MLB DEEP DIVE – 7/7/17

PITCHING

Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] vs. ATL Scherzer is an obvious safe play on Friday, but I’m not sure he’s a necessary one against the Braves. Atlanta will likely run a five-lefty lineup with four righties including R.A. Dickey. Scherzer is striking right-handed hitters out at an absurd 47-percent clip this season while holding them to a .166 wOBA with a 1.78 xFIP. Left-handed bats, however, are striking out at a 26-percent clip, are averaging 1.24 HR/9, and have fared much better against Scherzer. Now let’s be clear about something: Scherzer has still been great against opposite-handed bats, but some of his best performances have come against righty-heavy lineups.

We should never be opposed to rostering Scherzer against a team like the Braves; he’s a -260 ML favorite at home while Atlanta owns a slate-low 3-run implied total on Friday. But if there was ever a night to save at the pitcher position and still feel confident in your decision, this would be the one. There are a bevy of stellar mid-range arms scattered across this slate, so passing up on Scherzer’s sky-high price tag makes sense in the name of differentiation. In cash games, though, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more reliable source of fantasy points than Scherzer.

Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] @ STL I’ll always advocate using deGrom on nights like this because most will overlook him. He’s been erratic enough at times to be passed over for Scherzer and maybe even Zack Greinke tonight, but a matchup with St. Louis is actually quite compelling. The Cardinals run a righty-heavy lineup almost every night, with Matt Carpenter being the only lefty with any credibility. deGrom has stifled right-handed hitters this season to the tune of a .275 wOBA, 2.91 xFIP and 32.7-percent K-rate. He possesses 30-plus-fantasy point upside every night — deGrom has posted four consecutive 30-plus DKPT outings — and is pitching on six days of rest, which hasn’t been known to hurt anyone. Once again, though, paying for pitching may be unnecessary on Friday’s slate, so we’ll waste no more time discussing top-shelf arms.

James Paxton [LHP – SEA] vs. OAK Paxton is one of many reasons why we shouldn’t need to pay for pitching tonight. He’ll draw a home matchup with the A’s who own the second lowest implied run total on the night (3.6), and is more than affordable on two-pitcher sites. Oakland has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching this season, slipping to 28th in wOBA (.287), 24th in ISO (.145) and sixth in K-rate (25.7%). Only Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley are striking out at a sub-20-percent clip vs. southpaws, while Ryon Healy is the only A’s bat to own a wOBA above league average.

Paxton has produced mixed results since returning from injury, but has looked much sharper over his last three starts. Here are the facts: Paxton still boasts a near 27-percent K-rate with just shy of 10 K/9, is sporting a career-high 12.6-percent swinging strike rate and is allowing only .61 HR/9 on the year. Those are some elite numbers right there, or at least enough to push him above $9,500 on DraftKings. As a -155 ML favorite against another quality lefty in Sean Manaea, Paxton should be considered a top mid-range option with legitimate 30-plus-fantasy point upside against the A’s.

Jordan Montgomery [LHP – NYY] vs. MIL Montgomery is priced way too cheap for this matchup with the Brewers. Sure, it’s a volatile spot against a Milwaukee team that boasts plenty of power from the right side of the plate, but this is also a very high-upside position for Montgomery. The young southpaw owns a 13.5-percent swinging strike rate to accompany his 37-percent O-Swing, which is bested by only Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka this season. He’s getting a lot of chases out of the zone thanks to two great breaking pitches in his curve and slider, which are inducing 44-percent whiff/swing and 38-percent whiff/swing, respectively. Both pitches are garnering 50-plus-percent ground balls and haven’t been hit hard at all, so his low-90’s fastballs work just fine with this arsenal.

Milwaukee is capable of giving any lefty a difficult time, but their 26.1-percent K-rate also accommodates some big pitching performances. The 10.5-O/U in this game is slightly alarming, but Montgomery is a -197 ML favorite at Yankee Stadium, and the Brewers 4.4-run implied total isn’t that concerning. Given his stellar swing-and-miss potential and Milwaukee’s proneness to strike outs, Montgomery offers a crazy high ceiling at only $6,500 on DraftKings and $12,800 on FantasyDraft.

