MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/18/17
Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] @ SDP – Okay… so… Yu Darvish finished with 6.1 DKPT on Wednesday. He struck out only two batters for the first time in his career, and less than four batters for the first and only time since May 27, 2012. He allowed more home runs than he recorded strikeouts. The Darvish faders are riding high right now, and will likely look to carry that momentum into Friday night by leaving Scherzer out of their lineups.
Here’s the thing, though: Scherzer has a 44.6-percent K-rate vs. right-handed hitters. He’s racked up nine-plus strikeouts in seven straight starts and has double-digit punchouts in 10 of his last 14. Scherzer is on another level than Darvish, so I’m not afraid to go back to the expensive pitcher well on Friday.
Not only is Scherzer a -205 ML favorite inside the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but the Padres own a slate-low 2.9-run implied total and will likely run a six-righty lineup tonight. They’ll be hard-pressed to record a hit against Washington’s ace righty, who ranks second in swinging strike rate (15.9%), second in Contact rate (69%) and third in K-rate (35.7%) among all qualified pitchers.
Against right-handed hitters, however, no one comes close to sniffing Scherzer’s production. This is why I’m willing to pay for him tonight. San Diego’s potential left-handed bats are Hector Sanchez, Yangervis Solarte, Carlos Asuaje and Cory Spangenberg, of which only one of them (Solarte) owns a sub-20-percent K-rate in 2017. While this feels like Deja Vu, Scherzer boasts legitimate 50-DKPT upside on Friday night.
Corey Kluber [RHP – CLE] – You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s pitched better than Kluber over the last few months. In 14 starts since the start of June, Cleveland’s ace right-hander is sporting a ridiculous 18.4-percent swinging strike rate, 37.4-percent chase rate, 62.6-percent contact rate and 40-percent strikeout rate, while inducing 50-percent ground balls with only 25-percent hard contact and a 1.93 xFIP.
Simply put, I would blame no one for using Kluber over Scherzer tonight, as he’s been virtually unhittable regardless of matchup or venue. Kluber is a heavy road favorite (-204 ML) against a Royals team that owns the second lowest implied run total on this 14-game slate (3.3), and also ranks 22nd in wOBA (.315) vs. RHP this season.
The difference between Kluber and Scherzer is the latter faces a Padres team that ranks second in K-rate (25.2%) vs. RHP but also ranks 28th in wOBA (.306), whereas the Royals are striking out at a mere 20.3 percent clip (21st). If you’re using Kluber over Scherzer you’ll be doing so based not on matchup, but on pure skill set. I love both of them on Friday, but still prefer Scherzer. Having said that, Kluber is the obvious pivot in tournaments, where he’ll be the lesser owned pitcher of the two.
Dallas Keuchel [LHP – HOU] vs. OAK – I mentioned when Keuchel returned from injury that I’d be taking a wait-and-see approach with the star southpaw before deploying him in daily fantasy. He labored through three ugly outings before stymying the Rangers in Arlington last time out, tossing 6.2 one-run innings with seven strikeouts and the win. I think it’s safe to say Keuchel is back, as he got plenty of chases out of the zone against Texas, induced 59-percent ground balls and surrendered only 25-percent hard contact.
I like Keuchel on Friday against an A’s squad that ranks bottom-five in wOBA (.298) and top-five in K-rate (24.7%) vs. left-handed pitching. Oakland also lacks power from the right side of the plate outside of Khris Davis, and rank towards the bottom of the league against the slider.
The problem with rostering Keuchel is being able to justify paying a five-figure price tag for him when Scherzer and Kluber are available on the same slate. I’ll have some Keuchel exposure in tournaments as I do see a 30-plus-DKPT being possible, but he’s a hard fit for the most part and won’t be in as many lineups as I’d prefer.
Zack Godley [RHP – ARI] @ MIN – Just exactly how good has Zack Godley been this year? Well, he ranks fifth in swinging strike rate (14.4%) among all pitchers to have thrown at least 100 frames, while ranking second in Contact rate (68.9%) behind only Corey Kluber! Meanwhile, Godley’s ranks eighth in groundball rate (55.7%) and ninth in hard-hit rate (27.6%). Yes, he’s really been that good, yet somehow Godley remains affordably priced across the industry.
Much of why Godley is still relatively cheap on Friday is because he’s drawn some very difficult matchups and hasn’t yielded ace-like results in recent starts. This is something we should take advantage of against the Twins, who are a league-average baseball team in almost every facet of the game.
