MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/23/17

PITCHING

Chris Archer [RHP – TB] vs. BAL Archer has always dominated right-handed hitting. Even before developing into a bonafide top-of-the-rotation stud, Archer contained same-handed bats better than almost anyone. He’s always been better at home, too, allowing a career .277 wOBA with a 3.17 xFIP inside the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. By taking those two simple pieces of information into consideration on Friday, Archer becomes a phenomenal play at home against the Orioles. He’s currently a -194 ML favorite against Baltimore squad that not only owns the second lowest implied run total (3.5) on this 15-game slate, but utilizes a mere two left-handed hitters in their starting lineup.

Archer boasts as much strikeout upside as anyone, with his 13.2 percent swinging strike rate and 30 percent K-rate through his first 15 starts. He’s also holding same-handed hitters to a miniscule .249 wOBA and .127 ISO with a hard-hit rate that’s 14 percent lower than that of left-handed bats. Archer ranks as my top pitching option across the board, above Stephen Strasburg [RHP – WAS], who draws a home matchup with the Reds.

Alex Wood [LHP – LAD] vs. COL Alex Wood doesn’t get the attention he deserves, probably because Dave Roberts limits him to 85 pitches regardless of the situation. That’s a problem for daily fantasy purposes, but Wood has been so stellar this season that I’m willing to overlook these embarrassing managerial decisions on Friday. Wood faces a Rockies team that he shut down across six scoreless innings back in May, racking up 10 strikeouts on only 88 pitches at Coors Field. Now I’m not saying Wood will fan double-digit batters across six shutout frames this evening, but I do think he’ll be superb.

Wood is sporting a stellar 29.8 percent K-rate to accompany his 12 percent swinging strike rate this season. Not only is he missing bats at an elite clip, but the 26-year-old southpaw is limiting hard contact to 21.9 percent while inducing ground balls at a ridiculous 66.9 percent clip. We rarely come across a starting pitcher who not only records elite strikeout totals, but garners an extreme amount of ground balls in the process.

Wood’s velocity spike has worked wonders for his overall game, as his two-seamer has seen a nine-percent increase in whiffs/swing and is holding batters to a .221 average this season. He’s also tied with Chris Sale in O-Swing rate at 36.4 percent, and is getting 63-plus percent ground balls on all of his pitches. Simply put, Wood has been a better version of Dallas Keuchel this season, and I’ll happily deploy him on Friday against a Rockies team that ranks bottom-10 in wOBA (.312) and top-10 in K-rate (23.5) away from home.

Michael Fulmer [RHP – DET] @ SDP Fulmer hasn’t been very impressive lately, but his ability to pitch deep into games should mitigate a shaky performance on Friday. The Padres have been known to remedy a pitcher’s struggles, too, using their 29th ranked wOBA (.297) and league-high 25.7 percent K-rate to shock right-handed pitchers back to life. San Diego also leads all of baseball with a 22.8 percent soft contact rate, which should work heavily in Fulmer’s favor as he boasts the sixth lowest hard-hit rate (26.8%) among all qualified starters.

Fulmer’s fastball velocity is still sitting above 97 MPH, and despite a string of underwhelming performances, the right-handed workhorse hasn’t allowed a home run since April 29th. He’s also averaging just under seven innings pitched per game over his last 10 starts, so there are plenty of reasons to believe he can right the ship on Friday. Only the Rockies (Wood), Orioles (Archer) and Reds (Strasburg) own lower implied totals than the Padres (3.8) tonight, which places Fulmer firmly in play on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft at a respectable price point.

J.A. Happ [LHP – TOR] @ KC Happ looked rusty in two starts following a one and a half month hiatus, but he’s now turned in back-to-back 26-plus fantasy point performances with eight-plus strikeouts in each. Friday’s matchup with the Royals is a bit of a mixed bag, as they aren’t good against left-handed pitching (.300 wOBA) but they also don’t strike out (19%). Actually, Kansas City owns a 4.4-run implied total against Happ, who is only a slight favorite (-115 ML) on the road.

Fortunately, Happ is sporting a career-high 10.9 percent swinging strike rate and 27 percent K-rate this season. He’s also holding right-handed hitters to a .290 wOBA, which should help to neutralize Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Jorge Bonifacio. I still prefer Fulmer at a similar price point, but Happ would make for a far better play than the former on FanDuel where he’s discounted by $1,800.

