MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/21/17

PITCHING

Pitching is not pretty on Monday, headlined by an overpriced Alex Wood [LHP – LAD] and Cole Hamels [LHP – TEX]. I’m a huge believer in Wood, as you already know, but I’m not a believer in Dave Roberts, nor am I a believer in Wood’s ability to rack up the strikeouts against Pittsburgh. The Dodgers are 52 games above .500 and Roberts will have no reason to pitch Wood deep into this game. He tossed seven one-run innings last time out but only threw 79 pitches, so there’s no reason to believe he’ll work deep into tonight’s contest, either. At $12,100 on DraftKings and $23,600 on FantasyDraft, it seems almost impossible for Wood to pay off this salary in a less-than-stellar matchup with the Pirates.

Hamels has been pretty solid since the start of July, but his underlying numbers don’t look great for fantasy purposes. His sub-10-percent swinging strike rate, 38-percent hard contact rate and 19-percent K-rate over that nine-game stretch are less than encouraging, and the Angels aren’t a cupcake matchup from an upside perspective. I don’t advocate picking on Hamels most nights, but that doesn’t mean I plan on rostering him, either.

 

Tyler Skaggs [LHP – LAA] is a top play of mine on Monday, which illustrates just how barren pitching is from top to bottom. Skaggs was place on the bereavement list Friday following the death of his grandfather, but everything I’m seeing suggests that he’ll be on the mound tonight. If that is in fact the case, we’ll need to strongly consider him against the Rangers. Skaggs’ numbers aren’t flashy, and he really hasn’t had a swing-and-miss pitch this season — the curveball should be getting more whiffs than it is — but there is plenty of upside in this home matchup with Texas.

The Rangers lead the league in K-rate on the road (26.3%) while ranking 29th in wOBA (.297) ahead of only the Phillies. They also strike out at the fifth highest clip against left-handed pitching (25.1%). Texas not only struggles away from home, but Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre are the only two righties who strike out at a sub-20-percent clip vs. southpaws. They’re also tied with Pittsburgh for the lowest implied run total on Monday night (3.9), and Angel Stadium is one of the more pitcher-friendly venues in baseball.

I’m not sold on Skaggs’ ability to rack up elite fantasy totals on his own, as he owns a modest 9.2-percent swinging strike rate and respectable 23-percent K-rate in 2017, but the Rangers should aid his efforts to eclipse (you like that?) the 20-fantasy point threshold on Monday. He also induces enough ground balls and soft contact to work deep into games in the event that he isn’t generating the type of strikeouts we’d prefer. I’ll be loading up on Skaggs tonight, for better or worse.

 

Chris Stratton [RHP – SFG] actually warrants some consideration tonight, facing a K-heavy Brewers team inside the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Stratton’s numbers aren’t, and never were gaudy, but he’s done an impressive job of limiting home runs and hard contact throughout his career. He also owns a very respectable 10.2-percent swinging strike rate through 25.2 major-league innings in 2017, while holding righties to a .244 wOBA across 64 PA.

Milwaukee is capable of hitting for plenty of power, but they’re also susceptible striking out at an alarmingly high clip. Actually, the Brewers own the highest K-rate of any team vs. RHP (25.6%), and Stratton is actually striking righties out at a 23-percent clip this season. I don’t exactly trust Stratton’s stuff here, but I also don’t trust a $12K Alex Wood or an $11.6K Cole Hamels. On FanDuel I understand using Wood at a sub-$10K price point, but paying for pitching simply doesn’t make sense on DraftKings or FantasyDraft. For what it’s worth, Stratton is actually getting a lot of whiffs on all of his secondary pitches (CH: 20% Whf, SL: 18% Whf, CU: 19% Whf), which should do him plenty of favors against Milwaukee.

 

Wade Miley [LHP – BAL] is not a good pitcher, so it probably appears reckless for me to be listing him in today’s Deep Dive, but bear with me for a moment as we look over some numbers. First, Miley has benefited greatly from having Caleb Joseph, and not Welington Castillo behind the plate. His ERA is a full three runs lower with Joseph catching (3.86 ERA w/ Joseph, 6.57 ERA w/Castillo) and both backstops have caught exactly 63 innings for Miley this season. Miley is also averaging a respectable 8.3 K/9 with Joseph in the squat, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could produce respectable fantasy totals on Monday if all the stars align. As we know, Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez both have huge catcher splits, too, as Joseph is a significantly more refined catcher in terms of calling games and framing pitches.

