MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/2/17

 PITCHING

Zack Godley [RHP – ARI] @ CHC It’s easy to see why Godley draws appeal on Wednesday, facing a Cubs team that has actually struggled against right-handed pitching in 2017. On the year, Chicago ranks 20th in wOBA (.317) and 13th in K-rate (22%), two marks that have much to do Kyle Schwarber’s regression and overall disappointing campaigns from Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. The Cubs have six hitters in their projected lineup with league average or below league average wOBA’s vs. right-handed pitching, while five of them own strikeout rates north of 25 percent. This isn’t a bad baseball team, but it’s certainly not the juggernaut that we remember from 2016.

Godley boasts a massive 14.2-percent swinging strike rate this season to accompany his 36-percent O-Swing rate, 48.2-percent O-Contact rate and stellar 69.5-percent Contact rate. He ranks fifth, fifth, fourth and fifth in those categories, respectively, among all starting pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched. Needless to say, Godley has been fantastic.

Armed with a two-seamer, cutter, changeup and curve, that’s garnering a ridiculous 51-percent whiffs/swing, Godley has been very difficult to hit. What’s most impressive, though, is Godley’s ability to induce ground balls at high clip on almost all of his offerings. With wind blowing in from center field at 10 MPH and temperatures being just above 70 degrees at Wrigley Field, the Cubs could have a difficult time producing runs against what numbers suggest is one of the league’s better right-handed arms. I’m not buying into their 4.4-run implied total tonight. Don’t hesitate to deploy Godley at a respectable price point across the industry.

 

Jake Arrieta [RHP – CHC] vs. ARI Arrieta will likely be one of the night’s most popular plays, but should we be paying a premium for someone with a pedestrian 9-percent swinging strike rate, declining velocity and fewer than 20 DKPT in six of his last 10 starts? While the Diamondbacks do rank 25th in wOBA away from home, they boast the fourth highest wOBA (.340) and fifth highest ISO (.194) vs. right-handed pitching. The plus side to this matchup for Arrieta is Arizona’s climbing K-Rate, but the truth is Godley has been more productive and is arguably more talented than Chicago’s righty. I’ll happily take the discount on Godley despite Vegas seeing things differently on Wednesday night.

 

J.C. Ramirez [RHP – LAA] vs. PHI Ramirez feels like a safe cash game option on Wednesday, facing a Phillies team that offers little firepower and plenty of strikeouts vs. right-handed arms. Philadelphia also owns a 3.7-run implied total against Ramirez, which is the third lowest projection on Wednesday’s 12-game slate. The only issue I have with Ramirez is his declining strikeout strikeout totals since the start of the season. None of his secondary pitches induce an above average amount of swinging strikes, and Ramirez has tallied six-plus strikeouts in only six of 20 starts this season — three of which came back in April when he was throwing the curve more and the two-seamer less.

Nevertheless, I understand why Ramirez would be in play against the Phillies, as he draws a great pitcher’s park and a plus matchup from a run-prevention standpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ramirez pitch seven strong innings on Wednesday, where he’d likely need only four or five strikeouts to pay off his lower mid-range salary. The Angels are massive -202 ML favorites at home against Jake Thompson, and he should earn an excellent shot of leaving Angel Stadium with the win.

 

Luke Weaver [RHP – STL] @ MIL Weaver needs to be at the forefront of the discussion when it comes to tournament plays tonight, as he is virtually free across the board in a matchup with the K-heavy Brewers. Milwaukee leads the league in strikeout rate vs. right-handed pitching (25.3%), and while they boast plenty of power, most of it comes from the right side of the plate. Weaver is striking right-handed hitters out at a 28.7-percent clip across 115 career batters faced, and while home runs have definitely been a problem, there’s no denying his upside on Wednesday night. At $4,800 on DraftKings you allow for a full Coors stack, or loading up on big bats in the most enticing matchups. I’ll take my chances.

 

Matt Moore [LHP – SFG] vs. OAK Matt Moore has actually looked semi-competent lately despite a few tough matchups sprinkled into his last five starts. The Giants’ left-hander hasn’t been spectacular by any stretch, but he has been good enough to warrant consideration at a dirt cheap price point across the board. AT&T Park is arguably the best pitcher’s venue in baseball, so it’s no surprise Moore has been markedly better at home this year. He’s walking far less batter at home, but also doesn’t have to worry about his below average ground ball rate hurting him nearly as much with AT&T Park’s cavernous outfield.