TOURNAMENT PUNT: Jharel Cotton [RHP – OAK] @ CWS

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Leiter [RHP] Jake Lamb should easily be considered a top option on Friday, facing a weak righty in Mark Leiter Jr. at Chase Field. Leiter displayed some true platoon splits in minor-league ball, which will make life tough on him tonight against the likes of Lamb and David Peralta [OF – L], who also makes for a fantastic outfield play across the industry. Not much needs to be said here, really; Lamb demolishes right-handed pitching (.428/.302 wOBA/ISO) and faces a 26-year-old rookie who owned a 4.74 ERA in triple-A baseball. Factor in the favorable park conditions with Arizona’s slate-high 6-run implied total and there’s really no reason to question the play. Lamb, Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] make for elite high-end hitting options at their respective positions — being able to fit them will be the hard part.

Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. Castillo [RHP] Another no-brainer here, as Harper squares off against Luis Castillo, who has never pitched above the Double-A level in his career. Seriously, though, we need not waste time analyzing Harper in a matchup with this rookie right-hander; Castillo had a 39 percent groundball rate in Double-A and now he’ll have to face one of the most potent offenses in all of baseball. Washington’s 5.7-run implied total is just icing on the cake, and there’s really no reason to doubt Harper in this particular spot. Daniel Murphy [2B – L] and the rest of this Nationals cast make for fine secondary options against Castillo depending on their price points.

Eric Thames [1B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP] Foltynewicz is having a better season on the whole, but he’s still been downright putrid against left-handed hitters. Lefties are punishing him for a .402 wOBA, but it’s his 5.76 xFIP and 15 percent K-rate that look the ugliest. Moreover, Folty doesn’t induce enough ground balls (35.7%) or soft contact (9.6%) against lefties to save him from the short right field at Suntrust Park. Needless to say, Thames should ride one into the fifteenth row on Friday, and I’ll want to be there when it happens.

Matt Adams was my top first base play last night, facing Matt Cain at this very same location. He blasted a homer deep into right-center field, and I’m expecting Thames to accomplish some of the same tonight. When you possess this much power at such a lefty-friendly venue, there’s no reason to be ignored against a righty who struggles mightily with opposite-handed bats. I’ll be loading up on Thames this evening.

HONORABLE MENTION: Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] @ Mejia [LHP]; Corey Dickerson [OF – L]/Logan Morrison [1B – L] vs. Jimenez [RHP] [GPP]; Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] @ Mejia [LHP]

MID-RANGE

Mallex Smith [OF – L] vs. Jimenez [RHP] Mallex Smith may be my favorite overall hitter on Friday’s slate, facing a righty in Jimenez who is incapable of holding runners. Jimenez hasn’t had a season with even average stolen base prevention since 2010, and he’s already allowed nine swipes in nine starts this year. Furthermore, Jimenez is coughing up a .415 wOBA to left-handed bats with a whopping 3.46 HR/9 allowed on the season. This puts Smith in an optimal position both at the dish and on the basepaths. He owns a solid .400 OBP vs. RHP thus far, and should thrive in this matchup so long as he gets on base.

Howie Kendrick [2B/OF – R] @ Corbin [LHP]/Rougned Odor [2B – L] @ Tanaka [RHP] Second base doesn’t offer much at the top outside of Daniel Murphy, which leads us to the middle tier where Kendrick and Odor reside. Both of these hitters draw nice matchups in very friendly venues, so let’s begin with Kendrick:

Corbin has been tuned up by opposite-handed bats this season, allowing a .377 wOBA and .215 ISO across 283 TBF. 12 of his 15 home runs have come against righties (1.80 HR/9), who are striking out at a mere 16.3 percent clip and making a whopping 38-percent hard contact in 2017. Kendrick hasn’t flashed much power, but he’s finding ways to rack up the fantasy points and has swiped eight bags on 11 attempts. Corbin doesn’t allow many stolen bases but Kendrick’s speed is still an asset here.

What do Bronson Arroyo and Ricky Nolasco have in common with Masahiro Tanaka? They are the only two pitchers to have allowed more home runs than Tanaka this season, who has coughed up 21 long balls and 2.47 HR/9. Only 10 starting pitchers are allowing a higher AEV than Tanaka, and only four pitchers (Nolasco, Gausman, Porcello, Moore) have allowed more barrelled balls. Needless to say, he’s not exactly in good company. So while Rougned Odor isn’t having the most impressive season himself, he’s cheap enough to consider on a night where he’ll face a struggling righty inside Yankee Stadium. Odor has posted 20-plus fantasy points in four of his last 10 starts, so upside isn’t the concern here. Texas owns a 5-run implied total on the road.