Minnesota is, however, striking out at a top-ten clip vs. RHP (22.5%), which shouldn’t do them any favors against Godley, who owns a 30 percent whiff/swing rate on his cutter, 48 percent on his curve and 41 percent on his changeup. Godley is easily the top mid-range pitching option tonight despite the Twins owning a 4.7-run implied total at home. Vegas continues to disrespect Arizona’s rising star, but we shouldn’t make the same mistake.
Matt Moore [LHP – SFG] vs. PHI – Matt Moore will likely be a popular punt on Friday, as he’s facing a putrid Phillies offense inside the best pitcher’s park the game has to offer. I see both sides of this one, with one side being to fade him across the board because he’s Matt Moore, and the other side seeing a great value against a dreadful Philadelphia lineup. The Phillies do own the night’s fourth lowest implied run total (3.6) with Moore being a -157 ML favorite at home. He’s also been better at home, but far from good overall. A Moore fade in GPPs definitely feels like the way to go, but pairing him with Scherzer in cash makes too much sense.
German Marquez [RHP – COL] vs. MIL – Marquez is a pretty solid pitcher. He sits on a 95-96 MPH fastball, and misses enough bats with his curveball to be effective. He’s also been rather impressive at Coors, so I’m not totally against rostering him tonight. The Brewers have plenty of pop, but they also lead the league in strikeout rate vs. RHP (25.7%) and don’t boast much talent from the left side of the plate.
Eric Thames has been dead since May, Neil Walker looks decent right now, but is a slightly above league average hitter on the year, and Jonathan Villar is absolute gutter filth. Travis Shaw is the biggest worry here, but Marquez is allowing only 0.47 HR/9 to lefties this season. It’s a definitive risk, but I could see it paying off, and it’s not like Matt Moore is a trustworthy option, either.
Luis Perdomo [RHP – SDP] is a decent pivot away from Moore against a Harper-less Nationals team, but aside from his elite groundball rate, Perdomo is rather underwhelming. The positive side of this matchup is Washington’s left-handed hitters are less than impressive right now, with Murphy dealing with hip issues, Difo being a below average hitter, and Lind having hit only one home run over the last month. The upside still feels rather low here, though.
Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] vs. Shields [RHP] – Gallo continues to rake in August, with 10 home runs and 16 RBI since the start of the month. The young slugger’s 35 home runs on the season are tied with Mike Moustakas for third most in baseball, but Gallo is special breed, having recorded more homers than singles and doubles combined! With a .374 ISO, 59-percent flyball rate and 45-percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP, you’d be hard-pressed to find better homer odds on Friday.
Gallo is a true tournament-winning play tonight against James Shields, who is allowing a Goliath .444 wOBA, .351 ISO and 3.82 HR/9 to LHH this season. Shields is also surrendering 50-percent fly balls and 37-percent hard contact to lefties, so this is literally the best possible matchup Gallo could draw. He’s ultra expensive across the board, but fading Gallo could be a big mistake tonight. The Rangers own a slate-high 6.9-run implied total at Globe Life Park.
Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Garza [RHP] – Here is your daily reminder that Charlie Blackmon is in play against a weak righty inside Coors Field. Garza allows far too much hard contact and far too many fly balls to lefties to succeed in altitude, especially considering he’s striking them out at a dismal 11-percent clip. The Rockies own an unsurprising 6.8-run implied total at home, and Blackmon remains a top play across the industry.
Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] @ Zimmermann [RHP] – There are a lot of high-end hitting options tonight, so be sure to tune into the Deeper Dive at 5pm and check the Honorable Mentions below. You should also be sure to target Cody Bellinger, who faces an absolute disaster of a righty in Jordan Zimmermann. Detroit’s beleaguered veteran is somehow still set to toe the rubber tonight, despite allowing more than two HR/9 to LHH on the year. Zimmermann has been dreadful in every facet of the game, but his struggles against lefties have been best documented in 2017. Bellinger, meanwhile, boasts a .416 wOBA, .384 ISO and 161 wRC+ vs. RHP this season. His multi-position eligibility is just more reason to use him on Friday night.
Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Manaea [LHP] – Sean Manaea has been pitiful of late. How bad? Well he’s pitched a total of 6.2 innings through three August starts, which is less than the seven innings he tossed in his last start in July. Manaea’s velocity is down, his hard-hit rate is through the roof, and his swinging strike rate is negligible. It’s hard to say exactly why he’s been struggling so bad, but it’s also hard to imagine him succeeding on Friday in Houston. For that reason, Altuve needs to be in the conversation, as he hits southpaws better than almost any player in baseball. Hell, George Springer [OF – R], Yuli Gurriel [1B – R] and everyone else on this Astros team is on the table as well.
