MLB DEEP DIVE – 9/8/17
Max Scherzer [RHP – WAS] is your top projected pitcher on Friday, but you already knew that. The Phillies not only rank bottom-five in wOBA and ISO vs. RHP, but are also striking out at the fifth highest clip in 2017. They own a slate-low 2.6-run implied total, and despite the likelihood that they’ll run out five left-handed hitters, still don’t stand a chance at mounting any production. If you’re paying for pitching, this is the easy decision, but there is definitely merit to fading Scherzer in favor of two-$8-9K options on a night where pitching is rather bountiful.
Patrick Corbin [LHP – ARI] has been electric over the past one-plus months, allowing two or fewer runs in eight of his last 10 starts with a 2.43 ERA and 3.56 xFIP over that stretch. Corbin’s last 30 days have been even more impressive, though, as he’s striking batters out at a 27 percent clip while inducing 55-percent ground balls and 23.6-percent soft contact. He’s been dominant at home on the season, too, and now he’ll face a Padres team that ranks dead last in wOBA (.284) vs. LHP. San Diego is also striking out at the third highest rate vs. southpaws (25.4%), and own a mere 3.7-run implied total tonight. Sure, Corbin is relatively expensive, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be worth it on a night where he boasts legitimate 30-plus-fantasy point upside against the punchless Padres.
Jimmy Nelson [RHP – MIL] strikes me as a fantastic tournament play tonight, pitching in 62-degree temperatures with winds blowing in 11 MPH at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have improved their numbers rather dramatically against right-handed pitching over the last couple months, but they still own a top-10 K-rate (22.3%) on the year. Nelson is striking left-handed hitters out at an elite 30-percent clip and is holding them to a below-average .308 wOBA this season. Chicago will likely use a 5-6-lefty lineup tonight, so the strikeout upside should be bountiful. It all comes down to risk tolerance, and how much you’re willing to roll the dice on an upper mid-range pitcher.
Collin McHugh [RHP – HOU] is posting a career-best 11.7-percent swinging strike rate this season while allowing only 59.4 percent O-Contact through his first eight starts. It’s hard not to like him against an A’s squad that strikes out at a 24.7-percent clip vs. RHP and struggles mightily against both the curve (29th) and slider (22nd). Not only does McHugh have an excellent shot at limiting runs and racking up K’s tonight, but he should get plenty of run support with Jharel Cotton set to take the mound for Oakland. McHugh is a -159 ML favorite on the road and the A’s own an unimposing 3.9-run implied total at home. His mid-range price tag is very enticing for both cash games and GPPs.
Marcus Stroman [RHP – TOR] hasn’t been particularly impressive of late, but he’ll draw an opportunity to right the ship in a home tilt with Detroit. The Tigers own the third lowest implied run total on tonight’s 15-game slate (3.6), and as we’ve discussed at length in recent articles, don’t have hardly any firepower in their hollowed out lineup. Their early-season lineup consisted of quality hitters like J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera and even Victor Martinez, but all of them have since departed, gotten suspended or suffered a season-ending injury.
Detroit now finds themselves using a combination of JaCoby Jones, Alex Presley, Mikie Mahtook, Jeimer Candelario, Efren Navarra and Dixon Machado on a regular basis. Not only are these guys below average hitters, but a numbers of them have some very unsightly K-rates. Stroman has allowed more power to righties this year, but he’s also striking them out at a much higher clip than lefties, while inducing nearly 60-percent ground balls in the process. He’s also holding righties to a .301 wOBA, 3.24 xFIP and 26-percent hard-hit rate for his career, and this Tigers lineup will be loaded with same-handed bats tonight. I like the idea of working Stroman into some lineups, even if he doesn’t boast the highest upside at his position. $8,100 on DraftKings is a very reasonable asking price.
Drew Pomeranz [LHP – BOS] might go overlooked tonight, but I don’t see any reason why we should avoid him outside of the depth at his position. Tampa Bay not only strikes out at the second highest clip vs. LHP (25.8%), but they’ve also slipped to 26th in wOBA (.302) and 22nd in ISO (.151) as the season comes to a close. This team boasts a wealth of power from the left side of the plate, but is devoid of right-handed pop for the most part. Sure, Pomeranz is allowing an inflated wOBA to same-handed hitters this year, but his 28.2-percent K-rate and 3.88 xFIP suggests that some of that is noise. I’m still not against the idea of him facing four-five left-handed batters on Friday with Steven Souza, Evan Longoria, Wilson Ramos, Adeiny Hechavarria and maybe Trevor Plouffe being their opposite-handed bats. Pomeranz offers plenty of upside here, and he’s priced very affordably across the industry.
