MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/22/17

PITCHERS

Zack Greinke [RHP – ARI] and Justin Verlander [RHP – DET] are too expensive tonight. We have several other pitchers with comparable ceilings at much cheaper price points, and all of them have equal strikeout upside on Friday night. Greinke and Verlander have both been quite superb, but they face two bottom-10 strikeout opponents in hitter-friendly venues and are going to cost you a fortune across the board. I’ll take my chances elsewhere on high-upside arms with better matchups and/or much cheaper salaries.

Jon Gray [RHP – COL] is a stellar mid-range play against a Padres squad that owns a sub-4-run implied total on Friday night. San Diego has been much more potent against left-handed pitchers of late, so I’m not nearly as concerned with them facing a right-hander at Petco Park. They own the league’s 29th ranked wOBA (.300), 22nd ranked ISO (.162) and second highest K-rate (25.1%) vs. right-handed pitching this season, while sitting 29th, 24th and 3rd, respectively, in those categories at home. They’re still a bad baseball team despite a few decent games against southpaw starters.

Rich Hill [LHP – LAD] might not offer double-digit strikeout upside in this specific spot, but the Giants are a legitimately putrid baseball team at the dish. No team owns a lower wOBA (.290) or ISO (.117) at home than the Giants, as they’ve recorded only 47 home runs across 2915 plate appearances this season! Sure, this game takes place in L.A., but it’s still a pitcher-friendly venue (I initially thought they were at AT&T Park and didn’t want to delete those ridiculously bad home splits). They’re better than only the Angles vs. left-handed pitching this year, too, and have offered virtually no power regardless of venue.

No, the Giants don’t strike out at a favorable clip for fantasy purposes, but good pitchers have had success against them in that department. Moreover, the Giants own the lowest implied run total on Friday’s 15-game slate (2.9). Hill is priced $3K lower than Greinke and Verlander, has been fantastic at home this year, and boasts a 12-percent swinging strike rate, 31-percent K-rate and 6.9-percent BB-rate since the All-Star break.

Masahiro Tanaka [RHP – NYY] isn’t as safe as tonight’s top-shelf pitching options, But his ceiling is as high, if not higher than both. Get this: Tanaka ranks third in swinging strike rate (15.0%) behind only Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, leads the league in O-Swing% (38.2), and sits fifth in Contact% (70.2) this season. Despite his 4.76 ERA, Tanaka still ranks top-15 in xFIP (3.57) and 14th in SIERA (3.63) among all qualified pitchers. He’s racked up eight-plus strikeouts in nine of his last 18 starts with two or fewer runs allowed in 12 of those outings.

Toronto is a middle of the road team when it comes to strikeout rate vs. right-handed pitching (21% K), but they don’t have many hitters who serve as pure-contact bats. Richard Urena (40.8%), Teoscar Hernandez (29.3%), Jose Bautista (23.9%), Ezequiel Carrera (23.1%), Miguel Montero (23.1%), Josh Donaldson (22.8%), Justin Smoak (22.1%), Kendrys Morales (21.9%) and Russell Martin (21.3%) all strike out at a 20-plus-percent clip vs. RHP–some much higher–so this isn’t exactly a low-upside matchup for Tanaka. He should go overlooked in tournaments tonight, but this is a nice spot for Tanaka as a GPP pivot away from the other high-end options. Lets just hope he doesn’t continue to suck away from Yankee Stadium.

Jeff Samardzija [RHP – SFG] obviously doesn’t draw a great matchup on paper, but the Dodgers are flat out trash right now. Over the last month, L.A. ranks 29th in wOBA (.289) and seventh in K-rate (24.6%). They’ll likely be without Justin Turner and Corey Seager on Friday, too, which is a massive blow to an already downtrodden lineup. I’m actually not against using Shark in some lineups, as he boasts a 26.3 percent K-rate away from home, and lit the Dodgers up for 8/0/11 earlier this year. At a $7,600 price point on DraftKings Samardzija actually serves as a nice value if you’re willing to bet on the Dodgers’ continued struggles.

