MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/26/17  

PITCHING

Carlos Martinez [RHP – STL] vs. COL Martinez has struggled in recent starts, but he couldn’t ask for a better bounce back matchup on Wednesday. Here’s the thing: many of CarMart’s bad performances have come against lefty-heavy lineups, but the Rockies boast little threat from the left side outside of Charlie Blackmon. Gerardo Parra has been dreadful away from Coors Field (.298 wOBA), and Carlos Gonzalez can hardly be considered a major-league baseball player in 2017. This leaves Colorado with a lineup that’s suited perfectly for Martinez.

On the season, Martinez is holding right-handed hitters to a .234 wOBA with a 30.1-percent K-rate and a 2.91 xFIP. There’s a stark contrast in splits vs. left-handed bats, but he shouldn’t face more than three of them on Wednesday, and one will likely be Carlos Gonzalez.

There’s nothing wrong with Martinez right now; he’s come up short in some tough spots and now he’ll earn an opportunity to shine at home against the Rox. Colorado owns one of the lowest implied run totals (3.8) on Wednesday’s slate, and it’s no surprise they rank 25 in wOBA (.301) and seventh in K-rate (24.1%) away from Coors.

Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] vs. HOU This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but Nola is way too cheap on DraftKings despite the difficult matchup. Carlos Correa remains sidelined and George Springer could miss another game on Wednesday night, so the Astros won’t be nearly as formidable as usual. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a potent lineup, but not one that should plummet Nola to $7,500.

Looking at Nola’s splits, he has dominated same-handed hitters, but left-handers have given him some trouble. He’s striking righties out at a near 30-percent clip with only 27-percent fly balls and 28-percent hard contact allowed. Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez could pose a problem, but Derek Fisher and Nori Aoki should hardly be a concern. Moreover, Carlos Beltran will probably remain sidelined with this being a National League park, meaning Nola will face one less lefty but also get to face a pitcher.

Houston owns a less-than-convincing 4.1-run implied total at Citizens Bank Park, and are barely favored against the league-worst Phillies. Nola has tallied 28-plus DKPT in five of his last six starts (31.6, 18.1, 28.4, 32.8, 28.4, 30.9), while striking out 30.1 percent of batters with an 11.7-percent swinging strike rate over that stretch. Furthermore, he’s lasted 7-plus innings with 8-plus strikeouts in all but one of those six starts. Needless to say, Nola has been fantastic, and I’m willing to roll the dice on his talent tonight.

Gio Gonzalez [LHP – WAS] vs. MIL Gonzalez is a risky play for cash game purposes but there’s certainly some reason to have him on the radar. He’s facing a Brewers squad that strikes out at a league-high 26.3-percent clip vs. left-handed pitching, but also boasts plenty of power from the right side of the plate. This Milwaukee team is always a wildcard, and nothing about that changes on Wednesday night.

Gonzalez is on pace to allow far more home runs to right-handed bats than he ever has in a season, but he’s also holding them to a below average .305 wOBA. This is one of those matchups that could go in two totally different directions, but I’m always willing to target a Brewers team that offers tournament-winning strikeout potential. Gonzalez is the seventh highest priced pitcher on FanDuel compared to the fourth highest priced arm on DraftKings.

Mike Fiers [RHP – HOU] @ PHI Fiers has been brilliant of late, but a $10,200 price tag on DraftKings is just a bit extreme. I’m less conflicted on FanDuel where Fiers is $8,600; outside of Martinez, Fiers is probably my top pitching option there. On DraftKings, however, where Fiers is a mere $800 less than Carlos Carrasco [RHP – CLE], you’re going to need another 30-plus-fantasy point performance for it to be worth it.

Let’s take a look at Fiers’ numbers over his last 10 starts: 27.9% K, 10.1% SwStr, 28.3% HH. Fiers over his first nine starts: 18.4% K-rate, 9.1% SwStr, 32.9% HH. Most of these dramatic improvements can be attributed to a few things: Fiers decided to lower his arm slot in order to throw his curveball harder, stopped throwing the cutter nearly as much, and began throwing the changeup at a much higher rate. He has altered his pitch mix in almost every imaginable fashion, and needless to say, it’s been working.

