MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/31/17  

 

PITCHING

 Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] vs. DET In a season where Masahiro Tanaka has struggled and Michael Pineda is lost for the season, Luis Severino has been a revelation. The 23-year-old righty not only started the season off strong, but has actually become more dominant as the months move forward. This generally isn’t what we’d expect to see from a young flamethrower who relies heavily on two pitches to get the bulk of his outs, but Severino has continued to develop after every single start.

For example, Severino sparingly used his barely passable changeup over the first three months of the year, but he’s throwing it 20 percent of the time in July and actually getting positive results. Having a third pitch to utilize, albeit one that needs improvement, is a huge advantage for someone like Severino who already boasts a filthy four-seamer and a hard-biting slider.

Monday’s matchup with Detroit isn’t perfect, but he should face a predominantly right-handed lineup inside the lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium. Severino is holding same-handed hitters to a .264 wOBA this season, while striking them out at a 30.1-percent clip and inducing 56.-7-percent ground balls. The Tigers own a slate-low 3.3-run implied total and Severino is a massive -235 ML favorite at home. Considering he boasts a 12.5-percent swinging strike rate and has recorded fewer than six strikeouts only once over his last 10 starts, Severino should be considered the unquestioned top projected pitching option on Monday night. 

Charlie Morton [RHP – PIT] vs. TB Morton probably shouldn’t be north of $10K on DraftKings, but sometimes you have to work with what you’ve been given. He’s a -154 ML favorite at home against the Rays, who own the second lowest implied run total on Monday night (4.0) and strike out at the third highest clip vs. right-handed pitching (25.1%). Morton has also displayed some extreme reverse splits in 2017, holding left-handed bats to a .261 wOBA with a 29.5-percent K-rate and 0.65 HR/9 allowed. That should serve him well against a Rays team that will likely run Mallex Smith, Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda and Brad Miller from the left side.

Morton’s fastball velocity has decreased a tick since the beginning of the year, but he’s still sitting 95 MPH on the two-seamer and doesn’t appear to have lost any of his swing-and-miss stuff as we head into August. The curveball has been lethal, though, generating 47.3-percent whiffs/swing and inducing 54-percent ground balls in the process. Morton’s biggest problem early in the season was his inability to get out of the sixth inning or, in other words, through the order for a third time, but he has now last six-plus inning in three of four starts since returning from injury. I’ll be deploying him on Monday in a plus matchup with the K-heavy Rays, who don’t have enough right-handed pop to make him pay.

Sonny Gray [RHP – OAK] – Unless everything disintegrates at once, Sonny Gray will not be taking the mound for Oakland tonight. The Yankees are strong favorites to land the A’s right-hander, but no deal has been finalized as I write today’s Deep Dive. Don’t bother plugging Gray into your preliminary lineups. The reason I’m even mentioning him is because I’m holding out hope that Sean Manaea [LHP – OAK] will pitch on three days rest and I’ll be able to forego using Marco Estrada as my SP-2 on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. It’s a pipedream, and we’d likely see Paul Blackburn get the nod, but if Manaea, who last pitched on Thursday happens to get the call, he’ll be an automatic plug-and-play at his negligible price point.

Marco Estrada [RHP – TOR] @ CWS This is how you know pitching is ugly — Marco Estrada gets featured on an eight-game slate, and not just as a tournament punt. Seriously, though, where else are you going to turn to at the bottom of the position? It’s a barren wasteland beneath Mike Clevinger [RHP – CLE], and even there I don’t trust him to limit walks against the strikeout-less Red Sox. Estrada at least looked better in his last start, pitching five two-run innings with four strikeouts against the A’s. If he can give us six frames with two earned runs and five strikeouts I’d be ecstatic.

The truth is pairing Severino and Morton is nearly impossible on two-pitcher sites. You’ll technically be able to make it work, but that will likely mean you’ll be relying on 60-plus DraftKings Points from your pitchers in order to sniff the cash. With Estrada as your SP-2 you can fit several high-end bats and still use a top-tier pitcher, too.