Lucas Giolito [RHP – CWS] dazzled in his last start, tossing seven one-run innings with 10 strikeouts and 35.4 DraftKings Points against the Rays. I don’t see him replicating those totals on Friday, but could certainly envision another strong start against the Giants. San Francisco’s offense is arguably the lousiest in all of baseball, and unless they get hot to close out the season, are going to finish dead last in wOBA (.298) and ISO (.137) vs. RHP. The only thing that keeps them from being a prime fantasy matchup is their low strikeout rate (19.7%), but it’s reasonable to assume Giolito can limit runs and rack up a handful of K’s across 6-7 innings of work. I’m not nearly as high on him as I was in his last start, but can understand why people would want to ride this wave until it crashes.
HONORABLE MENTION: Yu Darvish [RHP – LAD] vs. COL; Luke Weaver [RHP – STL] vs. PIT; German Marquez [RHP – COL] @ LAD [GPP]
Edwin Encarnacion [1B – R] finds himself in a tasty matchup against Wade Miley, who’s serving up a .363 wOBA and 1.46 HR/9 to RHH this season. Encarnacion boasts a Goliath 100-MPH AEV in 17 career plate appearances vs. Miley, too. Cleveland generally isn’t a team I love to target vs. left-handed pitching, but Encarnacion is an exception. As you know, he generally lets me down, but I’m willing to roll the dice on him again tonight. He’s a top play at the first base position, and I’ll have ample exposure to him across the board. Jose Ramirez [2B/3B – L/R] and Francisco Lindor [SS – L/R] are also very much in play, but their premium price points could make rostering them tough on this 15-game slate.
Freddie Freeman [1B/3B – L] draws a home matchup with Jose Urena, who has amazingly continued to limit left-handed power in 2017. I really don’t get it; Urena is holding lefties to a mere .314 wOBA despite an 11.4-percent K-rate, 6.40 xFIP and 46-percent flyball rate across 289 TBF. Maybe it’s unwise, but I’m still not buying into Urena’s success against opposite-handed bats, and I’m hoping Freeman can prove me right this evening. Suntrust Park has proven to be one of the most lefty-friendly venues in the game, and Freeman appears to have recovered from the wrist injury that was sapping his power last month. He’s tallied eight extra-base hits over his last 10 starts, and I’m looking for him to add to that tally on Friday.
Aaron Judge [OF – R] appears to have woken up at just the right time, as he’ll enter Globe Life Park riding a nice little streak. Judge was absolutely dismal following the All-Star break, but he now looks to be back on track, which means we need to be considering him against Martin Perez. Judge hasn’t crushed southpaws over the second half of the season like he did before the break, but he still owns an elite .250 ISO, 47-percent flyball rate and 46-percent hard-hit rate vs. LHP on the year.
Perez is the perfect matchup for Judge, as he strikes righties out at a putrid 12-percent clip, allows 35-percent hard contact and owns a 5.36 xFIP at home. Judge facing contact pitchers is always preferable, and Perez will be hard-pressed to miss any bats tonight. Only the Diamondbacks boast a higher implied run total (5.9) than the Yankees (5.6) on Friday night.
Gary Sanchez [C – R] will return from his suspension tonight, and he couldn’t have returned at a better time. The slugging backstop is sporting a massive .280 ISO vs. LHP this season, and he’ll draw a great park shift moving to Arlington. Pairing Sanchez and Judge in both cash game and GPPs makes too much sense to avoid, as the upside is practically incomprehensible.
HONORABLE MENTION: Paul Goldschmidt [1B – R] vs. Lyles [RHP]; Daniel Murphy [2B – L] vs. Thompson [RHP]; Mike Trout [OF – R] @ Leake [RHP]; J.D. Martinez [OF – R] vs. Lyles [RHP]; Trea Turner [SS – R] vs. Thompson [RHP]
Jake Lamb [3B – L] and David Peralta [OF – L] are primed to smash tonight against Jordan Lyles, who has been absolutely decimated by left-handed hitters this season. Despite 47 of his 51 innings coming out of the bullpen, Lyles is allowing a .424 wOBA, .254 ISO and 2.45 HR/9 to lefties. He may not be coughing up a ton of fly balls, but the 30-percent line drive rate and 43-percent hard-hit rate should mitigate those concerns. Moreover, Lyles has struck out 13 percent of the lefties he’s faced in 2017.
Peralta hasn’t been particularly impressive this season, and Lamb has cooled off considerably over the past few months, but that isn’t enough reason to avoid them on Friday. Arizona boasts a slate-high 5.9-run total inside the hitter-friendly Chase Field, and both of these lefties are reasonably priced across the industry. You’ll want some exposure to the D-Backs tonight, and Peralta and/or Lamb make for a great way to accomplish that.
