We’ve got an interesting battle of juxtaposition in tonight’s MLB Showdown contest between the Angels and the Athletics. While it is true both of this evening’s starting pitchers are rookies, the paths Griffin Canning ($10,000) and Tanner Anderson ($9,400) took to get here couldn’t be more different. Canning, Los Angeles’ top pitching prospect, was drafted in the second round of the 2017 Draft out of UCLA. He’s been pegged as a huge piece of the Angels’ future for the better part of two years. Meanwhile, Anderson was taken in the 20th round by the Pirates. He debuted last season in a relief role and was traded to Oakland for a player to be named later. Not exactly a trait of a highly regarded rotation piece. Yet, both men will take the mound Thursday in an AL West matchup.
Let’s break it all down.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Athletics have won each of their past four games as underdogs.
— Each of the Angels’ past four home games have gone UNDER the total runs line.
— Games at Angel Stadium average a total of 10.1 runs.
— The average winning margin at Angel Stadium is 3.1 runs.
— The Angels win 56.8% of games at Angel Stadium.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Los Angeles Angels
Griffin Canning ($10,000) hasn’t been awful in his four outings so far in June, but the numbers aren’t as pretty as they were in May — at least on the surface. In 23 1/3 innings, the 23-year-old has pitched to a 5.01 ERA and a 4.47 FIP. That last figure is important because, as well as it seemed Canning was tossing the ball last month, the rookie’s FIP was identical in May due to an unsustainable BABIP (.188) and strand rate (95.0%). Really, when taken as a whole, there’s a lot to be nervous about when it comes to the young RHP’s pitching profile through his first 10 starts at the MLB level. First and foremost: He’s unabashedly fly ball oriented. Among the 138 pitchers who have thrown at least 50 frames in 2019, Canning’s 47.7% fly ball rate is the third-highest in baseball. Now, that by itself is not a death sentence; however, when you consider Canning’s infield fly ball rate of 2.8% is by far the lowest of any SP with a fly ball rate over 40%, now we’re getting into red flag territory. Especially given what we’ve found out about the physical changes with baseballs this week, it’s generally in a modern pitcher’s best interest to keep the ball on the ground.
Canning also has had some problems with handedness since being called up from the minors. While he’s managed to limit LHBs to a .260 wOBA, right-handers have had considerably more success. In fact, specific to Canning’s past four starts, RHBs have slashed .300/.339/.580 with a .373 wOBA and an eye-popping 51.3% hard contact rate. A huge reason for this is Canning’s curveball. The right-hander throws the offering to lefties at a 29.1% clip and the pitch has induced a fantastic .044 slugging percentage within the split. However, while Canning does tend to lean on his slider more in right-on-right situations, RHBs have mashed his curve to the tune of a .583 slugging. Additionally, they own a .378 ISO against his fastball. These are major issues in a vacuum; yet, as it pertains to tonight’s slate, they’re even more damning. The Athletics are very right-handed when it comes to lineup construction. For the year, Oakland has racked up the fifth-most right-on-right plate appearances in the league (1,650), with those opportunities at the plate not coming at the expense of offensive production, either. Canning has his work cut out for him this evening.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tanner Anderson ($9,400) is an extreme ground ball pitcher. Though the sample size is small — he’s made just three starts in the big leagues — all of the signs suggest Anderson’s 59.6% ground ball rate is legitimate. Most assuredly, it’s a skill the 26-year-old has carried with him throughout the minors; but, if you have any doubts about what Anderson’s attempting to do as a pitcher, look no further than his 64.0% usage rate with his sinker. Still, not all sinkers are created equal, and Anderson’s finding this out the hard way when it comes to left-handed opposition. While Anderson’s held the 30 RHBs he’s faced to a pristine .139 wOBA with an otherworldly 5.67 GB/FB ratio, lefties have had a much easier time elevating the ball. Because of this, LHBs have collected all three of the extra-base hits Anderson’s allowed since getting called up, with the pitcher also surrendering a massive 65.2% hard contact rate within the split.