There’s nothing about Estrada’s numbers that suggest he should be pitching this poorly. The inflated walk rate is highly concerning, and surely has a lot to do with him being unable to pitch deep into games, but as of now there’s no glaring weakness.

Here’s the thing: the White Sox are horrible. I mean they are HORRIBLE! Todd Frazier is gone, Melky Cabrera is gone, Avisail Garcia is sidelined, and Matt Davidson is striking out at a 42.6-percent clip vs. right-handed pitchers. This has less to do with Estrada than is does with a Chicago team that will likely run Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez, Jose Abreu, Davidson, Yoan Moncada, Omar Narvaez, Alen Hanson, Tim Anderson and Adam Engel as their starting lineup. The Sox own a .284 wOBA over the last two weeks, while scoring a league-worst 34 runs (Brewers are second worst with 42 runs) and striking out at a 24.9-percent clip. I’ll be playing Estrada tonight. This is what has to be done.

EDIT: Rumors are swirling of a Marco Estrada trade to the Royals. We’ll know where he lands — if anywhere — at least a few hours before lock, but it’s a definite possibility that Estrada won’t be pitching for the Blue Jays once 7pm rolls around.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] vs. Gonzalez [LHP] I could see why people won’t want to pay for Stanton tonight; he’s squaring off against a left-hander in Gio Gonzalez who’s been very sharp this season, and the Marlins’ 4.3-run implied total is the third lowest mark on Monday’s slate. I have one simple rule of thumb when it comes to Stanton, though: always consider him when he’s facing a southpaw. For his career, Stanton is bludgeoning left-handed pitching to the tune of a .413 wOBA and .328 ISO with a ridiculous flyball/hard-hit combo of 45.8%/43.9%. Stanton is striking out at a mere 16-percent clip vs. LHP, too, and Gonzalez’s 9.3-percent swinging strike rate is hardly concerning.

I generally don’t like to pick on Gonzalez, and rarely, if ever stack against him. That being said, Gonzalez hasn’t limited right-handed power nearly as well as he’s done in the past, having already allowed 16 long balls to righties on the year. That’s a lot for someone who’s averaged only 10.7 home runs allowed to RHH over his last seven full seasons pitched. This season, however, Gonzalez is ceding 1.39 HR/9 with a 4.40 xFIP and 40-percent fly ball rate. Needless to say,  I’m not worried about Stanton in this particular matchup.

Khris Davis [OF – R] vs. Cain [RHP] Just how bad is Matt Cain away from AT&T Park? For starters, he’s allowing a .404 wOBA on the road while surrendering 1.99 HR/9 in the process. Cain is also striking batters out at a sub-10 percent clip away from San Francisco, which bodes well for the strikeout-prone Davis. Moreover, the Giants’ beleaguered right-hander is ceding a massive 47-percent flyball rate to same-handed hitters on the road.

Davis is torching right-handed pitching for a .300 ISO this season, so facing an aging pitch-to-contact righty on a night where Oakland boasts a 5.2-run implied total should work in his favor. He ranks fourth in baseball with an average exit velocity of 92.9 MPH, and second in barreled balls (49) behind only Aaron Judge. Needless to say, Davis makes plenty of sense against Cain, who amazingly owns a sub-20-percent whiffs/swing rate on all five of his pitches this season.

Justin Smoak [1B – L/R] @ Shields [RHP] Need I say more? Smoak is known for his ability to smash southpaws, but he’s murdered righties this season, too, boasting a .292 ISO and 41-percent hard-hit rate across 313 plate appearances. James Shields is arguably a bottom-five right-handed starter in all of baseball, as evidenced by his .440 wOBA and 13.1-percent K-rate vs. left-handed bats. He’s serving up 3.52 HR/9 with a 20.5-percent HR/FB rate, which is astounding when you consider left-handed hitters are recording 52-percent fly balls against Chicago’s gas can.

