MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/23/17

PITCHING

Corey Kluber [RHP – CLE] vs. BOS Since June 1st Corey Kluber leads all starting pitchers in K-rate (38.8%), xFIP (2.03), WHIP (0.77) and K-BB rate (34.3%). He’s been flat-out dominant under all conditions, but Kluber’s splits at home have been even more astounding, where he’s allowing 21-percent hard contact and inducing 52.5-percent ground balls over that stretch. This is why we shouldn’t be too concerned about tonight’s matchup with the Red Sox, who own a mere 19.2 percent K-rate vs. right-handed pitching. Boston still ranks 20th in wOBA (.319) and 27th in ISO (.152) against RHP on the season, and Kluber is simply too talented to not generate strikeouts on Wednesday.

Kluber is averaging an absurd 35.4 DraftKings Points per game over his last 10 home starts, boasts a 16.2-percent swinging strike, and is holding both lefties and righties to a sub-.260 wOBA on the year.  He also owns a 20-plus-percent whiff rate on all three of his secondary pitches. Boston’s 3.2-run implied total is a slate-low mark, while Luis Severino is the only pitcher favored heavier than Kluber (-177 ML) this evening. If you plan on paying a premium for pitching — although I’m not sure it’s necessary — go with the sure thing in Kluber and reap the rewards.

Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] @ DET Severino will certainly be lower owned than Kluber tonight, but he makes for a strong pivot against the righty-heavy Tigers. New York’s 23-year-old right-hander is holding same-handed hitters to a miniscule .265 wOBA, .093 ISO and 0.65 HR/9 this season, while sporting a 2.92 xFIP and 29.4-percent K-rate across 340 batters faced. Detroit will likely deploy a seven-righty lineup on Wednesday, which certainly seems to bode well for Severino; he is limiting them to a 26.2-percent hard-hit rate and 55-percent groundball rate on the year, ranking ninth and tenth, respectively, among all qualified pitchers.

Severino is a slate-best -200 ML favorite on the road, while Detroit owns a paltry 3.7-run implied total at Comerica Park. Interestingly enough, Severino has actually improved, not regressed, as the season moves on; he is utilizing the changeup more against lefties and getting better results, while relying on a 97-MPH fastball and hard biting slider to neutralize righties. Severino has also been markedly better on the road, where he doesn’t have to deal with an ultra-short porch in right field. I’m confident in Severino’s ability to post elite fantasy totals against a Tigers squad that ranks 21st in wOBA (.315), 26th in ISO (.155) and 14th in K-rate (22.0%) vs. right-handed arms.

Unlike Marcus Stroman [RHP – TOR], who has recorded 30-plus DraftKings Points once over his last 20 starts, Severino has accomplished that feat four times over his last ten outings. Why pay a top-shelf price tag for Stroman when you can get considerably more upside at a comparable cost with Severino.

 

Zack Godley [RHP – ARI] @ NYM Godley has been phenomenal at mitigating damage this season, racking up elite strikeout totals despite some run-prevention problems in a few of his recent starts. The 27-year-old right-hander isn’t garnering the attention he deserves, but that should benefit those of us who are familiar with his talents. Among all starters with at least 100 innings pitched, Godley ranks fifth in swinging strike rate (14.2%), fifth in O-Swing rate (34.9%), second in O-Contact (45.6%) and second in Contact rate (68.8%) this season.

In short, Godley is Corey Kluber with a curveball in place of the slider — and this curveball is filthy. Godley’s 48.3-percent whiff/swing rate on the breaking pitch ranks first among all pitchers, but also generates 56-percent ground balls in the process. He really has been that good, and his success should continue through Wednesday when he faces the Mets at Citi Field.

New York’s post-All-Star break fire sale resulted in the departure of Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson, who, on the Mets, ranked second, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively in wOBA vs. right-handed pitching. Michael Conforto leads the team in both wOBA and ISO vs. RHP, but he was scratched from Tuesday’s contest and is in jeopardy of missing another game tonight. This leaves the Mets with Yoenis Cespedes and a cast of talentless scrubs. Needless to say, it’s no surprise that New York owns the fourth lowest implied total (3.9) of any team on Wednesday’s slate. I’m really not against pairing Godley with one of the below-listed pitchers, as he is fully capable of posting top-end fantasy totals on a night where he’s a -167 ML favorite on the road.

