MLB DEEP DIVE – 6/5/17

PITCHING

Jeff Samardzija [RHP – SFG] @ MIL The Brewers rank top-10 in both wOBA (.329) and ISO (.189) vs. right-handed pitching. There’s no disputing the power here. Eric Thames and Travis Shaw have have offered serious pop atop Milwaukee’s order, combining for 19 home runs and 54 RBI against opposite-handed arms this season. Even Eric Sogard has held his own since replacing Jonathan Villar in the leadoff role. Having said that, the Brewers lack left-handed talent at both the middle and bottom of the order. Their 5-9 hitters all bat from the right side of the plate, while Thames, Shaw and Sogard will likely be their only starting lefties on Monday night.

From a strikeout perspective, Milwaukee poses one of the best matchups around. Individually, these guys strike out a ton vs. right-handed pitching (Keon Broxton 40.1 K%, Jesus Aguilar 32.9 K%, Domingo Santana 28.4 K%, Jett Bandy 23.6 K%, Eric Thames 22.2 K%, Travis Shaw 20 K%), with Sogard being the only projected starter to own a sub-20 percent K-rate in 2017. Even if Villar gets the start, he’s striking out at a whopping 28 percent clip while sporting a .279 wOBA vs. RHP. Ryan Braun’s absence also significantly weakens the middle of this lineup.

Jeff Samardzija’s struggles have come almost exclusively against left-handed hitters this season, to whom he’s allowing a .379 wOBA and 2.06 HR/9 across 152 total batters faced. Righties, however, have been stymied by the veteran workhorse, managing a mere .265 wOBA, .114 ISO and 26 percent flyball rate across 145 PA. Samardzija has surrendered only two home runs to RHB (.49 HR/9), while boasting a pristine 26.2 percent K-BB rate (28.3 K%, 2.1 BB%) and 2.46 xFIP this season.

Miller Park is quite the downgrade from AT&T Park, but the Brewers’ implied run total has fallen below four and Samardzija is striking out well over a batter per inning this season, so he should be able to mitigate any damage facilitated by the homer-happy venue. Shark’s 28.3 percent K-rate is a career-high mark, while his 11.1 percent swinging strike rate was topped only in 2012 (12.1% SwStr). I’ll happily roll the dice on Samardzija in a matchup where he possesses legitimate double-digit strikeout upside against the K-heavy Brewers.

Sean Manaea [LHP – OAK] vs. TOR Sean Manaea has been fantastic in his second major-league campaign, boasting a stellar 14.3 percent swinging strike rate, 27.4 percent K-rate and 51 percent groundball rate across 48.1 innings of work. The 25-year-old southpaw is producing these marks despite some very difficult matchups, having already faced the Yankees, Indians, Red Sox, Astros and Rangers in Arlington. Let’s take this one step further, though: Manaea has made nine starts in 2017, and seven of them have come against teams with bottom-seven strikeout rates (LAA x2, SEA x2, HOU, CLE, BOS).

If you’re wondering whether or not Manaea’s production has been a fluke, it would serve you well to review his success on individual pitches. Manaea’s three-pitch arsenal consists of a four-seam fastball (54.2% USG), changeup (25.2% USG) and slider (20.5% USG), garnering whiff/swing rates of 19 percent, 46.6 percent and 50.6 percent, respectively. Amazingly, these marks are actually improved against right-handed hitting this season, which should serve Manaea well against a righty-heavy Toronto offense.

Manaea should go slightly overlooked on Monday, as he isn’t a heavy favorite at home, and John Gibbons will likely run a nine-righty lineup against the southpaw. Fortunately, Manaea is holding right-handed hitters to a .289 wOBA this season with a 30 percent K-rate and 3.53 xFIP across 154 batters faced. Walks have been a problem for Manaea, and Toronto draws plenty of free passes, but they also strike out a 22.9 percent clip (9th) vs. RHP while ranking bottom-10 in wOBA (.300) and ISO (.139).

The return of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki should help to improve Toronto’s averages, but Manaea has been so stellar that I’m willing to overlook the potential downside. I’ll be pairing him with Samardzija on DraftKings and FantasyDraft in the majority of lineups tonight. Manaea also makes for an elite tournament play on FanDuel, where he’ll likely go virtually unowned.

 

Junior Guerra [RHP – MIL] vs. SFG Milwaukee’s 32-year-old right-hander endured a long and strenuous road to the majors, but he’s here, and he’s performing quite well. I’m not buying Guerra’s 1.84 ERA through three starts in 2017, which might have something to do with a 98.4 percent strand rate and .158 BABIP, but that doesn’t mean he’s been bad, either. Guerra has done a solid job of limiting hard contact and is getting a good amount of swinging strikes on his secondary pitches (slider, splitter). He’s still only slightly better than league average, though, so our expectations should be kept in check.