The Blue Jays own the highest implied run total (6.0) of any team on Monday’s slate, and for good reason; Shields won’t be able to limit power inside the homer-happy Guaranteed Rate Field against a Toronto squad that has plenty of pop from both sides of the dish. While I could see why some may want to pay a premium for Eric Hosmer [1B – L] in a plus matchup with Ubaldo Jimenez, Smoak feels like the better option at a near identical price point.

HONORABLE MENTION: Eric Hosmer [1B – L] @ Jimenez [RHP]; Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] @ Fister [RHP]; Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Urena [RHP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] @ Fister [RHP]; Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Cobb [RHP]

MID-RANGE

Jean Segura [SS – R] @ Hamels [LHP] Cole Hamels has always been one of the most neutral splits pitchers in all of baseball, utilizing a preeminent circle change to set down opposite-handed bats. 2017 has been a different type of campaign for the veteran lefty, though, as he’s been average at best against righties, allowing a .311 wOBA, 1.29 HR/9 with a 5.13 xFIP and a dismal 14 percent K-rate. Furthermore, and this is rather shocking, Hamels had allowed higher than 26-percent hard contact to righties only once since 2009 (32% HH in 2016), yet he’s serving up a 38.8 percent hard-hit rate to them across 227 batters faced this season.

Forget about the power for a second, because this isn’t Segura’s forte to begin with. Let’s talk about speed. Hamels has allowed 23-plus stolen bases in five of his last six campaigns, and has long been known as one of the worst pitchers in baseball when it comes to limiting swipes. Segura’s stolen base percentage isn’t impressive this year (12 SB/7 CS), but he’ll almost certainly run once he gets aboard. Hamels has only allowed one stolen base this year, but I don’t see any way he can sustain anything close to that pace.

Segura is not only affordable across the industry, but he draws the platoon advantage against an aging left-handed inside one of the most hitter-friendly venues the game has to offer. It’s also worth noting that the Mariners own a 5.1-run implied total against Hamels, and are capable of stuffing their lineup full of righties. Segura is my top shortstop option by a pretty wide margin once price is factored into the equation.

Nelson Cruz [OF – R] is also way too cheap on DraftKings. Any time he draws the platoon advantage in a hitter-friendly location we should be considering him, but at $3,900 you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason against getting some exposure. As previously noted, Hamels hasn’t been nearly as effective at limiting right-handed power this season, and Cruz could highlight those weaknesses on Monday night.

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Jimenez [RHP] I wouldn’t blame you for playing Jose Ramirez at third base, but I prefer to take the savings with Moustakas. Not only is Moose enjoying the best season of his career, ranking third in home runs (30) behind only Aaron Judge (33) and Giancarlo Stanton (33) — it’s crazy to think Moustakas is legitimately in the running for home run leader as we head into August — but he’s also smashing righties for a .304 ISO and 49 percent fly ball rate. This is a true breakout campaign for Moustakas after several disappointing seasons where he failed to live up to the hype.

Moose faces Jimenez on Monday in a phenomenal individual matchup, as Baltimore’s putrid right-hander is allowing a .412 wOBA, .349 ISO and 2.98 HR/9 to lefties this season. Kansas City owns a surprisingly low 4.8-run implied total at Camden Yards, but that shouldn’t keep anyone from loading up on Moustakas at the third base position. Only JC Ramirez and Tim Adleman have coughed up as many home runs to left-handed hitters as Jimenez has this season (15), and I’m expecting Moustakas to add to that tally on Monday night.

Yonder Alonso [1B – L] vs. Cain [RHP] Alonso finally came back to life yesterday after a long stretch of underwhelming performances, and he’ll draw an opportunity to commence another hot streak on Monday night. While he’s disappeared at times this season, Alonso is still having what most would consider a breakout campaign. The 30-year-old first baseman is sporting a stellar .396 wOBA and .280 ISO vs. right-handed pitching, while hitting 46.4-percent fly balls in the process. I can’t say why, and this could very possibly just be noise, but Alonso is murdering righties at home with a .444 wOBA, .402 ISO and 52-percent flyball rate across 131 PA in 2017.

