MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/20/17

 

PITCHERS

 

Chris Sale [LHP BOS] and Robbie Ray [LHP – ARI] are almost identically priced across the industry, so let’s compare the two ahead of tonight’s slate: Sale leads the league in K-rate and K-BB rate this season. His 14.9 percent swinging strike rate ranks fourth, while only Masahiro Tanaka and Corey Kluber own higher chase rates than Sale in 2017. Sale has racked up an eye-popping 287 strikeouts across 201.1 innings pitched and has finished with double-digit punchouts in 17 of his 30 starts. Sale has only had seven starts this season with fewer than nine strikeouts, while he’s struck out 30-plus percent of batters in all but six outings.

Sale will face a Baltimore team on Wednesday that has climbed to 10th in wOBA (.330), seventh in ISO (.184) and eighth in wRC+ (103) vs. left-handed pitching this season. They do, however, strike out at a 23.1 percent clip (9th), draw walks at only 6.5 percent (30th) and rank dead last in speed (2.8). This is one of those matchups where Sale could cough up a few solo shots and still finish with 30-plus fantasy points against the O’s. That said, If he has trouble hitting his spots like he did against Tampa Bay, New York and Cleveland, Sale could struggle mightily to work efficient and effective innings.

 

Robbie Ray [LHP – ARI] can’t match up with Sale on the season, but he can sure give him a run for his money over the last month of baseball. Since August 20th, Ray ranks first in strikeout rate and K-BB rate by a massive margin (44.7% K, 39.8% K-BB), first in xFIP (1.60), sixth in WHIP (0.77) and fifth in wOBA against (.210). Ray’s 18.3 percent swinging strike rate, 36 percent O-Swing rate and 42.1 percent O-Contact rate over his last five starts are virtual perfection. Outside of Corey Kluber, there hasn’t been a better fantasy pitcher than Ray over the last 30 days, and now he’ll draw a matchup with the Padres inside Petco Park.

San Diego unsurprisingly sits 29th in wOBA (.291), 21st in ISO (.155) and third in K-rate (25.1%) vs. left-handed pitching. They haven’t been any better at home this season, either, with the 29th ranked wOBA, 24th ranked ISO and third highest K-rate in 2017. We can expect Andy Green to run a righty-heavy lineup against Ray, but Arizona’s ace left-hander is striking righties out at a 31.1-percent clip with a .279 wOBA surrendered this season. Ray has performed better against same-handed bats (41.5% K, .256 wOBA, 2.02 xFIP), but he’s still been elite when hitters have the platoon advantage and is missing more than enough bats to mitigate any power allowed.

I’ll be rostering Ray over Sale at a comparable price point tonight, and honestly can say I’m not too worried about the decision. If it seems like Ray is going to garner much higher ownership, however, I’ll look to work Sale into GPPs.

 

Brad Peacock [RHP – HOU] will be a tough fit if you intend on rostering either of the aforementioned southpaws, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t highlight him as a top play against the Sox. Chicago’s offense is well below average at best and absolutely dreadful at worst. Among their everyday starters, Matt Davidson, Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada own 30-plus percent K-rates vs. RHP, while Tim Anderson, Tyler Saladino and Alen Hanson are fanning at a 24-plus-percent clip this season. Despite a few bats in the middle of their order (Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Nicky Delmonico), the White Sox are chock full of pitcher-friendly bats, and Peacock should have no trouble exploiting these weaknesses on Wednesday.

Peacock’s swinging strike rate has skyrocketed to 12.2 percent this season, while his Contact rate has plummeted to 71.9 percent across 121 innings. A career-best 30.4 percent K-rate and 2.90 xFIP should also be noted, as the White Sox own the sixth highest K-rate vs. RHP this season (23.7%) with a bottom-10 ISO (.161) to boot.

Peacock has been virtually unhittable vs. right-handed bats (.238 wOBA, 31% K, 0.25 HR/9), which should serve him well against a Chicago team that will likely run a 5-6-righty lineup on Wednesday. He’s a slate-best -280 ML favorite at home, the White Sox own the second lowest implied run total (3.5) on the night, and Peacock should be afforded ample run support with James Shields toeing the rubber for Chicago. If you plan on fading both of the night’s top-shelf arms in tournaments, Peacock should be the first pitcher you turn to for upside.

