MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/19/17

PITCHING

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] – deGrom has been dominant at home this year, where he’s sporting a 31.6-percent K-rate and holding hitters to a .257 wOBA across 60.2 innings pitched. It’s hard to ignore those numbers no matter how little you weight home/road splits, especially when considering deGrom has posted 30-plus DraftKings points in each of his last four starts at Citi Field. The Cardinals managed four solo home runs across deGrom the last time these teams met, but that game came at Busch Stadium and New York’s ace right-hander still managed to turn in seven respectable innings on the night.

St. Louis has been a middle of the pack team against right-handed pitchers, and they don’t boast a ton of talent from the left side of the plate. Outside of Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, the Cardinals are devoid of left-handed talent, and deGrom is holding righties to a .276 wOBA with a stellar 2.84 xFIP and 32.7-percent K-rate this season. Moreover, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk remain sidelined, so the bottom half of this lineup should resemble a Triple-A squad on Wednesday.

St. Louis owns the lowest implied run total (3.7) of any team on this seven-game slate, and while deGrom is only a -146 ML favorite at home, he should be considered the top pitching option on Wednesday night. Zack Greinke [RHP – ARI] is about a thousand dollars discounted on FanDuel and DraftKings, but he draws a much worse park and matchup than deGrom, as the Reds will be at full strength inside Great American Ballpark.

Gerrit Cole [RHP – PIT] vs. MIL I’m generally not a fan of rostering Gerrit Cole when he carries an even slightly inflated price point, but Wednesday’s home tilt with Milwaukee mustn’t be ignored. Cole definitely appears to have turned things around over the last one-plus months, posting 20-plus DraftKings points in four of his last six starts. He hasn’t been especially impressive from a strikeout perspective, sporting a 21.1-percent K-rate and 7.6-percent swinging strike rate over that stretch, but Cole is at least limiting runs and pitching deep into games.

If there was ever a time for Cole to dial up the punchouts it would come against the Brewers, who own the league’s third highest K-rate (25%) vs. right-handed pitching. Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, Stephen Vogt, Jesus Aguilar, Domingo Santana, Jonathan Villar, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips are all striking out at a 25-plus-percent clip vs. RHP, and they won’t have the luxury of hitting inside Miller Park on Wednesday. Cole is a -155 ML favorite at home, and his sub-$9K price point should put him in play on a night where pitching is modestly attractive at best.

Justin Verlander [RHP – DET] @ KC I spent some time debating which mid-range pitcher should occupy this spot in today’s Deep Dive; my choices were Justin Verlander and Kenta Maeda [RHP – LAD]. Ultimately, the decision came down to one thing: pitch count. While Maeda draws a rather strong matchup against the White Sox, we simply can’t rely on him to pitch deep enough into games to mitigate any damage. He needs to be close to flawless (see his start vs. LAA on 6/27) in order for Dave Roberts to let him throw even 90 pitches, and his heinous road splits suggest that he could run into some trouble against Chicago.

Verlander has been equally disappointing away from home this year, but he’s a workhorse on the mound. While Maeda has surpassed five innings in only three of 16 starts with 100-plus pitches thrown twice on the year, Verlander has eclipsed the five-inning mark in 14 of 19 starts with 100-plus pitches thrown in 16 of those outings. Both pitchers draw quality matchups, and although Maeda’s tilt with Chicago offers more upside in the strikeouts department, Verlander feels like a much safer play.

I’m not buying Kansas City’s 5-run implied total here. Verlander’s velocity hasn’t declined, his swinging strike rate has remained consistent over his last five starts, and his hard-hit rate is actually down two percent over that span. He’ll earn an excellent opportunity to record the win against Jason Hammel, and weighs in at a sub-$8K price point on DraftKings. Verlander is cheap enough to consider at a discounted salary, but doesn’t carry much value at $8,700 on FanDuel.

Kevin Gausman [RHP – BAL] vs. TEX The Rangers have scored 11 runs over their last six games, good for 1.8 runs per contest over that span. They’ve drawn some solid matchups, too, but failed to capitalize on all of them.

Enter Kevin Gausman.