Fortunately for those of us looking to target Guerra on Monday, he’ll draw an elite matchup with the Giants. San Francisco ranks dead last in both wOBA (.282) and ISO (.130) vs. right-handed pitching this season, while also drawing walks at a bottom-five clip (7.5% BB). Strikeout will be hard to come by in this matchup, but the Giants’ utter ineptitude at the plate should afford Guerra a chance to last seven innings with very minimal damage on the basepaths. I still prefer Manaea over Guerra, but can understand the trepidation towards the former. Guerra should serve as a fine mid-range pivot as your SP-2 on two-pitcher sites.

 

J.A. Happ [LHP – TOR] @ OAK Happ is a rather risky play on Monday, but his matchup with Oakland is actually quite appealing. The Athletics have morphed into the Brewers of the west this season, boasting a combination of power and strikeouts that make them both a high-upside and volatile matchup for opposing pitchers. Oakland has surprisingly struggled against left-handed pitching, though, owning bottom-10 marks in both wOBA (.293) and ISO (.140) across 478 PA. They’re also striking out at the third highest clip in baseball (25.9%), so lefties have actually found more success against Oakland than righties in 2017.

Since the start of 2016, Happ is holding opposing righties to a .294 wOBA with a 22 percent K-rate across 709 batters faced. He should be able to offset Oakland’s heavy right-handed presence with a passable changeup and much-improved two-seam fastball. He’s a viable mid-range second pitcher if you don’t feel comfortable looking elsewhere, and the favorable park shift from Rogers Centre to O.Co should also increase the appeal.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

George Springer [OF – R] @ Kennedy [RHP] Springer is unquestionably the hottest hitter in baseball right now, having racked up seven home runs and 13 RBI over his last eight games, while recording multi-hit efforts in all but one of those starts. It’s hard to argue against paying any price for Springer right now, especially against Ian Kennedy, who has looked atrocious and is allowing more than two home runs per nine to right-handed bats.

Houston’s 5.3-run implied total is the highest on Monday’s seven-game slate, which should come as no surprise considering this team is averaging north of eight runs per game over their recent 10-game winning streak. Pitching is affordable on Monday, too, so you won’t be strapped for cap space in the outfield. This is a wave I want to ride until it crashes.

Marwin Gonzalez [1B/3B/OF – L/R] is incredibly expensive for a guy who’s never flashed elite potential at the plate, but like the rest of this Astros team he is on fire. Gonzalez has actually been impressive all season long, as evidenced by a .455 wOBA and .354 ISO vs. right-handed pitching. His nine home runs, seven doubles and 28 RBI vs. RHP is also quite alluring. I prefer Gonzalez most on DraftKings where he’s eligible at a weak third base position, but wouldn’t be against playing him anywhere across the industry assuming you can afford the inflated price point.

 

Matt Kemp [OF – R] vs. Pivetta [RHP] Kemp was a colossal disaster on Sunday in a golden matchup with Amir Garrett and a weak Cincinnati bullpen, going 0-6 at the plate despite Atlanta tallying 13 runs on the day. I’m still pissed over yesterday’s glowing display of ineptitude, but cannot justify fading him on Monday against Nick Pivetta.

The Phillies’ rookie right-hander has been tortured by right-handed hitters this season, allowing a .499 wOBA and 4.22 HR/9 across 55 batters faced. 18 percent of righties to have faced Pivetta have recorded an extra base hit this season, while 41 percent of them have reached base safely. Kemp, on the other hand, is sporting a .400 wOBA and a .242 ISO vs. same-handed pitching.

The Braves own a Goliath 5.2-run implied total this evening, so it’s hard to believe Kemp could be as dismal as he was yesterday in an equally appealing matchup. As disgusting as this makes me feel on the inside, I’ll be going back to the Kemp well in one of the best matchups he’ll see all season.

 

Eric Thames [1B – L] vs. Samardzija [RHP] As earlier noted, I’m a big fan of Samardzija on Monday, but his biggest test will come against Eric Thames in the two-hole for Milwaukee. Thames unsurprisingly went cold for a stretch, but he’s still torching righties to the tune of a .427/.320 wOBA/ISO in 2017. Thames’ 42.7 percent flyball rate and 43.3 percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP is equally impressive, and Miller Park won’t do anything to suppress that power.

Samardzija has been lights out against same-handed hitters, but lefties have rocked him for a .379 wOBA and 2.06 HR/9 this season. I’m only worried about Thames and to some extent Travis Shaw [3B – L], both of whom make for great tournament plays in non-Samardzija lineups. Thames’ and Samardzija’s success on Monday are not mutually exclusive, as both are stellar options in their own right.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Correa [SS – R] @ Kennedy [RHP]; Jose Altuve [2B – R] @ Kennedy [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Josh Reddick [OF – L] @ Kennedy [RHP] Reddick is yet another Houston bat worth targeting on Monday, and his slightly inflated price point falls more into the midrange on a night where all hitters are priced through the roof. Ian Kennedy is lugging around a 5.34 xFIP and 12.6 percent walk rate vs. left-handed hitters this season, while allowing 47 percent fly balls and a 40 percent hard-hit rate. Reddick is more than capable of hitting weak righties for power, and he should continue to benefit from batting behind Springer and ahead of Altuve. Reddick is one of many stellar Astro bats to choose from on a night where the own a slate-high 5.3-run implied total against the deteriorating Kennedy.