 

[Fade] Alex Wood [LHP – LAD] bounced back from a string of bad starts in his last outing against the Nationals, but I’m not confident in his ability to repeat that performance on Wednesday. Sure, the Phillies are one of the most punchless teams in baseball, but it isn’t the matchup that concerns me here. Wood’s fastball velocity, which was sitting at 94 MPH to start the year, was down to 90 MPH in his last start, and he allowed 40-plus-percent line drives on both the two-seamer and curve.

I’m not saying Wood can’t shut down the Phillies in what should be considered a very appealing spot, but I’m worried that he’s wearing down as the season comes to a close. His groundball rate is down to 44 percent through 10 starts over the last two months,  his K-rate has plummeted to 18.6 percent, and his home run rate has ballooned to 1.66/9. Wood has coughed up 11 long balls over his last 10 starts after holding the opposition to only two home runs through his first 15 outings. There are some troublesome trends here — enough to keep me from rostering Wood on Wednesday night.

 

Dinelson Lamet [RHP – SDP] is the most underpriced pitcher on Wednesday’s 11-game main slate, weighing in at only $7,700 on DraftKings for a plus home matchup with the Diamondbacks. Arizona has struggled mightily away from home this season, ranking 29th in wOBA (.299), 21st in ISO (.159) and seventh in K-rate (24.1%) on the road. It makes sense, too, considering Chase Field is one of the most hitter-friendly venues the game has to offer. To be fair, the Diamondbacks have tuned up right-handed pitching for the most part (.334/.193 wOBA/ISO), but still strike out at 23.3 percent (8th) on the year.

Lamet is holding right-handed hitters to a miniscule .231 wOBA while striking them out at a whopping 34.7 percent clip. He’s inducing 22-percent soft contact and is surrendering only 0.57 HR/9 at Petco Park. Lamet has struggled against left-handers this year, but appears to have corrected the issue of late, holding them to a .053 ISO with a .277 xwOBA over his last 10 starts. Moreover, Jake Lamb and David Peralta have been ice cold for an extended stretch of time, while Ketel Marte and Daniel Descalso don’t exactly pose much of a power threat inside this pitcher-friendly park.

Lamet could have a tough time earning the win with Robbie Ray opposite him on the mound tonight, but Arizona’s unimposing 4.0-run implied total suggests that this should be one of the lowest scoring affairs on the slate. Lamet makes for a great pairing with any of the top-tier pitching options, and should be considered a stellar SP-2 option in all formats across the industry.

 

Felix Hernandez [RHP – SEA] would be an easy second pitcher choice on Wednesday if he wasn’t dealing with a pitch count. The Mariners are chasing a wild card spot with only 11 games to play, sitting four games behind the Twins for the fifth and final seed in the American League. But Scott Servais already commented on Hernandez’s pitch count, stating that he won’t be on a hard count, but “can’t imagine he’ll go 100 pitches.” The good news here is Felix won’t be on a tight leash. The bad news is the leash is still around his neck.

With Seattle needing to win every possible game heading into October, it’s reasonable to assume Hernandez will be allowed to pitch relatively deep into tonight’s contest if he’s sharp early on. The Rangers are also battling to make the playoffs, and currently sit only half a game above the Mariners, so both teams are in a position to take some chances if their starters are cruising out of the gate.

Hernandez’s velocity looked fine in his return from the DL, and he allowed only 9-percent hard contact across his 3.2 innings of work. He also garnered 11.1-percent swinging strikes on the night. Tonight’s matchup with Texas presents some upside, too, as the Rangers strike out at the fifth highest clip vs. RHP (23.9%) and lead the league in K-rate away from home (25.9%). If Felix can get to ~85 pitches, he should be able to pay off such a low price point on both DraftKings and FantasyDraft.

 

Steven Brault [LHP – PIT] is far from a safe value option tonight, but there isn’t much to choose from once you drop below Lamet. The 25-year-old southpaw owned a respectable 24.4-percent K-rate in the minors since 2016 while allowing only 0.50 HR/9 in the process. That said, he isn’t a unique prospect, sits on a low-90’s fastball, and doesn’t get many swinging strikes on pitches other than his changeup.

