MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/29/17

PITCHING

Chris Sale is the most expensive pitching option on the slate, obviously.  He was roughed up in his last start but we should not be scared to roster him tonight.  The Indians, despite dealing with a few injuries, are still a dangerous offense capable of making life difficult for opposing pitchers and they were able to get to Sale for the second time this season.  The Blue Jays are not a cupcake matchup either, but they are less intimidating than the Indians are.  Toronto’s projected lineup is nearly entirely right-handed and Sale has struck out 37.1 percent of right-handed hitters this season while allowing just 0.71 home runs per nine innings and pitching to a 2.64 xFIP.

The average strikeout rates of most of the bats in the Toronto lineup are low, which is a concern, but it is important to keep in mind that those numbers are an average of all of their at-bats against left-handed pitching, not all of their at-bats against elite strikeout lefties like Sale.  His stuff is good enough that he can pile up strikeouts against anyone, as evidenced by his 39.3 percent strikeout rate in his most recent start against the Jays.

Sale’s velocity and underlying plate discipline numbers were fine in his start against Cleveland, so I am not worried about going back to the well tonight.  There is merit to fading him based on price and ownership in tournaments since the pitching mid-tier does offer upside and there are bats worth paying for, but fading him in cash games is certainly not recommended.

Trevor Bauer’s game against the Yankees is in jeopardy because of rain but, if the weather clears, he is a high upside option.  Bauer has a 28.8 percent strikeout percentage over the last 30 days with just a 6.5 percent walk percentage.  He has struck out hitters from both sides of the plate over that span, fanning 28.6 percent of lefties and 29.0 percent of righties.

While the Yankees’ lineup is dangerous, there are also strikeouts available from Judge, Sanchez, Bird and Frazier in particular.  Bauer has struggled with home runs a bit over the last month, particularly against lefties, which does make him risky in Yankee Stadium.  There are higher floor options for cash games, but he is a boom-or-bust option in GPPs.

Zack Godley is a potentially appealing tournament option tonight against the Dodgers, but there are some red flags.  He has not made it out of the sixth inning in any of his last three starts and he has struggled to throw strikes, averaging a 47.7 percent first-pitch strike percentage over those starts compared to a season average of 60.6 percent.  He has also been getting less swings at pitches out of the strike zone, possibly because he is working in less pitcher-friendly counts.

Godley’s swinging strike percentage in his most recent outing (against the Mets) was tied for his lowest of the season and his o-swing percentage was his lowest.  His velocity on all of his pitches was down about 1 mile per hour in that start as well.  He is priced at just $7,700, so there is legitimate upside if he is, in fact, healthy and able to turn things around.  I do not want to make a recommendation on Godley one way or the other yet, but be sure to tune in to the Deeper Dive show or slack chat later in the day once I have been able to dig through some more stuff on Godley.

Luke Weaver will be a very popular option on tonight’s slate and for good reason.  He has struck out 28.0 percent of hitters so far this season, including 33.9 percent of righties.  The Brewers projected lineup has five right-handed hitters plus a right-handed swinging pitcher.  The Brewers’ addition of Neil Walker has removed some of the strikeout upside from their lineup, but the Brewers still lead all of baseball in swinging strike percentage and strikeout percentage over the last 14 days.  The park downgrade and the fact that the Brewers just saw Weaver are two things working against him, but he had a 12.2 percent swinging strike percentage and struck out 8 in 6.1 innings in that start so there is plenty of reason for optimism.  If you can fit Weaver and Sale together in cash games you are off to a nice start.

Mike Fiers is an appealing tournament option as a pivot off Weaver or as an SP2 alongside Weaver if you decide to forego Sale and pay up for hitters.  Fiers went through a stretch earlier this season where he was piling up strikeouts, getting a lot of groundballs, and not allowing home runs.  That is not the case anymore, as he has struck out just 18.7 percent of hitters over the last 30 days, while allowing a 47.6 percent flyball percentage and 2.5 home runs per nine innings.  There is a silver lining, however, as he faces the Rangers in Tampa Bay.

Texas’s .293 wOBA and 80 wRC+ on the road this season both rank as the second worst marks in all of baseball, beating only the Phillies.  Their 26.0 percent strikeout percentage paces all of baseball.  Their 22.2 percent strikeout percentage over the last 14 days is not awful, but it is certainly not something to shy away from either.  Tropicana Field helps to limit Fiers’ home run risk, as does the absence of Joey Gallo.  He was blown up the last time he faced the Rangers, in Texas, but rebounded nicely against the Diamondbacks and the Nationals.  It is a risky play, but it could pay off very nicely if Fiers is able to keep the ball in the park.

Troy Scribner deserves consideration if you need a cheap SP2 option.  He is facing an Oakland team that has a 23.0 percent strikeout percentage over the last 30 days in Anaheim.  Scribner has struck out an average 20.8 percent of hitters this season, but he has swinging strike percentages of 12.2 (against this Oakland team), 10.5 and 12.2 percent over his last three starts.  He struck out 23.3 percent of hitters at AAA this season, so he has shown that he can pick up some strikeouts.

