MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/17/17

PITCHING

Chad Kuhl [RHP – PIT] vs. MIL Yes, we have ourselves a 12-game baseball slate and Chad Kuhl is the first pitcher to hit the Deep Dive. It’s a dreadful night for pitching — top, middle, and bottom — headlined by an overpriced Lance McCullers [RHP – HOU] and a scuffling Jon Lester [LHP – CHC]. McCullers is viable on FanDuel at $9,100, but paying a mega-premium for him on DraftKings and FantasyDraft feels unwise, as he’s struggled to pitch deep into games. Moreover, this slate offers some really nice high-priced bats, so we can pay down for pitching and still feel confident in our lineups.

Now onto Chad Kuhl… The second-year righty hasn’t been great this season, but he’s been much better against same-handed hitters overall. He’s holding them to a below-average wOBA (.307) with only three home runs allowed this season (.60 HR/9). Milwaukee runs only three left-handed bats out each night, and Jonathan Villar is hardly a threat.

Kuhl has somehow been worse at home inside the pitcher-friendly PNC Park, but I don’t buy it, as he’s a league-average groundball pitcher with an average hard-hit rate. The Brewers own the fifth lowest implied run total on Monday’s slate (4.3) and Kuhl is a -118 ML favorite at home, so the matchup isn’t that bad at his current price point. Pay up for hitting and hope Kuhl can grind his way to 17-20 DraftKings points. 15 fantasy points would be more than serviceable, though.

Eduardo Rodriguez [LHP – BOS] vs. TOR Eduardo Rodriguez was enjoying a nice season before a knee injury sidelined him for a month, but he’s set to return on Monday night against Toronto. The third-year southpaw made three rehab starts before returning to Boston’s rotation, allowing nine earned runs over his first seven innings (2 GS) before holding his opposition to one run with seven strikeouts across 6.1 IP in his final minor-league tune-up. He’s set to toe the rubber again tonight, and makes for a great tournament option who should garner very little attention in this matchup.

Rodriguez has displayed reverse splits over his short career, due in part to a strong changeup and a four-seam fastball that induces plenty of swinging strikes. He relies predominantly on the FB/CH combination, but has improved the slider — took something off of it and began throwing it for more called strikes — and introduced a cutter that’s getting decent results. Right-handed hitters own a sub-300 wOBA against Rodriguez, and while lefties have had some success, the Blue Jays will likely run a nine-righty lineup on Monday.

Jake Odorizzi [RHP – TB] @ OAK Odorizzi has been rather underwhelming this season, sporting a 4.63 ERA to accompany his 20.1-percent K-rate and 43.4-percent flyball rate across 83.2 innings pitched. That being said, Odorizzi is sitting on an 11-percent swinging strike rate, and owns some surprisingly impressive plate discipline numbers, like an 81.2-percent Z-Contact rate and a 77-percent contact rate this season.

He’ll face an Oakland squad on Monday that’s striking out at the second highest clip vs. right-handed pitching (25.6%) and has fallen to 15th in wOBA (.322). Their right-handed power is concerning, as Odorizzi is coughing up 2.31 HR/9 to same-handed bats, but there’s enough upside in this matchup to roll the dice. If Odorizzi can limit the A’s to a couple of runs inside the pitcher-friendly O.Co, he should be able to rack up enough strikeouts to pay off his depressed price point across the industry.

Josh Tomlin [RHP – CLE] @ SFG No one actually enjoys rostering Josh Tomlin, but on a night where his opponent owns the third lowest implied run total of any team scheduled, it’s only appropriate that we take a closer look. The Giants rank dead last in both wOBA (.291) and ISO (.133) vs. right-handed pitching this season, while their home park is arguably the most pitcher-friendly location in baseball.

I’ll never feel comfortable pulling the trigger on a pitcher like Tomlin, who is susceptible to coughing up multiple home runs and completely unraveling on any given night, but it’s not like our alternative options are much more enticing. This play has more to do with San Francisco being putrid than Tomlin being competent. He’s coming off a strong seven-inning, two-run, six-strikeout win against the Padres, and repeating that performance against the hapless Giants wouldn’t be the most far-fetched idea on Monday night.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 Carlos Correa [SS – R] vs. Miranda [LHP] I’ll designate this write-up to Houston righties instead of listing them all separately, but it’s important to note that these Astros bats are stellar plays on Monday night. Correa headlines this star-studded group of hitters, though, as shortstop is arguably thinner than any other position at all three tiers. Adam Scherer and I discussed Correa at length on this morning’s podcast, and were baffled by the fact that he’s yet to steal a base in 2017. Fortunately, Correa has already racked up 20 home runs, 18 doubles and 66 RBI, which kind of mitigates those concerns. Furthermore, the third-year infielder has tortured left-handed pitching to the tune of a .457 wOBA and .237 ISO across 86 PA.