However, Brault shut down the Brewers for six scoreless (one-hit) innings last week, managing six strikeouts and the win at Miller Park. He’ll get a nice park shift at PNC tonight, and is at least worth considering in tournaments if you’re looking to pay up for SP-1 and bats. The Brewers strike out at the league’s second highest clip vs. LHP (25.8%) and own a less-than-stellar 4.3-run implied total on the road. Brault could pay off his salary with relative ease assuming he can toss five or six serviceable innings with a handful of strikeouts along the way.

TOURNAMENT PLAYS: Luke Weaver [RHP – STL] @ CIN; Jake Thompson [RHP – PHI] vs. LAD

 

HITTERS

HIGH-END

 

Mike Trout [OF – R] is usually always worth the high salary, but I’d pay even more than the asking price tonight against Josh Tomlin. Tomlin is an average pitcher at best, and he has always struggled with allowing power to right-handed bats (1.60 HR/9 in 2017, 1.57 HR/9 career). Trout is 5-6 against him with a homer, two doubles and a triple, so that’s not awful, either. BvP isn’t important, though, as Trout eats these types of righties alive. Tomlin allows too much hard contact and doesn’t induce enough ground balls to sit Trout down, especially knowing that the latter is hammering righties to the tune of a .455 wOBA and .361 ISO this season. You know what to do.

 

Kris Bryant [3B – R] is a top option against Blake Snell tonight, especially considering the third base position is relatively thin for an 11-game slate. Bryant is sporting a nice .421/.233 wOBA/ISO vs. left-handed pitching on the season, while Snell has struggled against opposite-handed bats. All 14 of the homers allowed by Snell have come against RHH, and his flyball rate shoots to 40 percent when batters have the platoon advantage. Bryant isn’t overpriced, either, which makes him a much easier fit at a low-to-mid-$4K salary. Tropicana Field isn’t exactly a hitters’ haven, but that seems to be baked into Bryant’s price tag tonight.

 

Mookie Betts [OF – R] will probably be popular tonight, but it’s hard not to like him in a mouthwatering matchup with Wade Miley. Not only is Miley allowing a robust .372 wOBA to righties this year, but his 21 home runs allowed is the sixth worst mark in baseball. He does a solid of job of inducing ground balls, but owns a 20 percent HR/FB rate vs. righties, so if you put the ball in the air it’ll have a good chance of finding the seats. Betts isn’t a world-beater when it comes to drawing the platoon advantage, but I’ll take my chances in this matchup. It’ll be 82 degrees in Camden Yards at first pitch, and Boston owns a respectable 5.1-run implied total on the night.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Braun [OF – R] @ Brault [LHP]; Tommy Pham [OF – R] @ Davis [RHP]; Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] @ Nolasco [RHP]; Jose Altuve [2B – R] vs. Shields [RHP]; Trea Turner [SS – R] @ Sims [RHP]; Paul DeJong [SS – R] @ Davis [RHP]

 

MID-RANGE

 

Marwin Gonzalez [SS/OF – L/R] and Josh Reddick [OF – L] draw a phenomenal matchup tonight, squaring off against James Shields at Minute Maid Park. Shields has settled down a bit in recent starts, but he continues to be punished by left-handed bats. On the year, Shields is still allowing a .394 wOBA, .289 ISO and 3.02 HR/9 to opposite-handed hitters, while striking them out at only 16.9 percent and ceding 44-percent fly balls in the process. Despite his improvements, Shields has coughed up 14 home runs over his last nine starts, eight of which have come to lefties. Furthermore, no pitcher has allowed more home runs to LHH over the last three months than Shields (15).

Needless to say, it’s easy to see why Gonzalez and Reddick warrant consideration tonight, especially considering Houston boasts a slate-high 6.2-run implied total at home. It’s also worth noting that over the last two months Chicago’s bullpen ranks dead last in xFIP (6.00), 29th in K-BB rate (3.0%) and 28th in HR/9 (1.90). I’ll happily load up on all Astro bats tonight, but I’m especially interested in these mid-range lefties against Shields.

