MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/7/17
Clayton Kershaw threw just 70 pitches in his last start and still picked up 30 DraftKings points against the Padres. Tonight, he will face the Rockies at home in Los Angeles. There is no specified pitch count for Kershaw, at least not that I have been able to find, and it seems safe to assume he is going to throw at least 85-90 pitches this time around. The Rockies are a terrible offense outside of Coors (and at times even in Coors) and it is a good matchup for Kershaw. The issue is that, unlike the last time he pitched where there were no other elite starters, there is a bonafide ace on the slate in a phenomenal matchup tonight. For that reason, I will not be rostering a possibly limited Kershaw when I can pay virtually the same price for a 100 percent Corey Kluber.
Corey Kluber has been one of the best, if not the best, pitchers in baseball since returning from the disabled list a couple of months ago. Since his return on June 1, Kluber has a 37.0 percent strikeout percentage, 4.1 percent walk percentage, 2.17 xFIP, and equal percentages of soft and hard contact and 25.0 percent each. He has struck out over 34 percent of lefties and 39 percent of righties so, unlike someone like Max Scherzer, we do not really have to factor in handedness when projecting his upside. This White Sox lineup has plenty of strikeouts in it as they have the 5th-highest strikeout percentage in baseball over the last 30 days. Do not overthink this one, get Kluber in your lineups.
Aaron Nola has struggled a bit lately, with two poor outings against the Marlins and a bad outing against the Giants grouped together with a strong start against the Braves in his last four outings. While it never feels good to roster someone who is coming off several poor performances, the poor starts have caused his price to drop significantly. His velocity, movement, first-pitch strike percentage and zone percentage over those four starts are all in line with his season averages, however. There is no reason to suspect that Nola is hiding an injury or is dealing with fatigue. It seems more likely that he just had a few bad starts in a short period of time. He will face a Nationals team that is without Bryce Harper and lacks much power from the left side of the plate. In fact, their projected lineup tonight has just two left-handed hitters in it. Nola has dominated right-handed hitters this season with a 27.8 percent strikeout percentage, 52.5 percent groundball percentage, 27.3 percent soft contact and just 27.8 percent hard contact. Roster Nola with confidence tonight. Pairing him with Kluber leaves about $3,600 per position on DraftKings tonight, making it so you can make pretty solid rosters with that duo.
Kyle Gibson faces the Royals tonight and I have fallen for the Kyle Gibson trap more than once this season. He has had a groundball percentage of at least 50 percent in 11 consecutive starts and his slider ranks in the top 10 in whiff per swing percentage in all of baseball. He should be good. But then he sucks. He has put together three very impressive starts in a row, however, including the last time he faced this Kansas City club. He profiles as a pitcher who should do well against the Royals because he does not throw a lot of pitches in the strike zone and hitters have difficulty making contact with his pitches that are outside the zone. Kansas City is an aggressive team that chases pitches out of the zone- the only reason they have a low strikeout percentage is because they make contact with pitches outside of the zone at a high clip. That makes them strikeout prone against pitchers that work outside the zone and have stuff good enough to generate swings and misses. That is the case with Gibson. Rostering him at a $7,500 price tag on DraftKings is certainly risky as he is not a dirt cheap SP2 anymore and he has been around long enough that we know he can be bad regardless of matchup, but he is in play in tournaments as a lower owned pivot with upside.
Carlos Rodon has a very tough matchup against the Indians but his price tag is back to the mid-$6,000 range on DraftKings. There is merit to rostering him simply because of how talented he is. He is still a volatile pitcher as he tends to struggle with his control and command, but we like to roster those pitchers when they are cheap and lower owned. I hate rostering pitchers against the Indians but, when I do, I prefer lefties. He is only worth considering in tournaments, but it is worth noting that he had a big outing against the Indians his last start against them. It is a boost for Rodon if Kevan Smith is behind the plate.
