MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/4/17
Carlos Martinez [RHP – STL] @ SDP – CarMart is the obvious first choice at pitcher today, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to play him in one hundred percent of lineups. First, let’s discuss the reasons why Martinez should be our top option at the position: he’s a -156 ML favorite inside the pitcher-friendly PetCo Park, the Padres own a slate-low 3.6-run implied run total, and strike out at a higher clip vs. RHP than every team not named the Brewers. Martinez is also dominant against right-handed bats (.262 wOBA, 29 K%), and San Diego has little presence from the left side of the plate aside from Yangervis Solarte, Corey Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje.
As you can see, there are no statistical arguments against Martinez tonight. There are, however, reasons to consider cheaper alternatives. If you’re fading Martinez it won’t be due to matchup or upside; both lean heavily in his favor. The fade would be an attempt to work bigger bats into your lineup while getting lower ownership with a pivot away from Martinez. I’ll probably be going elsewhere, but only because there are some less expensive pitchers who I think can match or exceed CarMart’s production.
Dylan Bundy [RHP – BAL] vs. NYY – Few pitchers have been as electric as Bundy has in August. The former fourth overall pick has experienced an up-and-down season overall, but his last five starts have been outstanding, with a 16.3-percent swinging strike rate, 32.6-percent K-rate and 0.81 WHIP across 36 innings. One big reason for this recent surge has to be Bundy’s increased usage of the slider, which he’s throwing 27.3 percent of the time in August compared to 17 percent from May through July. The pitch garners a stellar 50-percent whiffs/swing and 50-percent ground balls. It’s easily his best out-pitch, and he’s finally using it with appropriate frequency.
Bundy draws a stiff matchup with the Yankees, but he’ll still offer plenty of upside against a team that strikes out at a top-10 clip vs. right-handed pitching. Aaron Judge and Greg bird both strike out at 30-plus-percent, while Matt Holliday, Todd Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Chase Headley and Austin Romine (if Sanchez sits) are all at 23 percent or above. Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, Jacoby Ellsbury and Starlin Castro don’t strike out, but they don’t provide all that much in terms of power, either.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Bundy continue his torrid run on Friday, or at least rack up enough strikeouts to pay off his salary. He’s cheaper than Martinez, but will also be far lower owned at a newly elevated price point. Bundy offers plenty of upside against the power-laden, yet K-heavy Yankees.
Trevor Bauer [RHP – CLE] @ CWS – Bauer has been an enigma this season, producing lopsided numbers from week to week while still striking batters out at a near 26-percent clip. He’ll draw an opportunity to do more of the latter on Friday when he faces the righty-heavy White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Bauer has limited right-handed hitters to 0.85 HR/9 this year, with 28.3-percent strikeouts and a 3.22 xFIP to boot. Chicago’s left-handed presence is virtually nonexistent, too, as Yolmer Sanchez, Kevan Smith and Alen Hanson are the only healthy lefties on their roster. Meanwhile, Sanchez, Smith and Jose Abreu are their only three hitters with sub-20-percent K-rates vs. RHP. I think you can see why Bauer intrigues me much more today than he would on any of his normal starts.
Rafael Montero [RHP – NYM] @ PHI – Montero enjoyed his best start of the season last week, coming two outs shy of a complete game shutout against the Reds. He’ll draw a much jucier matchup on Monday against the Phillies, who rank 26th in wOBA (.310) and 25th in ISO (.156) against right-handed pitching this season, while striking out at the fifth highest clip. Rhys Hoskins is in jeopardy of missing another game, too, which would only make Montero more appealing at his mid-range cost.
Montero owns a respectable 10.3-percent swinging strike rate on the season to go along with a 22.2-percent K-rate and 25-percent hard contact rate. Walks have been a problem, but the Phillies don’t draw free passes, and aren’t the fastest team, either. Citi Field is a pitching upgrade from Citizens Bank Park, and the Phillies own a mere 4.1-run implied total on the day. At Montero’s affordable salary, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be paired with Bundy or CarMart in both cash games and GPPs.
Jake Junis [RHP – KC] @ DET – We’ve talked about this a lot lately; the Tigers’ offense is one of the worst in baseball. With J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Alex Avila gone, and Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez sidelined, the Tigers are running on fumes as they sputter to the finish line. They may not be a lineup with unlimited strikeouts — although Jacoby Jones isn’t helping their cause — but they certainly have limited talent. I don’t see myself loading up on Junis today, but wouldn’t blame anyone for doing so, either. Detroit owns a mere 4.2-run implied total at home, and Junis is a -140 ML favorite on the road. He’s coming off consecutive impressive outings and is very capable of adding to that tally this afternoon.
