MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/29/17

PITCHING

Expensive

Clayton Kershaw faces the Los Angeles Angels tonight in a “road” game.  Kershaw has not been as consistent as usual this season but is still a strong play any given night.  He has a tough matchup with the Angels tonight because, although it is unlikely that they score many runs against him, they are good at putting the ball in play.  If Kershaw cannot generate a lot of strikeouts, it will be difficult for him to be worth his expensive price tag.  There are reasons to be optimistic about Kershaw, however, when looking at the Angels’ plate discipline numbers in recent games.  While the Angels have a swinging strike percentage of just 10.2 percent and an o-swing percentage of 28.2 percent over the entire season, they have swung and missed 12.1 percent of pitches and chased 32.2 percent of pitches out of the strike zone over the last two weeks.  The apparent change in approach at the plate has led to a 22.5 percent strikeout percentage over that time.  It is still not an ideal matchup because the track record of the hitters in the Angels lineup suggests that they will probably stop striking out sooner rather than later, but their current form at the plate combined with Kershaw’s abilities as a pitcher make him a strong play tonight.  He is an elite option in cash games and a strong play in tournaments if you can fit him in along with the high-upside bats that you want.

Chris Archer is facing the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park tonight.  The Pirates have not been good offensively for most of the season, including the last 14 days when they have recorded a .288 wOBA and 77 wRC+.  Pittsburgh will also likely have a lineup consisting primarily of right-handed hitters, which works in Archer’s favor as he has struck out 29.2 percent of right-handed hitters with a .275 xwOBA allowed this season.  The primary concern for Archer is the strikeout upside in this matchup since he is rather expensive.  The Pirates as a team have struck out just 18.1 percent of the time against right-handed pitching this season and Archer tends to post better strikeout numbers at home.  Throughout his career, Archer has struck out 23.3 percent of hitters on the road compared to 27.6 percent at home.  This season, Archer has struck out 24.1 percent of hitters on the road compared to 33.3 percent at home.  Obviously, his numbers on the road are still very good but you need to remember that his price is based on his overall performance so he is priced as a higher-upside pitcher than he has shown to be on the road throughout his career.  He is a viable option tonight, but finding the money for Kershaw or paying down to cheaper options is my preferred approach given the difficult strikeout matchup away from Tropicana Field.

J.A Happ makes for an excellent tournament play in his matchup against the Baltimore Orioles.  It is always dangerous to roster a pitcher against the Orioles because they have power throughout their lineup that can take advantage of mistakes.  If Happ is on his game, however, he should be able to have success against the Orioles.  Baltimore has struck out 25 percent of the time against left-handed pitching this season with a .317 wOBA and 94 wRC+.  Happ has been very good against right-handed hitters this season, limiting them to a .284 xwOBA and striking out 27.9 percent.  The Orioles will also be without Chris Davis, which is a boost for Happ because he is prone to giving up home runs to power-hitting lefties.  If you care about BvP, most of the Orioles middle-of-the-order bats have not fared well against Happ in terms of average exit velocity or strikeout percentage.  Happ is one of the better tournament pitchers on the board.

David Price is worth a mention simply because he is $7,700 on DraftKings.  He has not had great results since his return from the disabled list, but he also has had a tough string of matchups with three of his last four starts coming against the Yankees, Astros and Angels.  Tonight’s matchup with Minnesota is slightly better, but still not great.  The Twins have dangerous right-handed bats that can get to Price if he makes mistakes and they do not chase many pitches out of the zone.  For the season, Minnesota has struck out 20.9 percent of the time against left-handed pitching while posting a .313 wOBA and 92 wRC+.  While Price’s numbers have not been great, his stuff appears to be fine so he will probably start performing better once he gets more favorable matchups.  I prefer Happ in tournaments but Price is a viable option at his salary on DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

Jameson Taillon is in an excellent spot tonight at home against the Rays.  He will probably go overlooked since he is an underdog against Chris Archer, but that would be a mistake.  The Rays will most likely have three left-handed bats, five right-handed bats and a pitcher in their lineup tonight.  Taillon has been able to get out lefties this season, allowing just 22.2 percent hard contact and getting 55.7 percent groundballs.  He has only struck them out 16.7 percent of the time, but since there will probably not be many in the lineup that is not too concerning.  Against righties, Taillon has struck out 25.0 percent with a 49.3 percent groundball percentage.  Most of the Tampa lineup will probably be righties that have a tendency to strike out often.  This matchup is a great combination of safety and upside for Taillon and he ranks right alongside Happ as one of my favorite tournament pitchers.

