MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/5/17

 

PITCHING

 

Alex Wood [LHP – LAD] vs. ARI Alex Wood is the only pitcher in baseball to own a 30-percent strikeout rate and a 65-percent groundball rate this season. Lance McCullers is a close second at 29.1 percent and 63.9 percent, respectively, but outside of Houston’s young ace, who is essentially a right-handed version of Wood, no one else comes close. Among the top-20 ranked pitchers in K-rate this season, only four of them boast groundball rates of 50-plus percent (Wood, McCullers, Severino, Martinez). Similarly, of the top-20 ranked pitchers in groundball rate, only three of them own K-rates of 25 percent or higher (Wood, McCullers, Severino). Wood’s 13.1-percent swinging strike rate also ranks 12th best in baseball.

Yes, Wood has really been that good, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing his salary spike across the industry. Amazingly, however, Wood remains only $9,400 on FanDuel, making him a near autoplay at that price point. I’m still not against using him on DraftKings, though, as he offers elite upside despite Dave Roberts’ insatiable desire to limit his fantasy ceiling.

Not only is Wood a -200 ML favorite at home, but the Diamondbacks own a slate-low 3.2-run implied total on Wednesday night. You’d be paying a premium for him on most sites, but Wood has been so automatic that avoiding him seems unnecessary on a night where high-end pitching is barren.

 

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] @ WAS Washington is a good baseball team that doesn’t strike out much vs. right-handed pitching. They draw walks at the fourth highest rate, too, so this matchup isn’t exactly in deGrom’s wheelhouse. Having said that, deGrom is the second most talented pitcher on Wednesday’s slate, and his strikeout upside makes him tournament viable against the Nats.

It’s also worth noting that deGrom has been very effective in three meetings with Washington this season, racking up 28 strikeouts across 20.2 innings pitched. We can handle a few runs crossing the plate if he missing bats, and deGrom’s career-best 14.2-percent swinging strike rate and 29-percent K-rate are encouraging signs.

The advantage deGrom has over Alex Wood is he doesn’t have to deal with Dave Roberts each start; deGrom has thrown 100-plus pitches in 12 of his last 13 starts while Wood has yet to eclipse the century mark this season. That is the big differentiator, and it could easily be the difference between an extra inning of work. I still prefer Wood from a matchup and run prevention perspective, but deGrom offers the eight-inning upside at a similar price point, and that isn’t something we can ignore.

 

Trevor Bauer [RHP – CLE] vs. SDP I’ve said this on many occasions already, but along with Masahiro Tanaka, Trevor Bauer is one of the most enigmatic pitchers in baseball. The difference between he and Tanaka, however, is Tanaka’s peripherals are actually good. Bauer, on the other hand, owns a pedestrian 8.5-percent swinging strike rate to accompany his 25.9-percent O-Swing rate and 79.6-percent contact rate this season. None of those numbers are particularly impressive, though he’s somehow sporting a 25.7-percent K-rate through 16 starts.

Here’s the thing: Bauer faces the Padres. That’s really all we need to know on Wednesday, and it makes it easier for me to ignore his underwhelming peripherals. San Diego’s 3.5-run implied total is not only the second lowest mark on tonight’s slate, but it’s an extremely low number for any team in a year where offense has been soaring. Moreover, Bauer is the heaviest favorite of any pitcher going on Wednesday (-248 ML), and is a virtual lock to earn the win against Luis Perdomo. I’ll be locking Bauer in across the board on two-pitcher sites, and will even use him some on FanDuel in tournaments. He’s the best SP-2 option by a wide margin and there’s not much reason to pivot.

 

Gerrit Cole [RHP – PIT] @ PHI Cole’s lack of strikeout upside keeps him from being a top play against the Phillies, but he does have plenty of inning-eating upside in this matchup. I could see Cole going eight strong innings on Wednesday while allowing one run and striking out four. That would be enough to put him in play, but there’s no denying Bauer offers a higher ceiling against the Padres.

Philadelphia’s 4.1-run implied total is the third lowest on tonight’s slate, and their splits against right-handed pitching are dismal as well, ranking 29th in wOBA (.298), 29th in ISO (.136) and sixth in K-rate (23.8%) this season. I understand the reasons behind rostering Cole in a stellar matchup, but also acknowledge his need to go at least seven innings in order to pay off his salary.

 

Matt Garza [RHP – MIL] vs. BAL If you’re searching for a full-out punt at the pitcher position, Matt Garza should unfortunately be on your radar. Garza isn’t good, and he generally isn’t going to rack up many strikeouts, but the Orioles have been especially putrid of late, making both bad and rookie pitchers look like veteran aces. Garza is a -138 ML favorite at home against a Baltimore team that strikes out at the eighth highest clip (22.9%) vs. right-handed pitching.

