MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/14/17

 

PITCHING

Carlos Carrasco [RHP – CLE] @ OAK Carrasco suffered one miserable outing last month, allowing eight runs and three long balls to the Rangers across only 3.1 innings of work. That was the only time over the past 30 days that he hasn’t looked like a front-of-the-rotation ace, as Cleveland’s 30-year-old right-hander has racked up 42 strikeouts over his last 29.1 innings pitched. Friday’s matchup with Oakland should provide him with yet another opportunity to rack up the K’s, as the Athletics are striking out at a 25.4-percent clip (2nd) vs. right-handed arms this season.

The A’s are tied with the Mets for the lowest implied run total (3.7) on Friday’s 15-game slate. They should struggle against Carrasco, who oddly enough has fared significantly better on the road for his career. I don’t have the answers for why Carrasco has struggled at Progressive Field, but the numbers don’t lie; he’s allowing a .331 wOBA , 1.29 HR/9 and 32-percent hard contact at home since 2009, compared to a .276 wOBA, .70 HR/9 and 28-percent hard contact on the road. Moreover, O.Co serves as one of the more pitcher-friendly venues in baseball. Carrasco easily makes for an elite high-end pitching option on our first day back from the break, and should be the first pitcher you consider on FanDuel at only $9,500.

 

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] vs. COL The Rockies boast far from imposing numbers against right-handed pitchers, and that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise by looking at their lineup. David Dahl is inching closer to a return, but he’s still on a rehab assignment with High-A Lancaster, Carlos Gonzalez is easily having the worst season of his career, and Charlie Blackmon, despite a stellar 2017 campaign, has been markedly worse away from Coors. Unsurprisingly, Colorado is striking out at a 23.7-percent clip on the road while sporting a sub-300 wOBA and a league-worst .130 ISO.

Much like Carrasco, Jacob deGrom has suffered only one poor start over the past 30 days. That start featured four home runs (all solo shots) allowed to the Cardinals in his last start before the break, but deGrom still managed to strike out five batters across seven innings and earn the win. He’s been stellar in five starts since mid-June, averaging just shy of eight innings pitched per game while sporting a 25-percent K-rate, 12.6-percent swinging strike rate, 1.62 ERA and a much improved 5.6-percent walk rate over that stretch.

The Rockies’ 3.7-run implied total is tied with Oakland for the lowest mark on Friday’s slate, and while deGrom is only a -140 ML favorite at home, we’d be hard-pressed to find issues with this matchup. deGrom’s four-seamer has been otherworldly this year, leading the league in whiff/swing (35.4%) and sitting 10th in average velocity among all qualified starters. It’s allowed for him to set up an array of secondary pitches and keep batters off balance all night long. I prefer Carrasco to deGrom on FanDuel where he’s discounted by $1,400, but on DraftKings and FantasyDraft these two ace right-handers are too close to call.

 

Charlie Morton [RHP – HOU] vs. MIN Charlie Morton’s increased velocity, paired with a surprisingly filthy curveball, has done him well in 2017. His primary pitch, the two-seamer, is sitting just under 96 MPH, a number that’s bested by only five starters this season. Meanwhile, Morton’s curveball has a higher whiff/swing rate (50.5%) than every pitcher not named Jon Lester or Mike Pelfrey (yes, seriously). But unlike those two pitchers, Morton is throwing his curveball nearly 30 percent of the time. Morton’s biggest problem this season has been his inability to work three times through the order. His sinker has dominated opponents the first two times through the order (.226 AVG), but the third time hasn’t been a charm for ole Chuck, where batters are torching this pitch for a .500 AVG this season.

Nevertheless, Morton is severely discounted on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft, making him a great second pitcher option against the Twins. Minnesota owns league average numbers in almost every fantasy-relevant category against right-handed pitchers this season, and their 4-run implied total is higher than only the Rockies, Mets and Cardinals on Friday night. If Morton manages to hold it together entering the sixth inning he should be fantastic. His stuff has been electric this season, and he has the league’s best offense backing him every start. I’ll happily deploy him at such a bogus price point, as Morton is legitimately throwing two of the better pitches in all of baseball.

 

R.A. Dickey [RHP – ATL] vs. ARI Out of respect to my fellow FanVice analyst, Peter Christensen, I’m going to hold off on explaining this play until the Deeper Dive kicks off at 5pm EST. DraftCheat will take it from there.

 

Kevin Gausman [RHP – BAL] vs. CHC Gausman came unglued in the fifth inning of his last start, failing to record an out and finishing the night with five earned runs allowed to the Twins. It was an ugly frame, and is just one of many reasons why the 26-year-old right-hander doesn’t inspire much confidence in anyone these days, but he still managed to strike out seven batters and recorded 17-percent swinging strikes on the evening. Actually, Gausman is sporting a 31.5-percent K-rate and 14.2-percent swinging strike rate over his last four starts, while allowing only 28.6-percent hard contact with a 3.16 SIERA.