Sean Manaea [LHP – OAK] @ SEA Speaking of high-upside pitchers with inexplicably low price points, Manaea should not be priced below $7K on Friday. We’re talking about a second-year southpaw who has drawn some of the most difficult matchups this season, including Houston (x3), Yankees (x2), Cleveland, Rangers (in Texas) and Boston. Moreover, most of the teams he has faced strike out at a bottom-10 clip vs. left-handed pitching.

Seattle has done a solid job of limiting strikeouts this season, but they’ve also been far from stellar against left-handed arms (.315 wOBA/.133 ISO). The logic behind playing Manaea rests upon his price point, though, as he is $6,400 on DraftKings and $12,800 on FantasyDraft. I don’t understand how a pitcher with a 13.9-percent swinging strike rate, 25-percent K-rate and a 3.95 xFIP can be this cheap against the Mariners — especially considering this game takes place inside the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

Manaea is a three-pitch pitcher, but all three of them have been filthy in 2017. He’s generating 45-percent whiffs/swing on both his slider (18% FRQ) and change (25% FRQ), while holding batters to a sub-.100 ISO on his fastball (57% FRQ). The changeup has unsurprisingly been his go-to pitch against right-handed hitters, though, and they have still yet to figure it out. Simply put, Manaea has the tools to shut down the Mariners on Friday, and seeing that he is priced near R.A. Dickey and German Marquez, there’s no reason we should be avoiding him.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Friday’s 13-game slate is chock full of viable pitching options at every single tier, and while the above-listed arms will qualify as our top targets tonight, there are several remaining plays worth considering:

Kenta Maeda [RHP – LAD] will go vastly overlooked against the Royals, but he’s a -201 ML favorite at home and Kansas City owns one of the lowest implied run totals on the night (3.7). Maeda has been rather underwhelming at times, but he still boasts a 13.6-percent swinging strike rate with a 3.96 SIERA and 27-percent hard-hit rate in 2017. The Royals own a bottom-five wOBA vs. RHP.

Drew Pomeranz [LHP – BOS] has no shortage of strikeout upside against the Rays, who lead the league in K-rate (27%) vs. LHP. Tampa Bay has plenty of pop throughout their lineup and could put an end to Pomeranz’s night rather quickly, but they could also go down quietly with double-digit strikeouts at the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field. In tournaments, Pomeranz makes sense as a pivot away from Paxton, who will be the much higher owned option on Friday.

Dan Straily [RHP – MIA] draws a matchup with the Giants, who have still yet to crawl out of the basement vs. right-handed pitching. On the year, San Francisco ranks dead last in wOBA (.290) and ISO (.131) vs. RHP, and although they don’t strike out much (19.6 K%), AT&T Park should allow Straily to pitch deep into this game while limiting runs to a minimum. My only concern with deploying Straily in GPPS is his upside is somewhat limited in this matchup. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch seven scoreless frames, where only four or five strikeouts would be required.

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Holland [LHP] I mentioned on this morning’s podcast that I would be very surprised to see Arenado finish tonight’s game without a home run. Derek Holland has allowed 17 home runs on the season, and all 17 of them have come against right-handed bats. Furthermore, Holland is coughing up a .380 wOBA and .258 ISO to opposite-handed bats, while sporting a 5.38 xFIP and 8.8-percent K-BB rate in the process. I don’t see any way he’ll be able to escape tonight’s start with a pulse, especially considering righties are making hard contact (42% HH) and hitting a ton of fly balls (43.1% FB) against the veteran southpaw.

Arenado’s splits against left-handed pitching have been spectacular this season (.519/.386 wOBA/ISO), and even better at home (.538/.447 wOBA/ISO). Not only do the Rockies boast a slate-high 6.6-run implied total at Coors, but game-time temperatures will be hovering around 86 degrees. This team has disappointed us with great frequency of late, but I’ll be going back to the well again tonight. I simply cannot avoid Arenado in this matchup, especially considering he’s so easy to play with all of the great value pitchers available.

