MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/4/17
There are eight teams with implied run totals of 4.0 or lower for Friday’s slate; Diamondbacks (@ Bumgarner), Mets (vs. Darvish), Padres (@ Nova), Royals (vs. Paxton), Dodgers (@ deGrom), Brewers (@ Faria), Blue Jays (@ Peacock) and White Sox (@ Rodriguez). This is worth noting because ownership will likely be very spread out at the pitcher position, especially considering Kevin Gausman should also warrant plenty of attention despite the Tigers’ 4.4-run total in Baltimore. Because there is such an abundance of pitching tonight I’m going to spend less time on each pitcher and more time discussing the preference in which we should be targeting them.
James Paxton [LHP – SEA] has been outstanding in July, sporting a 13.9 percent swinging strike rate to accompany his 31.1 percent K-rate and 2.76 xFIP. He hasn’t allowed a home run since June, nor has he surrendered more than two runs in a single start over any of his last six outings. Paxton is a -159 ML favorite on the road against a Royals team that doesn’t strike out much, but aside from Eric Hosmer and Whit Merrifield has been dreadful against left-handed arms. Paxton’s arsenal is way too filthy to worry about struggling against Kansas City, and he’s always worth paying up for in cash if you’re looking for a safe high-end pitcher. Having said that, I’m perfectly fine with fading Paxton at his premium price point on a night where our alternative options are bountiful.
Jacob deGrom [RHP – NYM] has been virtually unhittable at home this season, allowing a mere .257 wOBA, with a 29.4 percent K-rate and 51 percent ground ball rate across 67.1 innings pitched. Get this: if you removed deGrom’s one garbage start at home where he allowed seven earned runs to the Brewers, he’d own a 1.42 ERA at Citi Field. He’d also be averaging just shy of 30 DraftKings Points per game. You can surely see why I love deGrom’s upside a home, especially considering the Dodgers own a surprisingly high 22.5-percent K-rate vs. right-handed pitching. They’re a tough team with plenty of pop from both sides of the plate, but I’m siding with deGrom in this matchup. I actually prefer him over Paxton from an upside standpoint, even though the Dodgers’ 4.0-implied run total is higher than I would’ve anticipated.
Yu Darvish [RHP – LAD] will likely garner much higher ownership than deGrom, which is just one more reason to target the latter in GPPs. Yes, Darvish moves to the National League where he faces far weaker offenses and no designated hitter, but this isn’t the best matchup for the newly added Dodger. The Mets strike out at an 18.9-percent clip (28th) vs. RHP, while ranking 11th in wOBA (.325) and seventh in ISO (.190) this season. The loss of Lucas Duda saps some of that power, but they still boast plenty of talent from the left side of the plate. Again, I’m not suggesting you ignore Darvish, as he’s a -123 road favorite and the Mets own a paltry 3.6-run implied total at home, but I also don’t think he’s a must play pitcher on Friday night. deGrom’s offers as much upside as any pitcher in baseball, and there’s a good chance he’ll be uncharacteristically low owned tonight.
Madison Bumgarner [LHP – SFG] is the pitcher I’m having the most difficult time analyzing on Friday. When he’s healthy Bumgarner is one of the most elite arms in all of baseball, and arguably the best postseason pitcher for those of you who believe in that stuff. The problem with Bumgarner is we still don’t know if he’s fully healthy, although his last start (7 IP, 0 ER, 7 K, 99 P) was certainly encouraging. The problem, however, is Bumgarner owns a dismal 5.3-percent swinging strike rate since returning to the bump. Batters are chasing 33 percent of pitches out of the zone, but they are making 81-percent outside contact in the process.
Arizona struggles against left-handed pitching and on the road, but I don’t anticipate that continuing now that A.J. Pollock is healthy. This team has plenty of talent from the right side of the plate, and while AT&T Park is the most pitcher-friendly venue in baseball, I’m not expecting them to roll over on Friday night. I’m fading Bumgarner until I feel like he’s fixed what’s been plaguing him in July.
Kevin Gausman [RHP – BAL] has been brilliant of late, and much of that has to do with Caleb Joseph being behind the dish. Pitch framing is one of the most overlooked aspects of daily fantasy baseball when it comes to analyzing pitchers. Chris Sale was exponentially better with Tyler Flowers in the squat, and Gausman has been stellar with Joseph calling the games. On the year, Gausman is sporting a 3.41 ERA with a 26.4-percent K-rate and 0.59 HR/9 allowed when Joseph is catching. With Castillo catching, Gausman owns a 7.35 ERA with a 16.9-percent K-rate and 2.25 HR/9 allowed! Those splits are absolutely insane, and you’d hope Buck Showalter and Roger McDowell have finally come to acknowledge the disparity.
Gausman is enjoying the best stretch of pitching in his career, and he’ll face a Tigers team on Friday that ranks 20th in wOBA (.315), 25th in ISO (.154) and 16th in K-rate (21.8%) vs. right-handed pitching. Gausman’s Vegas numbers may not be flashy for tonight, as a -138 ML favorite with Detroit owning a 4.4-run implied total at Camden Yards, but he should once again be firmly in play if Joseph is behind the dish. Gausman has posted 20-plus DKPT in six of his last eight starts, of which Joseph was catching in all but one.
Jacob Faria [RHP – TB] has drawn some difficult matchups of late, facing potent lineups, low-strikeout offenses, or both over his last 10 outings. He’ll have to suppress the Brewers’ power on Friday, but the pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field should help aid the cause. If Faria is able to keep the ball in the yard, he should have no trouble posting solid fantasy totals against a Milwaukee team that leads the league in K-rate (25.4%) vs. right-handed pitching.
The Brewers own a modest 4.1-run implied total in Tampa Bay, where Faria is holding batters to a .280 wOBA on the year. I’d also expect Faria’s strikeout totals to climb as he faces some more facilitating matchups, as he’s sporting a nice 11.9-percent swinging strike rate and 52.4-percent O-Contact rate this season. If there was ever a potential ceiling game for Faria, tonight would be the time. I’ll certainly be targeting him at a mid-range price point on all two-pitcher sites.
Eduardo Rodriguez [LHP – BOS] hasn’t looked great since returning from injury, but he’ll draw an opportunity to remedy those struggles on Friday night. The White Sox own a Triple-A lineup now that Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier and Avisail Garcia are gone or sidelined, and Rodriguez is a -191 ML favorite at home. It’s worth noting that Chicago has been solid against left-handed pitching this season, but we can’t take pre-trade deadline numbers and apply them to today’s lineup. Matt Davidson possibly being out of the lineup could hinder Rodriguez’s strikeout totals, but he’ll still be facing a full cast of misfits outside of Jose Abreu. Rodriguez has also displayed some pronounced reverse splits for his short career, which should help him against a White Sox squad that will likely run at least seven righties (or switch-hitters) on Friday. At a very discounted price point Rodriguez needs to be in play. He’s a virtual lock to earn the win and is in an ideal spot to bounce back from a string of subpar outings.
Charlie Blackmon [OF – L], Nolan Arenado [3B – R] and Mark Reynolds [1B – R] are the three Rockie batters I’ll be targeting on Friday. Blackmon is the best leadoff hitter in baseball, and owns a startling .535/.465 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP at home. There’s no real reason to elaborate here. Arenado and Reynolds won’t draw the platoon advantage against Velasquez, but they will offer ample power upside against a righty who’s allowing 2.38 HR/9 with a 41-percent hard-hit rate to same-handed hitters this season. Colorado’s 6.4-run implied total is unsurprisingly the highest mark of any team on this 13-game slate, and these three hitters should lead the charge against Velasquez and a shaky Philadelphia bullpen.