Dinelson Lamet is a lineup-dependent play against the Braves.  He has been lights-out against righties this season while struggling against lefties.  The Braves figure to have three lefties in their top five hitters, with Inciarte, Markakis and Adams.  After that, it remains to be seen how many lefties they work in to the lineup.  If Lamet only has to contend with those three, he makes for a high-upside tournament option.  If there are more lefties in the lineup, he becomes a much riskier option and a good fade candidate as he has allowed a .384 xwOBA and 42.9 percent hard contact with 3.86 home runs per nine innings to lefties in his limited time in the majors this season.

Jaime Garcia burned a lot of people in his last start against the Giants, but tonight’s matchup against the Padres at Petco Park is much more favorable.  I cannot figure out what has changed for Garcia, but he has posted outstanding plate discipline numbers over his last four starts.  He has faced Philadelphia, the Mets, Miami and San Francisco over his last four starts and recorded swinging strike percentages of 13.5, 18.2, 19.8 and 12.7, respectively.  For reference, his swinging strike percentage for the season is 11.3 percent.  He also was getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone in those games, recording o-swing percentages of 29.1, 34.6, 46.6 and 41.1 percent.  His season average is 31.0 percent.  Garcia remains inexpensive around the industry and has a lot of upside against this young Padres team.

My Preferred Cash Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Jameson Taillon, Jaime Garcia

My Preferred GPP Pitchers: J.A. Happ, Jameson Taillon, Jaime Garcia

Hitting

High-Priced

Justin Smoak will face Ubaldo Jimenez tonight at the Rogers Centre is Toronto.  Smoak has been excellent this season, posting a .409 xwOBA and .295 ISO against right-handed pitching.  Jimenez has allowed a .364 xwOBA and 3.67 home runs per nine innings to opposing lefties this season.

Mitch Moreland faces Kyle Gibson in Fenway Park.  Gibson has struggled against lefties throughout his career and this season as been no different as he has allowed 1.54 home runs per nine innings on 39.0 percent hard contact with a .345 xwOBA.  Moreland has been much better than a lot of people realize this season, posting a .401 xwOBA and .241 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.

Billy Hamilton faces Jimmy Nelson, who has not been good at holding runners throughout his career.  Nelson has been better this season, likely because of the presence of Manny Pina behind the plate.  If Pina gets the start for the Brewers, Hamilton can be downgraded although he is still a viable option.  If Pina does not get the start, however, Hamilton jumps out as one of the top options on the slate regardless of position.

Aaron Judge is pretty much always a top play because of his upside and tonight is no different.  He is not in Yankees Stadium, but Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago is still a hitter-friendly park that Judge can do plenty of damage in.  James Shields is just not a good pitcher anymore and he has allowed 1.93 home runs per nine innings to righties so far this season.  Since the start of last season, Shields has allowed a .361 xwOBA allowed to right-handed hitters.

Matt Adams has a .395 xwOBA and .279 ISO against right-handed pitching this season and will face Dinelson Lamet tonight.  It is a significant ballpark downgrade for Adams going to Petco Park, but it is still a great matchup.  Lamet is inconsistent with his change-up and, when he does not have a feel for it, he struggles against lefties.  He has allowd 3.86 home runs per nine innings to lefties in his stint in the majors and has allowed 42.9 percent hard contact and 9.5 percent soft contact.  Lamet has struck out 26.2 percent of lefties so the strikeout ability is still there, but Adams has plenty of upside as a power-hitting lefty.

