MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/25/17

 

PITCHERS

Yu Darvish [RHP – LAD] and the Dodgers have already clinched their division, but they’ve yet to lock up home-field advantage in the postseason. That alone should be enough for Dave Roberts to give Darvish a long-ish leash on Monday night. This matchup with San Diego hasn’t exactly gone well for Darvish in two previous starts, but there’s no way I’m going to overlook a Padres team ranks 29th in wOBA (.300) and second in K-rate (25.2%) vs. right-handed pitching. The Padres have been far more potent against southpaws, but their presence from the left side of the dish is hardly imposing. Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje, Travis Jankowski and Hector Sanchez all strike out at an above average clip vs. RHP, while hitters like Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers ad Jabari Blash are no strangers to coming up empty, either.

The only legitimate concern I have with Darvish is pitch count, but I’d like to think Roberts won’t have him on any limits this evening. The Dodgers are -259 ML favorites at home while San Diego owns a slate-low 3-run implied total on the night. Darvish could post monster fantasy totals here, and I’ll be rolling the dice in some lineups.

Zack Godley [RHP – ARI] gets no respect. Vegas always has his opponents scoring an unreasonably high amount of runs, and he’s rarely, if ever, a heavy favorite even when pitching at home. The truth is, however, that Godley has been special this year, sporting an identical swinging strike rate (13.4%) to Carlos Carrasco, Chris Archer and Jacob deGrom, while boasting a Contact% (69.9) that’s bested by only Corey Kluber, Robbie Ray and Max Scherzer in 2017. Godley’s 3.29 xFIP also ranks 10th best in the game.

Godley has offered ample upside as evidenced by three of his last four starts, and although the Giants aren’t a K-heavy offense, I’m still confident in Godley’s ability to produce tonight. Let’s be clear: Godley isn’t particularly cheap tonight; he’ll need a strong start in order to pay off a $10,600 price tag on DraftKings. Having said that, he should be much lower owned than the two pitchers he’s sandwiched in between: Yu Darvish and this next fella…

 

Luke Weaver [RHP – STL] has been dominant since being called back up in late July, sporting a 2.39 xFIP, 32.3-percent K-rate, 5.1-percent BB-rate, 55.5-percent GB-rate, 22-percent HH-rate and 10.8-percent swinging strike rate over that stretch. Ground balls and strikeouts are the key to daily fantasy success, and Weaver is providing both of them in bunches. I’m actually surprised he’s only $9,900 on DraftKings after posting 22-plus DKPTs in seven straight starts with 26-plus DKPTs in all but one of those outings.

The Cubs have improved their numbers against righties over the past couple months, but they still own a top-10 K-rate (22.5%) on the year. Weaver’s ability to contain power should give him a fighting chance, though, as he’s limiting home runs and allowing hardly any hard contact to the opposition. Weaver is also holding left-handed hitters to a miniscule .225 wOBA while boasting a 27.1-percent K-BB-rate thus far (30.6 K%, 3.5 BB%). I’m still willing to deploy him on Monday, and it’s nice to see Chicago opening with a 3.9-run implied total on the road.

 

Aaron Nola [RHP – PHI] is just too cheap tonight for a home matchup with the Nats. Sure, having Bryce Harper activated from the disabled list doesn’t help, but he’ll likely need to shake off some rust in his first several at bats. He’s also not a lock to start or even be activated tonight, so we’ll have to wait for more information prior to first pitch. Ultimately, Nola is better than a $8K pitcher no matter the matchup, as he’s been brilliant at home this year (.266 wOBA, 30% K, 50% GB) and is a surprising -150 ML favorite for Monday’s start. I’m not saying Nola is a necessary play in cash, but it’s hard not to love him for tournaments on a night where high-end hitting is bountiful. Moreover, Nola has recorded 21 strikeouts across 16 IP vs. Washington this year, and is very capable of churning out another strong performance tonight.

 

James Shields [RHP – CWS] might actually be a viable punt tonight, facing the righty-heavy Angels on a slate where low-end pitching is devoid of options. Look, I’m the furthest thing from a Shields fan. There’s nothing about this guy that should have us encouraged heading into Monday’s home tilt with L.A.. However, he really hasn’t been bad against right-handed bats, holding them to a .313 wOBA with a 22-percent K-rate in 2017. Lefties have been Shields’ Achilles heel this season, but the Angels don’t boast much of a left-handed threat outside of Kole Calhoun and Luis Valbuena.

