MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/22/17

PITCHING

 

Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] vs. LAA Look, Luis Severino is a good pitcher. No one’s taking that away from him. But at $12,300 on DraftKings and $24,000 on FantasyDraft is he really worth the price of admission? I’m having a tough time answering ‘yes’ to that question on Thursday when Severino faces the Angels at home. Mike Trout’s absence certainly improves this matchup for any pitcher, but the Angels don’t strike out and haven’t made life easy for righties lately.

Severino isn’t a $12K pitcher, but that’s due to his lack of consistency and not his lack of upside. He induces ground balls at an above-average clip, is striking out nearly 28 percent of the batters he faces, and is limiting hard contact to 28 percent in 2017. If you’re playing Severino for his skill set and not his matchup, you’ll want to use him on Thursday. There’s no doubt in my mind that he can piece together a fine performance against an Angels squad that owns the lowest implied run total (3.6) of any team on the slate. The question is whether or not he can rack up enough strikeouts to pay off such an astronomical price point, and will he be able to limit the longball inside the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium. One thing is for sure: Severino is a virtual lock to earn the win with the way the Yankees (-224 ML) have been hitting.

I’ll leave you with this: Severino’s four-seam fastball sits around 97 MPH, as he leads the entire league in average velocity among all starting pitchers. The Angels have been dreadful against pitchers with quality fastballs, so this should work to Severino’s advantage. He’ll need to finish them with the slider, though, and this isn’t a team that chases many pitches out of the zone. I’ll be playing him on FanDuel, but the price point on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft still remains prohibitive.

 

Jaime Garcia [LHP – ATL] vs. SFG Jaime Garcia benefits from being a southpaw at home, where Suntrust Park has proven to be one of the most lefty-friendly venues for hitters in its season debut. The Giants are hardly imposing from the right side of the plate, and the loss of Eduardo Nunez will only make those issues more pronounced on Thursday. They own the league’s 29th ranked wOBA (.288) vs. left-handed pitching this season, while ranking dead last in ISO (.117) and bottom-10 in walk rate. This isn’t a K-heavy offense (19.7% K-rate vs. LHP), but it is a punchless one, devoid of power from both sides of the plate.

Garcia isn’t going to rack up double-digit strikeouts en route to a complete game gem any time soon, but his ability to limit hard contact and induce ground balls should mask his lack of punchouts on Thursday. The veteran left-hander is holding both LHH and RHH to a sub-.300 wOBA this season and hasn’t allowed more than one home run in a game since his second start of the year. Believe it or not, Garcia boasts an 11.1 percent swinging strike rate despite his paltry 17.5 percent K-rate. He’s walking too many batters, but the Giants don’t draw many free passes.

My only concern is Garcia’s inability to hold runners, but with Nunez sidelined the Giants become far less threatening on the basepaths. They own the third lowest implied run total (4.1) on Thursday’s 6-game night slate, and are once again poised to go quietly into the night. At an affordable mid-range price point across the industry, Garcia makes for a fine play on a slate where quality pitching is nonexistent.

 

Jake Arrieta [RHP – CHC] @ MIA Arrieta’s velocity is down almost two ticks across the board this season, which has likely contributed to his sub-stellar numbers on the bump. He allowed only 16 home runs across 31 starts last season, but with 12 long balls surrendered already in 2017, Arrieta is on pace to double last year’s mark if nothing changes. 10 of Arrieta’s 12 home runs allowed have come on the road, too, and they haven’t exactly been the most hitter-friendly venues, either. There are plenty of concerns when it comes to Arrieta’s performance, but we may be forced to consider him on Thursday where pitching is devoid of talent.

Now onto the positive — Arrieta is striking batters out at a 25.7 percent clip and carries a serviceable 10.4 percent swinging strike rate into tonight’s matchup with Miami. He’s done an excellent job of neutralizing right-handed hitters this season (.291 wOBA, 3.43 xFIP), which should serve him well against a Marlins team that lacks left-handed pop outside of Justin Bour and Christian Yelich. Moreover, Marlins Park ranks 29th in baseball for left-handed power and 28th for righties. If Arrieta can limit the damage against opposite-handed bats, he should be able to pay off his salary with relative ease. If not, it’s going to be a long night of Wild Bour dingers and a lot of crying eyes.

 

Hyun-Jin Ryu [LHP – LAD] vs. NYM It’s strange to see a left-handed pitcher struggle more against same-handed bats, but that’s been the case with Ryu over three-plus years with the Dodgers. Nevertheless, he’s a relatively heavy home favorite on Thursday (-148 ML) against a Mets squad that owns the second lowest implied run total (3.9) on the slate. The absence of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera should work in Ryu’s favor, and the Mets should run out a lineup with at least six righties if you include Steven Matz.