Ubaldo Jimenez [RHP – BAL] is Friday’s boom-or-bust punt of the night, facing a K-heavy, yet potent Rays squad at Camden Yards. First and foremost, Caleb Joseph has to be behind the dish if we have any intentions of rostering Jimenez. Nearly the entire Orioles pitching staff has produced elevated fantasy totals with Joseph in the squat, while all of them have been putrid when Welington Castillo is catching. There isn’t much gray area with Jimenez, though; he’s either posting 20-plus DKPT (5 of his last 10 starts) or less than five (four of his last 10 starts). Ubaldo’s last two starts vs. Tampa Bay look like this: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 9 K, 24.5 DKPT and 2.1 IP, 7 H, 9 ER, 1 K, -324056 DKPT. As you can see, he likely won’t be ‘just okay’ tonight. You might get 25-30 fantasy points or the night could be over before it started. Tampa’s left-handed power is a legitimate concern, and if they aren’t striking out, Jimenez will be toast.

TOURNAMENT PLAYS: Kyle Gibson [RHP – MIN] @ DET

HITTERS

HIGH-END

J.D. Martinez [OF – R] has absolutely dismantled left-handed pitching this season, sporting a massive .522 wOBA and .500 ISO with a ridiculous 55-percent hard-hit rate across 103 PA. With 11 home runs, nine doubles and a triple with the platoon advantage, Martinez has recorded an extra-base hit per every 4.19 at bats. He ranks top-five in wOBA, ISO and wRC+ since being dealt to the D-Backs, where he’s sporting a league-leading .500 ISO over that span.

Adam Conley would be better off calling out sick tonight, as he’ll have no chance of successfully navigating around the likes of Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R]A.J. Pollock [OF – R] and Martinez in the front half of Arizona’s order. Martinez is not the only top play here, as a Diamondbacks stack should be at the top of your list. Their 5.9-run implied total serves as the highest mark on this 15-game slate.

Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] should tee off against Ben Lively inside the lefty-friendly Suntrust Park. Lively relies on his curveball to sit down left-handed hitters, but that shouldn’t work against Freeman who ranks top five against the pitch this season. Lively doesn’t have a viable changeup and is allowing far too many fly balls to succeed in such a spot. Freeman is finally hitting for power again, so there’s no reason he should be ignored on Friday night. The multi-position eligibility on DraftKings also makes him an easier fit since the first base position is so unbelievably deep.

Rhys Hoskins [1B/OF – R] and Matt Olson [1B/OF] also draw spectacular matchups and offer dual-position eligibility, too. Hoskins’ .484/.536 wOBA/ISO vs. LHP is more than appealing against Newcomb, who’s suffered serious control problems since being called up. Hoskins also boasts a 52-percent flyball rate and 52-percent hard-hit rate with the platoon advantage, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see another fine performance from the young stallion.

Olson leads the league in home runs (8) over the past two weeks, seven of which have come over his last 10 games. This ridiculous power surge will come to an end eventually, but I’m not sure Friday’s meeting with Nick Martinez would be a good bet for him to settle down.

If you’re feeling frisky, and want to load up on power bats while spending down at pitcher, it’s actually possible to fit Goldschmidt, Freeman, Hoskins and Olson into the same lineup on DraftKings despite all of them having first base eligibility. You can fit all of them and J.D. Martinez with a Samardzija/Jimenez pairing and still have $3K remaining per player for your final three roster spots. I don’t need to tell you this, but it’s obviously a huge roll of the dice on pitching if you decide to take this route.

HONORABLE MENTION: Brian Dozier [2B – R] @ Norris [LHP]; Trea Turner [SS – R] @ Gsellman [RHP]

MID-RANGE

Travis Shaw [3B – L] has oddly had less success at home this season, but that shouldn’t stop us from targeting him against John Lackey inside the homer-happy Miller Park. Lackey, on the year, is allowing a .359 wOBA, .244 ISO and 2.19 HR/9 to left-handed hitters, while striking them out at a mere 16.9 percent clip. Shaw’s power with the platoon advantage has been on full display this season (.255 ISO, 40% HH), and Lackey has been crushed by lefties on the road (2.68 HR/9, 5.65 xFIP). I like this spot quite a bit with Shaw being reasonably priced across the industry.

Daniel Murphy [2B – L] was priced to face Jacob deGrom tonight, not Robert Gsellman. That alone is enough to target him at only $4K on DraftKings. Murphy is having a relatively quiet 2017 campaign, but he’s still posting quality numbers against right-handed pitching (.383/.225 wOBA/ISO) and shouldn’t be priced the same as Dustin Pedroia on Friday.

