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Easy Breezy: Chalk Stack
The Houston Astros will make up the “Chalk Stack” once again tonight. They have featured an elite offense in the MLB, leading the league in runs scored, team batting average, and OPS, while also ranking second in home runs. Houston was at their best away from home in 2018, where they posted a .262 average with a .446 slugging percentage and a .777 OPS. They also averaged 5.2 runs and 3.5 extra-base hits per game on the road last season. Tonight, the Astros are ridiculous -340 favorites in a game set at 10 runs, giving them the highest implied run total on the slate at 6.7 runs.
Houston gets an elite matchup against Gregory Soto, who allowed seven runs over four innings in his only MLB start. He has found some success in the MiLB, but he has yet to throw higher than the Double-A level. It’s impossible to trust Soto’s limited sample size, but he has only thrown three pitches in his MLB debut, including his fastball 68.2% of the time. He has flashed decent strikeout potential throughout his minor league career, but that’s likely to drop in the Majors. The same can be said for his ground ball rate, while I’m fully expecting his HR/FB rate to increase in the MLB. Soto struggled against everyone in his MLB debut, but he specifically allowed right-handed batters to hit for a .467 average with a .933 slugging percentage and a .557 wOBA. While those numbers are unsustainable, it shows that he’s likely to struggle more against other righties. Houston is an offense that feature a plethora of elite right-handed bats, and there’s no reason to believe they won’t find success tonight. They’re going to feature extremely high ownership, but they make an “avoid at your own cost” type of stack in cash games.
Important Odds: Vegas Stack
The Atlanta Braves have seen mixed results offensively this season, ranking 15th in the MLB in runs scored, 19th in home runs, fifth in team batting average, and 10th in OPS. The Braves were slightly better at home last season, posting a .255 average with a .404 slugging percentage and a .730 OPS in 2018. Atlanta also averaged 4.8 runs and 2.9 extra-base hits per game at home in those games. They are currently -130 favorites in a game set at 9.5 runs, and they feature an implied run total of 5.1 runs tonight.
The Braves get a matchup against Michael Wacha, who has struggled through seven starts this season. He enters this game with a 3-0 record, 5.35 ERA, and 1.65 WHIP. He has also struggled with a 4.91 xFIP to go along with a 5.16 SIERA. Wacha has held his opponents to a 34.2% fly ball rate, although he has allowed a 18.4% HR/FB rate. Surprisingly, he has only allowed a 37.5% hard hit rate, while posting a low 13.4% soft hit rate in 2019. Wacha’s strikeout rate sits at 20.7% this season, while his swinging strike rate has dipped a bit to 8.8%. He was a reverse splits pitcher last season, allowing right-handed batters to hit for a .225 average with a .384 slugging percentage and a .312 wOBA. That has been the case throughout his career, as well. The Braves have a strong mix of left- and right-handed batters throughout their lineup, and they’re likely to go underowned with the Houston Astros on this slate.
Wildcard GPP: Low Owned Stack
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals have struggled a bit through 42 games this season. They currently rank 16th in the MLB in runs scored and OPS, 21st in home runs, and 18th in team batting average. The Royals featured a better offense at home last season, where they recorded a .257 average with a .402 slugging percentage and a .723 OPS. They also averaged 4.1 runs and 3.0 extra-base hits per game in Kansas City in 2018. They get an interesting matchup tonight, and they are +121 underdogs in a game set at 9.5 runs. Still, Kansas City features an implied run total of 4.5 runs.
Mike Minor will be taking the mound for the Texas Rangers tonight. He has looked outstanding through eight starts, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. With that being said, he could be due for regression, as he owns a 4.17 xFIP and a 4.02 SIERA in 2019. Minor has allowed his opponents to hit for a 41.3% fly ball rate, although he has held them to a 10.5% HR/FB rate. He also enters this game with 37% hard hit and 18.1% soft hit rates. Minor’s strikeout rate is up to 25.2%, while his swinging strike rate sits at 11.5%. He was a reverse splits pitcher in 2018, allowing left-handed batters to hit for a .259 average with a .527 slugging percentage and a .334 wOBA. He has seen relatively similar splits against right- and left-handed batters throughout his career, though. Furthermore, Minor has allowed a .254/.430/.321 career line on the road. Kansas City certainly comes with risk, but using them in a regression spot gives you tremendous leverage.
