MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/16/17

 

PITCHING

Yu Darvish [RHP – LAD] vs. CWS I’ll be doing everything I can to fit Darvish into all of my lineups tonight. This is simply too good a spot for a right-handed ace who has looked brilliant since moving to the National League. The White Sox not only own the third worst wOBA (.304) vs. RHP, but they’ve grown considerably worse since trading away a number of their best hitters. It should come as no surprise that they’ve dropped 27 of their last 35 games, or that they are striking out at a 25-percent clip since the start of July.

Darvish, on the other hand, boasts a 15.6-percent swinging strike rate through two games as a Dodger with a 42.6-percent K-rate and 1.89 xFIP. The NL should continue to treat him well on Wednesday, as he’ll pitch inside a pitcher-friendly venue against a White Sox team that boasts virtually no talent from the left side of the plate.

Among every hitter in Chicago’s projected lineup, only Jose Abreu and Omar Narvaez own K-rates below 20 percent. Their 2.7-run implied total is hardly imposing, while Darvish being a -299 ML favorite at home simply reaffirms our position. He won’t come cheap, but Darvish offers legitimate 45-50-DKPT upside in a dream matchup with the Sox. I would not be overly surprised to see Darvish post the best pitching performance of anyone thus far in 2017. You know what to do.

Marcus Stroman [RHP – CLE] and Carlos Carrasco [RHP – CLE] are both viable options on Wednesday, but I can’t justify playing them over Darvish, even at a discount. Stroman faces the K-heavy Rays and is very capable of turning in a gem, but his upside doesn’t come close to sniffing Darvish’s and he isn’t that much cheaper, either. Carrasco has been better on the road for his career, and the Twins are an average team in every sense vs. RHP (wOBA: 17th, ISO: 20th, K%: 12th), but he’s far more volatile than Darvish in their respective matchups. Ultimately, these two righties aren’t that much cheaper than Darvish, who arguably draws the best possible matchup in baseball tonight.

There are three pitchers I’ll be considering as a pairing option with Darvish on two-pitcher sites, because if you’re playing Darvish you’ll definitely need a cheaper second arm. Eduardo Rodriguez [LHP – BOS] faces the Cardinals at home, is a -150 ML favorite, and his Red Sox own a 5.3-run implied total against Lance Lynn. Rodriguez’s reverse splits are rather extreme, both in 2017 and for his career. He’s holding righties to a below average wOBA (.294 in 2017; .300 Career), is striking them out at an impressive 26.5-percent clip, but also allowing fly balls at an unsightly rate (46.5%). St. Louis will load up on right-handers tonight, and they don’t have many quality lefties to begin with. We won’t need a stellar performance from Rodriguez to pay off his lower mid-range price point, but a 25-DKPT outing is more than achievable tonight.

John Lackey [RHP – CHC] has failed to replicate his production after a strong 2016 campaign, but he has at least looked better in the past month than he did to start the year. Over his last four starts, Lackey is sporting a 12.5-percent swinging strike rate, 31-percent O-Swing rate, 71.8-percent Contact rate and 22.9-percent K-rate. He’s still allowing far too many home runs, but Lackey’s 19.7-percent hard-hit rate over that span is one of the best marks in baseball.

There’s reason to be encouraged here, and much of it has to do with his pitch mix, which he has altered dramatically since the start of July. Lackey is throwing far more two-seamers and sliders — getting 50-plus-percent ground balls on the former and 40-plus-percent whiffs/swing on the latter — and far less four-seamers, a pitch that’s done him no favors in 2017. The Reds don’t make for the best fantasy matchup, but their 3.8-run implied total is the second lowest mark on Wednesday’s slate, and Lackey is the second biggest favorite (-185 ML) to boot. With no wind to derail his outing at Wrigley, Lackey should be considered a legitimate SP-2 on a night where mid-range pitching is at a premium.