Ariel Miranda has coughed up 18 home runs to right-handed bats this season, more than anyone not named Derek Holland. He’ll be in over his head tonight when the likes of George Springer [OF – R], Jose Altuve [2B – R], Evan Gattis [C – R], Marwin Gonzalez [3B/OF – L/R] and Correa come to the plate. All of them are top options at their positions, and a five-player Astros stack is easily achievable assuming you pay down for pitching. Miranda is not only surrendering 1.91 HR/9 to opposite-handed bats, but righties are hitting 53.7-percent fly balls against the southpaw this season. Houston’s 5.5-run implied total is the second highest mark on Monday’s slate, but I’m projecting the ‘Stros to lead the night in scoring — like they do every night.

Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] @ Teheran [RHP] Julio Teheran struggles mightily against left-handed hitters, as evidenced by his 6.02 xFIP and 1.88 HR/9 allowed. Having to pitch at Suntrust Park hasn’t made life any easier, as it continues to define itself as one of the most lefty-friendly venues in the game. Teheran will face a Cubs team that boasts a fair amount of talent from the left side of the plate, namely Anthony Rizzo, who strikes out at a miniscule clip (11.5%) despite his ample power. He’ll make for a top first base play on a night where the Cubs own a 5.1-run implied total in Atlanta.

 

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Perdomo [RHP] If Perdomo does one thing well, it’s his ability to induce ground balls. San Diego’s right-hander owns a higher groundball rate (67.1%) than any starter not named Dallas Keuchel, and the highest groundball rate vs. RHH by more than seven percent. He’s actually built to pitch at Coors, and with the Rockies lacking talent from the left side of the plate I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perdomo throw a decent game on Monday night.

Having said that, Perdomo is ceding a .392 wOBA to left-handed hitters this season, while owning a dismal 1.8-percent K-BB rate (11.7% K, 9.9% BB) and a 35.5-percent hard-hit rate across 162 batters faced. As a result, Blackmon becomes a top play once again. He’s brutalizing righties at Coors for a .499 wOBA and .410 ISO, while his 46.3-percent hard contact rate is just icing on the cake. I’m not all that interesting in a Rockies stack against Perdomo, but Blackmon should be considered an elite option in all formats across the industry.

 

Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Mejia [LHP] Blackmon, Springer and Judge headline the outfield position on Monday, and all of them draw dream matchups with similar price points across the board. Judge faces Adalberto Mejia, who owns a 5.28 xFIP and 6.7-percent K-BB rate vs. right-handed bats. That won’t do him any favors against the Yankees’ power-packed outfielder, as Judge’s .466 wOBA and .373 ISO vs. southpaws both rank top-five among all qualified hitters.

Judge is 3-25 at the plate over his last six starts, but if there was ever a spot for him to reignite the flame it would be tonight against Mejia. I still have him ranked behind Blackmon and Springer, but there’s no denying Judge’s upside against Minnesota’s below-average left-hander. New York owns a 5.1-run implied total on Monday night.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] vs. Suter [LHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Perdomo [RHP]; Justin Bour [1B – L] vs. Eickhoff [RHP]; Travis Shaw [3B – L] @ Kuhl [RHP] [GPP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Rougned Odor [2B – L] @ Tillman [RHP] By many metrics, Chris Tillman has been the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball this season. Not only is Baltimore’s veteran right-hander coughing up home runs at an alarming clip (2.02 HR/9), but he’s lugging around a disastrous -7.9-percent K-BB rate against left-handed bats. Tillman’s velocity is down two ticks on almost every pitch, resulting in hard contact and hardly any missed bats.

This matchup sets up nicely for Odor, who strikes out quite a bit (24.2 K% vs. RHP) but offers plenty of pop with the platoon advantage (.232 ISO vs. RHP). His salary has dropped precipitously across the board, and it couldn’t have come at a better time; Texas boasts a 5.2-run implied total inside the hitter-friendly Camden Yards, and I’d expect them to eclipse that number quite easily against Tillman and a pedestrian Baltimore bullpen.

Nomar Mazara [OF – L], Shin-soo Choo [OF – L], Adrian Beltre [3B – R] and Elvis Andrus [SS – R] are also in play at a mid-range price point. A Texas stack also makes plenty of sense if you’re looking to pay up for what I’d expect to be two low-owned pitchers in McCullers and Lester.

 

Khris Davis [OF – R] vs. Odorizzi [RHP] Davis should warrant plenty of intrigue on Monday, but I don’t suspect he will. Oakland’s slugging outfielder ranks fifth in average exit velocity (92.7 MPH), second in barreled balls (41) and tenth in batted balls of 95-plus MPH (110) this season. He’s crushing RHP for a .300 ISO, and leads every major-league hitter in home runs against them with 24 long balls across 273 at bats.

