MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/28/17
Stephen Strasburg [RHP – WAS] vs. CHC – The Cubs haven’t impressed against right-handed pitching this season, sporting the 24th best wOBA (.309) and 11th highest K-rate (22.3%) through the first three months. Don’t get me wrong, they’re better than those numbers would suggest, but this isn’t a top-tier offense in 2017. Kyle Schwarber is working out the kinks in Triple-A Iowa, while Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and possibly Addison Russell will remain sidelined on Wednesday. This leaves them with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant to lead the charge while replacement level players like Jon Jay, Tommy La Stella and Jeimer Candelario plug the holes until Chicago gets healthy. This isn’t an especially formidable lineup from either side of the plate right now, which explains their slate-low 3.7-run implied total on Wednesday night.
Strasburg has hit a rough patch over his last three starts (15.1 IP), allowing 13 earned runs on 21 hits, but striking out 20 batters in that span. He’s sporting an elite 13.6-percent swinging strike rate with a 3.64 SIERA over that stretch, though, so I wouldn’t be too concerned with Strasburg’s stuff going forward. Washington is a heavy favorite at home (-165 ML) where temperatures will be below 80 degrees at first pitch, and I’ll be deploying him in the majority of lineups this evening. He should bounce back nicely after a string of disappointing performances.
Blake Snell [LHP – TB] @ PIT – This play is going to frighten many of you, so I’ll get it out of the way early. The truth is, however, that Snell is my favorite tournament option on Wednesday night, making his first major-league start since being recalled from Triple-A Durham. A trip to the minors may have been exactly what Snell needed, as he absolutely trashed his competition across seven stellar starts.
Snell boasted a 32.6 percent strikeout rate in 44 innings of work, while lowering his walk rate to eight percent to accompany his 2.54 xFIP. He racked up eight-plus strikeouts in six of seven starts — Snell recorded seven strikeouts in his only appearances with less than eight punchouts — and lasted six or more innings with two or fewer runs in all but two of those outings. Assuming he can parlay even half of his minor-league improvements into success at the major-league level, Snell will be well worth the bottom-barrel price tag on Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh doesn’t strike out much as a team, but their 20.5 percent K-rate vs. left-handed pitching doesn’t scare me much. Moreover, the Pirates rank 27th in wOBA (.296) vs. southpaws, with the sixth lowest ISO (.140) to boot. They are walking at a 10-percent clip, but Snell improved his command enough in Triple-A to be encouraged.
The #Snellevator is back in service and it’s operating at peak performance. The doors have slid open and all you have to do now is walk in. Take a ride to the top floor and pray the cables don’t snap. Enjoy the ride or free fall to your death. The choice is yours.
David Paulino [RHP – HOU] vs. OAK – If you don’t feel comfortable boarding the Snellevator, Paulino will make for a solid contingency plan. The Astros are -183 ML favorites at home against Jesse Hahn and the A’s, but this game also owns a 10-run over-under at Minute Maid Park. I do like Paulino quite a bit, though, if not only for his strikeout upside. The 23-year-old right-hander is striking batters out at a 24.1 percent clip over his first five starts, and his 17.6 percent K-BB rate is rather strong for a rookie.
But don’t get it twisted; Paulino has plenty of warts. He isn’t generating any ground balls against left-handed hitters and is serving up more hard contact than most would prefer. This is a risk we’ll have to take, though, and Oakland’s 25 percent K-rate vs. right-handed pitching (3rd highest) should help mitigate the damage. The Athletics can hit righties for power (.196) and rank middle of the pack in wOBA (.323) this season, so we’ll need our fair share of swings and misses for Paulino to produce. That being said, Paulino is cheap enough to deploy on all two-pitcher sites, and should earn the win assuming he makes it through five frames.
Masahiro Tanaka [RHP – NYY] @ CWS – Tanaka has arguably become the most unpredictable pitcher in baseball this season, and he has the stats to back up that claim. Seldom will you see a pitcher own a 14.1-percent swinging strike rate, 3.89 xFIP and a 5.74 ERA, especially considering his BABIP (.315) and strand rate (70.2%) are as close to league average as a pitcher could get. He’s as enigmatic at they come, but offers sizeable upside against a White Sox team that ranks 27th in wOBA (.300), 26th in ISO (.151), eighth in K-rate (23%) and dead last in BB-rate (6.3%) vs. right-handed pitching.
Tanaka is used to pitching in a hitter-friendly venue, so I’m not too worried about Wednesday’s meeting at Guaranteed Rate Field. I’m more worried about Tanaka’s inability to limit home runs, as he’s allowing north of two long balls per nine to both left and right-handed bats.
Tanaka’s biggest problem has been the fastball (both the sinker and cutter), which is getting hammered by lefties and righties alike. The slider has been fantastic and the splitter is working fine when it actually splits, but both of his fastball variations have extreme negative values through three months. Velocity isn’t an issue, but it hardly matters when Tanaka isn’t hitting his spots.