 

Luke Weaver [RHP – STL] vs. SDP The Padres Yangervis Solarte spoiled what could’ve been a solid performance from Lance Lynn last night, as the veteran third baseman drove in all four of Lynn’s earned runs at Busch Stadium. Fading Lynn was the obvious move in GPPs, and one we discussed at length on the Deeper Dive, but I’ll likely be targeting Weaver rather heavily on Wednesday. Not only is Weaver dirt cheap on all two-pitcher sites (DK: $6,900; FDR: $13,600), but he’s also a -181 favorite at home against a San Diego squad that owns the second lowest implied run total (3.6) on the night.

Weaver owns a respectable 9.8 percent swinging strike rate across 52.2 major-league innings pitched, and is striking right-handers out at a career 28.5-percent clip. That should serve him well against a Padres squad that regularly deploys a six-righty lineup and ranks second in K-rate vs. RHP (25.2%). This is a bad baseball team Weaver will be facing, and his discounted price point makes him one of the most difficult pitchers to ignore on Wednesday night.

 

Andrew Heaney [LHP – LAA] vs. TEX Heaney got blown up last week in his 2017 debut, but it’s hard to hold it against him, as the Orioles boast a wealth of right-handed power throughout their lineup and were hitting at Camden Yards. Heaney will draw a much friendlier matchup on Wednesday, though, where he’ll face a below average Rangers team inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium.

The Rangers have been startlingly bad outside of Arlington this season, ranking dead last in wOBA (.296) and first in K-rate (26.3%) as a team. They also rank 22nd in wOBA (.309), 21st in ISO (.157) and fifth in K-rate (25%) vs. left-handed pitching, so forgive me if I’m not too worried about Heaney experiencing a Skaggs-like meltdown on Wednesday night.

Heaney faced 23 batters in last week’s start, and all of them were right-handed. He’ll face at least three — maybe four — lefties tonight, and the Rangers’ only righties with a sub-25-percent K-rate vs. LHP are Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. Texas owns a paltry 4.1-run implied total and Heaney is a -157 ML favorite at home, so his near minimum salary price point is more than enticing for both cash games and GPPs across the board.

 

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

 

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] vs. Ramirez [RHP] Freeman has disappeared a bit in recent weeks, but my money’s on him resurfacing tonight. Not only does he draw a matchup inside the lefty-friendly Suntrust Park, but Freeman will be squaring off against a righty who has labored against opposite-handed hitting in 2017. Ramirez is ceding a .350 wOBA, .252 ISO and 2.31 HR/9 to LHH this season, while serving up a Goliath 45-percent hard contact in the process. Moreover, Ramirez is allowing the eighth highest average exit velocity to left-handed hitters among all pitchers with at least 100 batted ball events on the year.

Meanwhile, Freeman is tormenting right-handed pitching to the tune of a .455 wOBA and .323 ISO this season, and despite his power,  he is only striking out at a 15-percent clip. I’m not a fan of targeting Atlanta as a team, but Freeman makes for a stellar one-off in what should be considered an excellent matchup at home.

 

Brian Dozier [2B – R] @ Shields [RHP] Dozier couldn’t have picked a better time to catch fire, as he’ll enter tonight’s meeting with James Shields after recording three home runs and four multi-hit efforts over his last seven starts. Shields has been much worse against lefties than he has against righties, but he’s still one of the worst starting pitchers in all of baseball, as evidenced by Minnesota’s slate-high 5.6-run implied total on Wednesday night.

I noted on this morning’s podcast that while Dozier is a stellar play, I don’t see him being a must play second baseman at a sky-high price point across the industry. I stand by that take and will actually be targeting a few other Twins bats with higher frequency. The caveat here, however, is the lack of depth at the second base position, which positions Dozier in a more coveted position despite his salary.

 

Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Leiter [RHP] When it comes to Stanton all we care about it home runs, and he’s positioned to add to his league-leading tally tonight against Mark Leiter. There’s nothing about a matchup with Leiter that should concern us, especially considering this game will be played inside the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Leiter is allowing 1.63 HR/9 to RHH, owns a 7.3-percent swinging strike rate, and throws his four-seamer more than 50 percent of the time to same-handed bats.