 

Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP] Carpenter isn’t enjoying the most brilliant of seasons in 2017, but he’s been far from disappointing. In 160 PA against right-handed pitching, Carpenter is sporting a .356 wOBA and .215 ISO, both of which are more than serviceable for a player with his mid-range price point. Moreover, Carpenter owns a stellar 50 percent flyball rate and 43 percent hard-hit rate vs. righties. His .256 BABIP should also begin to correct itself in the near future.

There is nothing about tonight’s matchup with Asher Wojciechowski that should concern us, especially considering Carpenter will be hitting inside Great American Ballpark. The Cardinals own the third highest implied run total on Monday’s slate (5.1), and draw a very favorable park shift moving away from St. Louis. The first base position doesn’t offer much intrigue at the top outside of Eric Thames, making Carpenter one of the best overall mid-range options on the night.

 

Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP] Chris Taylor has arguably been the Dodgers’ best hitter this season, especially when facing left-handed pitching. On the year, Taylor is boasting a .485 wOBA and .267 ISO vs. southpaws across a small sample (35 AB), but he’s also dominated same-handed pitching with a much larger sample. There’s no more concern about Taylor being pinch-hit for, making him a safer play whenever he’s slotted into the lineup.

Gio Gonzalez generally doesn’t allow many home runs, but he’s already coughed up 10 long balls on the season — all 10 of which have come against right-handed bats. Gonzalez has had some real struggles with opposite-handed hitters in 2017 (.346 wOBA/.200 ISO), allowing 1.72 HR/9 with a 12.3 percent walk rate and 4.88 xFIP. If you aren’t paying a premium for Jose Altuve at second base, both Taylor and Logan Forsythe [2B/3B – R] make for strong mid-range options with the platoon advantage against Gonzalez.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Beltran [OF – L/R] @ Kennedy [RHP]; Matt Adams [1B/OF – L] vs. Pivetta [RHP]; Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] vs. Fiers [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Fiers [RHP]; Brian McCann [C – L] @ Kennedy [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Odubel Herrera [OF – L] @ Colon [RHP] Herrera has been a disgrace this season, but he may be turning a corner to some extent of late. He’s always been a streaky hitter so it’s worth paying attention to when his bat begins to heat up, and Herrera has now tallied a homer, four doubles and six RBI over his last two games. At $2,900 on DraftKings and $2,500 on FanDuel, Herrera makes for a fine punt against one of the worst pitchers going on Monday night. It also doesn’t hurt to know that Suntrust Park has been one of the most lefty-friendly venues in baseball, which should benefit whichever lefties are slotted into this Phillies lineup.

Bartolo Colon has absolutely nothing left in the tank at 44 years of age, and he should struggle even against this meager Phillies squad. With Philly owning the fourth highest implied run total on this seven-game slate (4.9), Herrera won’t need to do much in order to pay off such a favorable price point. Hopefully he’ll be batting second behind Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R], who is also a viable value play against Colon.

 

Salvador Perez [C – R] vs. Fiers [RHP] Much like the rest of this Royals squad, Salvador Perez has endured some struggles this season. That being said, he’s sporting a very favorable .353/.252 wOBA/ISO split vs. right-handed pitching, which should serve him well against Mike Fiers. What’s even more impressive is Perez’s 51.8 percent flyball rate and 40 percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP.

Across 10 starts in 2017, Fiers has allowed a .490 wOBA and .470 ISO to same-handed hitters. Righties are dismantling Fiers to the tune of 5.23 HR/9 with a 50 percent FB rate and 40 percent hard-hit rate across 101 PA. Fiers has only allowed one home run over his last two starts, so he’s bound to start coughing up some dingers sooner than later. Kansas City doesn’t boast much power, but Perez is dirt cheap on DraftKings and has every ability to take Fiers deep. He is my top catcher option on DraftKings. On FanDuel, however, Brian McCann [C – R] is a more appealing play at $2,900.

 

Chad Pinder [2B/SS – R] vs. Happ [LHP] I’m not a huge fan of using hitters against J.A. Happ, who has done a solid job of limiting right-handed power, but the shortstop position is weak enough to consider Pinder if he bats second. This is nothing more than a price play, but I’d have no problem using Pinder if he’s slotted into the top of Oakland’s order. Otherwise, you’ll likely be forced to use Carlos Correa at the top or Trea Turner against an above-average lefty.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Maikel Franco [3B – R]/Michael Saunders [OF – L] @ Colon [RHP]; Tommy Joseph [1B – R] @ Colon [RHP] [GPP]; Kike Hernandez [OF/SS – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP]