MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/7/17

PITCHING

Pitching is a barren wasteland on Monday, headlined by Max Scherzer and mucked up by a slew of dreadful arms, so I’m going to keep it simple and essentially recap what was discussed on this morning’s podcast. After all, there are only a couple places to turn on this seven-game slate. 

Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] vs. MIA Scherzer is the clear top options on Monday’s slate, and it really isn’t close. He’s the only high-priced pitcher that actually deserves his top shelf salary, and outside of Carlos Martinez (26% K), Scherzer is the only pitcher with a strikeout rate north of 25 percent. On the year, Scherzer is striking right-handed batters out at a jaw-dropping 44.9-percent clip, while his 40.9-percent K-BB rate is tops in baseball by more than seven percent (Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are the only other pitchers with a K-BB rate above 30 percent vs. RHP).

The Marlins generally don’t pose a perfect matchup for opposing pitchers, but they actually set up quite well for Scherzer tonight. The bulk of their power comes from the right side of the plate, especially now that Justin Bour is sidelined, and Dee Gordon isn’t exactly a home run threat at the top of Miami’s order. Scherzer has been downright dominant against same-handed bats, and he won’t face much pop at all from the left side on Monday. If Christian Yelich and Derek Dietrich are our only real concerns, then we should be very optimistic regarding Scherzer’s chances of success.

Scherzer is a -314 ML favorite at home while the Marlins own a slate-low 2.8-run implied total against the league’s best righty. Assuming his neck is no longer causing any problems, Scherzer should tear through this lineup like an F5 tornado. The only question I have now is why did I write so much about a pitcher who will so obviously be in all of our lineups?

Jake Arrieta [RHP – CHC] is similarly priced to Scherzer, but that’s just silly; Arrieta is striking only 23 percent of batters faced — an above average number for most, but not for someone priced above $11,000 — and owns the eighth highest swinging strike rate (9.1% SwStr) among all 14 pitchers on the seven-game slate. Arrieta faces a Giants teams that ranks dead last in wOBA vs. RHP but also ranks 26th in K-rate (19.2%). You’ll need a high number of punchouts from Chicago’s right-hander in order to justify throwing him into your lineups, but I don’t see the upside here. If you feel Arrieta can go seven or eight scoreless innings at the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, then I suppose he’s worth a look, but if you’re searching for a ceiling game it would be best to look elsewhere. I’ll be avoiding Arrieta across the industry, as it’s simply impossible to justify paying a premium for someone who’s failed to record 30 DraftKings Points in 18 of his last 19 starts.

Tim Adleman [RHP – CIN] vs. SDP As earlier noted, pitching is brutal on Monday, but we’ll still be forced to pair someone with Scherzer on all 2-SP sites. This leads us to Tim Adleman, who is the lowest priced pitcher on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft despite facing the bottom-feeding Padres. Let me be clear, Adleman is not a very good pitcher. Cincinnati’s right-hander is a low-upside arm with serious blowup potential, but he does have one very appealing attribute for Monday night: strikeout rate vs. right-handed bats.

On the year, Adelman is striking same-handed hitters out at an impressive 25.5-percent clip compared to 15.4-percent vs. left-handed bats. Great American Ballpark won’t do him many favors, but the Padres punchless, righty-heavy lineup could mitigate those concerns. San Diego will likely run out three lefties at most now that Hector Sanchez appears to be sidelined, with Yangervis Solarte, Corey Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje being their only remaining left-handed bats. The Padres rank 28th in wOBA (.305) vs. RHP, and are striking out at the league’s second highest clip (25.3%). We won’t need more than 10 DKPT from Adleman to justify deploying him at a near min-sal price point, but there’s legitimate 20-fantasy point upside here if all the stars align. It won’t feel especially comforting, but I’ll be using Adleman in the majority of my lineups on all two-pitcher sites.

Ervin Santana [RHP – MIN] and Carlos Martinez [RHP – STL] are viable tournament options in their respective matchups, but neither of them will inspire much confidence on Monday. Santana has thrown three complete games over his last 10 starts, and is more than capable of tossing another gem tonight, but I do worry about this matchup with Milwaukee. Santana is striking batters out at a sub-20-percent clip in 2017 and relies on weak contact to limit runs and work deep into games. That could harm him against a power-laden Brewers lineup, but could also work in his favor if Santana exploits the matchup, as Milwaukee leads the league in K-rate vs. RHP (25.6%).

If I’m choosing between Santana and Martinez I’m going with the former, as Martinez simply hasn’t looked sharp of late, and the Royals boast enough left-handed talent between Hosmer, Moustakas, Cabrera and even Moss to give him problems at Kauffman Stadium. Martinez has struggled enough against opposite-handed hitters this season (.351 wOBA, 21.8% K, 1.45 HR/9) to avoid against the Royals, who have recently upgraded their offense and strike out at a bottom-10 clip vs. RHP.