Only four players are hitting fastballs better than Stanton this season (Goldschmidt, Votto, Blackmon, Harper), so it’s safe to assume this matchup will suit him well. The only pitch he really struggles against is the slider, and Leiter’s slider is absolutely dreadful, as it owns a 29-percent swing rate and 0.0-percent whiff rate in 2017. If you’re looking for power upside in GPPs, you need not look any further than Stanton.

 

Gary Sanchez [C – R] @ Zimmermann [RHP] Sanchez is the only answer to paying up for a catcher on Wednesday, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking this route. The young backstop has hammered same-handed pitching this season, and now he’ll draw a matchup with one of the worst right-handed starters in baseball. Zimmermann is striking righties out at a putrid 13-percent clip, is lugging around a 5.59 xFIP and allowing 43-percent fly balls. I’ll likely spend down a bit at the position, but there’s no denying Sanchez’s value on a night where the Yankees boast the second highest implied run total (5.5) on Wednesday’s 13-game slate. I’m also interested in Brett Gardner [OF – L] at the top of the lineup, and it doesn’t hurt to know he’s on a mini-tear right now heading into this phenomenal matchup.

HONORABLE MENTION: Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] @ Flexen [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Cashner [RHP]; Nelson Cruz [OF – R] @ Dickey [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Byron Buxton [OF – R]/Max Kepler [OF – L] @ Shields [RHP] I can’t believe this is happening, but I’m actually recommending a $4,700 Byron Buxton. Now, this is purely a GPP play, as I don’t see the need to roster Buxton in cash, but a matchup with James Shield is enough to warrant attention even at such an exorbitant price point. My one concern with Buxton (aside from his salary) is his exit velocity is actually down almost two ticks since he began this hot streak in early August, and his hard-hit rate sits at an equally unimpressive 28 percent. That said, Buxton is facing James Shields at Guaranteed Rate Field, and owns a career 92.3-MPH AEV against him, with two home runs and a double across eight at bats.

Kepler is the best Twins value tonight, assuming he’s in the lineup. Shields’ .439 wOBA allowed to lefties is second worst to only Matt Moore (.445) this season, while his 3.55 HR/9 is a league-worst mark by a wide margin. In case you were wondering, Shields also ranks dead last in xFIP (6.73) and ninth in HR/FB rate (23.2%) despite allowing the seventh most fly balls (47.9%) to left-handed hitters.

Kepler has been very inconsistent this season, but it’s hard to ignore him on a night where he’ll draw what is arguably the best matchup in all of baseball for a left-handed bat. Despite all of his flaws, Kepler still boasts a .362/.228 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP, while hitting 43-percent fly balls with 38-percent hard contact in 2017. Eduardo Escobar [3B/SS – L/R] is also in play at a weak shortstop position.

 

Zack Cozart [SS – R] vs. Montgomery [LHP] Mike Montgomery has done a solid job of limiting hard contact this season, but still makes for a reasonably strong matchup for Zack Cozart. On the season, Cozart is smashing southpaws to the tune of a .480 wOBA and .342 ISO, with five home runs, nine doubles and a triple across 76 at bats. That’s an extra-base hit per every five at bats and every six plate appearances! I’m willing to roll the dice on Cozart against any lefty right now, and it’s not like Montgomery has been stellar, either.

The concern I do have about this matchup, however, is the Cubs’ bullpen, which will likely see plenty of action with Montgomery being limited. Chicago’s relievers have been very solid this year, and will make life tough for Cozart in the middle/late innings.

This is why I have interest in Didi Gregorius [SS – L] at a slightly lower price point, as he faces Jordan Zimmermann and a Tigers bullpen that ranks 30th in ERA (5.31) xFIP (4.95), SIERA (4.48) and 29th in K-rate (20%) this season. Zimmermann himself is surrendering a .385 wOBA, 1.94 HR/9 and 40-percent hard contact to left-handed hitters this season, making Gregorius the preferred option based on the likelihood of him seeing much better early and late-game matchups.