As a caution, his ceiling may be somewhat capped as Mike Scoscia has been willing to go to his bullpen early in games recently, pulling Ricky Nolasco after 4.2 innings in a recent start, pulling Scribner after 5 innings and 82 pitches in his last start and taking out Heaney after 6 innings and 94 pitches in a dominant start last night.  Still, 5 or 6 innings of Scribner against the Athletics at a $6,400 price tag does offer some upside if you are looking to pay up for Sale and still want an expensive bat or two.

 

Hitting

High-Priced

Rhys Hoskins continues to pile up fantasy points for the Phillies.  He did not homer last night, but still came away with double-digit DraftKings points.  Tonight, he will face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  We obviously have no sense of whether or not Hoskins can hit a knuckleball, but he does have excellent plate discipline and is not a high strikeout guy.  I tend to favor those kinds of hitters against knuckleballers since they usually do not try to do too much at the plate.  Add in that this game is in Philadelphia and Hoskins makes for a strong play.

Joey Votto faces off against Chris Flexen at Great American Ballpark.  Flexen has allowed 1.46 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season while striking out just over 10.0 percent of them.  Votto has a .439 wOBA and .268 ISO against righties over the last 12 months.  The downside for Votto is that he is one of the more patient hitters in baseball and is always willing to take a walk.  Flexen has walked 18.3 percent of the lefties that he has faced so far.  There is definitely risk that Votto does not get many pitches to hit in this game.

George Springer faces Martin Perez tonight in Tropicana Field.  The lack of the Crawford Boxes in left field is a downgrade for Springer, but he has been extremely good against left-handed pitching and Martin Perez has not been as good at limiting home runs as he has in the past, allowing 1.34 home runs per nine innings to righties this season.  Springer has a .383 wOBA and .268 ISO against left-handed pitching over the last 12 months.

Mike Trout is in a bit of a slump and got the night off last night.  Tonight, he will face right-hander Chris Smith.  Smith does not have overpowering stuff, does not strike people out, does not get an overwhelming amount of groundballs and does allow a ton of home runs to right-handed hitters (3.55 per nine innings).  It is the perfect spot for Trout to return and get back on track.

Value

Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall are both top options from a Cincinnati offense that is in a great spot.  I mentioned Flexen’s walk rate to lefties earlier.  Any time that Hamilton is in a prime position to reach base, it gives him massive upside.  Flexen has allowed well over 2 home runs per nine innings to righties so far this season and Duvall is a right-handed power bat that is likely to be up with men on base plenty of times tonight against Flexen and the Mets bullpen.

Matt Carpenter is just $3,700 on DraftKings and he is facing Matt Garza in Milwaukee.  Garza has allowed 1.74 home runs per nine innings to opposing lefties this season and Carpenter has a .206 ISO against righties over the last 12 months.  In addition, Carpenter’s flyball percentage has increased from his season average of 46 percent to 64 percent over the last 15 days, with his average distance increasing from 241 feet to 258 feet.

Mike Moustakas is facing Alex Cobb, who has allowed 38.5 percent hard contact to left-handed hitters this season, though it has translated to just 1.02 home runs per nine innings.  This would be a mediocre spot for Moustakas at his normal mid-$4,000 price tag but he has dropped to just $3,300 on DraftKings.  His hard hit percentage over the last 15 days is three percentage points higher than his season average and his average distance is up from 224 feet to 246 feet.  His average exit velocity has increased from 90 miles per hour to 95 miles per hour and his flyball percentage has increased from 47 percent to 50 percent.

Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison are both too cheap on DraftKings as well.  Jake Junis is a bit of a wildcard as he has a very good slider that he sometimes underutilizes.  For the season, Junis has allowed 1.61 home runs per nine innings to lefties.  At $3,800 and $3,500, respectively, both of the Tampa first baseman deserve consideration regardless of your format.

 

Tournament Stacks

Cincinnati Reds- Chris Flexen has struggled with is command in the Major Leagues this season and that is an issue that plagued him in the minors prior to this year.  Great American Ballpark is a very dangerous place to be putting extra runners on base, especially when Flexen has not been good at limiting the long ball either.  The Reds are a great combination of upside and reasonable prices.

Los Angeles Dodgers- It is a risky spot to stack the Dodgers as Zack Godley is a very good pitcher when he is on.  As mentioned earlier, there are some underlying red flags for Godley, however.  If the Dodgers are facing a less-than-100 percent Godley in Chase Field, it is a spot that we could see them explode.  Adjust where you rank the Dodgers accordingly once I have a better idea of if Godley is fully healthy or not.

Detroit Tigers- German Marquez has been a pleasant surprise for the Rockies’ rotation this season but he has struggled with right-handed hitters, allowing 38.1 percent hard contact and 1.78 home runs per nine innings.  He has allowed 2.21 home runs per nine innings to righties in Coors Field.  Miguel Cabrera may miss this game, but the Tigers still have plenty of right-handed power in their lineup.

Colorado Rockies- Colorado let everyone down in a prime spot last night and now they have a much tougher matchup against Michael Fulmer.  Fulmer is not a high strikeout pitcher, however, and there is always upside to stacking against a contact pitcher in Coors Field because of the spacious gaps and the extra carry on flyballs.  Behind Fulmer is a beleaguered Tigers’ bullpen that has struggled all season long.  Some people may jump off the Rockies after last night, but there is still plenty of upside here tonight.