HONORABLE MENTION: Adrian Beltre [3B – R] vs. Shields [RHP]; Elvis Andrus [SS – R] vs. Shields [RHP]; Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] vs. Romano [RHP]; Manny Machado [3B – R] vs. Heaney [LHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Hellickson [RHP]; Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Zimmermann [RHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Garza [RHP]
Nomar Mazara/Shin-soo Choo [OF – L] vs. Shields [RHP] – Take everything we said about Gallo and apply it to both Mazara and Choo — save for the 786-foot home runs. Shields is so bad against left-handed hitters that pretty much anyone is in play when temperatures are hovering around 95 degrees in Arlington. Rougned Odor [2B – L] will likely bat seventh again, but does it really matter? His .234 ISO, 44.3-percent FB rate and 40-percent hard contact rate are enough to overlook his spot in the order. Shields is one of the worst overall pitchers in the game, making every Rangers lefty and most of their righties top plays on Friday night.
Tim Beckham [SS – R] vs. Heaney [LHP] – Beckham has been incredible since moving to Baltimore, and he’s been leading off against left-handed arms. Baltimore boasts the fourth highest implied run total (5.7) of any team on Friday night, but what makes Beckham most appealing is his reasonable price point across the industry. I’ll want some exposure to the Orioles against Heaney, who owns a career 15-percent K-rate and 42-percent FB rate to right-handed hitters. Heaney looked good in his minor-league tune up appearances, but a matchup with the O’s in Camden Yards will be a much stiffer test. I’ll put my money on Baltimore.
Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] @ Zimmermann [RHP] – If I can get cheap exposure to Dodger lefties I’m going to make it happen. Grandal got off to a rough start this season, but has elevated his ISO to a very impressive .223 vs. RHP — an excellent mark for any catcher. He’s hitting a ton of fly balls against righties and making excellent contact, so there’s really not much reason to fade him against Zimmermann. If you aren’t paying for Gary Sanchez [C – R] (I’m not), Grandal is the easy choice at a predictably weak catcher position.
HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] @ Zimmermann [RHP]; Jonathan Lucroy [C – R] vs. Garza [RHP]; Alex Bregman [3B – R] vs. Manaea [LHP]; Ender Inciarte [OF – L] vs. Romano [RHP]; Justin Upton [OF – R] vs. Hill [LHP] [GPP]
Yoan Moncada [2B – L/R] @ Cashner [RHP] – Moncada is going to wake up eventually, and maybe last night’s long ball will turn him in the right direction. This kid has plenty of talent, especially on the base paths where he stole countless bags in the minors, but he’s yet to swipe a bag with the Sox. He’ll have another great opportunity to do so tonight against Cashner, who has massive walk problems and is average at best at holding runners. Moncada hasn’t been a fun play this season, but I’ll be running him out there again tonight.
Nicky Delmonico [OF – L] @ Cashner [RHP] – Delmonico has been impressive with the White Sox, and even smacked two home runs against the Dodgers on Wednesday (one of which came against the pathetic arm of Yu Darvish). He remains dirt cheap across the board in a plus matchup with Cashner, and will have the luxury of hitting inside the homer-happy Globe Life Park. There’s little to no chance Delmonico sustains this production, but we’ll ride the wave until it crashes — or until he leaves Arlington.
Yasiel Puig [OF – R] @ Zimmermann [RHP] – Puig has been batting middle of the order for the Dodgers, and can be had at a discount across the industry. Oh, he’s also facing Jordan Zimmermann, and the Dodgers own a 5.9-run implied total at Comerica Park. Puig is killing right-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .375 wOBA, .263 ISO and 36-percent hard-hit rate. He’s a very solid value option tonight, and I don’t envision him being that high owned with 14 games on the slate.
Brad Miller [2B – L] vs. Ramirez [RHP] – I’m not a big Brad Miller fan, and you shouldn’t be, either. That being said, he’s $2,500 on DraftKings and has been leading off for the Rays against right-handed pitching. Erasmo Ramirez has not been good against left-handed hitters, allowing 46-percent hard contact and 2.48 HR/9 this season. Miller has more than enough pop to exploit this matchup, and he can be had at near minimum salary. I think you can see why he’s in play.
Ryan McMahon [3B – L] vs. Garza – I doubt he’ll be in the lineup tonight, as Mark Reynolds will likely be back at first base, but if he is, McMahon should be in consideration. It’s really that simple.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joc Pederson [OF – L] @ Zimmermann [RHP]; Asdrubal Cabrera [2B/SS – L/R] @ Nicolino [LHP]; Rhys Hoskins [1B – R] @ Moore [LHP] [GPP]; Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Williams [RHP]