Jaime Garcia [LHP – NYY] has endured a rollercoaster ride of a 2017 season, but he’ll draw a rather favorable matchup on Wednesday night. The Mets rank 19th in wOBA (.315) and seventh in K-rate (24.4%) vs. left-handed pitching this season, while walking at the third lowest clip (6.7%) on the year. Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores are power threats from the right side of the plate, but this Mets lineup is otherwise unimposing. Garcia is cheap enough to deploy on a night where the Mets own a 4.2-run implied total at home, but I’ll still be looking to spend an additional ~$1K in order to get to Lackey or Rodriguez.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie Morton [RHP – HOU] vs. ARI

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] faces Mike Foltynewicz at Coors Field, and while he’s posted disappointing fantasy totals over the past two nights, it’s hard to believe he’ll stay silent on Wednesday. Foltynewicz has taken a big step forward this season, but he’s still allowing a robust .367 wOBA and .200 ISO to left-handed bats. Folty’s sub-20-percent K-rate and 43.1-percent flyball rate vs. LHH should also plague him at Coors, while his 1.61 HR/9 allowed certainly won’t play well under these conditions. I’ll certainly be looking to go back to the Blackmon well tonight, but squeezing him into lineups will be tough with Darvish eating up 27.4 percent of the cap on DraftKings.

 Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] has actually drawn two tough fantasy matchups over his first pair of starts at Coors, but tonight’s meeting with Jon Gray is actually rather enticing. Gray is only garner 45-percent ground balls vs. lefties for his career, and is ceding a .374 wOBA with a 17.2 percent K-rate thus far in 2017. He’s also serving up a fair amount of hard contact to opposite-handed hitters (35.1% Career). Gray is throwing the four-seamer 66 percent of the time vs. LHH this season, allowing a .337 AVG and .225 ISO with a huge dropoff in whiffs/swing from his previous three campaigns. Freeman ranks seventh against fastballs among all qualified hitters since 2016, and is finally poised to smash at the infamous Coors Field.

Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] and Justin Turner [3B – R] are difficult to ignore in a home matchup with Carlos Rodon, who I believe is a solid young southpaw but is very vulnerable to blow up outings at only 24 years of age. Get this: Rodon has allowed nine home runs on the season, of which four came against the Dodgers back in late July. He’s allowed seven home runs to righties, of which three came against the Dodgers on the same night. Since joining the White Sox in in 2015 Rodon has struggled against power righties, allowing 1.32 HR/9 with a 15.2-percent HR/FB rate across 1175 TBF.

Rodon should struggle again on Wednesday against a Dodgers team that has been fantastic against left-handed pitching in 2017. We’ll be discussing several Dodger righties in today’s Deep Dive, but for now let’s discuss Taylor and Turner, who have crushed southpaws all season long. Both righties are hitting for average and power, while rarely leaving us with a goose egg when drawing the platoon advantage. Turner draws the biggest advantage, though, as he’s striking out at a mere 8.4-percent clip vs. LHP this season. I’ll have ample exposure to both of them on Wednesday night.

HONORABLE MENTION: Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP]; Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] @ Gibson [RHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] vs. Sanchez [RHP]; Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] vs. Bailey [RHP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] vs. Bailey [RHP]; Adrian Beltre [3B – R] vs. Sanchez [RHP]

 MID-RANGE

 Rafael Devers [3B – L] has been on an insane run since since being called up to the majors, smashing right-handed pitchers to the tune of a .439 wOBA, .347 ISO and 40-percent hard-hit rate across 55 PA. Devers is unsurprisingly in play again on Wednesday in a home matchup with Lance Lynn, whose primary struggles have always come against lefties on the road. For his career, Lynn has surrendered a .360 wOBA to LHH on the road, while striking them out at a modest 18.6-percent clip.