Mike Trout [OF – R] faces a homer-prone righty in Jharel Cotton tonight, and he should once again be atop our list of viable hitters. Trout is demolishing righties to the tune of a .475 wOBA and .401 ISO this season, both of which lead the league (by a wide margin) among all hitters with at least 200 PA vs. RHP. Park factors don’t matter much to Trout, who has recorded two thirds (14 of 21) of his home runs inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium this season. When in doubt, go with Trout. That’s the motto today, and every day hereafter.
Mookie Betts [OF – R] and the Red Sox find themselves in a very favorable spot tonight, facing Carlos Rodon inside the hitter-friendly Fenway Park. Rodon has flashed some nice upside with an 11.6-percent swinging strike rate and 28.4-percent K-rate in 2017, but he’s also walking batters at an alarming clip. You’d be hard-pressed to find another lefty as volatile as Rodon right now.
Boston was already walking at a 10.7-percent clip vs. southpaws with a top-10 wOBA this year, but they’ve been a far more impressive baseball team since acquiring Eduardo Nunez [3B/OF – R]. In a week since Nunez came aboard the Sox are leading the league in wOBA and ranking second in speed rating. It’s a miniscule sample, sure, but Nunez’s arrival has made an immediate impact on an otherwise struggling offense.
I’m expecting them to continue rolling on Friday, and their 5.6-run implied run total would suggest the same. Betts is a great one-off option and a necessary stack play against Rodon, who’s ceding a .355 wOBA and 15.1-percent walk rate to RHH this season. It’s also worth noting Rodon has a 0-percent caught stealing rate (6 SB, 0 CS) through his first six starts, and ranks towards the bottom of the league in SRAA and TRAA this season. I’m expecting Betts and Nunez to run wild when, not if they get on base.
Elvis Andrus [SS – R] comes into play as a result of the shortstop position being so weak. There are a couple mid-range options we’ll get to momentarily, but if you plan on spending at the position Andrus is the guy. He’s been much better against same-handed pitching this season, while Bartolo Colon is busy serving up monster numbers to right-handed bats. Colon’s 12.8-percent K-rate is yet another reason to target Andrus at the top of his position. Texas should have no trouble scoring runs despite being away from Arlington, and Colon should continue to struggle on the mound.
HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Altherr [OF – R] @ Freeland [LHP]; Michael Conforto [OF – L] vs. Darvish [RHP] [GPP]; Rougned Odor [2B – L] @ Colon [RHP]; Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] vs. Wood [LHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] @ Colon [RHP] [GPP]
Brian Dozier [2B – R] and Miguel Sano [3B – R] interest me greatly tonight, as both are priced nicely across the industry for a great matchup with Martin Perez. Dozier is trouncing left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .395 wOBA and .212 ISO, while hitting 44-percent fly balls in the process. Meanwhile, Sano has been even better (.405 wOBA, .295 ISO), and his 45-percent hard-hit rate is a thing of beauty. Perez generates no strikeouts or swinging strikes vs. same-handed hitters, induces a below average amount of ground balls and is serving up 38-percent hard contact this season. I’ll have my fair share of these two Minnesota righties tonight, especially on DraftKings where they are barely priced above $4,000.
Tommy Joseph [1B – R] won’t hit for average, but he will hit for power, and that’s all we should ask of him on Friday. On the season, Joseph is sporting a sexy .278 ISO vs. LHP with a 45-percent flyball rate and 25-percent HR/FB rate. This should play well in the altitude at Coors Field against Kyle Freeland, who induces a lot of ground balls but generates no strikeouts (11% K). I’m not interested in paying top dollar for Phillie bats just because they’re at Coors, but Joseph is reasonably priced on DraftKings for this matchup.
Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R] is well overpriced on DraftKings ($5000), but comes in at a very respectable $3,000 on FanDuel. He’s riding an eight-game hit streak with multi-hit efforts in seven of his last 10 starts. More importantly, however, Hernandez has racked up five of his 11 total stolen bases over that span. Hernandez has always had extraordinary speed but his base-running decisions were worse than poor. If he has managed to fix those issues we could be seeing far more swipes in the near future. At a near value price point on FanDuel we’d be remiss to ignore him, even though the bulk of his production has come from the left side of the plate this season.