While Alonso has been brilliant both against right-handed pitching and at home, Matt Cain has been a disaster away from AT&T Park. Cain is serving up a Goliath .463 wOBA and .275 ISO to LHH on the road, and while O.Co isn’t exactly a hitter-friendly venue, I’ll happily take my chances on a discounted power bat like Alonso in this spot. You just can’t ignore Cain’s 9.9-percent K-rate or his 6.91 xFIP when he’s coughed up five-plus earned runs in five of his last seven starts on the road.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kendrys Morales [1B – L/R] @ Shields [RHP]; Adrian Beltre [3B – R] vs. Hernandez [RHP]; Marwin Gonzalez [3B/OF – L/R] vs. Cobb [RHP]; Russell Martin [C – R] @ Shields [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Clevinger [RHP] [DraftKings]; Brett Gardner [OF – L] vs. Fulmer [RHP]

VALUE

Matt Joyce [OF – L] vs. Cain [RHP] There isn’t much to say here that wasn’t already said about Alonso. Joyce is a discounted lefty in a spectacular matchup against Cain, and there’s a good chance he’ll bat atop the Athletics’ lineup on Monday. Assuming Joyce leads off against the righty there’s no reason we shouldn’t be considering him a top value option across the industry. Expecting Joyce to hit for average is ill-advised, but his .208 ISO vs. RHP proves he is plenty capable of taking Cain deep on a night where Oakland’s 5.2-run implied total is the fourth highest of any team on the slate.

Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] vs. Clevinger [RHP] Benintendi hasn’t been very good lately, but he hasn’t been $3,500 bad, either. The Red Sox as a team have underwhelmed of late, but they’re still walking at a top-five clip over the past month and Mike Clevinger is walking batters at a robust 12.2-percent rate in 2017. Clevinger’s splits against left-handed hitters also haven’t been sterling, as he’s allowing a .328 wOBA, .247 ISO and 1.91 HR/9 across 115 batters faced.

Clevinger’s high strikeout totals have kept him relevant for DFS purposes, but his 51-percent flyball rate, 33.3-percent hard-hit rate and 4.85 xFIP vs. LHH suggest that he’s due for some regression. If you plan on paying a premium for both of your starting pitchers (Severino/Morton), Benintendi will make for a perfect low-end bat with solid upside on DraftKings ($3,500) and FantasyDraft ($6,800).

Yoan Moncada [2B/3B – L/R] vs. Estrada [RHP] I’ll continue to deploy Moncada in GPPs until he hits, as there is too much upside at his price point to be ignored entirely. The switch-hitting rookie has yet to find his groove at the major-league level, but that’s also because he has yet to steal a base. Moncada swiped 117 bags in the minors since 2015, so I expect the steals to come sooner than later. This matchup becomes a whole lot more enticing if Miguel Montero is behind the plate, but I’m not against using Moncada regardless of scenario at a weak second base position. The rookie’s $2,600 price tag on FanDuel will open a lot up elsewhere if you intend on paying $10,100 for Luis Severino.

Bruce Maxwell [C – L] vs. Cain [RHP] Maxwell will make for a perfect punt at a barren catcher position in the event that he draws another start. Batting seventh with the platoon advantage and a team total north of five is more than enough for me to consider him at a near min-sal price point. It’s really that simple. I’ll also consider Miguel Montero [C – L] for the same reasons if he starts against James Shields. It’s all about finding cheap options at the position on Monday.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jed Lowrie [2B – L/R] vs. Cain [RHP]; Xander Bogaerts [SS – R] vs. Clevinger [RHP]; Brandon Moss [OF – L] @ Jimenez [RHP] [GPP]