I doubt anyone will be looking to roster Gausman on Friday, which makes him a solid tournament punt against the Cubs. Chicago simply hasn’t been good against right-handed pitching this season, so this matchup isn’t as scary as it may initially appear. For what it’s worth, Gausman has been markedly better at home, too, where his 22.7-percent strikeout rate is 10 percent higher than it is on the road. Weather is a concern in this game, so be sure to keep a close watch on any developments as we lead up to lock. Gausman is worth the risk if you’re inclined to partake to this form of torture.

 

Johnny Cueto [RHP – SFG] @ SDP Cueto should be a semi-popular play on Friday, but I don’t see the appeal. We already have two elite pitching options atop the position in Carrasco and deGrom, and several low-end arms as optimal pairing choices, so where does Cueto fit into the equation? He’s striking batters out at a pedestrian 20-percent clip, and has seen his fastball velocity decline significantly over his last two starts, sitting at 89 MPH in his last start before the break where he was torched for six runs against the Marlins.

A matchup with San Diego is undoubtedly a favorable one, but Cueto is priced up across the board, and I simply cannot justify that with the way he’s been pitching this season. Actually, I’d rather take my chances on Nick Pivetta [RHP – PHI] against the Brewers, as he’ll be much lower owned and is striking batters out at a 29.4-percent clip over his last five starts.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] vs. Walker [RHP] I mean, seriously, do I even need to explain why Freeman is in play tonight? Atlanta’s MVP-contending infielder (will he even be eligible?) is absolutely unstoppable. Really, there has been no way to stop him. Across 155 PA vs. right-handed pitching, Freeman is sporting a .485 wOBA (leads league), .417 ISO, 40.4-percent hard-hit rate and 1.13 BB/K rate this season. In six games since returning from a near two-month injury hiatus, Freeman has recorded two home runs, three doubles and eight RBI. His 9.6-percent soft-hit rate against righties this season is just another feather in the cap, as Freeman has arguably been the best National League hitter when healthy.

Taijuan Walker has produced neutral platoon splits for his career, but it’s no surprise to see him struggle more against lefties in 2017. His .337 wOBA allowed to LHB is 50 points higher than that of RHB, while his 4.81 xFIP and 1.34 HR/9 are less than impressive marks. Factor in Walker’s having to pitch at the lefty-friendly Suntrust Field on Friday, and he should struggle not only against Freeman, but against this Braves team as a whole. Freeman is once again a top option across the board, at first base, third base, or wherever you can play him.

 

Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Adleman [RHP] Adleman is coughing up 2.35 HR/9 to left-handed hitters this season. He’s striking them out at a 15-percent clip with a 6.01 xFIP and 51.4-percent flyball rate. Now he’ll have to face Bryce Harper at Great American Ballpark. Harper boasts a .447/.317 wOBA/ISO vs. right-handed pitching, and he’ll get a very favorable park boost on Friday. It’s safe to say Harper is going to make good contact against Adleman, which is all we can ask for in the game of daily fantasy baseball. If you can afford him, play him. Or…

You could play Aaron Judge [OF – R], who faces Drew Pomeranz [LHP] inside the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. I have a lot of respect for Pomeranz, whose high-low fastball/curveball arsenal has allowed him to post a 25.5-percent K-rate and a 3.63 xFIP this season. He’s a quality southpaw with good swing-and-miss stuff, but I’m not sure any lefty is competition for Aaron Judge right now. Judge is butchering left-handed pitching to the tune of a .517 wOBA and .431 ISO, while making hard contact and hitting fly balls at an identical, and ridiculous, 47.4-percent clip. I’m well aware of Pomeranz’s reverse splits this season, but Judge has simply been too dominant to ignore on that premise alone.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Daniel Murphy [2B – L] @ Adleman [RHP]; Jean Segura [SS – R] @ Shields [RHP]; Gary Sanchez [C – R] @ Pomeranz [LHP] [GPP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] @ Gausman [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Shields [RHP] The second base position offers several solid options on Friday, but none as strong as Robinson Cano. The Mariner’s All-Star infielder draws a stellar matchup with James Shields, and he’s surprisingly underpriced across the industry. At $4,200 on DraftKings and $3,200 on FanDuel, there’s really no reason to look elsewhere in cash unless you’re intent on paying for Daniel Murphy.

Shield has been pissed on by left-handed bats this season, allowing a behemoth .430 wOBA, .368 ISO and 3.94 HR/9 across 82 batters faced. He’s lugging around a putrid 8.08 xFIP while allowing 57.9-percent fly balls and 21.2-percent HR/FB to LHB. Meanwhile, Cano’s .363/.237 wOBA/ISO split vs. RHP is more than enough to love him on Friday, especially with this game taking place inside the homer-happy Guaranteed Rate Field.