HITTING

 

HIGH-PRICED

 

Mike Trout [OF – R] vs. Bundy [RHP] Dylan Bundy was the beneficiary of some favorable luck earlier this season, allowing only two home runs and eight earned runs over his first six starts despite allowing a lot of hard contact and missing an unremarkable amount of bats. Actually, you could argue that Bundy has been lucky all season long, but regression does appear to have set in since the beginning of June. In ten starts over the past two-plus months, Bundy is sporting a 5.98 ERA with a 5.33 xFIP and 2.10 HR/9 allowed. He’s inducing ground balls at a well below average clip, while his 20.1-percent K-rate over that span is pedestrian at best.

Needless to say, Trout should be squarely on our radar against Bundy, who is holding righties to a .290 wOBA but has yet to faced the league’s most feared hitter. In case you were wondering, Trout is dismantling same-handed pitchers to the tune of a .474 wOBA and .385 ISO this season, both of which lead the league among all hitters with at least 200 PA. The Angels own a very respectable 4.8-run implied total inside the pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, where the deep outfield walls likely won’t be enough to save Bundy on Monday. Oh, and lest I forget, today is Trout’s birthday. I don’t buy into silly narratives for baseball, but Mike Trout isn’t exactly human.

 

Joey Votto [1B – L] vs. Chacin [RHP] I say this every year: Votto is one of the most underrated hitters in baseball. Every season he murders right-handed pitching, and in 2017 he’s smoking left-handed pitching, too! With a filthy .420 wOBA and .237 ISO vs. RHP for his career, Votto should have no trouble excelling on Monday, facing a right-hander in Chacin who has been absolutely dreadful away from Petco Park.

Chacin is holding hitters to a .242 wOBA at home compared to a .381 wOBA on the road. He’s allowing 0.70 HR/9 at home compared to 1.65 HR/9 allowed on the road. He’s allowing a .104 ISO at home compared to a .210 ISO on the road.

You get the point. But wait, there’s more: Chacin has been fantastic against right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .253 wOBA and .100 ISO, while sporting a 23-percent K-rate and 3.43 xFIP. Against lefties, however, Chacin is getting drilled for a .350/.201 wOBA/ISO with a 16-percent K-rate, 5.20 xFIP and 1.50 HR/9. Needless to say, Votto should be considered a top option at first base on a night where the Reds own the third highest implied run total (5.0) of any team on Monday’s slate.

 

Willson Contreras [C – R] @ Moore [LHP] Contreras has been so good that I wouldn’t blame anyone for paying top dollar for the second-year backstop — even at AT&T Park. Contreras is brutalizing left-handed pitching for a .405/.268 wOBA/ISO this season, while striking out at only 16.5 percent and walking at a 13.9-percent clip. Matt Moore has displayed some pronounced reverse splits this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s been particularly good against righties, either, as he’s allowing a .331 wOBA, striking them out at a sub-20-percent rate, and ceding 45.4-percent fly balls.

Moore hasn’t been great at home, he’s just been putrid on the road, and Chicago’s 4.7-run implied total inside the best pitcher’s park in baseball evidences his 2017 struggles. If you plan on paying for a catcher, look no further than Contreras. Oh, and it’s worth noting that Contreras is sporting a .470 wOBA with a 193 wRC+ since the start of July. He ranks second in home runs (10) and RBI (29) over the last 30 days.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Bryce Harper [OF – L] vs. O’Grady [LHP] [GPP]; Kris Bryant [3B – R] @ Moore [LHP]; Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] @ Moore [LHP] [GPP]; Andrew McCutchen [OF – R] vs. Zimmermann [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R]/Anthony Rendon [3B – R] vs. O’Grady [LHP] Zimmerman and Rendon have smashed left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .394/.309 wOBA/ISO and .501/.365, respectively. Zimmerman went cold for a while after starting the season on a torrid pace, but he’s now racked up two multi-home run games over his last eight starts and appears to be back on track. Not only has the veteran infielder been brilliant at home this season, but he’s making 43-percent hard contact vs. left-handed pitching while striking out at a mere 16-percent clip.

Rendon has been even more impressive against southpaws, boasting a behemoth 53-percent flyball rate, 10.7-percent K-rate and 16-percent BB-rate across 75 plate appearances. The sample is relatively small this year, but that shouldn’t keep us from loading up on Rendon against the 27-year-old O’Grady, who’s surrendering a .425 wOBA, .311 ISO and 2.40 HR/9 to righties through 72 batters faced.

O’Grady doesn’t have much major-league experience, but his 5.70 xFIP, six-percent K-BB rate, 42-percent flyball rate and 42-percent hard-hit rate vs. right-handed batters will work against him on Monday night. Washington owns a slate-high 5.3-run implied total at home, but I’d be surprised to see them finish with fewer than seven runs this evening.