Fiers went from being a home run machine to a strikeout artist who can induce ground balls at an above average clip while also forcing much weaker contact. He’s producing the best results not just on the season, but for his career. Vegas has adjusted to these changes, too, as the Phillies own a 3.9-run implied total at home tonight, and will likely struggle once again.

With Fiers it all comes down to how much you believe in his transformation. If you buy into him being a legitimate threat to post similar numbers as his last two starts, then he’s worth the price tag. If not, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. I will say this much, though: we’ve been riding Fiers for the last couple of months with positive results, but now that his salary has finally caught up with the production, it might be time to jump ship.

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] @ Shields [RHP] James Shields likely won’t continue to allow 3.98 HR/9 to left-handed hitters, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number remain above 2.00 by season’s end. Shields has been dreadful in other categories too, striking lefties out at a 12.3-percent clip while walking them 14.2 percent of the time (-1.9% K-BB). He owns an 8.03 xFIP vs. LHH and is serving up 53.3-percent fly balls. Needless to say, we’ll want to pick on him tonight.

Rizzo has actually been rather underwhelming against right-handed pitching this season, but does it really matter? The Cubs boast a 5.8-run implied total inside the hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field, and Rizzo sports a career .230 ISO vs. RHP. He won’t come cheap, but you’ll always have to pay for a matchup against one of baseball’s worst righties. Consider Kris Bryant [3B – R] an equally attractive play at a surprisingly thin third base position. Willson Contreras [C – R] is ultra pricey for a catcher, but he’s been on an absolute tear of late, and he’ll draw another stellar matchup on Wednesday.

Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] vs. Nolasco [RHP] Ricky Nolasco has been very unpredictable this season, and especially in recent starts, but I don’t think we’ll have much trouble predicting his results against the Indians. Cleveland is one of the best teams in baseball against right-handed pitching, and much of that can be attributed to Ramirez’s MVP-worthy campaign. Through nearly four months Ramirez is sporting a .412 wOBA and .278 ISO vs. RHP, while striking out at a miniscule 10-percent clip. Sure, Nolasco has displayed some reverse splits this year, but he’s still been rocked by left-handers, and won’t stand much of a chance on Wednesday night. I don’t see Ramirez as a must play option, and actually don’t have much love for the top-tier of hitters as a whole, but he’s always in play against a weak righty like Nolasco.

Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] is a sneaky good first base play tonight, and a great pivot away from Rizzo. Nolasco has been tortured by same-handed bats this season, allowing north of 40 percent hard contact while serving up a whopping 2.60 HR/9. Encarnacion, meanwhile, owns a strong .254 ISO vs. RHP, and offers legitimate two-home run upside in this matchup.

Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] isn’t someone I like paying a premium for, but the shortstop position is brutal on Wednesday and he draws a phenomenal matchup with Nolasco. Lindor’s batted ball profile lines up perfectly against Nolasco, and with Cleveland poised to crush him at Progressive Field, it isn’t hard to see why spending makes sense.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ian Happ [2B – OF – L/R] @ Shields [RHP]; Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] vs. Santana [RHP]; Michael Brantley [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Corey Seager [SS – L] vs. Santana [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Carrasco [RHP] [GPP]

MID-RANGE

 Wil Myers [1B – R] vs. Matz [LHP] Rizzo will probably be the highest owned hitter on Wednesday’s slate, so looking elsewhere at this position isn’t the worst idea in GPPs. Myers is one of those pivots I’m very fond of, facing a deteriorating Steven Matz who also can’t hold runners. Matz is allowing 2.10 HR/9 to RHH this season, while striking them out at a dismal 15-percent clip. He’s allowed 29 stolen bases in 36 career starts, and he won’t improve in that department anytime soon.