Derek Fisher [OF – L] ranks fourth in average exit velocity among all major-league hitters since being recalled in July. He boasts a filthy 50-percent hard contact rate vs. RHP, and has shown more than enough power to be a worth DFS option from night to night. He should be considered again on Friday in a home matchup with Cesar Valdez. Despite Jose Altuve expected to sit, the Astros should still produce more than enough offense to be worthy of consideration, and Fisher should remain a top option as Houston’s leadoff man. Not only does Valdez not generate strikeouts, but he’s serving up a lot of hard contact to hitters from both sides of the plate. At an affordable mid-range cost I’ll be targeting Fisher often in the outfield.
HONORABLE MENTION: Adrian Beltre [3B – R] @ Colon [RHP]; Robinson Cano [2B – L] @ Hammel [RHP]; Marwin Gonzalez [3B/OF – L/R] vs. Valdez [RHP]; Josh Reddick [OF – L] vs. Valdez [RHP]; Shin-soo Choo [OF – L] @ Colon [RHP]; Trevor Story [SS – R] vs. Velasquez [RHP]; Maikel Franco [3B – R] @ Freeland [LHP]
Freddy Galvis [SS – L/R] hits right-handed pitchers better than he hits southpaws, but he’s still very cheap on DraftKings for a Coors game. What makes him interesting is his surprising pop this season, as Galvis has racked up 11 home runs, 21 doubles and five triples to go along with nine stolen bases in 2017. He offers enough production in an assortment of categories to be very viable at only $3,700, and for as bad a team as the Phillies are offensively, their 5.2-run implied total is encouraging.
Xander Bogaerts [SS – R] has only swiped nine bags this season, but tonight’s matchup could open the floodgates for Boston’s speed guys. Not only is Rodon ranked near the bottom in all base-running metrics, but projected starting catcher Kevan Smith is dead last in all of them. At an ultra-discounted price point across the industry, Bogaerts should be considered at a weak shortstop position. He hasn’t shown much in terms of power this year, but he should undoubtedly run against the Rodon-Smith battery if he gets on base. That’s enough for me to deploy him at his current salary.
Hanley Ramirez [1B – R] isn’t the type of hitter I love to target against Rodon, but at $3,200 on DraftKings and $2,900 on FanDuel he’s hard to ignore. A Boston stack makes a ton of sense if you plan on paying up for pitching, too, as you can easily work Betts, Nunez, Bogaerts and Ramirez into lineups without maxing out your cap space. Despite a somewhat underwhelming season as a whole, Ramirez is still sporting a .230 ISO and 39-percent hard-hit rate vs. opposite-handed pitchers, which is more than enough to utilize his power at a discounted cost.
Jarrod Dyson [OF – L] is a rather fantastic speed option that no one will consider tonight, but I’d suggest taking a closer look. On the year, Hammel ranks dead last in SRAA (Swipe Rate Above Average), and has caught only one of 13 runners thus far. Dyson is far from a good hitter, but he’ll never hesitate to run once he’s aboard, and this is a perfect matchup to exploit. I don’t see Dyson as a must play by any means, but he will be a low-owned bat capable of racking up multiple stolen bases before the first inning is over.
Chris Gimenez [C – R] is one of the value catchers I’ll be heavily targeting if he bats sixth for the Twins tonight. It’s hard to find a middle-of-the-order catcher with the platoon advantage in a plus matchup against a subpar southpaw, but that’s what we could get with Gimenez on Friday. Robinson Chirinos [C – R] is also in play against Colon, while Buster Posey [C/1B – R] has value against a rookie lefty despite the awful park. Ultimately, I’ll be looking to save at the position, and whichever cheap backstop finds himself in the best position once lineups are releases is the one I’ll be favoring.
HONORABLE MENTION: Buster Posey [C/1B – R] vs. Banda [LHP]; Brian McCann [C – L] vs. Valdez [RHP]; Mike Napoli [1B – R] @ Colon [RHP] [GPP]