You’re obviously taking a huge risk by rostering Garza, but at $5,100 he won’t need to produce more than 13 DraftKings Points in order to pay off his price tag. I could see pairing him with Bauer in order to stack Coors, but it’s important to note that DraftKings’ pricing is so soft tonight that punting a pitcher probably won’t be necessary.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Freddie Freeman [1B – L] vs. Musgrove [RHP] I could’ve written Freeman up as a mid-range option based on his absurd price point, but that’s not important. What’s important is Freeman’s matchup with Joe Musgrove at Suntrust Park. Before breaking his wrist, Freeman was posting elite numbers against right-handed pitching, with a .484 wOBA, .407 ISO and a 203 wRC+. His 41-percent flyball rate and 40-percent hard-hit rate were equally attractive, and we can expect him to pick back up where he left off in mid May.

Musgrove isn’t a bad pitcher, but he isn’t particularly impressive, either. He’s been a league-average righty in almost every sense, and league-average righties will struggle inside Suntrust Park. Freeman is simply too good to overlook in this matchup, especially on a night where he’s priced in the same tier as Carlos Santana, Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt. It’s really that easy.

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Feldman [RHP] Whenever Blackmon is facing a pedestrian right-hander at Coors you’ll have to consider him a top play across the industry. I mean, seriously, just look at the numbers; in 2017 Blackmon is torching righties at Coors to the tune of a .515 wOBA, .451 ISO and 206 wRC+ across 106 plate appearances. He’s been automatic at home, where his strikeout rate is depressed and his hard contact rate increases by more than 11 percent. You know what to do here.

George Springer [OF – R] @ Garcia [LHP] Springer is absolutely dismantling left-handed pitching this season, boasting a .477 wOBA and .397 ISO across 78 at bats. His nine home runs vs. southpaws leads the league, and while Jaime Garcia is no scrub, he has struggled to contain right-handed bats. Garcia is allowing 1.23 HR/9 to RHB, which isn’t awful but isn’t great, either. He’s only striking them out at a 16-percent clip and owns a 4.56 xFIP across 306 batters faced this season. I’m willing to bet on Springer’s talent here, especially considering he should be relatively under-owned on a night where the outfield position is chock full of talent.

Joey Votto [1B – L] @ Gray [RHP] I think we can all agree that Jon Gray is a talented righty. He boasts an 11.5-percent swinging strike rate for his career to accompany a 25-percent K-rate and 3.65 xFIP dating back to 2015. That being said, Gray will still have to pitch at Coors Field on Wednesday, and he’ll still have to face Joey Votto, who hits righties better than almost any player in baseball. Votto is hammering RHP for a .425 wOBA and .290 ISO this season, while hitting 41-percent fly balls with 36-percent hard contact. He also strikes out at a mere 10-percent clip vs. righties, which should serve him well in the altitude where punchouts are suppressed.

Cincinnati’s 5.1-run implied total is slightly low for a Coors game, but Votto is still a top option at his position. Unfortunately, Freddie Freeman is much cheaper, and Mark Reynolds, who we’ll get to in a moment, is severely underpriced. As a result, it would be easier to target Scooter Gennett [2B/OF – L] and Scott Schebler [OF – L] at their respective positions, especially considering Schebler is only $3,800 on DraftKings. If you plan on stacking Reds, however, Votto needs to be in every one of those lineups. Oh, and I should’ve probably mentioned that game-time temperatures will be hovering around 94 degrees at Coors Field tonight. Balls will be a jumpin’.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Mookie Betts [OF – R] @ Cashner [RHP]; Jose Altuve [2B – R] @ Garcia [LHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Feldman [RHP]; Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] @ Lively [RHP] [GPP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

J.D. Martinez [OF – R] vs. Blach [LHP] I don’t understand this one at all; Martinez is underpriced across the board in a matchup with Ty Blach. Why? Sure, he’s only seen 30 AB’s against southpaws this season, but Martinez has converted nine of them into extra-base hits for a .707 wOBA and .667 ISO. He’s torching lefties to the tune of a .382/.244 wOBA/ISO for his career, too, so the small sample in 2017 is hardly concerning.

Blach has been lucky this year, but we’re beginning to see some correction of late. He simply can’t pitch to sustainable success with an 11-percent K-rate and league average groundball rate, especially away from AT&T Park. Blach has also been considerably worse against right-handed hitters, (.357 wOBA/.208 ISO), while all eight of his home runs surrendered have come from opposite-handed bats.

Detroit boasts the highest implied run total (6.4) of any team on Wednesday’s slate, making Miguel Cabrera [1B – R], Ian Kinsler [2B – R] and Justin Upton [OF – R] equally appealing plays at their affordable price points. Kinsler is the most logical play of the bunch, though, as second base isn’t nearly as loaded as first base or outfield on this 12-game slate. A Tigers stack will undoubtedly be popular tonight, but it’s impossible to overlook their league-leading ISO (.210) and third ranked wOBA (.343) vs. left-handed pitching. Having exposure in cash is absolutely imperative, but I understand the fade in GPPs if you’re feeling frisky.

 

Manny Machado [3B – R] @ Garza [RHP] Machado has been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball this season, but he’s also been responsible for some of his troubles. Let’s talk about the bad luck first: Machado ranks eighth in average exit velocity, has hit more barreled balls than anyone not named Aaron Judge, Khris Davis and Justin Smoak, and is behind only Jose Abreu in batted balls of 95-plus MPH this season.

