MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/2/17
Max Scherzer travels to Miller Park to take on the Brewers. Scherzer has been absolutely phenomenal this season, striking out 35.8 percent of hitters while recording a 16.0 percent swinging strike percentage. The Brewers lead all of baseball with a 26.9 percent strikeout percentage over the last 30 days. Scherzer is, obviously, a top option in any format. If you are looking for a reason to fade him in tournaments, it is worth noting his splits against lefties and righties. He has struck out 44.5 percent of righties while allowing 0.62 home runs per nine innings compared to 27.6 percent of lefties while allowing 1.58 home runs per nine innings. Travelling to Miller Park will not do him any favors as far as left-handed power goes. The Brewers’ projected lineup has four lefties in the top six hitters and they all have an ISO of at least .175 against right-handed pitching since the start of last season. There is more risk to this matchup than most for Scherzer, but he still clearly is a top pitching option.
Aaron Nola has been excellent over the last two months, striking out 26.5 percent of hitters since the start of July. He has been especially good against right-handed hitters, striking out 30.0 percent while recording a 50.5 percent groundball percentage on 28.1 percent soft contact and 28.1 percent hard contact over that span. Most of the Marlins’ projected lineup is right-handed and they do not have any true power lefties, making Nola a very appealing option despite his struggles the last time that he faced Miami.
Dan Straily has been good at home this season, striking out 21.5 percent of hitters while allowing only 0.93 home runs per nine innings (compared to 1.82 on the road). Tonight, he will face Philadelphia at home in Miami. The Phillies have struck out 24.1 percent of the time over the last 30 days, which is the third-highest mark in baseball. Philadelphia will most likely have a balanced lineup, but the top will probably be lefty-heavy. Straily has a 23.2 percent strikeout percentage against lefties this season and has only allowed 1.07 home runs per nine innings so that should not concern us. He is reasonably priced for the park and matchup and is a viable option in any format.
Patrick Corbin has turned himself into a legitimate ace over the last month or so. First, he increased his change-up usage and we saw Corbin’s numbers begin to trend up. Then, he cut out his change-up almost entirely and replaced it with more sliders. Corbin has a filthy slider and he is now throwing it over 40 percent of the time. Over the last 30 days, Corbin’s 28.1 percent strikeout percentage is the 11th-highest among qualified starters, his 12.9 percent swinging strike percentage ranks 8th, and his 37.5 percent o-swing percentage ranks 5th.
Along with the excellent strikeout numbers, Corbin has recorded a 57.8 percent groundball percentage while inducing 24.7 percent soft contact with just 24.7 percent hard contact. It is always risky to roster a pitcher in Coors Field, but Corbin is a pitcher who should be priced above $10,000 on DraftKings and we can roster him in this spot for just $8,400.
Additionally, also has been very good at home in Arizona this season, which is one of the most difficult parks to pitch in, and he primarily features a hard fastball and a slider- two pitches that are not negatively affected by the altitude in Colorado. Corbin is my favorite tournament pitcher on the board despite the risk of pitching in Coors Field.
Carlos Rodon had a tough outing against a right-handed heavy Tigers lineup in his last outing but he gets a much more favorable matchup tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay has strikeouts up and down their lineup and they lack power against left-handed pitching. Rodon has a 23.0 percent strikeout percentage and 3.69 xFIP over the last 30 days and gets one of his better matchups of the season against the Rays. It is a boost for Rodon if Kevan Smith is behind the plate.
Brandon Woodruff is your guy if you are looking for a dirt cheap SP2 to pair with Max Scherzer. He seems to be a decent young pitcher for the Brewers, striking out 21.5 percent of hitters at AAA this season. He has not picked up many strikeouts in the Majors so far, but he did post a swinging strike percentage north of 11.0 percent in two of his three starts at the big league level so the stuff appears to be there. The Nationals are not at full strength right now without Bryce Harper and they lack left-handed power. Woodruff is risky, but he does have upside at his price tag and allows you to roster quality hitters along with Scherzer.
Joey Gallo faces Ricky Nolasco in Texas tonight. There is going to be a theme among my favorite hitters on the slate and Gallo is the first of several that are playing in this game in Texas. Nolasco has allowed 2.48 home runs per nine innings away from Anaheim this season, more than 1 home run more than he has allowed at home.
Globe Life Park in Texas is one of the more difficult places to pitch, so it is likely that we see Nolasco struggle tonight. Gallo has a .361 ISO against right-handed pitching over the last 12 months and Nolasco has allowed 1.86 home runs per nine innings on the road to lefties this season. Nolasco has also struck out just 15.5 percent of lefties he has faced this season, which eliminates some of the risk when rostering Gallo.
Mike Trout appears to be recovered from whatever was ailing him that forced him out of the lineup for a couple of days. Tonight, he will face Rangers’ righty A.J. Griffin. Griffin is a flyball pitcher which gives Trout a ton of upside in this hitter-friendly park. Griffin has allowed 2.70 home runs per nine innings to righties this season with a 60.6 percent flyball percentage- though it is worth pointing out that he has over a 24 percent infield flyball percentage. Still, this is an excellent spot for the best hitter in baseball.
Justin Upton remains underpriced since joining the Angels. He has the same high-upside matchup as Trout and is available on DraftKings for $1,400 less. Upton has a .226 ISO against right-handed pitching this season, despite playing his home games in spacious Comerica Park.
Nomar Mazara is available at a sub-$4,000 price tag on DraftKings against Nolasco in Texas. Mazara has a .203 ISO against righties over the last 12 months and his hard hit percentage is up 12 percentage points above his season average over the last 15 days. Mazara is one of the top value plays on the slate in an excellent spot against Nolasco.
Luis Valbuena, another hitter in the Angels-Rangers game, is also cheap and gets a huge ballpark boost travelling to Texas. Valbuena struggles to make contact at times, but he does have a .234 ISO against righties over the last 12 months. Griffin has struck out just over 16 percent of lefties this season while allowing 2.03 home runs per nine innings. Valbuena offers a ton of upside anytime Valbuena faces a righty who pitches to contact.
Mike Moustakas remains too cheap for the power that he has. Kyle Gibson has allowed 1.32 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season while inducing just 12.4 percent soft contact. Moustakas has 36 home runs on the season with a .297 ISO against righties.
Los Angeles Angels/ Texas Rangers- It is rare that I take a huge stand on stacks in tournaments because of the amount of variance that comes with hitting. That being said, these two teams are far and away at the top of my list tonight. Both starting pitchers are flyball pitchers who are prone to home runs and the hitters one both teams are reasonably priced which allows you to roster the pitchers that you want to go along with them. Both teams also offer stolen base upside so there is even more potential than just home runs.
Finally, while it is less of an issue since there are September call-ups, the Angels used 8 different relievers last night while the Rangers used 6. Tired bullpens always make for higher upside stacks. I do not expect either of these teams to be as low-owned as they were last night but, with 11 games on the slate including a game in Coors, I do not think that ownership will scare me off this one either as there are no teams that project to even close to these two teams right now in terms of upside and affordability.