Daniel Murphy [2B – L] vs. Dickey [RHP] I generally don’t pay attention to BvP, but I’m willing to take notice when it comes to knuckleballers. Even so, it shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone tool to make decisions, but if it agrees with the research I’m not going to disregard it entirely. Murphy has seen only six plate appearances vs. Dickey, but he’s recorded four hits with two home runs and a double across those at bats. Moreover, Murphy owns a 95.4-MPH average exit velocity against the knuckleball for his career (small sample, but it’s all we got), a pitch that some hitters see well and others will never figure out.

Murphy’s .404 wOBA and .241 ISO vs. right-handed pitching is just icing on the cake here; he already smashes righties and never strikes out (6.9 K%), creating a perfect recipe for success against Dickey. My guess is Murphy will also go overlooked at his premium price point, but I have him as my top second base play on Friday night.

Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] vs. Zimmermann [RHP] If you heard people talking about Encarnacion, you’d think he was having a terrible 2017 campaign. You’d also probably be surprised to hear that he’s on pace to hit 36 home runs. Yes, his RBI totals are down this year, but Encarnacion is still hitting for plenty of power, and should be considered a strong first base play against Jordan Zimmermann on Friday night. He’s hitting 43-percent fly balls against righties with a 37-percent hard contact rate, which should serve him well against Zimmermann, who is allowing north of two HR/9 with a 15-percent K-rate and a 5.49 xFIP.

Zimmermann should get hammered tonight (DET: 5.9 TT), and Encarnacion should get in on the fun. He’s $3,300 on FanDuel and $4,500 on DraftKings, neither of which are prohibitive price points whatsoever. Zimmermann has just been so putrid that this entire Cleveland team should be firmly in play. Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] is a stellar option atop his position, and makes for a perfect pairing with Encarnacion across the industry.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. Dickey [RHP]; Aaron Judge [OF – R] vs. Guerra [RHP]; Corey Seager [SS – L] vs. Hammel [RHP]; Jose Abreu [1B – R] @ Marquez [RHP]; Miguel Sano [3B – R] vs. Gausman [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Adleman [RHP]; Melky Cabrera [OF – L] @ Marquez [RHP]; Jason Kipnis [2B – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

Cameron Maybin [OF – R] @ Hamels [LHP] If you’re a sucker for stolen bases like I am, Maybin should be on your radar tonight. His 25:3 SB/CS ratio is phenomenal, and while Cole Hamels has inexplicably allowed zero stolen bases this season, he’s historically been one of the worst pitchers when it comes to holding runners. I’ll happily deploy Maybin in this spot, and it doesn’t hurt to know he’ll be hitting inside Globe Life Park. Good price, good matchup, good play overall. The stolen bases will start to flow against Hamels sooner than later, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Maybin kick it off on Friday.

Pat Valaika [2B/SS – R] vs. Holland [LHP] If Bud Black is going to continue hitting Valaika in the middle of this Rockies order, we should continue to play him. He isn’t a particularly special hitter, but drawing the platoon advantage at Coors is more than enough to love him on Friday night. Holland has been hammered by right-handed hitters, doesn’t induce a lot of ground balls, and can’t limit hard contact, so it’s hard to envision a way in which he escapes this start unscathed. Again, Valaika is simply way too cheap for this matchup, and his splits vs. LHP (.341 wOBA, .233 ISO) are more than solid enough to target him across the board.

Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] vs. Zimmermann [RHP] I know Lindor hasn’t been tearing the cover off the ball, but it’s hard to grasp why he’s priced so low against Zimmermann. The Indians own the third highest implied run total on this 13-game slate (5.9), and Zimmermann has been one of the worst righties in baseball this season. Valaika and Lindor are the two shortstop options I’ll be targeting heavily tonight, and neither of them will put a big dent in your available cap space.