While I can’t make total sense of his reverse splits, Ryu has been much better against righties for his career, holding them to a .293 wOBA with a 3.35 xFIP and only .72 HR/9 allowed. The Mets currently rank 24th in wOBA (.300) vs. left-handed pitching with the 10th highest K-rate (22.9%) in 2017. Injuries have hamstrung their production even further, and they’ll remain without several every-day starters on Thursday night. So when you take Ryu’s career-high swinging strike rate (11.6%) and combine it with a low-$7K price point on both DraftKings and FanDuel, he becomes a rather attractive play in this plus matchup with New York.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Aaron Judge [OF – R]/Gary Sanchez [C – R] vs. Chavez [RHP] Jesse Chavez draws a brutal matchup on Thursday, as he’s been torched by right-handed hitters all year long. Ricky Nolasco is the only right-handed pitcher to have allowed more home runs to righties (14) than Chavez (13) this season, who’s coughing up 2.68 HR/9 to same-handed bats. He’s ceding a near 23 percent HR/FB rate to RHH despite a 40 percent flyball rate, while allowing 39 percent hard contact in the process. Needless to say, Chavez will be lucky to exit tonight’s start with only five runs charged to his name.

Judge and Sanchez are absolutely tormenting righties this season, sporting wOBA/ISO splits of .454/.359 and .407/.341, respectively. There’s little need for me to dig deeper here; these guys are premiere plays across the industry and needed to be considered regardless of price point. Maybe last night’s disappointing performances will lower their ownership, but I highly doubt that will dissuade anyone from deploying them in such a tasty matchup.

NOTE: With another sky-high implied total (5.5), all of these Yankees bats are once again in play. Matt Holliday [1B – R], Starlin Castro [2B – R] and Brett Gardner [OF – L] should be considered across the board in this matchup with Chavez, and a Yankees stack will likely lead the way in ownership for what feels like the tenth straight night.

 

Kris Bryant [3B – R] @ Locke [LHP] Jeff Locke just isn’t good… Kris Bryant is. That’s really all there is to it on Thursday, as Bryant faces a weak southpaw at Marlins Park. Sure, we’d prefer a better park, but Bryant is hitting lefties to the tune of a .472 wOBA and .320 ISO this season, so that should hardly be a concern. If you’re paying up at third base, Bryant makes for a rather easy choice.

 

Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] @ Miley [LHP] Encarnacion is no stranger to hot streaks. For the second straight year the power-hitting veteran started off cold and erupted when many had begun to give up hope. Before last night’s 0-5 showing against Kevin Gausman and the Orioles, Encarnacion had been on fire, with five home runs and 12 RBI over seven prior starts. He’ll draw an opportunity to pick up right where he left off, facing Wade Miley inside the hitter-friendly Camden Yards.

Encarnacion hasn’t been stellar against southpaws this season, but his 45 percent hard-hit rate would suggest better numbers are on the horizon. Miley, on the other hand, is serving up a .352 wOBA to right-handed bats while striking them out at a sub-20-percent clip. Cleveland owns the second highest implied run total (5.5) on this night slate, making Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] and Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] viable plays from the right side of the plate. The only thing keeping me from upping exposure to Encarnacion is Matt Adams, who we’ll discuss right now…

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Justin Bour [1B – L] vs. Arrieta [RHP]; Nelson Cruz [OF – R] vs. Norris [LHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Matt Adams [1B – ATL] vs. Cain [RHP] I typically don’t read too much into handedness split from a home-road perspective, but in the case of Matt Cain it’s a meaningful statistic. AT&T Park ranks dead last in baseball for left-handed power, while Suntrust Park continues to facilitate immense power with its short right field. Facing lefties on the road, Cain is allowing a .436 wOBA and .204 ISO while striking them out at a dismal 9.6 percent clip. His xFIP also inflates to 7.75 in this scenario, which won’t do him any favors on Thursday night.

Adams has been unbelievably impressive since joining the Braves, and he has done a much better job of replacing Freddie Freeman than anyone could’ve imagined. In exactly one month with Atlanta, Adams has mounted 11 home runs and 29 RBI, which over that span rank third and first, respectively! He’s no longer discounted, but Adams’ upper-midrange price point is more than appealing for tonight’s matchup with Cain. I’ll have ample exposure to the 28-year-old slugger across the board.