Yoan Moncada [2B – L/R] is also underpriced in a plus matchup with Hammel. The young prospect is finally acclimating to life under the big lights, and has now racked up six extra-base hits, eight RBI and five multi-hit efforts over his last 10 starts. Moncada has performed much better from the left side of the plate, and should continue to hit towards the top of Chicago’s order tonight.

Kevin Kiermaier [OF – L] is a boom-or-bust mid-range play tonight, much like his opponent Ubaldo Jimenez. This is one matchup where I wouldn’t mind having both sides in different lineups. Jimenez has been much better with Joseph catching and is actually producing decent strikeout numbers at times, but he’s also ceding a mammoth .406 wOBA, .321 ISO and 2.81 HR/9 to left-handed hitters this season. There are more than enough quality pitching options to go nowhere near Jimenez, which would give us much reason to target Rays lefties at Camden Yards. Kiermaier offers some pop but also has speed on the basepaths. Each year Jimenez ranks towards the bottom of the league in every base-stealing metric, is incapable of holding runners, and even worse when Joseph is catching. A Rays stack could explode tonight, both at the plate and on the basepaths.

Byron Buxton [OF – R] has crushed lefties over the last month, boasting a .428 wOBA and .341 ISO over that stretch. He’s one of a few Twins righties who can be had at a mid-range salary tonight, which will be hard to ignore considering their 5.5-run implied total against Daniel Norris. Norris has been worse against same-handed bats, but he’s allowing 43-percent hard contact and 40-percent fly balls to righties, so I can’t say I’m especially worried about this matchup. If you’re looking for Minnesota exposure without having to pay a premium for Dozier, Buxton should make for a nice alternative in the outfield.

HONORABLE MENTION: Aaron Altherr [OF – R] @ Newcomb [LHP]; Didi Gregorius [SS – L] @ Estrada [RHP]; Ian Happ [2B/OF – L/R] @ Woodruff [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] @ Lopez [RHP]; Jake Lamb [3B – L] vs. Conley [LHP] [GPP]; Kyle Schwarber [OF – L] @ Woodruff [RHP]

 

VALUE

Chris Iannetta [C – R] should easily be considered a top option at the backstop position tonight. Seldom do we find a catcher with pop, batting second with the platoon advantage, inside one of the most hitter-friendly venues around, priced very reasonably across the board. Iannetta is an inexplicable $2,400 on FanDuel, giving us no real reason to look elsewhere in cash. Even in tournaments I’ll happily use Iannetta as much as possible on FanDuel and DraftKings. Batting ahead of Pollock, Goldschmidt and Martinez should provide Iannetta with plenty of good at bats and hittable pitches. He’s the top catcher play across the industry and I don’t think it’s close.

Lucas Duda [1B – L] and Mallex Smith [OF – L] have been ice cold in recent weeks, which is one of the reasons I highlighted Jimenez as a potential tournament play. That being said, both of them are dirt cheap across the industry against a volatile left-hander who has plenty of blowup potential at home. If I’m using Rays bats I’m probably stacking them, as they are incredibly easy to fit, and offer a nice power/speed combination throughout the order.

Kiermaier and Smith won’t hesitate to run against a right-hander who is incapable of holding runners (18 SB, 4 CS for Jimenez in 2017), while power hitters like Duda and Morrison can pay off their salaries with one swing of the bat. Corey Dickerson [OF – L] hasn’t been good, either, but he’s also close to minimum salary on both FanDuel and DraftKings.

Nick Williams [OF – L] is an intriguing tournament play against Sean Newcomb, who for his entire professional career (including the minors) has struggled against same-handed bats. Williams is actually sporting a .284 AVG and .336 wOBA vs. LHP this season, and gets a nice park shift at Suntrust this evening. Sure, it’s a risky play, but you won’t have to pay much for him and he should go completely overlooked across the industry.

HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Delmonico [1B/OF – L] vs. Hammel [RHP]; Brandon Drury [2B – R] vs. Conley [LHP]; Ozzie Albies [2B -L/R] @ Lively [RHP]; Alex Avila [C/1B – L] @ Woodruff [RHP]; Ketel Marte [SS – L/R] vs. Conley [LHP]