MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/15/17
Madison Bumgarner is priced at the top of the position today in a matchup against the Marlins in Miami. Bumgarner appears to finally be rounding in to form as he has generated swinging strike percentages of 15.4 percent and 12.0 percent in his last two starts after not eclipsing 9.0 percent in any of his first three starts back from the disabled list. It is still tough to recommend him at an expensive price tag on this slate, however- especially in tournaments. Bumgarner trails seven less expensive pitchers on this slate in strikeout percentage this season and the Marlins rank 26th in strikeout percentage against left-handed pitching at 17.8 percent. Bumgarner has a nice floor and is worth consideration in cash games, but it is hard to imagine him being the highest scoring pitcher on the slate, despite being the most expensive option, which makes him a fade in tournaments for me.
Jacob DeGrom is a much more appealing tournament option than Bumgarner at virtually the same price point. DeGrom has a more dangerous matchup in a much worse park to pitch in, but the Yankees also have some strikeouts in their lineup and DeGrom has elite strikeout stuff. DeGrom has struck out 29.2 percent of hitters this season, while generating a 12.9 percent swinging strike percentage and 32.2 o-swing percentage. While DeGrom can certainly be the highest scoring pitcher on this slate and warrants GPP consideration, there are a couple of red flags working against him. First, the Yankees have less strikeouts in their lineup now that Aaron Hicks has replaced Clint Frazier in the outfield. Second, Degrom has a bit of a home run issue away from Citi Field. He has allowed 0.9 home runs per nine innings at home this season and 1.6 home runs per nine innings on the road. He allows more home runs to lefties on the road at 1.73 home runs per nine innings, but right-handed hitters have done damage as well with 1.48 homers per nine innings. On the other hand, DeGrom’s home/road splits are actually much smaller this season than in previous seasons. His 28.5 percent strikeout percentage on the road is only slightly less than his 29.9 percent strikeout percentage at home and his 3.09 road xFIP is actually lower than the 3.51 mark he has posted at home.
Danny Salazar has been great since rejoining Cleveland’s rotation. He has been very aggressive early in the count, averaging a 66.5 percent first pitch strike percentage in his five starts since returning. His stuff has also been excellent as Salazar has averaged a 35.2 percent swinging strike percentage and 19.3 percent o-swing percentage over those five starts which has translated to a 35.9 percent strikeout percentage. He will face the Twins tonight in Minnesota. He has faced them once earlier this season, going 6.0 innings with 7 strikeouts, 1 earned run, and a 16.5 percent swinging strike percentage. Salazar’s biggest weakness is left-handed power, but the Twins do not have a ton of it as their two best power hitters swing from the right side of the plate. Salazar makes an excellent option tonight if paying up at pitcher, despite his quickly rising price tag.
Alex Wood struggled for a stretch of starts against the Braves and Giants, but there were some encouraging signs in his most recent start against Arizona despite a mediocre final line. His average fastball velocity was 92.3 miles per hour, which is his highest since mid-June and is in line with his season average of 92.2 miles per hour. In addition, his curveball graded out as a positive pitch for the first time in four starts. Finally, he had a 14.8 percent swinging strike percentage after failing to exceed 9.0 percent in his three previous starts. There are still concerns, too, as his groundball rate has been down and his hard contact has been up. Neither of those issues went away against the Diamondbacks, as he got only 30.0 percent groundballs and allowed 45.0 percent hard contact. Still, at a price tag significantly less than he is worth if he is close to his normal self, and against a White Sox lineup that has limited power, Wood is a strong option in any format.
Dinelson Lamet has all kinds of talent and will face the Phillies in San Diego. Lamet has a 29.1 percent strikeout percentage so far in his rookie season, but we do need to keep in mind that he has massive splits. He has struck out just 23.6 percent of lefties, while allowed 1.97 home runs per nine innings, compared to 34.5 percent of righties. He has increased his slider usage to lefties over his last four starts and has had some promising results so far, but it is a small sample and he has not faced many dangerous lefties over that span. Still, it is worth noting and keeping an eye on. If the Phillies have a right-handed heavy lineup, Lamet immediately jumps to a top pitching option. If they have their normal lineup with 4 or 5 lefties, Lamet remains an interesting tournament option but has a lower ceiling and more risk than he otherwise would.
Marco Estrada seems to have figured out whatever his issue was, as he has put together three starts in a row of 7.0 innings with no more than 3 earned runs, while striking out at least 5 hitters. His swinging strike percentage in his most recent start against New York was just 5.5 percent, which is concerning, but his 10.6 percent swinging strike percentage against the Astros and 16.8 percent swinging strike percentage against the White Sox are reasons to be optimistic that he has turned a corner. Tampa Bay has strikeouts up and down their lineup and Estrada should be in line for another solid outing at a very reasonable price tag.
Mark Leiter has been outstanding in his last two extended relief appearances, recording swinging strike percentages of 25.0 percent and 17.2 percent against the Rockies (in Coors) and the Mets. While we have not seen anything close to that sort of performance from him for most of the season, it is worth noting that he threw his splitter at least 20 percent of the time in each of these outings, compared to a 16.5 percent season average. There is plenty of risk in rostering Leiter who, outside of his last two outings, has been less than impressive this season. Still, the Padres are not a good hitting team and they have plenty of strikeouts in their lineup so it is not too dangerous of a spot for Leiter.