It’s been a miserable 2017 campaign for the perennially hyped right-hander in Baltimore, but he’s shown flashes of competence over the last month. Believe it or not, Gausman is sporting a stellar 31.2-percent K-rate and 13.6-percent swinging strike rate over his last five starts, having racked up 34 strikeouts over his last 25 innings pitched. Granted, he’s surrendered 13 earned runs over his last two starts (7 IP), but Gausman has at least proven capable of offering value at a dirt cheap price point.

Texas not only owns the fifth highest K-rate (23.7%) vs. right-handed pitching this season, but they’re striking out at the second highest clip of any team on the road (26.6%) while sporting the league’s 28th ranked wOBA (.293) away from Arlington. I truly wouldn’t be surprised to see them struggle again on Wednesday despite the rising temperatures. If Gausman continues to utilize the splitter at a higher frequency, I’d expect to see his strikeout totals remain consistently high. We saw a similar development with Matt Shoemaker last season, and it effectively turned his campaign around almost instantaneously. Gausman’s tournament appeal is high tonight, and I’ll certainly be devoting some attention to the 26-year-old all-potential righty.

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Manny Machado [3B – R] vs. Perez [LHP] I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Manny Machado’s season is about to turn around in a big way. The fifth-year third baseman has been a Statcast darling this year, as he leads the league in batted balls of 95-plus MPH, ranks seventh in average exit velocity and fifth in barreled balls among all major-league hitters. Machado also ranks third in hard-hit rate vs. left-handed pitching (51.3%).

Wednesday’s matchup with Martin Perez is an enticing one for a number of reasons. First, Perez doesn’t miss any bats (13.7 K% vs. RHH), which greatly favors Machado on a night where temperatures will be eclipsing 90 degrees in Baltimore. Second, Perez is ceding a lot of hard contact to right-handed bats, and his groundball rate declines significantly when facing opposite-handed hitters. Finally, Perez just isn’t any good, as evidenced by the Orioles’ 5.7-run implied total, good for the highest mark on this seven-game slate. Machado is my top overall hitter on Wednesday night.

 

Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] @ Adleman [RHP] Both Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb [3B – L] make for outstanding plays on Wednesday, facing Tim Adleman inside the homer-happy Great American Ballpark. The Diamondbacks have been dismal on the road this year, sitting 25th in wOBA and 27th in ISO away from Chase Field, but I’m expecting big things on Wednesday night with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees in Cincinnati.

Goldschmidt is one of baseball’s premier hitters, who on the year is sporting a filthy .446 wOBA, .303 ISO and 46.3-percent hard-hit rate vs. right-handed pitching. His ridiculous 24.7-percent HR/FB rate should serve him well at Great American, especially considering Adleman is serving up 1.70 HR/9 to right-handed bats.

Adleman has been particularly bad against lefties, though, which makes Lamb a very strong play if you intend on fading Machado or are playing on FantasyDraft. Adleman is striking LHH’s out at a 14-percent clip while coughing up a .288 ISO with 2.66 HR/9 allowed. He’s going to get tuned up tonight, as the D-Backs road struggles should hardly be a concern.

 

Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] @ Rodon [LHP] Taylor has been so productive against southpaws this season that ignoring him against Rodon would be a mistake. On the season Taylor boasts a .447 wOBA with 10 extra-base hits in only 75 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, and he’ll get a favorable park shift on Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate FIeld. The Dodgers own a 5.3-run implied total against the unpredictable Rodon, good for second highest on Wednesday behind only the Orioles. Taylor is reasonably priced across the industry, making him a fine play in all formats.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Peralta [OF – L] @ Adleman [RHP]; Michael Conforto [OF – L] vs. Leake [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP] [FanDuel]; Justin Smoak [1B – L/R] @ Pomeranz [LHP] [GPP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] vs. Perez [LHP] Schoop has been fantastic this year, and for the first time of his career he’s finally hitting left-handed pitching. More than halfway through the season Schoop is tuning up southpaws to the tune of a .379 wOBA and .281 ISO, while lifting his flyball rate and hard-hit rate by more than six percent and eleven percent, respectively, from his career averages.

Not only does Schoop draw a spectacular matchup with Martin Perez inside the hot and hitter-friendly Camden Yards, but he’s underpriced across the industry. At $4,100 on DraftKings and $3,000 on FanDuel there’s really no reason to avoid Schoop at a weak second base position. Baltimore boasts the highest implied run total (5.7) on Wednesday’s seven-game main slate, and I’ll be looking to plug at least two Orioles into all of my lineups.

Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] @ Hammel [RHP] Miggy Cabrera has been one of the more unlucky hitters in 2017, as he ranks third in baseball with a 48.1-percent hard contact rate and second in soft contact at 9.1 percent. Cabrera’s flyball rate leaves something to be desired, but there’s no reason he should have only 12 home runs to his name through three-plus months. Nevertheless, Cabrera is still one of the better hitting first baseman in the game, and his $4,000 price tag on DraftKings is still too cheap.

Jason Hammel has been punished by same-handed hitters this season, allowing a .358 wOBA and 1.84 HR/9. He’s also striking righties out at a miserable 15.4-percent clip. Hammel could struggle again on Wednesday with Detroit boasting the third highest implied run total on this slate (5.1), and I’ll continue to deploy Cabrera until his price reflects his potential.

 

Elvis Andrus [SS – TEX] @ Gausman [RHP] I’m really not that high on Texas bats tonight, as they’ve been pathetic and Gausman has shown flashes of competences of late, but they are well underpriced across the industry for this matchup. Andrus was red-hot at the dish before cooling off a bit over the last one-plus weeks, but his salary remains affordable and the shortstop position is a barren wasteland. He’s producing solid enough numbers against righties to warrant consideration at Camden Yards, where temperatures will be climbing above 90 degrees at first pitch.

Shin-soo Choo [OF – L] and Nomar Mazara [OF – L] have both gone cold for the most part, but again, they are very cheap for a matchup with the enigmatic Gausman. While I do think Gausman is making progress, he’s still ceding a .390 wOBA to LHH with a 6.03 xFIP and 36.5-percent hard-hit rate in 2017.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Asdrubal Cabrera [SS – L/R] vs. Leake [RHP]; Justin Upton [OF – R] @ Hammel [RHP]; Rougned Odor [2B – L] @ Gausman [RHP] [GPP];

 

VALUE

 

Welington Castillo [C – R] vs. Perez [LHP]/Chris Herrmann [C/OF – L] @ Adleman [RHP] Both of these value backstops should be firmly on your radar tonight, drawing the platoon advantage against weak pitchers inside hitter-friendly venues. Beef Castillo has been a colossal disappointment with the Orioles, but he’s still a viable option when facing left-handed pitching. With a respectable  .359/.192 wOBA/ISO split vs. southpaws for his career, Castillo should warrant consideration against the substandard arm of Martin Perez. Castillo’s $2,700 price tag on FanDuel is especially enticing, as the catcher position is particularly weak on Wednesday night.

The Herrminator has also been underwhelming this season, and it truly hurts my heart to see him struggle. That being said, he still owns an ISO north of .200 vs. right-handed pitching, and draws a mouth-watering matchup with Adleman at Great American Smallpark. As earlier noted, Adleman is allowing a .353 wOBA, .288 ISO and 2.66 HR/9 to opposite-handed bats, while sporting a putrid 6.17 xFIP and 50.8-percent flyball rate against. If Herrmann is in the lineup he’ll be in play, but he’ll be close to a must play option if Torey Lovullo decides to bat him second.

 

Trey Mancini [1B/OF – R] vs. Perez [LHP]  Picking on Martin Perez will be a common strategy on Wednesday, but it’s a well-justified approach. Baltimore’s 5.7-run implied total is the highest mark on this seven-game slate, and the Orioles are anything but overpriced in such a tasty matchup. Mancini, specifically, is very affordable across the board, drawing the platoon advantage against Perez and batting sixth in a potent Orioles lineup. Over his short career, Mancini boasts a .250 ISO vs. left-handed pitching, while racking up six home runs in only 48 plate appearances at home.

Joey Rickard [OF – R] will also be in play if he gets the start and leads off for Baltimore. He isn’t especially good at anything, but he’s cheap, and possesses enough speed to swipe the occasional bag.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Austin Barnes [C- R] @ Rodon [LHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] @ Gausman [RHP] [GPP]; Drew Robinson [2B/OF – L] @ Gausman [RHP]; Alex Presley [OF – L] @ Hammel [RHP]