It sounds crazy, but I really wouldn’t be shocked to see Shields piece together a serviceable performance on Monday night. The concern here–aside from him being James Shields–is L.A.’s lack of strikeouts, but we really don’t have many alternatives on this nine-game slate. Ricky Nolasco [RHP – LAA] could finish with solid numbers against the White Sox, but he’ll have to keep the ball inside the yard at the hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field, and I’m not sure he’ll be able to make that happen. A.J. Cole [RHP – PHI] is cheap, and he’ll draw a matchup with the bottom-feeding Phillies, but his immense struggles vs. left-handed hitters could be an issue at Citizens Bank Park. The point here is you aren’t going to find a low-end pitcher you like tonight, so you’ll be forced to roll the dice somewhere or pay up at both pitching spots — which is what I’ll be doing. Pay for pitching and hope your value bats can finish the job.

 

HITTERS

HIGH-END

 

Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] needs to introduction tonight; he’s facing Odrisamer Despaigne at Coors Field, who owns a career 5.12 xFIP and 10.7-percent K-rate vs. left-handed hitters. Blackmon, on the other hand, boasts a .512/.424 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP at home, and is averaging 13.2 DKPT/G at Coors compared to 8.8 DKPT/G away from Colorado. He’s as much of a no-brainer as you’ll get tonight in the event that you can afford to spend at the position, but the one concern I have here is the cold temperatures at Coors. It’s looking like temperatures will be hovering around 52 degrees at first pitch, dropping as low as 49 degrees throughout the game. That isn’t exactly the best hitting weather for a late September baseball game.

 

Trea Turner [SS – SS] is a rather enticing play against Nola, who ranks third worst among all pitchers in SRAA (6.67%), and has allowed 19 stolen bases with only one caught stealing this season. I’m not saying Turner is a lock to get on base, but if he does he’s a lock to steal. Turner has swiped 42 bags on the year and won’t hesitate to take off if Nola lets him on. I know he’s expensive, but I’m a sucker for speed, and I don’t see many people targeting Turner against one of Monday’s better pitchers.

 

Tommy Pham [OF – R] is another nice speed option against Jon Lester, who was trashed in his last start, allowing seven runs and three stolen bases across 4.1 IP. Lester had done a decent job of catching would-be base stealers this year, but I don’t buy into his newfound ability to limit the run game. He found no success on three SB attempts last start, and has notoriously been awful at holding runners. Pham, however, has racked up 23 swipes on the year, and is posting sexy numbers against left-handed pitching in the process (.403 wOBA, .269 ISO). He isn’t particularly cheap, but Pham is worth the price of admission on Monday night. Dexter Fowler [OF – L/R] also makes sense in the outfield.

HONORABLE MENTION: Justin Bour [1B – L] @ Chatwood [RHP]; Giancarlo Stanton [OF – R] @ Chatwood [RHP]; Mookie Betts [OF – R] vs. Anderson [LHP]; Nolan Arenado [3B – R] vs. Despaigne [RHP];

 

MID-RANGE

 

Chris Taylor [2B/OF – R] has produced solid numbers with the platoon advantage this season — numbers good enough to push his salary above the inexplicable $3,700 he’s priced at on DraftKings. At this price point, Taylor makes too much sense in the leadoff spot against Travis Wood, whose numbers vs. right-handed hitters are more than alarming. On the year, Wood is allowing a 1.91 HR/9 to righties with a .387 wOBA and .227 ISO. Those aren’t good numbers. He’s also garnering only 14-percent strikeouts, which should help Taylor on Monday night. I simply can’t pass up on this price point assuming Taylor continues to lead off with the platoon advantage tonight.

 

Christian Yelich [OF – L] is also too cheap for a Coors game even though the temperatures will be pitcher-friendly on Monday night. At only $4K on DraftKings, Yelich should be a top mid-range consideration against Chatwood, who’s struggled with left-handed hitters at home in 2017. Chatwood isn’t an awful righty, but he’s still susceptible to coughing up XBH to opposite-handed bats despite the high groundball rate. I’m always happy to exploit cheap Coors pricing, but I will say you don’t need to force Miami or Colorado bats into your lineups tonight. There are plenty of quality options elsewhere.

