MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/19/17
Chris Sale headlines the slate as he faces the New York Yankees in Fenway Park. Sale has been absolutely elite this season, striking out 36.9 percent of hitters while recording a 15.2 percent swinging strike percentage and 36.0 percent o-swing percentage. The Yankees have not been great against left-handed pitching this season, despite the presence of some powerful right-handed bats, as they have just a .308 xwOBA and 89 wRC+ with a 22.3 percent strikeout percentage against lefties. Sale is an elite option in any format, as always, if you can afford him without sacrificing too much elsewhere.
Zack Greinke faces the Twins in Minnesota. The Twins do not have a ton of strikeouts in their lineup, as Dozier, Sano, Buxton and Castro are the only hitters in the projected starting lineup with a strikeout rate over 20 percent. Dozier and Sano are, of course, two of the most dangerous hitters in the lineup and Buxton has made adjustments in his swing that have him hitting extremely well right now. Greinke has the stuff to post a strong game against anyone, however, and his 28.4 percent strikeout percentage ranks second highest on the slate. It is worth noting that he has just a 23.7 percent strikeout percentage on the road this season compared to a 32.0 percent strikeout percentage at home. He is worthy of consideration in tournaments but, as of now, I would rather find the extra money for Sale if possible.
Stephen Strasburg is a tough call today. He certainly has the potential to pay off an $11,000 price tag against the Padres, but it is his first start back from the disabled list. He says that he has been feeling fine for a long time and, frankly, seems annoyed that he has not been pitching. That said, he threw just 66 pitches in his most recent rehab start. While I have not seen a specific pitch count mentioned, it just feels like a spot where the Nationals baby Strasburg and do not let him go deep into the game. It really comes down to how confident you feel that the Nationals will not have a short leash on him because all the numbers suggest he should dominate this matchup, but at $11,000 we need him to be allowed to pitch to his full potential. Based on the Nationals’ history of handling him with kid gloves I am fading and hoping that he does not go 7 or 8 innings to make me regret it.
Kevin Gausman rebounded nicely from his relatively poor outing against the Angels (with Castillo behind the plate) to strike out 6 in 7 innings while allowing 2 runs against the Mariners. Despite a lack of results in his last start against the Angels, he did record a 15.1 percent swinging strike percentage and 36.1 percent o-swing percentage so we can have some confidence in him today since he showed plenty of strikeout upside against this Angels team that is difficult to strike out. Assuming Caleb Joseph is behind the plate, Gausman is one of the top pitching options on the slate as he has a 29.4 percent strikeout percentage since the start of June and is just $8,500 on DraftKings.
Collin McHugh has yet to put a huge game together but it could come today in a high upside matchup against the Athletics. McHugh has been good since returning from the disabled list, recording a 23.7 percent strikeout percentage and 12.8 percent swinging strike percentage in 27.2 innings. What is really impressive, however, is his new slider. The horizontal movement on his slider would rank behind only Yu Darvish, Jhoulys Chacin, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger among pitchers who have thrown greater than 200 sliders this season (McHugh so far has thrown 74). His 54.6 percent whiff per swing percentage on the pitch ranks just ahead of Corey Kluber for the top spot amongst all pitchers who have thrown at least 50 sliders. Now, he gets to face an Oakland team that has strikeouts throughout their lineup. The only hitters in Oakland’s projected lineup that have strikeout rates of less than 22 percent against right-handed pitching are Matt Joyce and Jed Lowrie (and Joyce is still greater than 20 percent). This is a potential smash spot for McHugh.
Jose Berrios has struggled in his last couple of starts but his velocity and the movement on his pitches seem fine. Tonight, he will face the Diamondbacks away from Chase Field. Arizona has been terrible on the road all season long and they have a lot of strikeout happy hitters in their lineup. This is a spot where Berrios’s dropping price meets a great matchup and the upside is worth considering despite the risk in tournaments. Be sure to keep an eye on the Diamondbacks lineup, however, as Berrios has struck out just 18.6 percent of lefties compared to 23.1 percent of righties this season so we like Berrios more the fewer lefties that there are in the lineup.
Rafael Montero is not someone to feel overly confident in, but he is a talented, inexpensive arm on a slate that features $14,100 Chris Sale. Montero in inconsistent, but he does have a good fastball, slider and changeup mix that offers upside on any given day. He is facing a Marlins lineup that does not have a lot of strikeouts in it, but also does not have a ton of power outside of Giancarlo Stanton. Montero offers a 22.2 percent strikeout percentage and 10.2 percent swinging strike percentage this season and, if he can keep the ball in the park against Stanton, it would not be surprising to see a good enough effort to warrant his very inexpensive price tag.