This makes all of the Angels’ left-handed hitters viable. Tommy La Stella ($8,800) batting from the leadoff spot, whichever of Brian Goodwin ($8,400) or Kole Calhoun ($8,000) gets the start in right field, and even Luis Rengifo ($6,400) despite the fact he’s produced better as a right-handed bat so far this season. However, let’s take special notice of Shohei Ohtani ($10,200) and Justin Bour ($6,600). Ohtani has destroyed sinkers from RHPs in 2019. Like, absolutely pummeled them. Ohtani’s hitting .556 with a 1.333 OPS on the batted ball events he’s produced off of the pitch. That’s some astounding stuff. Bour, in a similar fashion, owns a .539 ISO off of righty sinkers this season. Bour also possesses a 199 wRC+ since being recalled from Triple-A earlier this month. It’s never a bad idea to utilize Mike Trout ($11,000) when you have a chance to do so, yet I’ll be focusing on Los Angeles’ LHBs on this particular slate.
To be as blunt as possible, this was not a good time for Anderson to catch the Angels; especially considering his struggles with left-handed opponents. Not only is Ohtani off the IL, but the aforementioned Bour is back up from the minors and is hitting the ball exceedingly hard since the transaction. Depending on whether or not Bour finds his way into tonight’s lineup over Albert Pujols ($7,400), Los Angeles could have as many as five lefties set up to face the rookie hurler. That’s not mentioning the fact two of the non-lefty hitters are in the form of Trout and Justin Upton ($9,400), too. Really, when it’s all laid out like that, it’s not all that shocking the Angels have enjoyed the type of offensive success they’ve had so far in June. Since the beginning of the month, Los Angeles owns the fifth-highest wRC+ in the league (116) and the ninth-highest wOBA (.340), and it’s accomplished all that with baseball’s third-lowest strikeout rate (18.7%). It’s difficult to find a weakness in this lineup as currently constructed.
Anderson’s not exactly the desired archetype of a DFS pitcher, either. While the ability to induce ground balls at a high clip is a commendable skill in real-life baseball, it’s tough to swallow in fantasy when a pitcher’s best trait involves opponent contact. We’re looking for strikeouts, and it would appear that’s not a likely occurrence with Anderson on this slate. Through his first three starts, Anderson has averaged just four strikeouts per game along with an underwhelming 8.4 DKFP. This is a direct result of mustering a lowly 7.7% swinging strike rate. Another thing to keep in mind is Anderson generally works low and outside of the strike zone; a fact evidenced by a 39.1% zone rate. This isn’t always a bad thing. Pitchers like Patrick Corbin, who have high chase rates, can live and thrive pitching in this manner. Anderson is not Patrick Corbin. Also, at 26.4% as a team, the Angels sport the league’s lowest outside-the-zone swing rate. The cardinal sin of pitching with a sinker is leaving the ball up, but that’s what Anderson might be forced to do with Los Angeles more than likely unwilling to chase the offering below the knees. That’s bad news.
Things look a little rosier for Oakland’s positional players. As mentioned above, Canning has had his struggles with right-handed bats across his past four starts. Well, the Athletics are not short on threatening RHBs. Mark Canha ($7,000) has hit to a .395 wOBA in his 104 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2019, while Canha’s ISO also jumps from .194 at home to .369 away from the spacious Coliseum. Khris Davis ($6,800) and Matt Chapman ($8,600) are high-ceiling power bats from the right-hand side, as well. Still, no player on the A’s is more thankful to escape his home ball park than Matt Olson ($8,200). Though he’s left-handed and doesn’t fit every requirement of Canning’s weaknesses, Olson goes from slashing .198/.283/.396 in Oakland to .301/.400/.699 on the road. It doesn’t hurt that Angel Stadium was Baseball Prospectus No. 1 home run park for LHBs last season, either.
I’m not particularly enthralled by either starting pitcher in this matchup, therefore I’m inclined to believe this will be a relatively high-scoring affair. If you’re dead-set on getting a SP into your lineup, Griffin Canning is the more desirable of the two; however, I mainly will be focused on saving salary for a few big-name bats. Shohei Ohtani ($15,300 CP) is the top option for Captain’s Pick on the board, while Justin Bour ($9,900 CP) or Mark Canha ($10,500 CP) make for nice plays at 1.5x value if you’re looking to be a little more frugal. In any case, you’ll want to be loading up on left-handed Angels for tonight’s slate.
Final Score: Los Angeles 7, Oakland 4
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