 

Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP] Schwarber hasn’t solved his strikeout problems since being reintroduced to the Cubs lineup back in early July, but he has maintained a healthy .382 wOBA and .282 ISO over that span. I’ll happily take those numbers into tonight’s meeting with Wojciechowski, who’s ceding a mammoth .379/.300 wOBA/ISO to left-handed hitters this season. With Wojciechowski’s 53-percent flyball rate and 1.90 HR/9 allowed to LHH, we can safely assume Schwarber will earn every opportunity to power one out of Great American Ballpark assuming he makes contact.

Chicago’s 5.4-run implied total is bested by only the Twins (@ Shields) and Yankees (@ Zimmermann), so getting some exposure to this game makes the most sense by doing so with Schwarber. Anthony Rizzo is a strong play at first base, but the position is deep. Kris Bryant will be sidelined on Wednesday, too, so Schwarber seems like the most sensible play in the outfield. Ian Happ [2B/OF – L/R] is also a strong play at a weak outfield position — especially in GPPs, as he has been one of the most boom-or-bust hitters in baseball this season.

HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Zimmermann [RHP]; Christian Yelich [OF – L] @ Leiter [RHP]; Yonder Alonso [1B – L] @ Dickey [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Dickey [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Rhys Hoskins [1B – R] vs. Nicolino [LHP] How can you not love Rhys Hoskins tonight in a home matchup with Justin Nicolino? Hoskins has recorded only 17 at bats versus left-handed pitching this season, but he’s already managed to rack up three home runs with only 13-percent strikeouts. He struck out at a sub-20-percent clip vs. southpaws in Triple-A this season, too, while recording an extra-base hit per every 6.4 at bats.

Hoskins possesses immense power, is affordably priced, and faces a left-hander who strikes righties out at a career 9.2-percent clip! Whether Hoskins homers tonight or not is unimportant; what’s important is that we all acknowledge how stellar this matchup is for the rookie first baseman. *Hoskins’ outfield eligibility on FanDuel makes him even more appealing. Jorge Alfaro [C – R] is also in play as a cheap backstop option with the platoon advantage against Nicolino. While he hasn’t hit for much power, Alfaro is getting on base at an impressive clip and warrants consideration at a discounted price point.

 

Alex Avila [C/1B – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP] Avila has reemerged as a viable fantasy option since joining the Cubs in early August, as he’s sporting an impressive .392/.270 wOBA/ISO on the month. What makes Avila so enticing on Wednesday, though, is the matchup with Asher Wojciechowski, who’s allowing 53-percent fly balls to opposing lefties this season. Avila’s most impressive feat this season has been his ability to hit fly balls, and hit them hard, as he boasts a league-leading 54.2-percent hard contact rate vs. RHP in 2017. If you aren’t paying for Gary Sanchez, Avila makes for the obvious play at the catcher position, and he’ll draw a favorable park shift at Great American.

 

Corey Dickerson [OF – L] vs. Stroman [RHP] I’m generally not someone who relies — or even glances — at BvP, but something about Dickerson’s matchup with Stroman stood out. Dickerson is 8-24 against Stroman for his career, with two home runs, three doubles and only four strikeouts, but his 92.8 MPH AEV is what really pops. While Stroman is a quality pitcher in almost all departments, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to target Dickerson at a severely discounted price point. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him back in the leadoff spot tonight.

 

Aaron Hicks [OF – L/R] @ Zimmermann [RHP] Hicks is a nice price play at a mid-$3K price on DraftKings and $3,100 on FanDuel. He’ll draw a stellar matchup with Jordan Zimmermann, is sporting a very respectable .372/.229 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP, and a robust 15.8-percent walk rate, which should serve him well on the basepaths if he’s issued a free pass. If you’re left with $3,700 or $3,100 for your final roster spot, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Hicks, as his Yankees boast a 5.5-run implied total against one of the worst starters in Zimmermann and the worst bullpen in baseball.

HONORABLE MENTION: Derek Dietrich [3B – L] @ Leiter [RHP]; Maikel Franco [3B – R] vs. Nicolino [LHP]; Jon Jay [OF – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP]; Jason Castro [C – L] @ Shields [RHP]; Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R] vs. Nicolino [LHP]