Myers has displayed plenty of power vs. southpaw pitching, but he’s also demonstrated some speed with 38 stolen bases since the start of 2016. If you’re looking for an affordable first baseman with low ownership, Myers should be the first guy on your list. There’s ample upside here despite hitting inside Petco Park, and there’s nothing about Matz’s recent performances that would suggest a turnaround this evening.

Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Urena [RHP] It’s hard to pass up Odor at this price point when the Rangers own a slate-high 6-run implied total at Globe Life Park. You aren’t getting someone that hits for average, but Odor is more than capable of smacking two home runs in Arlington against a righty who’s been more than lucky in 2017. With a .243 ISO and a respectable 38-percent hard-hit rate vs. right-handed arms, I’ll take my chances on Odor.

There’s simply no way Urena can continue to not get shelled with his 11-percent K-rate and 6.82 xFIP vs. LHH. You cannot continue to allow nearly 50 percent fly balls and not get hammered in these hitter-friendly venues. Load up on Rangers lefties tonight and don’t look back.

Ryan Braun [OF – R] @ Gonzalez [LHP] You can go many different directions at this tier in the outfield, including Shin-Soo Choo [OF – L], Khris Davis [OF – R] and Bradley Zimmer [OF – L], all of whom are very solid plays, but Braun is someone to keep in mind against Gio Gonzalez. Braun has brutalized southpaws for his career, owning a .433 wOBA and .288 ISO 1501 plate appearances. He’ll probably go entirely overlooked tonight, but I love his depressed price point on DraftKings against Gonzalez, who’s already allowed 15 home runs to right-handed hitters this season. The Nationals have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, too, so Braun should see some solid matchups once Gonzalez is in the bullpen. Keep him in mind when rounding out your lineups.

HONORABLE MENTION: Shin-soo Choo [OF – L] vs. Urena [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Sanchez [RHP]; Adrian Beltre [3B – R] vs. Urena [RHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] vs. Urena [RHP]; Bradley Zimmer [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] @ Shields [RHP]; Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] vs. Santana [RHP]; Alex Avila [C/1B – L] vs. Kennedy [RHP] [GPP]

VALUE

Nomar Mazara [OF – L] vs. Urena [RHP] If you aren’t considering Mazara at his price point you’re doing something wrong. He’s facing a right-hander in Urena who should get hammered tonight, the Rangers boast a slate-high 6-run implied total, and Mazara will hit third in the order. There’s seriously no reason you shouldn’t be playing Mazara everywhere, as he is criminally underpriced despite some ugly numbers of late.

Yoan Moncada [2B/3B – L/R] vs. Arrieta [RHP] Moncada probably won’t be on anyone’s radar, but I’ll be looking at him closely on Wednesday. Arrieta isn’t the same pitcher he once was, but he’s always struggled to hold runners. On the season only Mike Pelfrey has allowed more stolen bases than Arrieta’s 16, while Willson Contreras has allowed more steals than any catcher in 2017. Moncada has yet to swipe a bag in the majors, but he’s stolen 111 bases in the minors since 2015 and is very capable of taking off tonight. He’s dirt cheap across the board, and could be a difference maker in tournaments assuming he gets on base.

Manuel Margot [OF – R] vs. Matz [LHP] I’m a sucker for stolen bases, so although I’d prefer Margot leading off against Matz, I’ll still consider him batting seventh at a sub-$3K price point. Margot is a negligible $2,800 on DraftKings and $2,700 on FanDuel, so you’re getting him at a near min-sal price against a struggling southpaw in Matz. Mazara is still the preferred option at a similar cost, but if you intend on paying for pitching and want to save in the outfield, pairing the two together makes perfect sense. To put it simply, Margot is going to run as long as he reaches safely. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Jabari Blash [OF – R] vs. Matz [LHP]; Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] @ Estrada [RHP]; Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] vs. Kennedy [RHP] [DraftKings]; Joc Pederson [OF – L] vs. Santana [RHP]; Yonder Alonso [1B – L] @ Estrada [RHP] [FanDuel]