MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/28/17
There are several high-end pitchers going on Monday night, but none draw especially stellar matchups for one reason or another. Max Scherzer, does, however, find himself in a better spot than both Corey Kluber and Luis Severino, who will be squaring off against each other at Yankee Stadium tonight.
Now I’m not saying to avoid Corey Kluber [RHP – CLE], as he’s arguably been the league’s best pitcher since the start of June, but he is facing a Yankees club that has smashed at home this year (.344 wOBA, .205 ISO). If anyone could silence them, it would be Kluber, but I’m not sure New York’s 22.2-percent K-rate vs. RHP is enough to put him over the top alone. I’ll be targeting Kluber in tournaments and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him continue his savage run of destruction on Monday, but I have him ranked below Scherzer for a number of reasons we’ll discuss in a moment.
Luis Severino [RHP – NYY] has been brilliant this season, and his maturation process as a pitcher has only grown stronger throughout the year, but tonight’s home tilt with Cleveland might not be the best time to back him. I love how Severino is mixing in his changeup with a 97-MPH fastball and hard-biting slider — both of which have garnered excellent results — but the Indians are one of only a few teams capable of exploiting his offerings. On the year, Cleveland owns the third highest pitch value vs. the slider (6.8), and are one of only three teams with a positive mark against the pitch.
They’ll also draw a massively favorable park shift at Yankee Stadium, where Terry Francona will run a five-lefty lineup inside baseball’s most lefty-friendly venue. Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall all still remain out, though, so this should benefit Severino if you’re still looking for a reason to deploy him.
Finally, temperatures will be hovering around only 70 degrees in New York tonight, so while I’m about to explain why Scherzer is the top high-priced option, Severino still has a viable path to success. You generally aren’t playing him based on matchup against the Indians, who strike out at a mere 19.7-percent clip vs. RHP, but the last lineup they ran against a righty (Saturday) featured six hitters with K-rates north of 20 percent vs. RHP. Keep an eye on what lineup they run tonight in New York, as it could work more in Severino’s favor than most would think. He offers legitimate tournament-winning upside, but also presents considerable risk on Monday night.
Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] will return to the mound tonight after a 10-day stint on the disabled list with neck inflammation, and doesn’t seem to have suffered any setbacks over the past one-plus weeks. He’ll face a Marlins team that doesn’t strike out much vs. right-handed pitching, but also lacks power from the left side of the plate. Miami doesn’t have a left-handed hitter with an ISO north of .170 vs. RHP, and only Christian Yelich owns a wOBA above the .310 league-average mark. Power lefties have been Scherzer’s only real problem area this season, and the Marlins literally have zero ability to counter that weakness.
Scherzer boasts an unfathomable 44.6-percent K-rate vs. right-handed hitters this year, while sporting a 1.81 xFIP and .171 wOBA against. Miami’s power all comes from the right side of the plate, and no pitcher is better equipped to counter that attack than Scherzer. Not only is Scherzer a slate-best -220 ML favorite at home, but the Marlins own a slate-low 3.0-run implied total on Monday night. If you plan on paying for pitching in cash, I see no reason to look any further than Scherzer.
Jeff Samardzija [RHP – SFG] @ SDP – I can’t explain why Samardzija owns a six-percent increase in strikeout rate away from home this season (21.4 K% home, 27.3 K% road), but he does, and it’s something we’ll have to factor into our research tonight. The Padres strike out at the league’s second highest clip vs. RHP (25.1%), while owning the 29th ranked wOBA (.304) on the year. Yangervis Solarte and Jose Pirela are the only two Padres hitters in Monday’s projected lineup who strikeout at a sub-20-percent clip.
Samardzija’s season has been an erratic one, but he’s still holding righties to a .290 wOBA with a 3.24 xFIP and 0.88 HR/9. Shark is somehow striking lefties out at a higher clip (26%) than righties (22.6%), but this shouldn’t be a concern against the punchless Padres. Petco Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball, and Samardzija has as good a shot as anyone to produce elite fantasy totals this evening. At a mid-range price point I’ll have no problem targeting him across the industry, but he’ll likely be a tough-to-near-impossible fit if you also plan on rostering Scherzer or Kluber at your SP-1.
Lucas Sims [RHP – ATL] has not looked good since joining the Braves’ rotation, striking out only 12 percent of batters with a 7.6-percent swinging strike rate across 28.1 innings pitched. It’s somewhat baffling, though, because Sims was mowing hitters down in Double/Triple-A since 2015, sporting a 26.6-percent K-rate over that span (1300 TBF). Some of this can possibly be explained by minor-league hitters laying off the breaking pitches that major-league hitters are hammering, but it still seems odd that Sims has struggled this much with bat-missing offerings.
Sims’ last start was solid, tossing six scoreless innings of 3-hit ball against the Mariners, and he hasn’t really been tattooed in any single outing, but he’ll need to start racking up some strikeouts before we can confidently deploy him in daily fantasy formats. Sims will, however, face the Phillies on Monday, who strike out at the sixth highest clip vs. RHP (23.8%) while ranking 26th in wOBA (.311) and 25th in ISO (.159). Rhys Hoskins is the only true power concern here, while Maikel Franco is the lone hitter in tonight’s projected with a sub-20-percent K-rate vs. RHP. Needless to say, Sims has an opportunity to produce solid fantasy totals on Monday, but he’ll need to start generating whiffs first.
Andrew Heaney [LHP – LAA] has allowed seven home runs over his first two starts (10 IP). That’s not good. The Athletics are pretty poor against southpaws, though, owning the league’s 25th ranked wOBA (.302), 22nd ranked ISO (.153) and eighth highest K-rate (23.8%) this season. I like both sides of this matchup, and we’ll discuss some Oakland hitters shortly, but let’s briefly consider why Heaney merits consideration on Monday:
First, Heaney is sporting a 12.5-percent swinging strike rate over his first two starts. He is oddly getting hitters to miss in the zone but cannot generate any whiffs on outside pitches (76% O-Contact) despite a 39.6-percent chase rate. That should balance out going forward, especially considering Heaney owns a .366 xFIP over his first two starts. He could certainly get tagged for some long balls tonight, but Heaney also has a path to success against the free-swinging A’s. At a near min-sal price point, he makes for a fine pairing with Scherzer inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ian Kennedy [RHP – KC] faces a Rays squad that will either torture him or go down swinging tonight. Tampa Bay boasts plenty of power from the left side of the plate, and Steven Souza has hammered same-handed pitching this season, but they also strike out at the third highest clip vs. RHP (24.8%). Kennedy’s homer issues have been even more pronounced of late, so I would definitely recommend hedging this play with some Rays stacks if you plan on using Kansas City’s righty.
Jhoulys Chacin [RHP – SDP] has been lights out at home this season, but he struggles to generate strikeouts regardless of venue. The Giants rank dead last in baseball with a .297 wOBA and .133 ISO vs. RHP, but only strike out at a 19.4-percent clip. Ultimately, Chacin will need seven strong innings to pay off his lower mid-range price point, holding the Giants to two or fewer runs while earning the win at home. It’s definitely feasible, but we can’t rely on strikeouts to mitigate an uncharacteristically shaky performance at home.
Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] is tonight’s top projected hitter for good reason, and there isn’t much reason to elaborate. He’s facing Jordan Zimmermann at Coors Field on a night where Colorado owns a 7.2-run implied total, and Blackmon boasts a .521/.440 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP at home. Zimmermann is ceding a .382 wOBA, .207 ISO and 1.97 HR/9 to left-handed hitters this year, while striking them out at a putrid 15.9-percent clip. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better hitting option than Blackmon on Monday’s 10-game slate.
Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] is poised to hammer Marco Gonzales tonight, but I do find it strange that Baltimore implied run total has dropped from 5.8 to 5.2 since this morning. Gonzales, a former first round pick, has really struggled at the major-league level, and I don’t see why that would change tonight. He’s throwing his changeup 30 percent of the time to righties this season, which would generally be wise, but it’s getting hit hard and isn’t generating many whiffs. Schoop ranks top-10 in baseball against the changeup, and is torching lefties to the tune of a .392 wOBA and .293 ISO across 137 PA. Manny Machado [3B – R] is also very much in play, but Schoop remains my top Orioles hitter on Monday night.
Nelson Cruz [OF – R] has never hit same-handed pitching as well as he’s hit them this season, sporting a .391 wOBA and .289 ISO across 376 plate appearances. He also ranks fourth in average exit velocity vs. RHP this season (93 MPH), behind only Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo and Alex Avila. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Cruz makes for a top play tonight against Chris Tillman, who’s allowing a .403 wOBA, .273 ISO and 2.80 HR/9 to right-handed hitters this season.