Alex Bregman [3B/SS – R] and Marwin Gonzalez [SS/OF – R] are underpriced for tonight’s matchup with Jharel Cotton, and the Astros finally appear to be waking up at the dish. The return of Carlos Correa [SS – R] doesn’t hurt, either, and he should be considered a viable option at a weak shortstop position. Actually, all three of these Houston bats are shortstop eligible on DraftKings, but Bregman and Gonzalez offer nice discounts at a low-$4K price point.
Cotton doesn’t have any true platoon splits, but he’s been equally bad against hitters from either side of the plate. Against righties specifically, Cotton is ceding a .352 wOBA, .236 ISO and 1.71 HR/9. He’s also allowing a ton of fly balls, and although Cotton mixes his pitches well against righties, it likely won’t bail him out of trouble on Friday. Bregman should continue to hit second, sandwiched in between George Springer and Jose Altuve. It’s safe to assume he’s going to see plenty of good pitches this evening.
Nelson Cruz [OF – R] has been quiet lately, but there’s no reason he should be priced at $4K on DraftKings. The veteran slugger is hitting same-handed pitching as well as he ever has in the majors (.378/.268 wOBA/ISO), and now he’ll draw a matchup with Nolasco, who’s coughed up a whopping 22 home runs to righties this year. Get this: of the 10 pitchers who have allowed the most home runs to right-handed hitters this season (Miranda, Holland, Richard, Nolasco, Quintana, Vargas, Lester, Miley, Gonzalez, Sabathia), Nolasco is the only righty in the group. He’s allowing a .393 wOBA, .293 ISO and 2.58 HR/9 to RHH in 2017, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t serve up a few more long balls tonight. It’s impossible to ignore Cruz at his current price point.
Austin Jackson [OF – R] has been another one of those quietly impressive veterans this season, especially against southpaws, who he’s torching for a .431 wOBA and .245 ISO across 106 PA. I like the idea of using him tonight as a way to get exposure to Indians bats without having to pay a premium, and it’s not like you’re just rostering some scrub at an inflated price point. Jackson is batting towards the top of the order vs. LHP, and Miley has been no stranger to coughing up big games to opposite-handed bats. Keep Jackson on the radar today as you’re building lineups.
HONORABLE MENTION: Joey Gallo [1B/3B – L] vs. Tanaka [RHP]; Jorge Polanco [SS – L/R] @ Kennedy [RHP]; Matt Holliday [1B – R] @ Perez [LHP]; Josh Reddick [OF – L] @ Cotton [RHP];
Max Kepler [OF – L] is your prototypical boom-or-bust outfield play, boasting plenty of power and an equal amount of pathetic at bats. I’ll have plenty of interest in him tonight, though, as he’ll square off against a righty in Ian Kennedy who’s ceding a behemoth 52-percent FB rate to left-handed hitters. Kennedy is coughing up 2.26 HR/9 to go along with a .257 ISO, 5.83 xFIP and 46-percent hard-hit rate vs. LHH this season. He’s also striking them out at a mere 18-percent clip. Kepler, meanwhile, offers a very respectable .360/.226 wOBA/ISO and a 43-percent FB vs. RHP in 2017. He’s priced down across the industry and will bat in the middle of the Twins lineup tonight, making for a great way to get salary relief at the outfield position.
Jose Abreu [1B – R] is dirt cheap on DraftKings and FantasyDraft, which immediately puts him in play against the underwhelming arm of Matt Moore. Abreu has quietly destroyed southpaw pitching to the tune of a .450/.282 wOBA/ISO this season, while boasting a 92-MPH AEV in the process. I’ll take those numbers all day long against Moore, who’s been absolutely dreadful away from home (1.59 HR/9, 6.88 ERA). Sure, Moore has been worse against same-handed hitters this year, but he’s been far from impressive against righties, too. If you’re looking to save at the first base position, Abreu offers two-homer upside at a mid-$3K price point.
Chris Iannetta [C – R] will continue to make his way into my lineups so long as he bats second for the Diamondbacks. Iannetta is enjoying a solid year at the plate, and has hit both lefties and righties for nice power at a position that generally lacks pop. Arizona’s 5.9-run implied total is the highest mark on Friday’s slate, and Iannetta makes for a nice way to get cheap exposure to the night’s top projected offense. Jordan Lyles is bad enough for me to target him at every position, and catcher is no exception.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Williams [OF – L] @ Scherzer [RHP] [GPP Only]; Avisail Garcia [OF – R] vs. Moore [LHP]; Yoan Moncada [2B – L/R] vs. Moore [LHP]; Kyle Seager [3B – L] vs. Nolasco [RHP]