The truth is we don’t know whether or not Tanaka will be able to keep the ball off the heart of the plate on Wednesday. If he does, we’ll likely be rewarded with a strong, strikeout-heavy performance at an upper-mid-range cost. If he doesn’t, we’ll probably be staring down the barrel of another five-plus run performance. Batters are making such hard contact against Tanaka that he’ll need to miss bats in order to succeed.
TOURNAMENT PUNTS: Ivan Nova [RHP – PIT] doesn’t record many strikeouts, which could be problematic against a power-laden Rays team, but PNC Park should help limit the damage on Wednesday night. If he can exploit this matchup for even a few more K’s than a normal start, Nova could finish with impressive fantasy totals at home. That being said, I’d rather take my chances on Snell and Paulino in their respective matchups.
Trevor Bauer [RHP – CLE] has arguably more unpredictable than Tanaka, but he does possess some serious strikeout upside against the Rangers. Texas owns the fifth highest K-rate vs. RHP (24.1%) while leading the league in strikeouts away from home (27.6%) this season. They’ve struggled outside of Arlington (.296 wOBA/27th), but look to be improving now that everyone is getting healthy. Bauer is a GPP dart with plenty of upside but way more downside than I’m willing to risk in cash.
Trea Turner [SS – R] vs. Lackey [RHP] – Stolen base upside is the most underrated aspect of daily fantasy baseball, as it provides players with the ability to rack up fantasy points without recording a hit. Trea Turner could go 0-4 on any given night but still swipe two bags simply by reaching first on a walk, force out or error. That’s a valuable quality to have on Wednesday when he faces John Lackey, who has caught only one of nine base-stealers this season. Lackey has always struggled to hold runners, and 2017 has been no different. With Turner coming off of a four-swipe effort on Tuesday night, he should be looking to run all over Lackey this evening.
Turner’s 32 stolen bases now leads the entire league, and his 19 swipes in June are six more than the second place Billy Hamilton. Actually, Turner’s four-steal performance from last night was the second time he’s accomplished this feat in the last ten days, and while I wouldn’t project him to do the same on Wednesday, two-plus steals is certainly in play.
Lackey is ceding a .361 wOBA and a whopping .268 ISO to left-handed hitters this season. He’s allowing 2.56 HR/9 with a 17-percent K-rate, 8.5-percent K-BB rate and 5.03 xFIP across 176 batters faced, while allowing 36-percent hard contact in the process. This makes Bryce Harper [OF – L] an equally appealing play, as he may not offer the same upside as Turner, but draws the platoon advantage against a struggling righty. In Turner’s case, I don’t care if he draws a righty-righty matchup as long as he gets on base. Handedness doesn’t matter when you’re running from first to second.
Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Mejia [LHP] – Adalberto Mejia is going to get tuned up on Wednesday, and I’d be willing to bet Mookie does some of the damage. Betts isn’t murdering left-handed pitching this season, but he’s still one of the premier hitters in baseball, and his .357/.269 wOBA/ISO split is enough to feel good about tonight’s matchup. Betts doesn’t strike out (7.3% K vs. LHP), puts a ton of balls in the air (47% FB vs. LHP) and makes plenty of hard contact (38.8% HH vs. LHP), so this matchup should serve him well — especially considering Mejia struggles in all of those categories against right-handed bats. Boston owns the highest implied run total (5.8) on Wednesday’s 13-game slate, and I don’t expect Betts to stay quiet like he did in last night’s route.
Xander Bogaerts [SS – R] should be considered a top option at shortstop behind only Trea Turner, and there are several middle tier Boston righties with a ton of appeal against Mejia. We’ll discuss them shortly.
David Peralta [OF – L] vs. Wainwright [RHP] – I could easily write up Aaron Judge [OF – R], Gary Sanchez or any of Houston’s high-end bats in this final spot, but I’m going with Peralta because he’s cheaper and draws an equally appealing matchup. Chase Field isn’t going to do Wainwright, who has allowed nine earned runs in two of his last four starts, any favors on Wednesday. He appears to be unraveling as we reach the midway point of the season, and the Diamondbacks own a sexy 5.1-run implied total at home. Peralta hasn’t hit righties for much power this season, but those numbers will come. He’s going to see plenty of good pitches to hit and still remains somewhat affordable across the industry. You could make an argument for a plethora of high-end outfielders, specifically Springer and Judge, but Peralta comes at a nice discount and is hitting in equally favorable conditions.
HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Murphy [2B – L] vs. Lackey [RHP]; Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Rodon [LHP]; George Springer [OF – R] vs. Hahn [RHP]; Gary Sanchez [C – R] @ Rodon [LHP] [GPP]; Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] vs. Wainwright [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Wainwright [RHP]; Carlos Correa [SS – R] vs. Hahn [RHP]
Josh Donaldson [3B – R] vs. Miley [LHP] – Donaldson is the exact reason I didn’t feature Jake Lamb in the high-end segment of today’s Deep Dive. Simply put, he’s far too cheap for this matchup with Wade Miley, and I don’t see any reason to fade him at third base. Donaldson boasts a career .411 wOBA and .289 ISO vs. left-handed pitching with a 44 percent flyball rate and 38 percent hard-hit rate to accompany those stellar splits. Miley, on the other hand, is coughing up a .355 wOBA to righties, and despite his high groundball rate doesn’t have the stuff to set down Donaldson on Wednesday (19% K vs. RHH). Not much analysis is needed here; Donaldson draws a stellar matchup with the platoon advantage inside the homer-happy Rogers Centre and is priced far too cheap.