Nothing has changed in 2017, as Lynn has been torched by opposite-handed bats, allowing a .356 wOBA, .280 ISO and a whopping 2.62 HR/9 across 155 TBF. He’s serving up more fly balls (43.4%) and hard contact (36.8%) than ever, making Devers a strong third base option once again. Boston’s 5.3-run implied total is higher than all but two teams (COL, TEX) on Wednesday night.

Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] is the only mid-range to high-end shortstop I’m considering outside of the ridiculously priced Elvis Andrus [SS – R]. Andrus is a much easier play on FanDuel where he’s $3,600, but at $5,400 on DraftKings it’s an entirely different story. Kyle Gibson is getting hammered by left-handed bats this year, allowing a .381 wOBA, .213 ISO and 35.6-percent hard contact rate. He’s also sporting a 5.47 xFIP and 13-percent K-rate vs. opposite-handed hitters, so this isn’t exactly a difficult matchup for Lindor. Gibson also allowing 46-percent pulled balls to lefties, and as we’ve previously pointed out on the Deeper Dive, all of Lindor’s home runs are pulled. I actually prefer him over Andrus even where they’re comparably priced.

Billy Hamilton [OF – L/R] makes for a rather outstanding play against John Lackey, who ranks towards the bottom of the league in SRAA and has caught only one of 12 base stealers this season. Hamilton has been on base 12 times for his career against Lackey, and he has stolen seven bases over that span. If Hamilton gets on board he will undoubtedly take off, from first to second and from second to third. As you know, I’m a sucker for swipes, and Hamilton has legitimate three-swipe upside in this matchup.

HONORABLE MENTION: Wilmer Flores [1B/3B – R] vs. Garcia [LHP]; Delino DeShields [OF – R] vs. Sanchez [RHP]; Shin-soo Choo [OF – L] vs. Sanchez [RHP]; Gerardo Parra [OF – L] vs. Foltynewicz [RHP]

VALUE

Alex Avila [C/1B – L] is never going to rake again like he did at the beginning of the year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have some big games on occasion. Wednesday’s matchup with Homer Bailey offers plenty of upside, as the Cubs own a massive 5.6-run implied run total and Bailey is serving up a .366 wOBA to LHH this season. Sure, Bailey likely isn’t as bad as he’s looked through his first 10 starts, but he’s still pretty awful; the 31-year-old right-hander has coughed up 44 earned runs across 47.2 innings, and will likely struggle again tonight. Avila’s .384 wOBA, .234 ISO and Goliath 54.8-percent hard-hit rate vs. right-handed pitching is more than enough to consider him a top catcher option on this nine-game slate.

Kike Hernandez [SS/OF – R] and Austin Barnes [C – R] will always be top value options of mine when facing volatile southpaws. Hernandez has recorded an extra-base hit in every 5.7 at bats vs. LHP this year. That’s crazy. He owns a .392/.351 wOBA/ISO vs. lefties, while making 40.7-percent hard contact on the year. Barnes, meanwhile, has been equally impressive, and offers great value at a shallow catcher position. I’ll happily deploy both of these cheap right-handers against Rodon, who served up four home runs to the Dodgers in late July.

 Rougned Odor [2B – L] will likely bat towards the bottom of the Rangers’ order again tonight, but I’m willing to roll the dice on him at a discounted price point. Odor has disappointed as a whole this year, sporting an underwhelming .308 wOBA vs. RHP, but he’s also producing a .240 ISO, 45-percent flyball rate and 38.6-percent hard-hit rate. Odor has as much multi-homer upside as anyone on Wednesday, and especially at his salary. Pairing him with Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] and a few other bottom of the order Ranger bats could yield big fantasy totals against Anibal Sanchez.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mike Napoli [1B – R] vs. Sanchez [GPP]; Robinson Chirinos [C – R] vs. Sanchez [RHP]; Ozzie Albies [2B – L/R] @ Gray [RHP]; Asdrubal Cabrera [SS – L/R] vs. Garcia [LHP]; Bradley Zimmer [OF – L] @ Gibson [RHP]