Odorizzi could post solid fantasy totals against an Athletics squad that strikes out at an alarming clip (including Davis), but he’s also surrendering 2.31 HR/9 to same-handed hitters this season. Odorizzi is coughing up 45.9-percent hard contact to RHH, and Davis is among the league lead in almost every contact metric through three and a half months. You do the math.

 

Manny Machado [3B – R] vs. Cashner [RHP] I’m not buying Andrew Cashner’s illusion of success this season. He’s striking batters out at a career-low 11.6-percent clip, owns a career-worst 1.2-percent K-BB rate, and a 5.66 DRA, which is more than two runs higher than his 3.54 ERA.

Machado, on the other hand, leads the entire league in batted balls of 95-plus MPH, ranks top-10 in average exit velocity, and 12th in barreled ball per plate appearance in 2017. He’s having a ‘down year’ by his own standards, but Machado is still smoking the baseball and hitting a ton of fly balls. I’ll continue to play him until his salary rises to reflect his talent, and there’s no reason we should be ignoring him on Monday against the overachieving Cashner.

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP] Jordan Zimmermann was actually looking better for a moment before suffering through three tough start against the Indians (x2) and the Padres. He’s still a miserable pitcher, serving up a .387 wOBA and 2.18 xFIP to left-handed hitters. Factor in his 42-percent flyball rate and 43-percent hard-hit rate vs. lefties and Moustakas becomes a very enticing play on Monday night. That being said, Moustakas is a much better play on FanDuel where he’s priced at $3,200. I still prefer Machado against Cashner, but wouldn’t recommend overlooking Moose on a night where the Royals own a startlingly high 5.3-run implied total at home.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Wil Myers [1B – R] @ Marquez [RHP]; Ian Happ/Ben Zobrist [2B/OF – L/R] @ Teheran [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]; Gerardo Parra [OF – L] vs. Perdomo [RHP]; Raimel Tapia [OF – L] vs. Perdomo [RHP]; Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] @ Teheran [RHP]; Josh Donaldson [3B – R] @ Rodriguez [LHP] [GPP]

 

VALUE

 

Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] @ Vargas [LHP] Cabrera’s price point on DraftKings and FantasyDraft is inexplicably low for the fiftieth straight night. I get it; Jason Vargas has been very good against right-handed hitters, and his changeup has been one of the best in baseball this season, but if you plan on saving at the first base position there’s no reason to ignore Cabrera. I’m buying into Vargas being an above-average pitcher, but he’s no ace, and he’s not impervious to getting hit by opposite-handed bats. For that reason, I’ll happily deploy Miggy at $3,500, as he’s sporting a .396 wOBA vs. LHP this season. Oddly enough, however, Cabrera has yet to hit a home run vs. southpaw pitching in 2017.

 

Drew Robinson [2B/OF – L] @ Tillman [RHP] Robinson is hitting down in the Rangers’ order, but he’s nearly minimum salary and draws a matchup with arguably the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball. Robinson won’t need to do much in order to pay off such a negligible price tag, and if can channel any of his minor-league success — Robinson recorded 11 home runs, 19 doubles, 4 triples, 40 RBI and 7 stolen bases in 265 Triple-A at bats this season — he’ll be a great value option on Monday night.

Robinson has already smacked three home runs with four RBI in only 21 major-league at bats, and now he’ll face Tillman inside the hitter-friendly Camden Yards. I like Robinson a lot as a one-off, but also as a stack option, as you can easily use an eight-through-three Rangers stack with Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] batting ninth.

 

Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Perdomo [RHP] He’s been awful this season, and I don’t anticipate anything changing anytime soon, but at $3,000 on DraftKings and $6,000 on FantasyDraft we’d be remiss to ignore him at Coors Field. Gonzalez is still facing a righty who allows a near .400 wOBA to left-handed hitters, he’s still batting at Coors, and the Rockies still own a slate-high 6.3-run implied total against Perdomo. That’s really all there is to it — CarGo is there if you need the savings.

 

Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] vs. Odorizzi [RHP] Lowrie is another good example of a hitter who’s struggling but shouldn’t be near minimum salary. I won’t be targeting him unless I need the salary relief, but if I find myself need a punt at second base I won’t hesitate to plug Lowrie in against Odorizzi. He’s still hitting in the middle of a potent Athletics lineup and owns a respectable .352/.199 wOBA/ISO vs. right-handed pitching on the year. Lowrie also boasts a 47.9-percent flyball rate and 36.6-percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP, so it’s not like he’s some random scrub we’re playing only because he’s cheap.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Hector Sanchez [C – L/R] @ Marquez [RHP]; Carlos Asuaje [2B – L] @ Marquez [RHP] [DraftKings]; Freddy Galvis [SS – L/R] @ Koehler [RHP]