Oakland owns one of the lowest implied run totals (4.0) on Wednesday’s slate, backed by a 25.1-percent K-rate and 28th ranked wOBA (.294) vs. left-handed pitching. Oakland hasn’t only struggled getting on base against southpaws, but also hitting for power, as they’re lugging around a dismal .140 ISO (25th) on the year.

Rostering Moore is never fun, but he has displayed some extreme reverse splits this season that should benefit him on Wednesday. I’d expect Oakland to run at least six right-handed hitters in tonight’s lineup (including the switch-hitting Jed Lowrie), and wouldn’t be surprised to see seven or eight. So long as Moore keeps the ball in the yard he should be fine. Only the Rays (@ Keuchel), Diamondbacks (@ Arrieta) and Phillies (@ Ramirez) are projected to score fewer runs than Oakland on the night.

 

QUICK NOTE: Dallas Keuchel [LHP – HOU] would’ve been my top overall pitching option on Wednesday night had there not been so many concerns. He threw only 79 pitches in his first start back from a two-month hiatus with nerve issues in his neck, and didn’t look sharp at all. The Rays own a slate-low 3.6-run implied total at Minute Maid Park, and they strike out at the second highest clip vs. left-handed arms (25.9%), so I understand the reasoning behind targeting Keuchel. Just keep in mind that he’s been dealing with this neck issue all season, and we don’t know if his pitch count will be limited. It’s easy to look at the odds here and see a top play in Keuchel, but there are some definite red flags here — like his 42 percent GB rate on the two-seamer with 57-percent line drives last start.

 

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Hitter pricing is very strange on DraftKings tonight, and if I didn’t know any better I’d think they adjusted their algorithm to more heavily weight hot streaks. Every (non-Coors) player at the top of each position has been on a recent tear with some massive outputs over their last several games, yet there’s no way many of them have been garnering heavy ownership in that span of elevated production. Keep this in mind as we discuss hitters for tonight’s slate, as there is no reason any of us should be paying a premium for the likes of Kurt Suzuki, J.T. Realmuto Whit Merrifield etc.

There are also a lot of underpriced hitters who are exponentially more talented than their pricier counterparts but haven’t been swinging as hot of a bat of late. This is where we should be focusing on DraftKings. Hot streaks are not quantifiable; we don’t know when they’ll start nor when they will end, so chasing irregularly strong production by paying a ceiling price tag is ill-advised in every sense.

 

Coors Bats: Instead of writing up each individual player from Coors, we’ll knock this out first before moving onto other games. Charlie Blackmon [OF – COL] could easily be considered the top overall play on Wednesday’s slate, facing a rookie right-hander — Flexen had never pitched above Double-A before being called up to the Mets — in Coors field on a night where the Rockies own a slate-high 6.8-run implied total. Need I say more? Seriously, Blackmon’s price tag on DraftKings isn’t prohibitive, either, considering he’s the same price as Eric Hosmer and comparably priced to Lorenzo Cain, Eduardo Nunez and Bradley Zimmer. PLAY HIM.

Nolan Arenado [3B – R] is also an obvious play at the third base position. He’s been dominant against left-handed pitching this season, but no one is going to turn their nose up at a matchup with Flexen in Coors. Gerardo Parra [OF – L] feels much more like a stacking option on DraftKings, where he’s one of the highest priced outfielders on the night, but at $3,800 on FanDuel he has value in both formats. I expect the Rockies to trounce Flexen, so it’ll be hard to make an argument against any of their every day starters, including Mark Reynolds [1B – R].

Michael Conforto [OF – L] is unsurprisingly my top option for the Mets. He’s making 42-percent hard contact vs. righties this season with a stellar wOBA/ISO of .423/.294. Chatwood isn’t allowing any fly balls to lefties at home, but he is allowing a Goliath 34.4-percent line drive rate with 34-percent hard contact. Jay Bruce [OF – L], Yoenis Cespedes [OF – R], Asdrubal Cabrera [2B/SS – L/R] and Neil Walker [2B – L/R] are listed in order of preference for tonight.