Artie Lewicki [RHP – DET] vs. KC – Lewiki is a true shot-in-the-dark punt today, but there are a few things I like about the young righty. Taken in the eighth round of the 2014 draft, Lewiki wasn’t exactly groomed for success at the major-league level. He did, however, progress rapidly through the minor-league system, and will now make his big league debut in a lost season for the Tigers. Lewiki throws what many scouts have labeled a “plus major-league” fastball, sitting at around 93 MPH with the ability to touch 96-97 MPH. His curveball continues to improve and induces a nice amount of whiffs/swing, while his changeup needs work but is a passable pitch if used scarcely.
The Royals simply aren’t a good baseball team, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lewiki impress in his debut. It’s a massive risk, and probably an unnecessary one, but he’s there if you’re desperate for a cheap arm with respectable upside at a near min-sal price point. Six innings, one/two runs and 5-6 strikeouts isn’t out of the question here.
Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Smith [RHP] – Trout faces a 36-year-old right-hander in Chris Smith who’s coughing up a .389 wOBA and .401 ISO to same-handed hitters this season. Smith is allowing a whopping 3.95 HR/9 to righties while striking them out at a dismal 13 percent clip, and he hasn’t been able to keep the ball grounded, either (44.8 FB%). The only downside to this matchup is venue, as O.Co is known to be a pitcher-friendly venue. Fortunately, Trout doesn’t need a favorable park in order to produce, and the Coliseum shouldn’t keep him from tearing into Smith on Monday afternoon. He is unsurprisingly one of my favorite plays in both cash and GPP, and is worth every penny of that top-shelf price point.
Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] @ Shields [RHP] – Ramirez went 5-5 with two home runs and three doubles last night, becoming the 13th player in MLB history to record five extra-base hits in a game. He’s one of the best hitting infielders in all of baseball, and now he’ll draw a matchup with James Shields, who despite some better play of late is still ceding a .424 wOBA, .316 ISO and 3.38 HR/9 to left-handed hitters on the year. The Indians unsurprisingly own a 6.2-run implied total at Guaranteed Rate Field, and I’m expecting them to surpass that mark quite easily this afternoon. Ramirez, for obvious reasons, is a top overall option across the industry, and his multi-position eligibility makes him that much more appealing on DraftKings.
Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] @ Shields [RHP] – Lindor has produced one of the most well-rounded seasons of any hitter this year, amassing 26 home runs, 34 doubles, two triples and 11 stolen bases as we near the finish line. It’s hard to argue with his price point when you consider his ability to accumulate fantasy points in a variety of ways, especially on a day where James Shields is toeing the rubber for Chicago. Cleveland will be chalky, but there’s no reason we should be fading them based on ownership alone. They hammer right-handed pitching (.333 wOBA: 5th; .191 ISO: 7th), own the second highest implied run total on Monday’s 9-game slate, and aren’t tough to roster if you target mid-range pitching. Lindor is easily my top shortstop option in all formats.
Charlie Blackmon [OF – L] vs. Stratton [RHP] – You know how this works: Blackmon facing a righty at home means he’s in play. Hell, Blackmon facing anyone at home means he’s in play, but I’m very much in favor of today’s meeting with Stratton. Chris Stratton is allowing a .352 wOBA to LHH on the year, and while he hasn’t allowed any home runs (Thanks AT&T Park), his 6.20 xFIP and 16.7-percent K-rate suggest that things could change at Coors Field. Stratton has done a solid job of limiting hard contact, but he’s serving up too many fly balls to left-handed hitters, and 90-plus-degree temperatures in Denver won’t do him any favors. I still prefer Trout over Blackmon, but if playing both of them is a possibility there’s no reason we shouldn’t be pulling the trigger.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nolan Arenado vs. Stratton [RHP]; Justin Upton [OF – R] @ Smith [RHP]; Domingo Santana [OF – R] @ Bailey [RHP] [DK GPP]; Anthony Rizzo [1B – L] @ Kuhl [RHP]
Jay Bruce/Lonnie Chisenhall [OF – L] @ Shields [RHP] – Bruce and Chisenhall offer excellent price points across the industry, which means we have no excuse not to target them on Monday. Bruce is tattooing righties for a .374/.284 wOBA/ISO in 2017, with 47-percent fly balls and 43-percent hard contact across 378 PA. He’s always going to strike out at a relatively high rate, but that shouldn’t be a problem against Shields, who’s fanning lefties at a mere 16-percent clip this season. Meanwhile, Chisenhall boasts a comparable .383/.290 wOBA/ISO vs. RHP with 51-percent fly balls and only 16-percent strikeouts. Shields serves up a ton of hard-hit fly balls to opposite-handed hitters, which is why Bruce and Chisenhall are so appealing on Monday. I’ll be exploiting these salaries at every possible opportunity.
