MLB DEEP DIVE – 8/9/17

PITCHING

Let’s get this out of the way early: I’m not paying a premium for Gio Gonzalez [LHP – WAS], but I really don’t like Zack Greinke’s [RHP – ARI] matchup, either. The Dodgers rank towards the top of the league against right-handed pitching and they’ll get a favorable park boost at Chase Field tonight. If I’m rolling the dice on one of the higher priced arms it’s going to be Alex Wood [LHP – LAD]. Wood is underpriced relative to his production, and despite a few underwhelming starts, shouldn’t be below $10K on DraftKings if Greinke is $11K in the same damn park.

Wood has seen his ground ball rate come down a bit (60% GB), but he’s allowing the least hard contact of any pitcher in baseball (22.2% HH), while his 2.93 xFIP is bested by only Kluber, Sale and Kershaw. I’m worried about this matchup, and don’t think the Diamondbacks are nearly as bad against lefties as the numbers may suggest, but at Wood’s price point there is definitely an avenue to success. It’s also worth noting that Wood has endured some bad luck over this recent three-game slump.

Masahiro Tanaka [RHP – NYY] @ TOR When searching for upside we need not look any further than Tanaka. The 28-year-old righty owns the league’s fourth highest swinging strike rate (15%), the highest Chase rate (38.7% O-Swing) and the sixth lowest Contact rate (70.8%) in 2017. He’s had some brutal outings this season, but there has been absolutely no shortage of missed bats, and that’s why Tanaka remains in play tonight. The Blue Jays rank 22nd in wOBA (.312) vs. RHP while sitting 21st in wRC+ (93) and 15th in ISO (.172). They’re only striking out at a 20.5-percent clip, but this isn’t the most formidable baseball team overall. They also have the third lowest implied run total (4.1) on Wednesday’s slate. I don’t love this spot for Tanaka, but I do love his ceiling at a low-$9K salary.

Collin McHugh [RHP – HOU] @ CWS McHugh faces a White Sox team that recently traded away the majority of their major-league caliber hitters, and that’s enough reason to consider him on Wednesday. Chicago is barely averaging three runs per game over their last 25 contests, in which they’ve gone 4-21, and they are once again massive home dogs tonight (HOU – 213). They rank 29th in wOBA (.302), 28th in wRC+ (86) and seventh in K-rate (22.9%) vs. RHP. As far as McHugh goes, he’s sporting a 24.6-percent K-rate and 12.4-percent swinging strike rate through his first three starts, and should have a mountain of run support as his Astros offense tees off against Miguel Gonzalez. I don’t mind paying a slightly elevated price point for McHugh on a night where he possesses legitimate 30-DraftKings Point upside. I’d prefer to use both McHugh and Tanaka over Rick Porcello [RHP – BOS] despite the latter’s matchup with Tampa Bay.

As far as value pitchers go, there are three guys I’m looking at: Asher Wojciechowski [RHP – CIN] has racked up 40 strikeouts across 39 innings pitched, boasts a healthy 10.6-percent swinging strike rate, and a 25.3-percent K-rate against lefties and righties alike. He’s struggled with the longball, but should be able to mitigate those concerns against a Padres team that ranks 28th in wOBA (.305) and second in K-rate (25.2%) vs. right-handed pitching. Wojciechowski is a -143 ML favorite at home, and while hard hit balls and fly balls have been a problem area for him this season, it’s worth noting that the Padres own the highest soft contact rate (22.5%) in 2017. There’s definitely a path to success here, but he’ll need the curveball to be working in order to finish batters off.

Brandon Woodruff [RHP – MIL] also warrants some consideration against the Twins. Woodruff looked sharp in his first major-league start, striking out six batters across 6.1 scoreless frames, while inducing 12.4 percent swinging strikes and 38.5 percent swings on pitches out of the zone. The Twins are a middle of the road offense in every sense, although they are right outside the top-10 in K-rate vs. RHP (22.2% K). Woodruff should be able to pay off his dirt-cheap price tag if he can get through five innings, as the Brewers should pile on the runs against Bartolo Colon at Miller Park.