The Athletics strike out at a 24.4-percent clip vs. left-handed pitching, rank 27th in wOBA (.295), 23rd in ISO (.147) and 25th in wRC+ (84). They are not a frightening team from the right side of the plate, and Miley actually tossed his best game of the season against them earlier this year (7/0/7). Moreover, The Orioles are -169 ML favorites against Chris Smith, so Miley should earn every opportunity to leave Camden Yards with a win, so long as he can get through five frames safely. It sounds crazy, I know, but I don’t think rostering Miley is the worst decision on Monday if Joseph is behind the dish.

 

Gerrit Cole [RHP – PIT] is very affordable on DraftKings, so I can see why people would consider him despite a tough matchup with the Dodgers. I understand the GPP appeal, as the Dodgers do strike out quite a bit vs. RHP (22.3%) and PNC Park is one of the more pitcher-friendly locations in baseball, but I’ll likely be spending down on both of my pitchers on all 2-SP sites. I simply don’t see a noticeable enough difference in upside with Cole for me to spend an extra ~$2K in a sub-optimal matchup.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

NOTE: I’ll be spending more time highlighting high-end and mid-range plays for tonight’s slate, as we likely won’t need to find much value. Paying a premium for pitching seems unnecessary unless you’re willing to risk Alex Wood throwing 75 pitches or feel like paying a near $12K price point for Cole Hamels, so we should have no trouble paying for hitters at almost every position.

 

Manny Machado [3B – R] is ultra-expensive tonight, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re saving on pitching. He’s facing a pitch-to-contact righty in Chris Smith who’s allowing a .364 wOBA to righties with 3.32 HR/9 and a dreadful 14.3-percent K-rate this season. Smith is also allowing 40-percent fly balls and 38-percent hard contact to same-handed hitters, which should do him no favors against the righty-heavy Orioles inside Camden Yards. Baltimore owns the highest implied run total on Monday night by a massively wide margin (6.0), and Machado continues to rank towards the top of the league in AEV (8th), barreled balls (5th) and batted balls of 95-plus MPH (1st). There’s no reason Machado shouldn’t be at the top of your list this evening.

 

Rafael Devers [3B – L] has been unfathomably good with the Red Sox, and he’ll draw another opportunity to produce on Monday. Mike Clevinger has been solid at times, but he’s also struggled with opposite-handed hitters, allowing a .345 wOBA with 1.80 HR/9 and 46-percent fly balls in 2017. He could run into some trouble against a Boston team that is hitting really well right now, especially considering Clevinger has looked shaky over the past month of baseball.

I’ll take my chances on Devers, who is smoking righties to the tune of a .445/.375 wOBA/ISO across his first 64 PA. Devers owns a filthy 42-percent hard-hit rate vs. righties this season, and ranks sixth in average exit velocity overall since being called up. I’ll continue to ride this wave until it crashes.

 

Mike Trout [RHP – LAA] is in play on Monday because he’s Mike Trout. It’s really that simple. Sure, Trout’s numbers against left-handed pitching haven’t been earth-shattering this year, but he’s still sporting an elite .417 wOBA and .214 ISO (lol), bringing me back to the point that you play him because he’s Mike Trout. Cole Hamels has only allowed power to right-handed hitters this season, along with 38-percent hard contact and a 4.92 xFIP. He heavily relies on a circle change to set down righties, too, and Trout can hammer the changeup. Ultimately, you play Trout if you can afford him, which shouldn’t be difficult on a night where pitching is brutal up top.

 

Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] and David Peralta [OF – L] make for stellar plays against Gsellman, who seemingly doesn’t care about anything anymore. Gsellman, when asked for a response to his general manager’s disappointment on his performance, said “I don’t really care.” This isn’t a great mentality to have as a major-league pitcher, especially not against a Diamondbacks team that boasts enough power to make you pay. J.D. Martinez [OF – R] is another strong option against Gsellman, and all three of these Arizona hitters are playable with high-end pitching being absent on tonight’s slate.

Gsellman is coughing up home runs at a high clip to both lefties (1.77 HR/9) and righties (1.38 HR/9), while striking them out at an underwhelming 18 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Citi Field is a neutral park for hitters, and the D-Backs own the fourth highest implied run total (4.8) on Monday’s seven-game slate. There are some upper-middle-tier hitters that I like at first base and in the outfield, so don’t feel obligated to squeeze all three of these Diamondback hitters into your lineups, but all of them boast immense upside against Gsellman and a below average New York bullpen.