 

Mike Zunino [C – R] vs. Norris [LHP] Much like Adams, Zunino is not longer a value option. He is, however, crushing the baseball of late, with nine home runs and 28 RBI over the last month of play. Zunino is also compiling some nice numbers against left-handed pitchers, with a .380 wOBA and .278 ISO in 2017. His matchup against Daniel Norris doesn’t scare me much, as the Tigers’ lefty is serving up 43 percent hard contact to righties with a .346 wOBA allowed. If you’re looking to differentiate at catcher by fading Gary Sanchez, Zunino will make for a stellar pivot with the platoon advantage. The only downside here is the park, but Safeco Field hasn’t kept him in the yard this season, and it shouldn’t be an issue tonight.

 

Didi Gregorius [SS – L] vs. Chavez [RHP] Shortstop is a barren wasteland on Thursday, so unless you’re paying for Lindor, Gregorius should be the play. Sure, he bats down in the Yankees’ order, but with the way they’ve been hitting he’s virtually guaranteed four plate appearances on the night.

While Gregorius doesn’t get much attention playing for a star-studded Yankees squad, he’s actually been quite productive this season, sporting a .348 wOBA and .204 ISO vs. right-handed pitching. At a lower mid-range price point you’re getting a hitter who will see ample RBI and run-scoring opportunities batting seventh in the order, while he’ll also get you cheap exposure to the highest projected scoring team on Thursday night.

 

Jean Segura [SS – R] vs. Norris [LHP] Having just returned to action on Wednesday, Segura slipped my mind when writing up shortstops, but we won’t want to ignore him tonight. He was also a late addition to the Deep Dive, which is the only reason he is at the bottom of the mid-range section. Not only does Segura draw the platoon advantage against Norris, but he has great stolen upside in this matchup as Norris has already allowed nine swipes this season. He’s also caught six would-be base stealers, but as long as they’re running we’ll be in good shape.

Segura is priced very affordably across the industry, adding to his value as Seattle’s leadoff man. While he may not be the best leadoff hitter in baseball (shoutout to Chuck Nasty), Segura is surely the best shortstop option on Thursday’s six-game slate. Don’t forget about him like I almost did.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: ; Buster Posey [C – R] @ Garcia [LHP]; Ender Inciarte [OF – L] vs. Cain [RHP]; Matt Kemp [OF – R] vs. Cain [RHP]; Dee Gordon [2B – L] vs. Arrieta [RHP] [GPP]; Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] vs. Matz [LHP]; Aaron Hicks [OF – L/R] vs. Chavez [RHP]; Ian Happ [2B – L/R] @ Locke [LHP]

 

VALUE

 

Javier Baez [2B/SS – R] @ Locke [LHP] – Starlin Castro [2B – R] is the clear top option at second base, but I don’t hate the idea of using Baez for salary relief at a rather weak position. Baez is one of those hitters who has been so dreadful against same-handed pitchers that his price tag remains discounted when he finally draws the platoon advantage. That’ll be the case on Thursday when Baez faces Jeff Locke. Baez is hitting southpaws for plenty of power this season (.298 ISO), having already recorded five home runs and seven XBH across 57 at bats. If you’re in search of a discounted power bat you won’t find many better options than Baez. He has more than enough pop to mitigate those pitcher-friendly confines of Marlins Park.

 

Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] @ Moore [RHP] Not much needs to be said here; Miggy Cabrera is $3,400 on DraftKings, and regardless of matchup, that’s way too cheap. The funny thing, though, is he’s facing a right-hander in Andrew Moore who will make his first career major-league appearance on Thursday. The park isn’t good, and Cabrera has been just decent this season, but I’d be remiss to not mention him at such a discounted cost. Moreover, I don’t see many people using him tonight with first base being the deepest position on the slate. For tournaments Miggy should be strongly considered against the Mariners’ rookie right-hander.

 

Wilmer Flores [2B/3B – R] @ Ryu [LHP] As earlier noted, Ryu has struggled more against lefties than he has against righties for his career, but Wilmer Flores has enough going for him that we should put him on the radar this evening. Flores is dirt cheap across the industry and will likely bat second with the platoon advantage at Dodger Stadium. He’s shown excellent power against southpaws over the past few seasons and can pay off his price tag with one swing of the bat. Flores isn’t a player we purposely insert into lineups unless you’re in need of a value infield bat to round out the roster.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Johan Camargo [SS – L/R] vs. Cain [RHP]; Taylor Motter [2B/SS – R] vs. Norris [LHP]; Danny Valencia [1B – R] vs. Norris [LHP];