Sean Newcomb [LHP – ATL] brings value to the table based purely on a matchup with the Phillies. He’s a -150 ML favorite at SunTrust Park, where left-handed pitchers fare much better than righties, and should be able to rack up a handful of strikeouts against a Phillies squad that fans at a near 22-percent clip. Newcomb doesn’t have any pronounced platoon splits, either, so he should be able to work cleanly through the order if Philadelphia runs out majority left-handers.

HITTING

HIGH-PRICED

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] vs. Eickhoff [RHP] Eickhoff’s primary struggles have come against left-handed hitters this season, to whom he’s allowing a .356 wOBA and 1.36 HR/9 this season. Eickhoff will have his hands full against Freeman at SunTrust Park, especially considering he’s serving up 41-percent fly balls and 33-percent hard contact. Eickhoff also owns a 5.46 xFIP vs. LHH to go along with a pedestrian 18-percent K-rate and 11.7-percent BB-rate this year. Freeman hammers all right-handed arms, so Eickhoff should hardly be a concern. Atlanta also boasts a surprising 5.3-run implied run total at home. Consider Freeman a top play once again.

Jose Altuve [2B – R] @ Gonzalez [RHP] I don’t need to elaborate much here; Altuve ranks sixth in wOBA (.422) among all qualified hitters, remains red-hot at the plate, and faces a pitcher in Miguel Gonzalez who is striking righties out at a 12-percent clip in 2017. The Astros own a slate-high 6.1-run implied run total inside the hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field, and a bevy of discounted pitching options make it possible to roster Altuve in all formats across the industry. If you can afford him, play him. The same can be said Josh Reddick [OF – L], Marwin Gonzalez [SS/OF – L/R], Alex Bregman [3B – R], Yuli Gurriel [1B – R] and George Springer [OF – R] if he’s activated from the DL. All of these high-end Houston bats are in play against Gonzalez, especially now that Chicago traded away all of their best bullpen arms at the trade deadline.

Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Gonzalez [LHP] Stanton has recorded five home runs and nine RBI over his last five games, and now he’ll face a left-hander on Wednesday night. Gonzalez is a solid southpaw who is having one of the better seasons of his career, but he’s still serving up a career-worst 1.32 HR/9 to right-handed hitters while allowing 32-percent hard contact on the year. I don’t like stacking against Gonzalez, and don’t plan on doing so tonight, but I’ll certainly have some exposure to Stanton, who owns a stellar .412/.373 wOBA/ISO vs. LHP this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him extend his home run streak on Wednesday night.

Anthony Rendon [3B – R] vs. Conley [LHP] Rendon annihilates left-handed pitching, and he won’t get a much better matchup than the one he’ll draw with Conley tonight. Conley is asking to get tuned up against this power-laden Nationals squad, as he’s allowing 41-percent fly balls and 38-percent hard contact to right-handed bats. Conley’s 5.39 xFIP and 6.8-percent K-BB rate won’t do him any favors, either, especially considering Rendon is sporting a .500/.365 wOBA/ISO vs. southpaws in 2017. Rendon is in play across the board, but his $3,400 price tag on FanDuel is the most enticing. Bryce Harper [OF – L] is also in play despite the L-L matchup, as Conley is bad enough to struggle against anyone — not to mention one of the best overall hitters in the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: Cody Bellinger [1B/OF – L] @ Greinke [RHP] [GPP]; Aaron Judge [OF – R] @ Tepesch [RHP]

MID-RANGE

Zack Cozart [SS – R] vs. Wood [LHP] Travis Wood has done a decent job of limiting home runs this season, but that’s what happens when you pitch at Petco Park. Wood owns a 6.08 xFIP with 1.83 HR/9 allowed away from home, which should spell trouble for him tonight at Great American Ballpark. Enter Zack Cozart, who’s smashing lefties to the tune of a .477 wOBA and .329 ISO across 80 PA this season. Cozart has looked outstanding with the platoon advantage, limiting strikeouts and drawing walks at a double-digit clip. He won’t come especially cheap, but Cozart is clearly a top shortstop play on a night where the Reds own a 5.3-run implied run total inside the homer-happy GAB. Cozart and Marwin Gonzalez [SS/OF – L/R] are the two players I’ll be targeting at the high end of the position.