Cameron Maybin [OF – R] @ Porcello [RHP] Either Maybin is on steroids or he’s magically become good at baseball over the last month. Whatever the case may be, I really don’t care — so long as he continues to produce at a respectable clip. He’ll draw a fantastic park shift on Friday as the Angels travel to Fenway Park to take on Rick Porcello and the Red Sox. Porcello has been plastered by right-handed hitters this season, ceding a .373 wOBA, .200 ISO and a whopping 40 percent hard-hit rate. He’s also allowed nine stolen bases to only two caught stealing. Meanwhile, Maybin has swiped 23 bags with only one failed attempt! Not only do I love his price tag, but I love his recent play. Consider Maybin a very strong mid-range play in this plus matchup with Porcello.

HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Owings [SS – R] vs. Leiter [RHP]; Eric Sogard [2B/SS – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] @ Tanaka [RHP]; Aaron Altherr [OF – R] @ Corbin [LHP]; Travis Shaw [3B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] vs. Musgrove [RHP]; Alex Avila [C/1B – L] @ Perdomo [RHP]

VALUE

Tommy Joseph [1B – R] @ Corbin [LHP] Tommy Joseph isn’t going to hit for average, but he is going to hit some baseballs very far when facing southpaw pitching. He’s sporting a .277 ISO vs. lefties this season with five home runs in 65 at bats, and he’ll draw an opportunity to add to the tally on Friday against Patrick Corbin. As earlier noted, Corbin has served up 12 home runs to right-handed hitters, with 1.80 HR/9 and a 16.3 percent K-rate. Opposite-handed bats are making hard contact against him, which should take them a long way at Chase Field. If you’re looking for a cheap first baseman, Tommy Joe is your guy.

NOTE: Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] is still too cheap on DraftKings, and while a meeting with a righty at Petco Park isn’t exactly enticing, Miggy should never be priced at $3,600.

Chris Herrmann [C/OF – L] vs. Leiter [RHP]/Robinson Chirinos [C – R] @ Tanaka [RHP] Both of these backstops are great plays on Friday, facing struggling righties in hitter-friendly venues. Herrmann’s overall numbers stink this season, but he’s hitting righties for power (.239 ISO), and that’s a rare quality for a catcher. If he’s in the lineup against Leiter there’s no reason we should avoid him. Arizona boasts the highest implied run total (6.0) on Friday’s slate, and Herrmann makes for a great way to get cheap exposure at a weak position.

Chirinos should go overlooked on Friday, which is one of the reasons I’m so fond of him against Tanaka. He’s sporting a filthy .318 ISO vs. RHP to accompany an equally impressive 53.1 percent flyball rate and 40 percent hard-hit rate across 76 plate appearances. Yankee Stadium is much friendlier to left-handed hitters, but it’s far from a downgrade for righties, either. Considering Tanaka is ceding a .388 wOBA and 36.3 percent hard-hit rate to same-handed bats this season, Chirinos should be squarely in play assuming he gets the start.

Jeremy Hazelbaker [OF – L] vs. Leiter [RHP] There’s no guaranteeing Hazelbaker will get another start on Friday, but if he does he’ll become one of the best values on this 15-game slate. At $2,100 on FanDuel you’ll want to get plenty of exposure to the D-Backs’ outfielder, but $3,400 on DraftKings and $6,800 on FantasyDraft are also very appealing price points. Hazelbaker doesn’t even need to be a good hitter; as long as he’s leading off against Mark Leiter he should pay off his dirt cheap salary with relative ease. This Arizona team also runs at will, so there’s some built in stolen base upside to accompany his leadoff value and platoon advantage.

NOTE: Gregor Blanco [OF – L] will lead off if Hazelbaker takes a seat, and his $2,900 salary on FanDuel places him firmly in play. I can’t justify paying a premium for him on DraftKings, though, unless you plan on full-stacking the Diamondbacks.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cameron Rupp [C – R] @ Corbin [LHP]; Wilmer Flores [2B/3B – R] @ Blach [LHP]; Derek Dietrich [3B – L] vs. Lackey [RHP]; Gregory Polanco [OF – L] @ Wainwright [RHP] [GPP]; Maikel Franco [3B – R] @ Corbin [LHP] [GPP]