HONORABLE MENTION: Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Miley [LHP]; Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] vs. Rodriguez [LHP]; Elvis Andrus [SS – R] @ Skaggs [LHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] is enjoying a breakout campaign, and he should continue to surge on Monday against Chris Smith. The Orioles boast a slate-high 6.0 implied run total, and Schoop is actually reasonably priced across the industry. He’s a top play at his position, along with a number of Oriole bats. Baltimore will be chalky, but it’s hard to ignore them in such a stellar spot.

Chris Smith sits on an 86 MPH four-seamer and utilizes a 77 MPH curveball and 75 MPH changeup as his secondary offerings. His fastball has been absolutely crushed by righties, and owns a 1.6-percent whiff rate on the season. He’s striking right-handed hitters out at a dismal 14-percent clip, and that won’t do him any favors against Schoop and Co. tonight.

 

Yonder Alonso [OF – L] and Robinson Cano [2B – L] both make for very strong plays on Monday, as they draw a massively favorable park shift from Safeco to Suntrust, and face a righty in Foltynewicz who has been hammered by righties throughout his career. Folty has made some positive strides this year, but he’s still allowing a .366 wOBA to LHH, with 1.56 HR/9 and a 5.23 xFIP. Furthermore, Foltynewicz’s K-rate drops below 20 percent when facing opposite-handed hitters, while his fly ball rate skyrockets to 42 percent.

Both Alonso (.384/.248 wOBA/ISO) and Cano (.361/.213 wOBA/ISO) have enjoyed plenty of success against righties this year, but Alonso profiles better for this matchup based on his 45-percent flyball rate. Suntrust Park has proven to be one of the most lefty-friendly venues in baseball, and Alonso will earn every opportunity to exploit its short right field walls on Monday night. It also doesn’t hurt to know that Folty has struggled mightily over the past month, with 20 earned runs allowed across his last 16.1 innings pitched.

 

Tim Beckham [SS – R] is my favorite shortstop play on Monday, ahead of Elvis Andrus [SS – R] and Corey Seager [SS – L], who are both solid plays but also have some obvious flaws in their respective matchups. Beckham, however, doesn’t have anything not to like about a home meeting with Chris Smith, as he’s been leading off for the Orioles and producing excellent results in the process.

Since joining the Orioles at the start of August, Beckham is sporting a .511 wOBA, .338 ISO and 227 wRC+! No, these numbers aren’t sustainable, but with five home runs, eight doubles and two triples over the last 20 days, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be loading up on Beckham tonight. Oh, it also won’t hurt to know that Oakland’s bullpen owns the third highest ERA in all of baseball this season.

HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] @ Clevinger [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Gsellman [RHP]; Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] vs. Rodriguez [LHP]; Marcus Semien [SS – R] @ Miley [LHP]; Delino DeShields [OF – R] @ Skaggs [LHP]; Adam Jones [OF – R] vs. Smith [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Tyler Flowers [C – R] hasn’t possessed much power against southpaws this season, but he is sporting an impressive .381 wOBA on the year. I’m still willing to deploy him against Albers, though, whose 89-MPH fastball and sub-20-percent whiff/swing rate on all of his pitches should do him no favors on Monday. Moreover, the catcher position is generally weaker than most, and that will be the case again tonight. Flowers makes plenty of sense at a lower mid-range price point, and is my preferred play at an underwhelming backstop position. Albers, for his career, is allowing a .362 wOBA and .211 ISO to opposing righties, while striking them out at a putrid 11-percent clip.

 

Ryon Healy [1B/3B – R] has tormented left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .416 wOBA and .286 ISO with seven home runs across 98 at bats. As earlier noted, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Miley post respectable fantasy totals tonight, but he’s also susceptible to coughing up homers to right-handed bats. On the season, Miley is allowing a .368 wOBA and 1.50 HR/9 to opposite-handed hitters, while striking them out at an 18-percent clip. Healy is a nice way to get cheap power at the corner infield positions, especially if you’re fading Miley, which is something no one would blame you for doing.

HONORABLE MENTION: Robinson Chirinos [C – R] @ Hamels [LHP]; Kyle Seager [3B – L] @ Foltynewicz [RHP]; Matt Kemp [OF – R] vs. Albers [LHP]