MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/19/17 (Early)

PITCHING

Carlos Carrasco- I feel obligated to include Carrasco since he is the most expensive option on the slate and people will ask about him if I do not discuss him, but there is virtually no chance that I pay his price on DraftKings or FantasyDraft.  He is more reasonably priced relative to the field on FanDuel.  He gets to pitch in a great park for pitchers against a Giants team that does not have a lot of power but also does not strike out very often, ranking 25th in strikeout percentage over the last two weeks.  Carrasco’s 28.1 percent strikeout percentage is the highest on the slate and it is backed up by a 13.2 percent swinging strike percentage.

Additonally, he has struck out 30.4 percent of right-handed hitters compared to 25.0 percent of left-handed hitters this season.  Righties have a .279 xwOBA against him while he has allowed a .329 xwOBA to lefties.  The Giants’ projected lineup has four lefties and four righties plus the pitcher.  It is unlikely that the Giants are able to do much damage against him, as his biggest weakness is a propensity for giving up home runs to lefties.  AT&T Park, of course, suppresses left-handed power.  The main knock on Carrasco is his price and the opportunity cost of paying up for him on this slate since there are several high upside pitching options available for less salary.

Sonny Gray- Trade rumors surround Gray and the A’s but, for the time being, he remains in Oakland’s rotation.  He will face the Tampa Bay Rays at home in Oakland.  Gray has been very good this season, striking out 22.8 percent of hitters with an 11.4 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.4 o-swing percentage.

Gray has been effective against hitters from both sides of the plate, allowing a .314 xwOBA to righties and a .293 xwOBA to lefties while striking out 24.9 percent of righties and 20.6 percent of lefties.  He has a 56.6 percent groundball percentage against lefties and a 53.3 percent groundball percentage against righties.  Tampa’s projected lineup features five lefties and four righties and the Rays, as a team, have struck out 23.1 percent of the time over the last 14 days.  It is a great spot for Sonny Gray in possibly his last start in an Oakland uniform.

Jacob Faria- Faria has been very good since being called up to the majors and will oppose Sonny Gray.  Faria has struck out 22.8 percent of hitters with an 11.4 percent swinging strike percentage and a 31.4 percent o-swing percentage in 45 innings since being called up from AAA.  The Athletics have gone to a younger lineup recently and a lot of strikeouts have come with it.  Over the last 14 days, Oakland has the 6th-highest strikeout percentage in baseball at 25.6 percent.  They also rank 4th in isolated power over that time, however, so there are certainly some dangerous bats that Faria will need to navigate.

Faria has done a very good job of limiting home runs so far, allowing 0.98 home runs per nine innings to righties and not allowing any home runs yet to a left-handed hitter.  He has an impressive .268 xwOBA allowed to lefties to go along with a .278 xwOBA allowed to righties, though his 13.9 percent swinging strike percentage against righties trumps his 9.3 percent swinging strike percentage to lefties- which is reflected in the fact that he has struck out 27.8 percent of righties compared to just 15.9 percent of lefties.  Part of that disparity is likely due to sample size, however, as he struck out well over one left-handed hitter per inning in the minors this season.  Oakland’s projected lineup features five lefties against Faria.  He makes for an intriguing GPP option as his elevated price and his status as a small underdog will probably keep his ownership in check but he has the upside in this matchup to be one of the top scorers on the slate.

Dan Straily- Straily was considered day-to-day with a thumb injury but he is expected to make his start at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies are another young offense that has some capable hitters but also has a lot of strikeouts in the lineup.  The Phillies will likely have at least 6 left-handed bats in their lineup, but that actually plays to Straily’s strengths.  His best pitch is his change-up, which he throws nearly 24 percent of the time to left-handed hitters.  Straily has struck out 25.0 percent of left-handed hitters this season while allowing just a .258 xwOBA.  Philadelphia has struck out 24.9 percent of the time over the last two weeks.  This is a great matchup for Straily.

Jon Gray- Gray was blown up in his last start by the New York Mets but he gets a better matchup today against the San Diego Padres- although the game will be at Coors Field.  While the Padres projected lineup is balanced in terms of left-handed and right-handed hitters, most of their power comes from the right side of the plate.  Gray has allowed a .264 xwOBA to righties this season while striking out 28.9 percent with a 48.1 percent groundball percentage.  He has struggled against lefties, allowing a .372 xwOBA and striking out just 15.4 percent, but it is likely this is due to the small sample size as his xwOBA allowed to lefties since the beginning of last season is just .326 and his swinging strke percentage is 10.1 percent compared to this season’s 5.4 percent.  The lefties in the Padres lineup are not dangerous enough to deter me from being interested in Gray as he is a very high upside play despite the ballpark.

James Paxton- Paxton has a very difficult matchup against the Astros- although they will be without star shortstop Carlos Correa.  Paxton is a site-dependent play as he is priced down for the matchup on DraftKings and FantasyDraft but did not see his price drop much, if at all, on FanDuel.  The Astros’ 15.6 percent strikeout percentage is the lowest in the majors over the last two weeks so, if you roster Paxton, it is based entirely on his talent.  He has struck out 27.9 percent of hitters that he has faced this season while recording a 13.1 percent swinging strike percentage.

The Mariners lefty has been especially dominant against right-handed hitters, which accounts for most of the Houston lineup.  Paxton has allowed a .252 xwOBA while striking out 29.0 percent of them.  At $7,700 on DraftKings, Paxton has a lot of upside no matter which he is facing.  The main knock on Paxton, other than matchup, is opportunity cost as there are so many reasonably priced pitchers in great spots on this slate that rostering Paxton in a matchup this tough does not make quite as much sense as it would on some other slates.