 

Matt Carpenter [1B – L] is quietly having a solid season at the plate, sporting a .372 wOBA and .223 ISO vs. right-handed pitching. Carpenter’s numbers won’t wow you, but he’s priced affordably across the industry and draws a stellar matchup with Rookie Davis inside Great American Smallpark. To put things into perspective, Davis allowed 1.32 HR/9 in Double-A this season (13.2 IP) and 1.94 HR/9 in Triple-A (60.1 IP) before being called up last week. He was rocked by left-handed hitters at the minor-league level, so I don’t know how Davis is going to survive on Wednesday night.

Dexter Fowler [OF – L/R] also needs to be considered against Davis, as he is not only coming off two of his biggest games of the season, but his Cardinals boast a 5.6-run implied total on the night. We also have to love the 80-degree temperatures and 80-percent humidity in September, which should go a long way at Great American Ballpark. I’ll have ample exposure to the Cardinals tonight, but Carpenter and Fowler make for two of the easiest plays at their respective price points.

 

Rhys Hoskins [1B/OF – R] has seen his salary drop $1,200 on DraftKings since Monday, so naturally I’m going to look his way tonight. The matchup with Alex Wood is certainly a difficult one on paper, but I don’t think we can overlook the southpaw’s struggles over the last couple months. Of the 11 home runs Wood has allowed across his last nine starts, eight have come against right-handed bats. Righties own a .227 ISO against him over the span, are averaging 1.75 HR/9 and are striking out at a mere 19.7 percent clip.

We all know I’m an Alex Wood truther, but the 26-year-old left-hander certainly seems to wearing down over the latter part of the season. Hoskins should go overlooked on Wednesday despite being severely discounted with the platoon advantage. He also got back on track last night after a four-game mini slump, finishing 2-3 at the plate with a double and four RBI against the Dodgers.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jose Martinez [1B/OF – R] @ Davis [RHP]; Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] @ Thompson [RHP]; Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] @ Hernandez [RHP] [GPP]; Justin Turner [3B – R] @ Thompson [RHP]; Hernan Perez [3B/OF – R] @ Brault [LHP]

 

VALUE

 

Kolten Wong [2B – L] makes for an easy way to get cheap exposure to the Cardinals tonight, as he draws the platoon advantage against Rookie Davis inside one of the most hitter-friendly venues around. Take all of the reasons on why we should be playing Carpenter and Fowler and apply them to Wong. He’s also considerably cheaper than any other playable bats in this lineup. Rookie Davis is arguably the worst pitcher on tonight’s 11-game slate, so we would be remiss to not mention as many Cardinals bats at possible.

 

Adam Lind [1B/OF – L] and Sam Travis [1B – R] are two cheap first base options with upside tonight. Lind appears to have risen from his slumber of late and draws a great matchup at Suntrust Park with Lucas Sims, while Travis faces a volatile southpaw in Wade Miley at Camden Yards. There’s no guarantee Travis will be in the lineup, but I’d imagine he’ll get the start against the left-hander. I prefer Lind’s power upside, though, especially considering Atlanta’s new stadium favors left-handed hitters in a big way. Lind offers plenty of power vs. RHP (.218 ISO) and is ultra-cheap across the board.

 

Salvador Perez [C – R] and Yadier Molina [C – R] can be had at a nice price on Wednesday, and both of them draw favorable respective matchups. Perez is smashing left-handed pitching to the tune of a .230 ISO, a very solid power number for any catcher. Brett Anderson, despite his groundball tendencies, is giving up a ton of hard contact and doesn’t miss any bats. Perez is hitting 52-percent fly balls with 42-percent hard contact vs. left-handed pitching this season, so he should be able to mitigate the one thing Anderson does well.

Molina is a product of the team total (5.6) and could see five plate appearances against Rookie Davis and Cincinnati’s bullpen. He rounds out a Cardinals stack nicely and makes for a great plug and play at a typically weak catcher position. After totaling 19 home runs over his last three seasons combined, Molina has already come one homer shy of that tally this season. The power has returned, but his price tag remains relatively low.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brian McCann [C – L] vs. Shields [RHP]; Christian Vazquez [C – R] @ Miley [LHP]; Adam Frazier [2B/OF – L] vs. Wilkerson [RHP]; Lorenzo Cain [OF – R] @ Anderson [LHP]