Joey Votto will face Julio Teheran tonight in Atlanta. Teheran has allowed 1.85 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season on 37.5 percent hard contact. Even better for Votto, Teheran has allowed 2.91 home runs per nine innings to lefties at home. Votto has destroyed right-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .433 xwOBA and .272 ISO and will now face a pitcher who struggles against left-handed power in one of the best parks for left-handed power in all of baseball.
Billy Hamilton is an elite option against Teheran as well. Hamilton obviously does not fit the mold of “power lefty” or even “competent hitting lefty” but he is really fast. Teheran, in addition to his other shortcomings, is not good at holding runners. He allowed 17 stolen bases in 188.0 innings last season and has already allowed 22 stolen bases in just 137.1 innings so far this season. If Hamilton is able to reach base against Teheran, he should be able to run freely.
Nolan Arenado has a .333 xwOBA and .278 ISO against right-handed pitchers in Coors Field this season and he will face rookie right-hander Brandon Woodruff tonight at home. Woodruff has decent stuff, but allowed a lot more flyballs and home runs to right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters this season at AAA. Expect the power righties in the Colorado lineup to take advantage tonight with Arenado leading the way. Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story make for stronger than usual plays as well.
Anthony Rendon has the 11th-highest xwOBA against left-handed pitching in baseball this season (Howie Kendrick is second so play him too) at .433. He also has a .338 ISO. Tonight, he will face veteran lefty Travis Wood. Rendon makes for one of the best tournament plays on the slate because there are plenty of strong third base options at the top oright-f the position, so it is very likely that Rendon goes overlooked against a lefty in Petco even though he pretty easily could be the highest scoring third baseman on the slate.
Scott Schebler is back from the disabled list and expected to be in the lineup for the Reds tonight against Teheran. I have already mentioned that Teheran gives up a ton of home runs to lefties. Schebler has a .364 xwOBA and .252 ISO against right-handed pitching this season so he is returning at the perfect time and makes for a great value option tonight.
Mike Napoli faces the gas can that is Derek Holland tonight in Texas. Napoli has a .301 ISO against lefties this season and Holland has allowed 41.1 percent hard contact, 42.9 percent flyballs, and 2.32 home runs per nine innings to right-handed hitters this season. Oh, and the White Sox bullpen sucks too. Robinson Chirinos is a strong play as well at catcher.
Jose Pirela is just $2,700 on DraftKings against Stephen Strasburg. We know that Strasburg is an elite pitcher, but it is his first start back from the disabled list. More importantly, we have seen Pirela have success against hard throwing right-handed aces already this season- particularly Jacob DeGrom. Pirela has a .233 ISO against righties and that is just too much upside to overlook in tournaments at a sub-$3,000 price tag.
Cincinnati Reds- If it was not clear by the individual players that I wrote up, I really like the Reds tonight. They have a very nice combination of speed and left-handed power and those are Teheran’s two biggest weaknesses. Factor in that they are playing in a favorable park for hitters and it is a great spot to get as much exposure as you can- especially because Coors Field and the Rangers should keep their ownership down. The downside for the Reds is that the Braves have several left-handed arms in their bullpen that can limit Votto, Gennett and Schebler down the stretch if the game stays close.
Texas Rangers- Derek Holland is very bad. The White Sox bullpen is very bad. Globe Life Park is an excellent place to hit. There really is not a whole lot of analysis that we need for this game. The Rangers’ hitters should be in excellent matchups throughout the game regardless of who is on the mound. They have struggled against left-handed pitching this season, which is worth keeping in mind, but Derek Holland is an especially bad lefty and they should have especially favorable hitting conditions tonight in Texas.
Colorado Rockies- The Rockies are in a nice spot tonight in Coors Field and there are multiple ways to stack them. Brandon Woodruff did not allow any home runs to lefties in the minors this season and that trend has continued in the Majors so far. In the minors, he allowed a lot more flyballs to righties than lefties, which has not continued with the Brewers. Still, the right-handed power bats of Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story make for very appealing plays. Add in that Blackmon at home is always a strong play and that Carlos Gonzalez seems to finally have figured out how to hit hard flyballs and you have the makings of a very high-upside stack in Coors Field.