 

Manny Machado [3B – R] vs. Montgomery [LHP] Montgomery has now endured two hellacious outings in a row, with one of them being a relief appearance in which he struggled across three innings of laborious work. He isn’t a terrible lefty, and hasn’t been susceptible to coughing up many home runs, but I’d be surprised to see him escape Friday’s meeting with the Orioles unscathed.

Here’s the thing: Machado has been very unlucky this season, which says a lot for a player with 18 home runs, 17 doubles and 47 RBI at the All-Star break. It’s the truth, though, as Machado’s 40-percent hard-hit rate is easily the highest mark of his career, so is his 43.2-percent flyball rate. His .232 BABIP, however, is a career-low mark. No hitter in baseball has recorded more batted ball above 95 MPH than Machado, while only Aaron Judge and Khris Davis have connected for more barreled balls than Baltimore’s third baseman this season. You get the point. I’ll take my chances on his positive regression tonight at Camden Yards. We’ll just have to hope the weather holds off long enough for him to make it happen.

 

Brian Goodwin [OF – L] @ Adleman [RHP] Goodwin is a great way to get exposure to the Nationals without having to pay a premium. Both Harper and Murphy are excellent plays at their positions, but they’ll cost you a fortune. Goodwin, however, has been hitting well and is still priced in the cellar. I’ll happily get exposure to the rookie outfielder on Friday, as he draws the platoon advantage with a favorable park shift and a 5.3-run implied total against Adleman and Co.

Ben Gamel [OF – L] is another way to get affordable exposure to a top projected offense tonight. He’s cheap, draws the platoon advantage, and is facing James Shields, who as earlier noted has been dreadful vs. left-handed bats. Both of these outfielders make for great ways to save — especially if you’re paying for both pitchers.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Buster Posey [C/1B – R] @ Richard [LHP]; Logan Morrison [1B – L] @ Nolasco [RHP]; Elvis Andrus [SS – R] @ Hammel [RHP]; J.D. Martinez [OF – R] vs. Sanchez [RHP] [DK- GPP]; David Peralta [OF – L] @ Dickey [RHP] [GPP]; Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] vs. Perez [LHP];

 

VALUE

 

Kyle Seager [3B – L] @ Shields [RHP] Seager hasn’t been very good this season, but he hasn’t been bad enough to cost $3,300 on DraftKings and $2,500 on FanDuel against James Shields. Seriously, Seattle owns the highest implied total (5.5) on Friday’s 15-game slate, and Seager is priced in the basement. Shields has been brutalized by left-handed hitters and Seager is priced in the basement. Guaranteed Rate Field is a top-five hitter’s park in baseball, and Seager is priced in the basement. You get the point. He’ll be popular, but there is all the reason in the world to roster Seager on Friday.

Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] is a nice pivot at an identical price on FanDuel and a $300 increase on DraftKings. Batting ninth is a joke, but maybe we’ll see him move in the order. Even if he doesn’t, Gallo still boasts more than enough power to pay off his price tag with one swing of the bat.

 

Alex Avila [C/1B – L] vs. Sanchez [RHP] Aaron Sanchez hasn’t pitched enough innings this season for us to use those numbers, so I’m not going to look at his reverse splits in 2017 and assume he’s magically become an entirely different pitcher. Here’s what matters: Sanchez has posted natural platoon splits for his career, with a significantly higher home run rate allowed to left-handed bats. He got shelled in his return from injury last week, and was awful in two minor-league starts prior to last week’s debacle. The Tigers own a 4.7-run implied total at home.

Avila’s production against right-handed pitchers has been astounding this season. Not only does he rank sixth in wOBA (.420) among all qualified hitters, but he leads the league in both hard contact (59.3%) and soft contact (3.5%) vs. right-handed arms. He’s also walking at a 17.7-percent clip. At his price point I don’t see any reason to avoid him at a weak catcher position.

 

Adam Lind [1B – L] @ Adleman [RHP] I’m expecting Adam Lind to get another start on Friday against Tim Adleman, and if he does you’ll want to consider him in such a strong matchup. Lind is producing really well against right-handed pitching (.381 wOBA, .231 ISO), so a favorable park shift to GAB won’t do anything but help him tonight. He’s dirt cheap on FanDuel ($2,600), which makes him even more enticing now that Freddie Freeman has been moved to third base. Lind serves as a phenomenal first base punt on a night where you aren’t obligated to spend at the position.

 

Corey Dickerson [OF – L] @ Nolasco [RHP] Much like Seager, C-Dick is far too cheap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft to ignore against the incredible dong machine, Ricky Nolasco. The Angels’ veteran right-hander has served up 25 home runs this season. TWENTY FIVE! That puts him on pace to allow almost 46 dingers across a 33-start season. Whether he’s home or on the road, Nolasco is as homer prone as they come, and while Dickerson hasn’t looked especially productive of late, he’s still posting very solid numbers with the platoon advantage this season (.381/.251 wOBA/ISO).

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Stephen Vogt [C – L] vs. Pivetta [RHP]; Stephen Drew [2B/SS – L] @ Adleman [RHP]