Joey Votto faces Matt Harvey tonight in New York. The park is not ideal, but it is not terrible. The pitcher is terrible. Harvey has struggled all season long and he was awful in his first start back against the Astros. He has allowed 2.76 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season and Votto is obviously one of the best in the game. The only downside to paying all the way up for Votto is that Harvey has a 12.3 percent walk percentage to lefties this season and Votto is more than willing to take walks, which could limit his upside in tournaments.
Freddie Freeman is at home against Dan Straily. Straily is pretty good against lefties as he has a very good change-up that helps to neutralize them. Freeman is not your average lefty, however, and Straily has struggled with the long ball away from Miami, allowing 1.82 home runs per nine innings on the road compared to 1.09 home runs per nine at home. Atlanta is much more favorable to left-handed power than Miami is and Freeman gets the advantage in this matchup.
Jose Martinez won some people (like me) a bunch of money the other night when he homered twice in a game started by Padres’ left-hander Travis Wood and he has a similar opportunity tonight against Clayton Richard. Richard has been very good against lefties this season but he has struggled with right-handed power, allowing 1.53 home runs per nine innings to righties this season. Martinez has been used sparingly by the Cardinals but he has shown plenty of power when he has gotten the opportunity. He has a .524 wOBA and .441 ISO against lefties over the last 12 months.
Nick Williams has put together two good games in a row and he remains closer to minimum salary than to where he should actually be priced based on his talent. Tanner Roark is a quality pitcher, but he is better against righties than lefties. Roark has allowed 1.73 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season. Williams has some holes in his swing, but has shown the ability to hit for power since being called up. A $2,700 price tag on DraftKings makes him one of the better value options on the slate.
Eugenio Suarez gets to face the gas can that is Matt Harvey. Third base is a surprisingly weak position on this slate and Suarez is just $3,500 on DraftKings. He will likely go overlooked since he usually bats sixth and it is a righty-righty matchup. He has a respectable .353 wOBA and .179 ISO against righties over the last 12 months, however. He is definitely better against lefties than righties, but Harvey has allowed just shy of 1.6 home runs per nine innings to righties this season and really struggled against a right-handed heavy Houston lineup in his first start back.
Harrison Bader is another right-handed power bat against Clayton Richards. I discussed Richards’ numbers against righties in the Jose Martinez section, but Bader should be hitting near the top of the lineup again tonight against Richards. He has plenty of power in his bat and is available at a very reasonable price tag across the industry.
Cincinnati Reds- The Reds are an excellent stack tonight against Matt Harvey. We know that Harvey is prone to giving up huge outings to opposing offenses and the Reds have plenty of good hitters in their lineup. In addition, there is some good value mixed in with the expensive stars as Phillip Ervin, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler are all value options with upside that are likely to be lower owned than their expensive counterparts in the middle of the Reds lineup.
Minnesota Twins- The Twins have a lot of left-handed power in their lineup and they will be facing Sam Gaviglio, who allowed 1.98 home runs per nine innings to lefties this season during his time with the Mariners. The Royals’ bullpen has been one of the worst against left-handed hitters over the last 30 days and there are several switch-hitters in the Minnesota lineup that make it very difficult for opposing bullpens to match up with them. We may see the Twins go a bit overlooked but they are in a very nice spot.
Cleveland Indians- I mentioned earlier that Rodon was a risky tournament option on this slate, and he is. The Indians are similar in that they are a high risk/ high reward stack. Rodon is terrible at holding opposing baserunners, which gives the Indians added upside if they get on base. The White Sox bullpen also is not good so, if they are able to get to Rodon early, there is upside throughout the rest of the game. It is very possible that Rodon shuts the Indians down if he is on top of his game but the Indians still have plenty of upside and will likely not be popular against a name that people recognize as being very talented.
St. Louis Cardinals- The Cards have several players questionable for tonight’s game, but it is likely that they have a very intimidating lineup against the lefty Richards. They will most likely have power right-handed bats at the top in Bader, Grichuk, DeJong and Martinez with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty in play as well. They are also reasonably priced as my first take at roster construction landed on several Cardinals as the best plays available at their positions.