Tillman has been one of baseball’s worst starters this year, ceding tons of hard contact and missing hardly any bats. I’m surprised to see a mere 4.9-run implied total attached to the Mariners tonight, but that shouldn’t keep us from deploying Cruz across the board. Tillman owns a dismal 12-percent K-rate and 6.03 xFIP at home this year, and Cruz will gain a massively favorable park shift moving from Safeco Field to Camden Yards on Monday.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tim Beckham [SS – R] vs. Gonzales [LHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R]/DJ LeMahieu [2B – R]/Mark Reynolds [1B – R] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]; Josh Donaldson [3B – R] vs. Pomeranz [LHP]; Khris Davis [OF – R] @ Heaney [LHP]; Justin Upton [OF – R] @ Senzatela [RHP]
Ryon Healy [1B/3B – R] has brutalized left-handed pitching this season, boasting a stellar .409 wOBA and .269 ISO with seven home runs across 107 PA. As earlier noted, I have interested in Andrew Heaney against the K-heavy A’s, but I’m also targeting some Oakland righties, starting with Healy. Heaney has served up seven home runs over his first 10 innings pitched, all of which have come against right-handed hitters. Now, we can’t expect this trend to continue at such an alarming rate, but Heaney isn’t missing bats on pitches out of the zone, and Healy has done a great job of putting the ball in play against southpaws. Healy is also hitting plenty of fly balls, so while Angel Stadium is not a hitter-friendly venue, he’s more than capable of taking Heaney deep on Monday.
Lucas Duda [1B – L] is underpriced for a plus matchup with Ian Kennedy, who is allowing 2.16 HR/9 to left-handed hitters on the year. Much like Heaney, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kennedy post serviceable fantasy totals tonight, but I also wouldn’t be even remotely surprised to see him cough up several long balls to the Rays. Kennedy’s 5.61 xFIP, 51-percent flyball rate and 46-percent hard-hit rate vs. opposite-handed bats won’t do him any favors against a Tampa Bay squad that boasts plenty of left-handed talent throughout their lineup.
Duda, specifically, owns a .297 ISO, 45-percent flyball rate and 45-percent hard-hit rate vs. RHP, making this matchup with Kennedy as perfect as it gets. Logan Morrison [1B – L], Corey Dickerson [OF – L], Kevin Kiermaier [OF – L] and Steven Souza [OF – R] all make for stellar stacking options against the volatile arm of Kennedy.
Trevor Story [SS – R] isn’t someone I like to roster, but it’s hard to ignore him at a mid-range price point and a weak shortstop position. Tim Beckham is my top shortstop play tonight, but he’s also considerably more expensive than Story on DraftKings and FantasyDraft. Story will likely bat seventh tonight, but no one would be surprised to see him earn five plate appearances against Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers’ 30th rank bullpen.
Getting cheap exposure to the Rockies is a smart move tonight, and I’ll be doing the same with Pat Valaika [3B/SS – R] if he’s slotted into the lineup at $3,600 on DraftKings. Story has been dreadful against RHP this year, but there’s a good chance Zimmermann will be lifted from the mound after only a couple innings. Even if he doesn’t face any southpaws on Monday, Story is still poised to see additional at bats despite being down in the Rockies’ order.
HONORABLE MENTION: Adam Jones/Trey Mancini [OF – R] vs. Gonzales [LHP]; Yonder Alonso [1B – L] @ Tillman [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Tillman [RHP]; Whit Merrifield [2B – R] vs. Pruitt [RHP] [GPP]
Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] is dirt cheap on DraftKings in a plus matchup with Austin Pruitt, who across 169 TBF is allowing a .405 wOBA and .238 ISO to right-handed hitters. Pruitt is coughing up 1.78 HR/9 to righties and is striking them out at a mere 16-percent clip, which bodes well for Cain who has always maintained an impressively low K-rate. I’m generally not a fan of rostering low-upside Royals bats, but Cain is underpriced in a very exploitable matchup. Kansas City’s 5.1-run implied total is also rather encouraging on Monday night.
Tony Wolters [C – L] isn’t good at baseball so I’ll keep this short, but he is $2,400 on DraftKings and $4,800 on FantasyDraft against Jordan Zimmermann at Coors Field. Even someone as bad as Wolters can have value at a min-sal price point, especially when his team boasts a slate-high 7.2-run implied total inside the most hitter-friendly park known to man. If you’re punting the catcher position, Wolters makes obvious sense at his price point.
Andrew Romine [2B/OF – L/R] is another underwhelming baseball player with a dirt cheap price point, who will easily become a top value option in the event that he bats second for Detroit. Antonio Senzatela isn’t a bad pitcher, but no pitcher is immune to the known troubles of Coors Field. Second base is a weak position outside of the highlighted top-priced options, so Romine will open things up towards the bottom. It’s hard not to take advantage of these seemingly erroneous salaries on a Coors night.
HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]; Brad Miller [2B – L] @ Kennedy [RHP]; Matt Chapman [3B – R] @ Heaney [LHP]; Tommy La Stella [2B – L] vs. Williams [RHP]; Welington Castillo [C – R] vs. Gonzales [LHP]; Miguel Cabrera [1B – R] @ Senzatela [RHP] [DraftKings]; John Hicks [C/1B – R] @ Senzatela [RHP]