left-handed pitching this season, lugging around a .289 wOBA (25th) and a 25.4 percent K-rate (3rd) across 473 plate appearances. Combine their ineptitude at the dish with Keuchel’s elite groundball rate and above-average strikeouts, and you have yourself a very viable pitching option on Friday night. Furthermore, temperatures won’t be too hot in Arlington tonight, but the hitter-friendly reputation of Globe Life Park should dissuade most people from targeting Keuchel in GPPs. I’ll be sure to have exposure on a night where he possesses legitimate 30-plus-DKPT upside against a far inferior opponent.
Michael Fulmer [RHP – DET] vs. CWS – Fulmer makes for an interesting case study from a fantasy perspective. The 24-year-old right-hander has made 36 career major-league starts since his 2016 debut, of which has has recorded double-digit strikeouts only twice — both of which came against the Rays in his rookie campaign. He has, however, lasted six or more innings in 26 of those 36 starts, with seven-plus innings pitched 16 times over that stretch. Actually, Fulmer hasn’t pitched fewer than six innings in any of his 10 starts this season, while going 7-plus innings in all five of his May starts. This may seem unimportant, but Fulmer’s ability to consistently pitch deep into games significantly curbs the downside caused from his modest strikeout totals. He’s an absolute workhorse on the mound who owns the third lowest hard-hit rate and has allowed the fewest home runs of any qualified starter this season.
The White Sox currently own the league’s second lowest wOBA (.293) and sixth highest strikeout rate (23.3%) vs. right-handed pitching, while walking at the lowest clip in baseball (6.0%). Considering Fulmer sports an elite 5.4 percent BB-rate to accompany his equally impressive 1.10 WHIP, he should have no trouble keeping the basepaths clean on Friday night. I’d also expect his 19.5 percent K-rate to improve going forward, as he sits on a 95-96 MPH four-seamer that gets its fair share of whiffs and mixes in a plus changeup and a passable slider. As the second heaviest favorite on this 14-game slate (-185 ML), Fulmer should have no trouble paying off what I’d argue is very generous price tag on two-pitcher sites (DraftKings & FantasyDraft), and he will likely be the chalk pairing with Kershaw.
German Marquez [RHP – COL] @ SDP – Not much analysis is needed for this one; Marquez has been solid in his rookie campaign and the Padres are dismal at the plate. It didn’t take long for San Diego to dive back into the gutter offensively, as they now own the league’s second lowest wOBA (.293) and second highest K-rate (25.4%) vs. right-handed pitching. Ryan Schimpf is the Padres’ only left-handed power threat, while Wil Myers is their most talented overall hitter who has recorded a mere two extra-base hits over his last 15 games.
I’m not expecting big things from Marquez on Friday, but he’s more than capable of going 6-7 innings with a handful of strikeouts and only a run or two allowed. This Padres team is truly deplorable, and they lack any presence from the left side of the plate. If you’re looking for a cheaper pitcher to pair with Kershaw, Marquez should certainly be on the radar. I would, however, make an attempt to find the extra salary in order to use Michael Fulmer before settling on Colorado’s righty.
TOURNAMENT PLAYS: Jerad Eickhoff [RHP – PHI] vs. SFG – Giants rank dead last in wOBA (.278) and ISO (.131) vs. RHP. Risky play with some nice upside if he can rack up a few strikeouts to accompany the low run total; Jake Odorizzi [RHP – TB] @ SEA – Generally not a fan of Odorizzi for DFS purposes, but the loss of Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz is a huge blow to the Mariners’ offense. Seattle’s lineup is now gutted; Clayton Richard [LHP – SDP] vs. COL – Boom-or-bust play against a Rockies team that struggles away from Coors and strikes out at 23.3 percent clip on the road. I’d rather play either of these three pitchers over Matt Harvey [RHP – NYM], who owns a dismal, and career-low 7.8% SwStr rate to go along with a 25.9 percent O-Swing rate (also career-low). Hitters aren’t swinging at any of his pitches outside of the zone, and he has lacked command all season long (11.3% BB, 5.2% K-BB). No thanks.
Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] vs. Corbin [LHP] – Marlins Park isn’t exactly known for being a hitter’s haven, but Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t need a bandbox to beat up on left-handed pitching. Stanton’s dismal splits vs. same-handed pitching this season have resulted in a relatively quiet campaign thus far, but he is unsurprisingly annihilating southpaws to the tune of a .534 wOBA and .545 ISO with five home runs and eight extra-base hits across 33 at bats. Stanton boasts a career 45 percent hard-hit rate and leads the entire league in AEV (95.6 MPH) vs. left-handed pitching since 2014.
Patrick Corbin has never rebounded from a series of injury-riddled campaigns, as evidenced by the .383/.217 wOBA/ISO and 10 home runs he’s allowed to righties this season. Only Ricky Nolasco has allowed more long balls to RHB than Corbin this season, whose 16.4 percent K-rate, 1.79 HR/9 and 38 percent hard-hit rate are also far from stellar. You’re going to have a difficult time convincing me that Stanton isn’t a top overall hitting option on Friday’s 14-game slate.