 

Brian Dozier [2B – R] vs. Suter [LHP] Brent Suter has looked pretty solid through his first seven major-league starts, but I’m not buying the success. The 27-year-old southpaw is sitting on an 86 MPH fastball, has a five MPH velocity gap on his changeup, and owns an 8.4-percent swinging strike rate on the year. Does that look like a pitcher who should be excelling at the highest level of competition? I don’t think so.

Simply put, Suter gets the majority of his outs by working very fast, pounding the strike zone and hitting his spots more times than not. His only out-pitch against right-handers is the changeup, a pitch that Dozier ranked towards the top of the league against in 2016. Dozier has also hit southpaws well, with a .421 wOBA and .264 ISO this season. He’ll make for a fantastic second base play on Monday assuming he’s healthy enough to play, and Dozier won’t be hard to fit in lineups assuming you punt Adleman on two-pitcher sites.

Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] should also be considered at the position, especially on DraftKings where his salary has plummeted to $4,100. JC Ramirez has been solid against right-handed hitters, but Schoop is on an absolute tear right now, and can arguably be considered one of the best hitting second baseman in the game.

Having said that, I actually prefer Howie Kendrick [2B/OF – R] over Schoop on DraftKings if you intend on fading Dozier or if he isn’t in the Twins’ lineup. Kendrick is enjoying a great campaign at the dish, and faces a weak southpaw in O’Grady who is likely to get blown up on Monday. My one concern with Kendrick has been his inability to put balls in the air. Fortunately, his above average speed and ability to spray the ball across all parts of the field (30% Pull, 38% Center, 32% Oppo) makes hitting ground balls less of a liability.

 

Javier Baez [SS – R] @ Moore [LHP] Baez is someone I wanted to list as a tournament play for a few specific reasons: first, the shortstop position is a barren wasteland on Monday, headlined by a group of overpriced bats in less than favorable matchups. Second, Baez has crushed left-handed pitching this season to the tune of a .301 ISO and 38.3-percent hard-hit rate. Third, overpaying for Baez in GPPs isn’t an ill-advised approach, as many will already be overspending on bats at the position despite them being in sub-optimal matchups. Baez is a preferred tournament play on a night where you’ll likely need someone like him to take down GPPs.

 

Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Martinez [RHP] Moustakas is another enticing GPP play at a position where Rendon and Bryant will likely carry the heaviest ownership. Moustakas’ matchup with Martinez actually isn’t that bad, as he’s hitting righties for ample power this season and Martinez is coughing up an unsightly 1.45 HR/9 to left-handed bats. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Moose power one out of Kauffman Stadium on Monday night.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Scooter Gennett [2B/OF – L] vs. Chacin [RHP]; Cory Spangenberg [3B/OF – L] @ Adleman [RHP] [GPP]; Robbie Grossman [OF – L/R] vs. Suter [LHP]; Matt Carpenter [1B – L] @ Kennedy [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Eduardo Escobar [3B/SS – L/R] vs. Suter Escobar is a nice way to save at a weak shortstop position. The switch-hitting infielder has been markedly better from the right side of the plate this season, hitting lefties to the tune of a .353 wOBA and .206 ISO across 106 PA. With a 15-percent K-rate and 42-percent flyball rate, Escobar should be able to piece together some strong at bats against the soft-tossing Suter, and he can be had at a severely discounted price point across the industry.

Wilmer Difo [2B/SS – L/R] is another switch-hitting shortstop with some intrigue on Monday, squaring off against the left-handed O’Grady at home. Difo has seen only 43 PA vs. southpaw pitching this season, but he’s racked up some solid numbers in the process, including a .416 ISO and .250 ISO. Difo doesn’t make a ton of hard contact and hits more ground balls than we’d prefer, but he’s batting in an ultra-potent Nationals lineup and has enough speed to swipe the occasional bag. I’m not against rostering any Washington bats, especially if they’re as discounted as Difo is on FanDuel and DraftKings.

 

Chris Gimenez [C – R] vs. Suter [LHP] We won’t need much from Gimenez in order for him to pay off such a negligible price tag on Monday. At $2,500 on DraftKings and $2,100 on FanDuel, Gimenez should be considered a top value option at a weak catcher position, especially if he continues to bat fourth or sixth in Minnesota’s order. Gimenez won’t hit for average, and will quite possibly strike out in three of his four plate appearances, but a .224 ISO is more than enough for me to consider him against Suter. As earlier noted, I expect Suter to regress quite heavily in the very near future, and that could come tonight in Minnesota, where he’ll face a righty-heavy Twins lineup on the road.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: Kole Calhoun [OF – L] vs. Bundy [RHP]; Jesse Winker [OF – L] vs. Chacin [RHP]; Gregory Polanco [OF – L] vs. Zimmermann [RHP] [GPP]