Joe Panik [2B – L] @ Bettis [RHP] – Joe Panik isn’t very good, and Chad Bettis has actually done a decent job of limiting power at Coors, but I can’t ignore this price point if he’s batting second on Monday. DraftKings has significantly lowered pricing on a lot of Coors bats over the last week, so it’s something we’ll need to take advantage of when provided the opportunity. The same can be said for Buster Posey [C – R], who I generally hate playing at Coors, and Denard Span [OF – L], who is priced below $4K despite the venue.
Albert Pujols [1B – R] @ Smith [RHP] – Pujols looks to have discovered the fountain of youth in recent days, racking up two home runs, a double and 11 RBI over his last four starts. He should be able to keep things rolling on Monday against Chris Smith, who as earlier noted is being abused by same-handed hitters in 2017. Almost all of Pujols’ power has come against righties, too, and he has surprisingly struggled with the platoon advantage. I can see Angel righties going overlooked, but Pujols, Trout and Upton should all be considered top options at their respective positions.
HONORABLE MENTION: Carlos Santana [1B – L/R] @ Shields [RHP]; Bradley Zimmer [OF – L] @ Shields [RHP]; Mike Moustakas [3B – L] vs. Lewiki [RHP]; Brandon Phillips [2B/3B – R] @ Smith [RHP]; Ian Desmond [1B/OF – R] vs. Stratton [RHP]; Jonathan Schoop [2B – R] vs. Montgomery [LHP]; Ian Happ [2B/OF – L/R] @ Kuhl [RHP]
Manny Pina [C – R] @ Bailey [RHP] – The catcher position is dreadfully thin on Monday, so I have no problem targeting Pina against Homer Bailey inside the hitter-friendly Great American Smallpark. Bailey is surrendering a Goliath .434 wOBA to right-handed hitters this year, with a .200 ISO and 15.8-percent K-rate across 152 batters faced. Sure, he’s endured some bad luck, but still isn’t missing any bats, and that won’t do him any favors on a summer day in Cincinnati. Pina has done enough against same-handed pitching for me to roster him at a value price point — especially with the hitting conditions leaning heavily in his favor.
Carlos Gonzalez [OF – L] vs. Stratton [RHP] – I get it — Carlos Gonzalez is terrible. I say this every time I highlight him in the Deep Dive when DraftKings and FantasyDraft seem to forget he exists, but he’s dirt cheap at Coors Field and the Rockies own a slate-high 6.5-run implied total against Stratton. I discussed Gonzalez on Friday and he racked up 18 DraftKings Points with two doubles and two RBI at home, so it’s not like the aging veteran isn’t still capable of exploiting quality matchups. If you need salary relief in the outfield, you can really do a lot worse than CarGo, who’s facing a league-average right-hander inside the most hitter-friendly ballpark in all of baseball.
Ryan McMahon [3B – L] should also be viewed as a top value option in the event that he cracks the starting lineup on Monday. McMahon hasn’t produced much at the major-league level, but we all know he’s capable of churning out respectable fantasy totals against Chris Stratton at Coors. It’s all about being able to exploit erroneous pricing, and there’s a lot of it with this Giants-Rockies game on Monday.
Dominic Smith [1B – L]/Brandon Nimmo [OF – L] vs. Leiter [RHP] – You likely won’t need to go this low at first base or outfield, but Smith and Nimmo are there if you need them. Mark Leiter has been relatively impressive late, so I’m not exactly keen on stacking this putrid Mets offense, but these two left-handers are inexpensive and offer salary relief if necessary. Smith offers some decent pop and is batting middle of the order with the platoon advantage, while Nimmo isn’t a power bat but is getting on base at a relatively high clip vs. RHP. I wouldn’t be looking to pair the two hitters on Monday, but deploying them as one-offs makes sense in lineups where you plan on paying for pitching.
HONORABLE MENTION: Luis Valbuena [1B/3B – L] @ Smith [RHP]; Efren Navarro [1B/OF – L] vs. Junis [RHP]; Travis Shaw [3B – L] @ Bailey [RHP]; Andrelton Simmons [SS – R] @ Smith [RHP]