Jordan Montgomery– Montgomery is the most underpriced pitcher on the slate.  He has been excellent in his rookie season, striking out 22.4 percent of hitters with a 13.5 percent swinging strike percentage and 36.2 o-swing percentage.  His swinging strike percentage is tied for 7th-highest with Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke among qualified starters and his o-swing percentage is 3rd-highest, trailing only Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Sale.  Swinging strike percentage and o-swing percentage, of course, are both predictors of strikeout percentage because they give an idea of how good a pitcher’s stuff is since it generally has to be good in order to generate swinging strikes and get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone.  With that being said, how this guy is possibly priced at $6,200 on DraftKings is beyond me.

The $7,400 price tag on FanDuel for the Yankees young southpaw is not much more reasonable.  Despite being left-handed, Montgomery has been excellent against right-handed hitters this season, allowing a .300 xwOBA while striking out 23.0 percent.  Montgomery has three quality secondary pitches to complement is fastball, which allows him to have success against hitters from both sides of the plate.  The downside for Montgomery is that the Twins are a patient team that does not chase a lot of pitches out of the zone and they do not have a lot of strikeouts in their lineup against lefties.  That being said, Montgomery has just two games this entire season with a swinging strike percentage below 11.0 percent- including an 11.0 percent and an 11.5 percent swinging strike percentage in games against the Astros, a 17.5 percent swinging strike percentage against the Angels and a 13.5 percent swinging strike percentage in his most recent start against the Red Sox.  This kid is elite and a matchup with the Twins in Minnesota is certainly not going to be the one that keeps me from rostering him at $6,200.

 

Hitting

High-Priced

Anthony Rizzo will face R.A. Dickey in SunTrust Field.  Rizzo does not have any BvP against Dickey to go off of, but he fits the profile of hitters that I like to target against knuckleballers because he has a compact swing and, for lack of a better term, is a natural hitter.  On top of his overall hitting ability, Atlanta’s new home park has been very good for left-handed power.  While Dickey has pitched well of late, it would not be surprising to see Rizzo take him deep.

Nolan Arenado faces a lefty who pitches to contact in Coors Field.  Clayton Richard has struck out just 14.0 percent of righties that he has faced this season while allowing 1.47 home runs per nine innings.  Arenado has a .388 xwOBA and .356 ISO at home against left-handed pitchers since the start of last season.  He also has been slightly better against ground-ball pitchers throughout his career, so Richard’s ground-balling tendencies are not much of a concern.

Marcell Ozuna did not come through in a good matchup against Vincent Velasquez last night, but he gets another one against Nick Pivetta tonight.  Pivetta has allowed a .376 xwOBA and 3.26 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters this season.  Pivetta relies on his hard fastball nearly 67 percent of the time against right-handed hitters, so it is important to make sure we are rostering someone that can handle hard fastballs.  Since the start of last season, Ozuna has a .404 xwOBA and .219 ISO on right-handed fastballs thrown at least 93 miles per hour.  He profiles as the top play from the Marlins offense and one of the top plays on the slate.

Nelson Cruz is in a sneaky good spot against Charlie Morton.  Morton has been very good this season but he has had a tendency to give up home runs to right-handed power, allowing 1.85 home runs per nine innings.  Cruz is known as a lefty masher, but does plenty of damage against righties as well with a .381 xwOBA and .263 ISO against righties this season.  It is also a ballpark boost for Cruz as he plays in Houston.

 

Value

Matt Kemp gets to face another lefty in Mike Montgomery.  Montgomery is a decent pitcher who usually does a good job of getting groundballs (56.8 percent groundball percentage against righties) but he has allowed a .338 xwOBA to righties this season with just an 8.9 swinging strike percentage.  Hitters are pretty tough to come by on this slate because of all the good pitching, so Kemp is one of the better value plays as he has a .410 xwOBA against left-handed pitching this season and he should be able to put the ball in play against Montgomery.

Mike Zunino is a high-upside catcher option in a tough matchup against Charlie Morton.  Zunino has had a good year offensively after allowing Edgar Martinez to fix his swing.  Zunino has just a .306 xwOBA against right-handed pitching this season, but his .226 ISO shows the power potential that is there.  As mentioned earlier, Morton’s biggest weakness this season has been the tendency to allow home runs to right-handed power hitters.  Zunino offers low-owned upside that he is going to be hard to come by on this slate.

Brandon Belt has a tough matchup in a tough ballpark against Carlos Carrasco.  Carrasco struggles with lefties at times, however, and Belt is a very good hitter- posting a .408 xwOBA and .252 ISO against right-handed pitching this season.  Carrasco has allowed a .329 xwOBA to lefties while also allowing 1.77 home runs per nine innings.  Obviously, it is tough for lefties to hit home runs in AT&T Park but Belt’s price is low enough that he is still a strong option.

 

Stacks

As of right now, I am not planning on stacking on this slate as there are major flaws with every stack.  If I do stack, these are the teams I am most interested in:

Colorado Rockies- The Rockies are my favorite stack at the moment as they face one of the only non-elite pitchers on the slate, though Clayton Richard is pretty good in his own right.  There is always upside when facing a contact pitcher in Coors, however, especially when it is the right-handed heavy Rockies lineup facing a lefty.  Richard has been very good at holding runners this season, so be careful including Blackmon even if stacking the Rockies.

Houston Astros- Obviously James Paxton is an elite pitcher.  The draw for the Astros is that there are no stacks on the slate that I love and they will be low owned because of Paxton.  Whenever there is an opportunity to get one of the highest upside offenses on the slate at low ownership, it is worth considering.  The same logic goes for the New York Yankees against Jose Berrios, although they will probably have more ownership than the Astros I would guess.