Carlos Gomez [OF – R] vs. Nolasco [RHP] Ricky Nolasco is coming off of a stellar complete-game shutout against the Mariners, but he likely won’t continue that success on Friday. Temperatures in Arlington will be above 90 degrees at first pitch, and the humidity will also work heavily against both pitchers in this contest. Nolasco has been tortured by right-handed hitters this season, allowing a .375 wOBA, .267 ISO and 2.55 HR/9. He’s coughing up 41-percent hard contact to righties, too, which will do him no favors inside the homer-happy Globe Life Park. Gomez, on the other hand, has been much better against same-handed pitching (.378 wOBA, .259 ISO), and is well worth the price of admission tonight.

David Peralta [OF – L] and Lonnie Chisenhall [OF – L] also make for great mid-range plays in their respective matchups. Both face pitchers who have struggled to set down left-handed bats, and neither are overpriced on any specific site.

HONORABLE MENTION: Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] vs. Hammel [RHP]; Mark Reynolds [1B – R] vs. Holland [LHP]; Rougned Odor [2B – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP] [GPP]; Avisail Garcia [OF – R] @ Marquez [RHP]; Michael Brantley [OF – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]; Shin-Soo Choo [OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Brett Gardner [OF – L] vs. Guerra [RHP]; Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Moore [LHP]

 

VALUE

Chris Herrmann [C/OF – L] vs. Adleman [RHP] Herrmann is a top value play at the catcher position, facing the right-handed Tim Adleman at Chase Field. Herrmann won’t hit for average, but he does boast a .222 ISO vs. right-handed pitching, which is a strong mark for any backstop. He’s also been excellent across 66 PA vs. RHP at home, sporting a .383 wOBA, .316 ISO and a whopping 48-percent hard-hit rate this season. Assuming he’s in the D-Backs lineup, Herrmann should be considered a premier low-end option at his position.

Wilson Ramos [C – R] makes for a nice tournament pivot against Drew Pomeranz, who is susceptible to coughing up the long ball to opposite-handed bats. As evidenced by Chris Sale’s start last night, the Rays are very capable of taking quality southpaws deep even if they strike out at a double-digit clip. Having Ramos in the lineup adds a little extra pop, and he remains very cheap across the industry.

Manny Machado [3B – R]/Seth Smith [OF – L] @ Jorge [RHP] The Orioles haven’t been good lately, but there’s no reason Machado should be this cheap. As I highlighted in Wednesday’s Deep Dive, Machado is among the league leaders in average exit velocity, barreled balls and batted balls above 95 MPH this season. He’s pulling too many ground balls, which has resulted in a suppressed batting average, but Machado still possesses ample power on a nightly basis. He’ll continue to go overlooked against Felix Jorge, who doesn’t miss any bats and will be making his second career major-league appearance on Friday. Jorge is coming straight from Double-A to the majors, so it’s hard to believe he’ll fare well — even against the struggling O’s.

Brian Goodwin [OF – L] vs. Dickey [RHP] Goodwin continues to churn out quality fantasy totals towards the top of the Nationals’ lineup, but his price tag remains in the gutter. Until sites decide to price him accordingly, he’ll remain in play. Goodwin has proven capable of hitting for power with a .239 ISO vs. RHP, and his propensity to hit fly balls should allow him to continue that trend. If you’re looking for some cheap pop at the position you need not look any further than Washington’s rookie outfielder.

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] @ Scherzer [RHP] Freeman makes for a very intriguing tournament play on Friday, owning a dirt cheap price tag in a tough matchup with Scherzer. As earlier noted, Scherzer is one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball right now, but he’s been susceptible to coughing up home runs to lefties (1.24 HR/9). Freeman is simply too good against right-handed pitching to ignore entirely at this price point in GPPs.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Hanigan [C – R] vs. Holland [LHP]; Matt Davidson [3B – R] @ Marquez [RHP]; Alen Hanson [2B – S] @ Marquez [RHP]