Travis Shaw [3B – L] vs. Colon [RHP] Third base is arguably the deepest of the six positions on Wednesday, headlined by Freeman, Rendon, Bregman and Shaw. We would be remiss to not mention Shaw in a home matchup with Bartolo Colon, who at 44 years old should get hammered by the Brewers. Yes, I’m well aware he threw a complete game against the Rangers, but Colon still allowed four runs with a 47-percent hard-hit rate and 47-percent fly balls in that highly unusual performance. Colon is ceding 40-percent hard contact to lefties and 44-percent fly balls on the season, while striking them out at a dismal 13-percent clip. Shaw, meanwhile, is mashing righties to the tune of a .401 wOBA, .270 ISO and 40-percent hard-hit rate this season. It’s hard not to love the Brewers’ slugging third baseman on Wednesday night.

Gary Sanchez [C – R] @ Tepesch [RHP] Gary Sanchez is far too cheap to ignore in a plus matchup with Nick Tepesch. Toronto called Tepesch up after Cesar Valdez joined Aaron Sanchez on the shelf, and while he likely won’t throw a ton of pitches, this still makes for a great matchup for Sanchez and Co. Tepesch was peppered across 49 innings in the minors this season, so it’s hard to believe he’ll fare much better against the Yankees. Ultimately, however, Sanchez is in play because of his depressed price point; when you can have him at a mid-range cost against a minor-league righty, there’s no reason to second guess the decision.

HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Asuaje [2B – L] @ Wojciechowski [RHP]; Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] vs. Colon [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Leake [RHP]; Ryan Zimmerman [1B – R] vs. Conley [LHP]; Matt Carpenter [1B – L] vs. Cahill [RHP] [DraftKings]; Ryan Braun [OF – R] vs. Colon [RHP]; Adam Duvall [OF – R] vs. Wood [LHP]

VALUE

Adrian Sanchez [2B/SS – R] vs. Conley [LHP] Sanchez becomes a top value option across the industry if he continues to bat second for the Nationals on Wednesday. Howie Kendrick is dealing with back troubles, so there’s a good chance Sanchez will draw another start. The 26-year-old middle infielder is a career minor leaguer, but he’s also minimum salary across the board. He won’t need more than a single and a run scored to not kill you in cash.

Eric Hosmer [1B – L] @ Leake [RHP] Hosmer is way too cheap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, priced like someone who’s facing Clayton Kershaw, not Mike Leake. Since the start of June, Leake owns a 4.48 ERA with a 7.7-percent swinging strike rate and 14.2-percent K-rate. I can’t guarantee Hosmer will produce, but I can guarantee he’ll put the ball in play. I’d really prefer to pay up at first base, but Hosmer is there if you need a punt.

Eric Thames [1B/OF – L] is also in play at a similar price point, but he draws a much better matchup against Colon. If you’re punting the position on FanDuel Thames makes the most sense at $2,900. Thames has had a rough go of it since June, but he still possesses more than enough pop to take advantage of an ancient right-hander inside the homer-happy Miller Park.

J.T. Realmuto [C – R] @ Gonzalez [LHP] As earlier noted, Gio Gonzalez has been solid this season, but he’s still on pace to allow a career-worst 23 home runs to right-handed bats. I’m not in favor of stacking Marlins, either, but I’m definitely will to use some one-off bats at weak positions. Realmuto makes for a strong one-off at catch if you don’t intend on paying for Sanchez, as Miami’s starting backstop is sporting a filthy .437 wOBA and .275 ISO vs. LHP this season. Realmuto is striking out at a mere 13-percent clip against southpaws, too, while hitting 43-percent fly balls in the process.

Brian McCann [C – L] will be a top cash game option against Gonzalez assuming he’s in the lineup. If McCann sits, however, Juan Centeno [C – L] would easily become the top punt at the position. If Centeno is in the Astros’ order I’ll be deploying him in the majority of my lineups regardless of projected ownership. Houston’s 6.1-run implied total and Miguel Gonzalez’s pure ineptitude on the mound is enough to roster the near min-sal backstop with confidence regardless of where he’s slotted.

HONORABLE MENTION: Corey Dickerson [OF – L] vs. Porcello [RHP]; Jim Adduci [OF – L] @ Nova [RHP]; Gregory Polanco [OF – L] @ Verlander [RHP] [GPP]; Brad Miller [2B – L] vs. Porcello [RHP] [GPP]