Machado is smoking the baseball and doesn’t strike out at an alarming clip (20.2%), so what could he be doing to stifle his own production? The answer lies within his ground balls, of which he is pulling at a ridiculously high clip. Machado is hitting ground balls harder than almost anyone in baseball, but he’s pulling almost all of them into the shift, which has a lot to do with his .222 BABIP and .215 batting average. Fortunately, Machado’s flyball rate is a career-high 43.1 percent, and so is his 38.6-percent hard-hit rate.

Given his power upside, I simply cannot ignore Machado at $3,500 on DraftKings, $6,800 on FantasyDraft and even $3,200 on FanDuel. The pulled ground balls have been a problem from an on-base perspective, but Machado’s power hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s simply way too cheap for a matchup with Matt Garza inside the homer-happy Miller Park.

 

Mark Reynolds [1B – R] vs. Feldman [RHP] Reynolds being more expensive on FanDuel than he is on Draftkings should immediately raise some red flags. There’s no reason he should be $3,800 against Scott Feldman at Coors on a night where the Rockies own a 6.1-run implied total. Moreover, Reynolds has been outstanding against right-handed pitching this season, sporting a .418 wOBA, .277 ISO and 142 wRC+. He’s dismantled them at home too across 111 plate appearances, with a .476/.351 wOBA/ISO and 38-percent hard-hit rate.

Scott Feldman has been a neutral splits pitcher for his career, and has posted a league average groundball rate in the process. He won’t fare well at Coors Field, but even if Feldman was a decent righty, I’d still be targeting Reynolds at such an erroneous price point. The only issue here, though, is the first base position offers a ton of depth on Wednesday. Reynolds is an elite mid-range price play but not a must play, as there are a number of stellar options above him.

This is a perfect night to load up on first basemen on FantasyDraft, where you could make an argument for at least four of them being top overall plays, not just at their position but across the board.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Braun [OF – R] vs. Aquino [LHP]; Raimel Tapia [OF – L] vs. Feldman [RHP]; Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] vs. Perdomo [RHP]; Zack Cozart [SS – R] @ Gray [RHP]; Buster Posey [C/1B – R] @ Norris [LHP]; Shin-Soo Choo [OF – L] vs. Fister [RHP]; Domingo Santana [OF – R] vs. Aquino [LHP]; Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Fister [RHP] [GPP]; Salvador Perez [C – R] @ Miranda [LHP] [GPP]

 

VALUE

 

Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Feldman [RHP] Gonzalez isn’t good anymore; this much is true. It is, however, worth noting that he is dirt cheap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft — Raimel Tapia is a far better play on FanDuel where his $3,200 price tag offers a $500 discount from Gonzalez — and draws a matchup with Feldman on a night where game-time temperatures will be 94 degrees at Coors. Simply put, CarGo shouldn’t be $3,400 at Coors no matter how bad he’s been this season. Case in point, Gonzalez is the same price as Gregor Blanco against Alex Wood, Jarrod Dyson against Jason Vargas and cheaper than Daniel Nava against Gerrit Cole. This is a pure price play that makes too much sense no matter how much you try to deny it.

 

Orlando Arcia [SS – R] vs. Aquino [LHP] The shortstop position is a barren wasteland on Wednesday, especially now that Carlos Correa is dealing with a sore thumb. As a result, Arcia comes into play as a cap-saving option at a weak position, as he facing a rookie southpaw in Jayson Aquino who isn’t ready to pitch at the major-league level. Milwaukee owns a 5.5-run implied total at home tonight, and while Arcia continues to hit towards the bottom of the order, he’s been hitting well enough to consider across the board. Over the last two weeks, Arcia leads all shortstops in hits (21) and wOBA (.526) while striking out at a mere 13-percent clip.

 

James McCann [C – R] vs. Blach [LHP] McCann makes for a perfect way to free up cap space at a weak catcher position, as his Tigers own a slate-high 6.4-run implied total against Ty Blach. As earlier noted, Blach won’t continue pitching at even a league-average level, as he is incapable of missing bats and doesn’t induce enough weak contact or ground balls to succeed. McCann is dirt cheap across the board, and should earn ample opportunity to both drive in runs and cross the plate himself on Wednesday night. It also doesn’t hurt to know that McCann has already recorded six home runs in only 48 at bats against southpaw pitching this season.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Alex Bregman [3B – R] @ Garcia [LHP]; Keon Broxton [OF – R] vs. Aquino [LHP]; Seth Smith [OF – L] @ Garza [RHP]; Kole Calhoun [OF – L] @ Santana [RHP] [DraftKings]

 

 

TOP STACKS: Detroit Tigers vs. Blach [LHP]; Milwaukee Brewers vs. Aquino [LHP]; Colorado Rockies vs. Feldman [RHP]; Boston Red Sox @ Cashner [RHP]; Houston Astros @ Garcia [LHP]; Baltimore Orioles @ Garza [RHP]