Bales’ Bombs: HR Predictor
Betts has found more success against right-handed pitching, as he enters this game with 0.059 wOBA and 0.089 ISO differentials against righties. He has also caught fire recently, posting 42% hard hit and 55% fly ball rates with a 94 MPH exit velocity over the last 15 days.
Arenado has been playing at a high level for the Colorado Rockies recently, recording 58% hard hit and 41% fly ball rates with a 96 MPH exit velocity over the last 15 days. He also brings 0.156 wOBA and 0.203 ISO differentials against left-handed pitching into this game tonight.
Since returning from injury, Rendon has posted 72% hard hit and 61% fly ball rates with a 99 MPH exit velocity. He has struggled at times against right-handed pitching, but this is an elite matchup against Wilmer Font tonight. Rendon is also hitting .367 with a 714 slugging percentage at home this season.
Turner can always be considered against left-handed pitching, and he enters this game with 0.017 wOBA and 0.067 ISO differentials against lefties. He has also posted 57% hard hit and 54% fly ball rates with a 98 MPH exit velocity over the last 15 days. He owns five home runs over his last six games, as well.
I’m limiting myself to only one Houston Astro in this section, and Bregman takes the slot. He has hit 5 home runs over his last 10 games, including 3 in his last 3 contests. He has also been playing well for a while, as he owns 55% hard hit and 53% fly ball rates with a 98 MPH exit velocity over the last 15 days.
Hidden Gem: Value Pitcher
Urena is one of my least favorite pitchers in the MLB, but when life gives you lemons, right? He has struggled through eight games, recording a 1-5 record with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. He also owns a 4.52 xFIP and a 4.75 SIERA this season. Urena has also held his opponents to a 28.9% fly ball rate, while posting a 15.9% HR/FB rate. He has also allowed a 43.5% hard hit rate, while recording a 15.6% soft hit rate in 2019. Urena’s strikeout rate sits at only 15.8%, while his swinging strike rate has dropped to 7.8% this season. He’s a +165 underdog in a game set at 7.5 runs, giving his opponents an implied run total of 4.4 runs.
Urena gets a great matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays, who rank second on the slate in strikeouts per at-bat and last in team wOBA. Urena was at his best against right-handed batters last season, holding them to a .226 average with a .328 slugging percentage and a .278 wOBA. He’ll benefit from playing in the Miami Marlins pitcher friendly stadium, while Tampa Bay also loses their DH. He comes with terrible risk, but he’s extremely cheap, and has flashed enough upside for tournaments, as well.
Hidden Gems: Value Hitters
I recommended David Freese in the Battle of the Bales, so I’m sliding over to Hernandez here. He has been cold recently, as he owns a .111 average with a .194 slugging percentage and a .390 OPS over his last 10 games. He owns one home run and three RBIs over that span. Hernandez could be in line for a breakout, though, as he owns 51% hard hit and 48% fly ball rates with a 96 mph exit velocity over the last 15 days. He’s also hitting for a .268/.479/.812 line through 21 home games this season. Throughout his career, Hernandez owns a .268 average with a .495 slugging percentage and a .227 ISO against left-handed pitching.
He gets a matchup against Matt Strahm, who has quietly thrown well this season. He has allowed a 43% fly ball rate this season, although he has held his opponents to an 8.2% HR/FB rate this season. Still, his opponents have posted a 44.8% hard hit rate against him, and he could be in line for regression as he gains more innings. His strikeout rate is also down to a 21.5% this season. Surprisingly, Strahm has been a reverse splits pitcher throughout his career, but I still expect Hernandez to find plenty of success in the lead off spot.
Follow Justin Bales on Twitter (@BalesSJustin)
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