Joey Votto [1B – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP] – Mike Foltynewicz has been dreadful against left-handed hitters for his career, ceding a .371 wOBA, .331 ISO and 1.76 HR/9 across 578 batters faced. Folty’s splits are extreme in other areas, too, such as his 45.8 percent flyball rate and 10.2 percent K-BB rate vs. LHB. I’d love for this game to take place inside Suntrust Park, which has proven to be one of the most lefty-friendly venues in baseball, but Great American Ballpark is no slouch, either, owning the fifth highest home run rating for left-handed bats.
Joey Votto is simply too good to ignore in a matchup with Foltynewicz. Since 2014, only Mike Trout owns a higher wOBA vs. RHP than Votto, who mashes them with regularity year after year. If you’re paying up at first base, there should be no reason to avoid Votto on a night where the Reds own a slate-high 5.2-run implied total at one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.
Steven Souza [OF – R] @ Bergman [RHP] – Souza is scorching hot right now, smacking five home runs with 10 RBI over his last eight starts. He’s also tormenting right-handed pitching this season, boasting a .404 wOBA, .281 ISO and 161 wRC+ across 154 plate appearances. Souza won’t come cheap on Friday, especially not on DraftKings, but he finds himself in an excellent position against Christian Bergman, who’s allowing a Goliath .424 wOBA and .263 ISO to right-handed hitters for his career.
Bergman’s 2.06 HR/9, 5.05 xFIP, 40 percent flyball rate and 39.2 percent hard-hit rate vs. RHB won’t do him any favors, either, as the Rays lead the league in ISO and rank fifth in wOBA vs. right-handed arms. You would think Bergman’s time spent in Colorado would have skewed his numbers, too, but he was actually worse on the road through three seasons with the Rockies. Souza should go overlooked at Safeco Field, but he makes for an elite tournament option with two-home run upside against one of the worst righties to take the mound on Friday night.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Liriano [LHP]; J.D. Martinez [OF – R] vs. Holland [LHP]; Marcell Ozuna [OF – R] vs. Corbin [LHP]; Matt Kemp [OF – R] @ Arroyo [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Urena [RHP]; Logan Morrison [1B – L] @ Bergman [RHP]
Friday’s slate is unlike any other, in that it’s chock full of high-end bats and low-end value bats, but the middle tier is virtually deserted. This actually works in our favor since Kershaw is a top pitching option, as we can take a stars-and-scrubs approach in both cash games and GPPs.
Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] @ Holland [LHP] – Miggy has not performed well against southpaws this season, but we all know he’s capable of tuning them up. Miggy also isn’t the same player he once was, but a career .413/.238 wOBA/ISO split vs. LHP would suggest he knows what he’s doing. He’s pretty obviously underpriced on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, so I’m willing to overlook some disappointing season splits, especially since we’re only two months into the year.
Holland is allowing almost one and a half home runs per nine to RHB and his 5.08 xFIP say he may actually be getting lucky. All 16 of his earned runs allowed have come against same-handed hitters, including eight home runs and 11 doubles across 214 batters faced. This is a great spot for Cabrera to shine, and he’s priced like he’s facing Chris Sale at Petco.
Adam Frazier [2B/OF – L] @ Harvey [RHP] – I don’t intend on spending up at second base, but Frazier would be my likely target if I did. Harvey has been downright pitiful against lefties this season, allowing a .350 wOBA with a 15.4 percent K-rate, 12.8 percent BB-rate and 2.6 percent K-BB rate across 117 batters faced. His command is gone, hitters aren’t swinging at any pitches out of the zone, and he’s generating only 37.8 percent ground balls vs. LHB. Needless to say, Harvey is cooked, and Frazier should be able to exploit him on Friday. He’s far from a must play, but Frazier is probably the best mid-range second baseman in play at such a dismal position.
Aaron Altherr [OF – R] vs. Blach [LHP] – As you’ll read in Maikel Franco’s writeup down in the value section, Ty Blach has gotten rather lucky this season. No pitcher with such pathetic strikeout stuff should be stymieing batters at such a high rate, and believe it or not, I’m expecting the Phillies to expose him on Friday. Altherr is crushing lefties to the tune of a .300 ISO with very respectable flyball and hard-hit rates. He has more than enough power in his bat to take Blach deep, and Citizens Bank Park is anything but spacious.
Tommy Joseph [1B – R] has been on a killer run over the past month and has obliterated southpaws with five home runs and seven XBH across only 39 at bats (.410 ISO). A four-player right-handed Phillies stack actually makes some sense tonight, and all of them can be had at a steep discount in a very favorable matchup.
Salvador Perez [C – R] vs. Tomlin [RHP] – Catcher is generally the worst position on the board, so unless you’re paying for Gary Sanchez [C – R] there won’t be a whole lot of upside to choose from. Perez has been downright awful against lefties this season, but his splits vs. same-handed pitching are rather impressive for a catcher, sporting a .370/.264 wOBA/ISO with a stellar 50% FB/40% HH pairing across 138 PA.