Justin Smoak [1B – L/R], Jose Bautista [OF – R] and Russell Martin [C – R] are also top mid-range plays at their respective positions, and I won’t be fading the Blue Jays simply because they were pathetic on Tuesday night. A right-handed Toronto stack makes too much sense, and while they’ll definitely see some ownership on this slate, their pricing makes them tough to avoid in any format.
Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] vs. Kennedy [RHP] – Cabrera’s price point on DraftKings and FantasyDraft makes no sense whatsoever. He may not be enjoying a vintage Miggy campaign, but the fact that he’s priced below Joe Mauer, Jesus Aguilar, Ronald Guzman and many others is laughable. Ian Kennedy is lugging around a 5.06 xFIP vs. right-handed hitters while serving up 1.85 HR/9 this season. He’s allowing 50 percent fly balls and a ton of hard contact, so I’m utterly confused by Cabrera’s price point. If you’re looking to save at the position look no further than Miggy, who is so much better than this disrespectful salary.
Alex Avila [C/1B – L] is also in play at a mid-range cost, as Kennedy has endured some difficulties against opposite-handed bats. J.D. Martinez [OF – R] isn’t especially cheap, but with Detroit owning the fourth highest implied run total (5.1) on Wednesday’s slate he certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Martinez should go overlook in GPPs, making him that much more appealing at $4,400 on DraftKings and $3,800 on FanDuel.
Josh Reddick [OF – L] vs. Hahn [RHP] – Jesse Hahn has done a solid job of limiting home runs this season, but I don’t see that trend continuing on Wednesday. Not only is he coughing up a .346 wOBA to left-handed hitters, but he owns a 5.95 xFIP and a 37.4 percent hard-hit rate against. All of these numbers suggest Hahn’s home run prevention may be a mirage, at least against opposite-handed bats. As a result, I’ll be looking to roster some Josh Reddick tonight. We know he can hit righties for power (.224 ISO), and he should always see plenty of great pitches to hit with some of the game’s most elite hitters batting behind him in the order. Reddick is especially appealing on FanDuel where he’s priced at a mere $3,200.
HONORABLE MENTION: Brian McCann [C – L] vs. Hahn [RHP]; Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Godley [RHP]; Manny Machado [3B – R] @ Stroman [RHP] [GPP]; Mallex Smith [OF – L] @ Nova [RHP]; Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] @ Norris [LHP]
Dustin Pedroia [2B – R] vs. Mejia [LHP] – Pedroia is having a rather tough season at the dish, but there’s still no reason he should be so cheap against Mejia. Judging by the numbers, Pedroia is hitting lefties well this season (.395 wOBA), but just hasn’t hit them for power. At this bottom-barrel price point, however, we won’t need any home runs out of Pedroia to pay off this salary. He makes for a top value option at second base, and is someone I’ll be rostering in all formats across the board.
Chris Young [OF – R] has still yet to take a southpaw deep this season, but his career numbers would suggest some long balls are right around the corner. I’ll take my chances against Mejia on a night where Boston owns the highest implied run total of any team on Wednesday’s slate (5.8). Young is both affordable and hitting in the middle of a potent Red Sox order. I won’t be fading him simply because he hasn’t hit lefties well across only 50 at bats in 2017.
Troy Tulowitzki [SS – R] vs. Miley [LHP] – Tulowitzki has been a disaster when healthy this year, but he appears to be turning a corner of late. Over his last four starts, Tulo has recorded two homers, a double and three RBI, which is better than anything else he has done in 2017. He owns a career .396/.226 wOBA/ISO split vs. left-handed pitching, and if he could only channel some of that on Wednesday we’d be in business. At $3,200 on DraftKings and $2,900 on FanDuel we really aren’t asking for much; a couple of base hits and a run scored would do the job at a weak shortstop position, while a home run would just be icing on the cake.
Max Kepler [OF – L] @ Porcello [RHP] – Kepler has been downright pathetic of late with only six hits over his last 30 at bats. His price has bottomed out, though, which puts him in play for tournaments against Rick Porcello. Boston’s reigning Cy Young winner has looked nothing of the sort this season, allowing a .351 wOBA to lefties with a 49 percent flyball rate and 46.3 percent hard hit rate to boot. He isn’t limiting the long ball and is inducing virtually zero soft contact in the process, so if Kepler were to get back on track it would come inside the hitter-friendly Fenway Park against Porcello. Kepler is a tournament only play, but remains cheap enough to plug into lineups where you intend on prioritizing pitching.
Tyler Austin [OF – R] feels like a safer play against Carlos Rodon, but he’ll definitely be more popular on this 13-game slate. There are several quality value plays at the outfield position.
HONORABLE MENTION: Brian Goodwin [OF – L] vs. Lackey [RHP]; Matt Olson [OF – L] @ Paulino [RHP]; T.J. Rivera [1B/3B – R] @ Locke [LHP]