 

Travis Shaw [3B – L] vs. Weaver [RHP] Luke Weaver will be a popular tournament option on Wednesday, especially with there being a wealth of top-shelf hitters at nearly every position. He’s no lock to produce quality numbers, though, which is why Shaw offers so much appeal at the third base position. Shaw is dismantling righties to the tune of a .406 wOBA, .286 ISO and 40-percent hard-hit rate this season, and he’ll be hitting inside the homer-happy Miller Park tonight.

I’ll definitely have plenty of Weaver in an attempt to load up on premium bats, but in non-Weaver lineups, Shaw should be considered. Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] is also an intriguing play at a rather friendly price point, while a full Brewers stack shouldn’t be out of the question for those of us looking swim against the current.

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] and Adrian Beltre [3B – R] also make for great corner infield plays, drawing great matchups against Brock Stewart and Ariel Miranda, respectively. Freeman has endured a bit of a cold stretch of late, but he’s still one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and faces a young righty in Stewart who’s surrendering almost 50-percent fly balls vs. left-handed bats. Beltre has yet to homer against a southpaw this season, but Wednesday is a better time than ever to break that trend. Only Derek Holland has allowed more home runs to right-handed bats than Miranda (20), whose 55-percent fly ball rate vs. RHH is sure to give him fits at Globe Life Park. Beltre has been too good in Arlington to ignore on a night where the Rangers boast a 5.4-run implied total at home.

 

Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Thompson [RHP] With so much happening on Wednesday’s slate, I get the feeling that Mike Trout could be overlooked. If his ownership is in fact expected to be down, Trout should be targeted heavily in tournaments against Jake Thompson. Thompson has faced 140 right-handers in the majors, allowing 1.60 HR/9 with a 5.03 xFIP and 36-percent hard hit rate against. Trout’s .461 wOBA vs. RHP ranks second behind only Bryce Harper, but it’s even more impressive considering he’s produced such wild numbers without the platoon advantage. Trout’s .379 ISO leads the entire league, while his 43-percent hard contact rate is also near the top. You can see why he makes for such a stellar play on Wednesday despite having to hit inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Corey Seager [SS – L] @ Teheran [RHP]; Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Pruitt [RHP]; Bryce Harper [OF – L] @ Worley [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] @ Teheran [RHP] Bellinger’s DraftKings price tag is laughable. He is the 12th highest priced first baseman and 32nd highest priced outfielder despite drawing a mouth-watering matchup with Julio Teheran at Suntrust Park. Seriously, Teheran is allowing a .415 wOBA, .311 ISO and 2.96 HR/9 to lefties at home this year, while owning a 6.58 xFIP and 40-percent hard-hit rate against. Moreover, Teheran has a negative three percent K-BB rate vs. lefties at home (11.5% K/14.5% BB), so Bellinger likely won’t go down swinging at any time tonight.

Not much more needs to be said here, though, as there is no reason to ignore him in such a splendid matchup. The Dodgers’ 5.5-run implied total doesn’t hurt either, as I’m expecting them to pile on the runs from start to finish. Joc Pederson [OF – L] is definitely overpriced on DraftKings, but makes for a phenomenal tournament play or even pivot away from Bellinger. You can also pair the two with Bellinger’s multi-position eligibility. Pederson is a top value on FanDuel at only $3,000. Meanwhile, Yasmani Grandal [C – L/R] should be viewed as a premier catcher option against Teheran, and he isn’t wildly overpriced on any specific site.

 

Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Cashner [RHP] I’m still not buying into Cashner’s success, and there’s virtually nothing he can do to convince me otherwise. He still has a -0.5 percent K-BB rate vs. left-handed hitters with a 6.01 xFIP. His .259 BABIP isn’t sustainable, especially not in Arlington, and he isn’t getting more than 25 percent whiffs/swing on any of his five pitches. As a result, I’ll happily deploy Cano at a lower mid-range price point. The Mariners should score runs in this matchup, and it’s only a matter of time before Cashner implodes.

Jarrod Dyson [OF – L] is also very enticing if he continues to bat second. Cashner is walking lefties at a 13.1-percent clip and is pedestrian at holding runners for his career. Dyson doesn’t offer a wealth of power but anything can happen at Globe Life, and his 24 stolen bases should mitigate those concerns assuming he reaches safely at some point throughout the night.