Josh Tomlin allows a career .342 wOBA to RHB and frequently serves up long home runs. He allowed 2.03 HR/9 to righties last year and 2017 hasn’t been much different (1.65 HR/9). At a respectable mid-range price point, it’s easy to see why Perez makes for a top catcher option on Friday’s slate. I’m also not opposed to deploying J.T. Realmuto [C – R] against Patrick Corbin — especially in Marlins stacks where he can be grouped with Stanton and Ozuna.
HONORABLE MENTION: Scott Schebler [OF – L] vs. Foltynewicz [LHP]; Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Nelson [RHP]; Josh Bell [1B – L/R] @ Harvey [RHP]
Kole Calhoun [OF – L] vs. Gibson [RHP] – Kole Calhoun is off to a rough start in 2017, but a meeting with Kyle Gibson has been known to remedy most struggles at the plate. On the year, Gibson is allowing a massive .419 wOBA and 1.93 HR/9 to opposing lefties. His 5.77 xFIP and 12.5 percent K-rate aren’t exactly stellar, while his 40 percent hard-hit rate is simply icing on the cake. Calhoun may finally be coming out of hibernation, too, as he smacked two home runs last night and accounted for the Angels’ only runs in a loss to the Twins.
This is a putrid Angels lineup with Trout and Maybin sidelined, but that just means Calhoun has secured a spot atop the order. He’s an excellent value play on Friday, but there is a caveat: second base and shortstop as such bad positions that punting them may be the only viable move. Outfield, however, is chock full of appealing high-end bats, so going cheap here may be both unnecessary and unwise. Nevertheless, Calhoun is far too cheap to ignore against Gibson. Luis Valbuena [1B/3B – L] stinks, but he’s also dirt cheap in a pristine matchup with a bottom-ranked righty.
Maikel Franco [3B – R] vs. Blach [LHP] – I’m simply not sold on Ty Blach being a viable major-league pitcher. Through 49.1 innings of work, the 26-year-old southpaw is sporting a despicable 9.5 percent K-rate with 5.5 percent swinging strike rate and 3.47 K/9. You’d think a pitcher with such pathetic strikeout potential would induce a ton of ground balls, but you would be wrong; Blach is getting only 47 percent ground balls this season yet has somehow only surrendered four home runs.
Philadelphia’s offense is about as bad as it gets, but they do have some potent righties with above average power potential. Aaron Altherr [OF – R] and Tommy Joseph [1B – R] are both very much in play as mid-range options with the platoon advantage at the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, but Franco is significantly cheaper than both, weighing in a $2,900 on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Franco’s 2017 campaign has been a colossal disaster, but he’s also endured some serious bad luck. Take his 47 percent hard-hit rate vs. LHP, for example, or his 47.1 percent flyball rate. The numbers simply do not line up, and I’ll be looking to exploit those discrepancies on Friday night.
The third base position is devoid of talent outside of an overpriced Evan Longoria [3B – R] (much better play on FanDuel) or an unpredictable Ryan Schimpf [3B – L], who draws a much less favorable park in San Diego. While Franco doesn’t have the surface stats to back it up, his .219 BABIP is bound to improve. I’ll have a ton of him in all formats across the board.
Matt Adams [1B/OF – L]/Rio Ruiz [3B – L] @ Arroyo [RHP] – Bronson Arroyo is absolute gutter trash, and he’s been especially heinous against left-handed hitters. On the year, the decrepit right-hander is ceding a .427 wOBA, .424 ISO, 6.04 xFIP and 4.22 HR/9 to left-handed bats. Seriously, Arroyo has been putrid this year, and his 52.7 percent flyball rate won’t do anything to change things on Friday. I’d be surprised to see Arroyo exit Great American Ballpark without surrendering at least five runs.
Both Adams (questionable – knee soreness) and Ruiz are dirt cheap across the board, and while the latter is less potent from a power standpoint, both are capable of taking Arroyo deep. If you’re looking for cheap help at third or first base, you could do a whole lot worse than these Atlanta lefties. Arroyo is the worst pitcher going on Friday night, and arguably the worst active pitcher in baseball with Jered Weaver sidelined.
Dixon Machado [2B/SS – R]/Nick Castellanos [3B – R] @ Holland [LHP] – Derek Holland is enjoying a bounce back season in 2017, though he’s been anything but sharp vs. right-handed bats. On a night where both second base and third base are devoid of high-end talent, I have no problem paying down for cheap Detroit bats with the platoon advantage against Holland. The Tigers are tied with the Reds for the highest implied run total on the night (5.2), and are able to run nine righties against Chicago’s southpaw.
Machado isn’t very good, and Castellanos is colder than a corpse, but tonight is as good a chance as any to improve upon their season averages. Assuming Machado leads off and Castellanos bats sixth, both would be firmly in play at highly discounted price points.