 

Josh Donaldson [3B – R] draws a matchup with a talented southpaw in Drew Pomeranz, but there are reasons to like him on Monday night. Pomeranz has been worse against same-handed hitters this year, but he’s still serving up north of 1 HR/9 to righties with 33-percent hard contact. Donaldson notoriously smashes left-handed pitching and his .316 ISO this season would indicate nothing has changed. I like his affordable price point on both DraftKings ($4,500) and FanDuel ($3,500) inside the righty-friendly Fenway Park. I have a lot of respect for Pomeranz, but a discounted Donaldson should always be considered.

Jake Lamb [3B – L] is also worth considering against Cueto, who’s allowing nearly two HR/9 to lefties on the road and will have to pitch inside the hitter-friendly Chase Field this evening. He won’t be able to pitch inside the comfy confines of AT&T Park, and could really struggle tonight if his hard-hit rate stays as high as it’s been.

HONORABLE MENTION: Dee Gordon [2B – L] @ Chatwood [RHP]; Yoan Moncada [2B – L/R] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; José Abreu [1B – R] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Paul DeJong [SS – R] vs. Lester [LHP]; Chris Iannetta [C – R] vs. Cueto [RHP]; Hanley Ramirez [1B – R] vs. Anderson [LHP]; Nicky Delmonico [1B/OF – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]; Trevor Story [SS – R] vs. Despaigne [RHP]

 

VALUE

 

Nick Williams [OF – L] is a fantastic value play tonight in a home matchup with A.J. Cole. Williams somehow remains only $3,600 on DraftKings despite his recent success. Moreover, Cole is serving up a .417 wOBA, .241 ISO and 2.21 HR/9 to left-handed bats. He isn’t generating swinging strikes, doesn’t induce enough ground balls and is serving up a whopping 46-percent hard contact to lefties this season. You gotta love Williams tonight inside the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Other Phillie lefties like Freddy Galvis [SS – L/R], J.P. Crawford [SS – L] and Cesar Hernandez [2B – L/R] make sense in this spot, too, and this is actually an interesting stack spot for Philadelphia. You’ll have no problem paying for both pitchers with a Phillies stack tonight.

 

Luis Valbuena [1B/3B – L] is one of those left-handers I’m willing to target against Shields. As earlier noted, Shields has been pretty decent against same-handed bats, but lefties have been another story. On the year, left-handed bats are sporting a .395 wOBA and .287 ISO against Shields, while accounting for 2.91 HR/9 and only 17-percent strikeouts. Valbuena offers solid power (.246 ISO vs. RHP) at a dirt cheap cost and is available at multiple positions on DraftKings. He’s a perfect punt for those of you who plan on paying up at both pitcher spots. Kole Calhoun [OF – L] is in play for many of the same reasons as Valbuena. He may not offer the same power, but a leadoff left-hander vs. Shields is more than palatable.

 

Austin Barnes [C – R] has been quiet along with most of the Dodgers’ bats lately, but he’s still sporting a nice .367/.248 wOBA/ISO vs. left-handed pitching this season and is very affordable across the industry. I’ll be turning to him tonight against Travis Wood, whose struggles against righties are well-documented for his career. We won’t need much from Barnes to get what we need from him at a weak backstop position.

 

Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] is simply too cheap tonight. Sure, he’s been mired in a cold streak lately, but the Rangers’ slugger still boasts massive power vs. right-handed pitching and draws a home matchup tonight with 88-degree temperatures in Arlington. I have respect for Collin McHugh, but if we plan on paying for pitching we’ll need to roll the dice on some cheaper hitters. In Gallo’s case, we’re getting two-homer upside at a value cost, unlike many of the other cheap options who are devoid of power. It also doesn’t hurt to know that the Rangers own a 5.1-run implied total at home. HONORABLE MENTION: Yadier Molina [C – R] vs. Lester [LHP]; Yonder Alonso [1B – L] @ Gossett [RHP]; Sam Travis [1B – R] vs. Anderson [LHP]; Kole Calhoun [OF – L] @ Shields [RHP]; Yasiel Puig [OF – R] vs. Wood [LHP]; Odubel Herrera [OF – L] vs. Cole [RHP]; Kike Hernandez [SS/OF – R] vs. Woods [LHP]