 

Daniel Murphy [2B – L] @ Worley [RHP] I know Robinson Cano was just discussed so highlighting another second baseman may seem pointless, but Murphy’s price tag on DraftKings is too low to ignore. We’re talking about a middle infielder who crushes right-handed pitching to the tune of a .398 wOBA and .246 ISO, while facing a righty in Vance Worley who is anything but talented. I’m guessing Cano will be much higher owned than Murphy due to the park factor, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Murphy outproduce him on Wednesday night. Murphy is one of the best pure hitters in all of baseball.

 

Brian McCann [C – L] vs. Pruitt [RHP] I wouldn’t say to jam McCann in on Wednesday because there are several quality backstop options at equally favorable price points, but he does warrant some attention against Pruitt. The Astros will likely do damage from the top, middle and bottom of the order, so McCann should still see four or more plate appearances batting seventh. He hasn’t posted elite power numbers vs. RHP this year, but owns a career .200 ISO vs. RHP and is very capable of pulling one out of Minute Maid Park. That being said, there’s another catcher we’ll discuss in the value section that could take precedent over McCann if he’s in the lineup.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Reddick [OF – L] vs. Pruitt [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Bauer [RHP] [DraftKings]; Elvis Andrus [SS – R] vs. Miranda [LHP]; Jean Segura [SS – R] @ Cashner [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Arrieta [RHP] [GPP]; Kyle Seager [3B – L] @ Cashner [RHP]; Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] vs. Vargas [LHP]

 

VALUE

 

Derek Fisher [OF – L] vs. Pruitt [RHP] Austin Pruitt is striking opposite-handed hitters out at a mere 15 percent clip this season. He’s also allowing 32-percent line drives across 64 batters faced. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 27-year-old righty find some success at the major-league level, but that will have to wait for another night, as he’s about to run into a buzzsaw against the Astros’ juggernaut of an offense. Fisher has been leading off for Houston with George Springer sidelined, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue to bat first on Wednesday. He’s priced fairly across the industry and is sporting a ridiculous .435/.286 wOBA/ISO vs. RHH across his first 40 PA. There is plenty of value to be had with Fisher, especially at $2,800 on FanDuel.

 

Mike Napoli [1B – R] vs. Miranda [LHP] You better believe I’ll be targeting Napoli on Wednesday, squaring off against the homer-prone Miranda at Globe Life Park. Napoli got off to a rough start this season, but as we make our way into August he has greatly improved his numbers against southpaws. On the year, Napoli is boasting a .333 ISO against left-handed pitching, having recorded seven home runs in only 72 at bats. At $3,200 on DraftKings and $2,700 on FanDuel you won’t find better power value on this slate. Napoli is as capable as anyone of homering tonight, yet he comes at a much cheaper price point than any comparable plays at the first base position.

Robinson Chirinos [C – R] also needs to be in the conversation, even if he’s batting at the bottom of Texas’ order. Chirinos offers ample power against left-handed pitching, and Miranda is one of the most susceptible lefties when it comes to coughing up power. He also won’t have the luxury of pitching at Safeco Field. If Chirinos is in the lineup tonight, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be now that Jonathan Lucroy is in Colorado, we’ll want to consider him in all formats at a discounted price point.

 

Andrew Benintendi [OF – L] vs. Bauer [RHP] Benintendi has been cold as ice of late, but his price tag reflects those struggles. For that reason, we should not be ignoring him against Trevor Bauer, who’s serving up a robust .356 wOBA with 1.43 HR/9 allowed to LHH this season. This is strictly a price play, but Benintendi is very capable of doing damage in a favorable matchup at the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. He’ll likely be low owned due to recent struggles, but at a very discounted price tag I’ll definitely be buying.

 

Rafael Devers [3B – L] vs. Bauer [RHP] Devers has not been messing around since being called up to the bigs. In only 24 plate appearance vs. RHP Devers has already racked up nine hits with two home runs and a double, and he’s been rewarded with a nice lineup bump from ninth to sixth over the past several nights. If he continues to hit sixth on Wednesday I’ll happily get some exposure against Bauer, who has actually been better than his peripherals would suggest.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Moore [LHP] [DraftKings GPP]; Yulieski Gurriel [1B – R] vs. Pruitt [RHP]; Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] @ Porcello [RHP] [DraftKings GPP]