Jason Hammel gets the strikeout happy Athletics tonight in Oakland. Hammel has posted impressive swinging strike numbers over the last couple of months, but it has not translated into strikeouts for him. Since the start of June, a 13 start stretch, Hammel has averaged an 11.1 percent swinging strike percentage but has only struck out 18.9 percent of hitters. Tonight, he will face an Oakland team that offers more strikeout upside than anyone in baseball right now. Oakland’s lineup last night consisted of 9 hitters with a strikeout percentage greater than 20 percent against right-handed pitching this season and we should see a similar lineup tonight. There is plenty of risk in rostering Hammel, but he should come at very low ownership and is a creative tournament play.
Dan Straily returns home to Miami to face a left-handed heavy Giants team that lacks power. Both of those factors are important for Straily. Straily has a 22.2 percent strikeout percentage with 0.81 home runs per nine innings at home this season compared to a 21.1 percent strikeout percentage and 1.72 home runs per nine innings on the road. He has struck out 22.8 percent of lefties with 0.93 home runs per nine innings compared to a 20.4 percent strikeout percentage and 1.62 home runs per nine innings to righties. Combining both splits, Straily has a 24.2 percent strikeout percentage with 0.85 home runs per nine innings allowed at home this season. The Giants projected lineup has six lefties in it and not many good hitters. At a $6,500 price tag on DraftKings, Straily is a strong SP2 option in any format.
Josh Donaldson remains one of the top hitters on the slate in a matchup against Blake Snell. Donaldson is second in xwOBA since the start of August (trailing only Giancarlo Stanton) and fourth in ISO (behind Stanton, Gallo and Cruz). For the season, Donaldson has a .300 ISO against left-handed pitching. Snell has allowed 1.49 home runs per nine innings to righties this season while striking out just 18.5 percent. Third base is a deep position, but Donaldson remains a great option.
Giancarlo Stanton has a tough matchup against Madison Bumgarner, but he has been hitting home runs off of everyone lately. Bumgarner has allowed just over 1.0 home run per nine innings to righties this season and Stanton has a .382 ISO against lefties. The perceived difficult matchup should keep Stanton’s ownership under control in tournaments and it would not be surprising at all to see him go deep again.
Cody Bellinger is facing Miguel Gonzalez in Los Angeles. Gonzalez has been very good at home this season, but has really struggled on the road. Gonzalez has allowed 1.95 home runs per nine innings to lefties on the road this season compared to 0.69 at home. His strikeout percentage is also six percentage points lower. Bellinger has regained his form at the plate lately and has posted huge numbers against right-handed pitching all season long with a .379 xwOBA and .386 ISO. He is my favorite hitter on the slate.
Nelson Cruz faces a lefty in Wade Miley. Miley is a mediocre pitcher and has a bit of a home run problem against right-handed hitters, allowing 1.54 home runs per nine innings. Cruz has a .213 ISO against lefties this season and should have the advantage against Miley.
Steve Pearce is expected to be in the middle of the Toronto lineup against left-hander Blake Snell. Pearce has a .273 ISO against left-handed pitching this season and is just $3,700 on DraftKings. While there is a lot of good hitting to pay up for tonight, there is a lack of value. Pearce’s power upside makes him a great value option in the outfield.
Eddie Rosario has been hitting extremely well lately, ranking 16th in ISO since the start of August. He has a tough matchup against Danny Salazar, but Salazar is home run prone to lefties. Salazar has allowed 1.87 home runs per nine innings to lefties so far this season and Rosario has a .236 ISO against right-handed pitching. He makes for an excellent leverage play in GPPs to counter Salazar’s ownership.
Brandon Moss has been heating up lately as well, with his .385 ISO since the start of August ranking 19th in baseball. He is always an intriguing option when he is facing a pitcher who does not get strikeouts, and that is the case tonight against Chris Smith of the Athletics. Smith has struck out just 10.5 percent of lefties that he has faced this season. He has not given up many home runs, but his numbers suggest that is just due to a small sample size as he has allowed a 42.0 percent flyball percentage and 18.0 percent soft contact. As more of his 54.0 percent medium contact becomes hard contact, we should see the home runs allowed increase.
Los Angeles Dodgers- I mentioned earlier that Miguel Gonzalez has struggled mightily away from home this season. He will face a Dodgers’ lineup that has power from top to bottom. Once the Dodgers knock Gonzalez out of the game, they will face the worst bullpen in baseball. They will most likely be a popular stack, but there are creative ways to stack them in order to be contrarian as literally every hitter in the lineup except the pitcher has power.
St. Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals have figured things out at the plate lately and they will face Rick Porcello in Boston. Porcello has allowed massive amounts of hard contact to hitters from both sides of the plate this season and the Cardinals are full of hitters who can hit fastballs for power. The Green Monster will be an appealing target for this right-handed heavy lineup, though the lefties are obviously strong plays as well with Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler profiling as the two best hitters against Porcello.
Detroit Tigers- Detroit let us down yesterday against Martin Perez, but they get a very nice matchup tonight against the home run prone A.J. Griffin. Do not shy away from the righty-righty matchups here, as Griffin has allowed over 3 home runs per nine innings to opposing righties this season. Victor Martinez makes for a very sneaky play from this offense as he is never owned regardless of how popular the Tigers are.