Cody Bellinger has six multi-home run games already for the Dodgers and that tells you all that you need to know about his upside on any slate.  He has a very nice matchup against J.C. Ramirez of the Angels tonight.  Ramirez has been better against right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters this season, allowing 2.61 home runs per nine innings on 45.1 percent hard contact with just 10.7 percent soft contact to lefties.  Look for Bellinger to be able to take advantage.

Value

Kendrys Morales gets the same great matchup as Justin Smoak.  While Smoak’s breakout this season has garnered a lot of attention, Morales continues to go somewhat overlooked.  Morales has a .372 xwOBA and .206 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.  Morales has plenty of upside in this matchup, especially at $3,700 on DraftKings and $7,200 on FantasyDraft.

Justin Bour has quietly been one of the best hitters in baseball this season.  He has a .389 xwOBA and .244 ISO against right-handed pitching and he will face Seth Lugo tonight.  Lugo has allowed a .376 xwOBa to lefties since the start of last season.  The ballpark is not favorable for Bour, but he has enough power to hit the ball out of any stadium.  He usually goes under-owned in tournaments and tonight will probably not be any different at a deep first base position.

Christian Yelich does not offer much power upside whenever he is at home and that makes him tough to recommend in GPPs.  In cash games, however, he is a nice way to save some money in the outfield.  As mentioned before, Lugo has struggled against lefties since being called to the big leagues last season and Yelich is an above-average hitter against right-handed pitching.  While he is unlikely to hit a home run, he should be able to put the ball in play and give himself a nice chance to pick up some points against Lugo.  At $3,500 on DraftKings and $6,800 on FantasyDraft, Yelich is a strong cash game option that should help you pay up for Kershaw.

Stacks

Toronto Blue Jays- The Jays will be popular tonight and they have a lot of upside.  Jimenez is generally better against right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters, which is reason for concern if you are stacking Toronto as they have a lot of right-handed bats.  Still, Jimenez is prone to issues with his control and, while the return of Darren O’Day helps to fix the back of the Orioles bullpen, the front-end is still vulnerable if Jimenez is forced from the game early.

Boston Red Sox- The Boston spot is similar to the Jays.  Kyle Gibson has struggled against righties overall this season, but throughout his career he has been much better against righties than lefties.  Most of the Boston lineup is right-handed so there is definitely a possibility that Gibson is able to keep them in check.  Still, it is a very high upside spot because Gibson is capable of having control issues and struggling as he has to pitch behind in the count.  The Twins bullpen is in the bottom third of the league in xFIP over the last 14 days and we could see a big score from the Red Sox if they are able to get to the bullpen early.

New York Yankees- James Shields is not the pitcher that he used to be and the Yankees have plenty of power in their lineup, although they are currently dealing with injuries that make them somewhat less dangerous.  It is a great hitter’s park and the White Sox bullpen has struggled of late, posting the 4th-highest xFIP in the league over the last 14 days.  Three separate Chicago relievers threw more than 30 pitches yesterday, so they could be a little thin tonight.

Milwaukee Brewers- This is a classic boom or bust spot for the Brewers.  Homer Bailey was absolutely awful in his first start of the season against the Nationals.  We need to keep in mind, however, that the Nationals are a very good offense and it was a tough landing spot for Bailey in his first start back from the disabled list after not logging a full season since 2014.  The Brewers have a lot of power throughout their lineup and are playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.  While it would not be shocking to see Bailey perform much better against the Brewers than he did against the Nationals, this is still a very high upside spot for Milwaukee that is worth having exposure to in tournaments.

Los Angeles Dodgers- The Dodgers will probably go overlooked tonight because they are in one of the late games and their 4.6 implied run total is the 8th-highest on the slate.  They make for a great contrarian tournament stack, however.  J.C. Ramirez has struggled against lefties this season, allowing 2.61 home runs per nine innings.  He has allowed the 3rd-most hard contact on the slate to lefties- 2nd-most if Homer Bailey’s one start is excluded.  The Dodgers have left-handed power up and down their lineup that should be able to get to Ramirez.  The downside for the Dodgers is that they are not in a good park for hitters.  The Angels also only have one left-handed pitcher in their bullpen.