Unless you’ve read the deranged tweets of a Blue Jays fan lately, you’re probably unaware of how most fans of the franchise feel like they were fleeced at the trade deadline. Part of this stems from the Marcus Stroman transaction, but he definitely was going to be moved.
The larger source of pain was shockingly the parting of ways with Aaron Sanchez ($9,400) — a pitcher that led the American League in walks per nine at the time of his departure. Still, it’s likely not losing Sanchez himself that hurt Toronto fans so deeply. It’s about the loss of what Sanchez represented.
The California native was drafted back in 2010, with one of three compensation picks the Jays would receive that season. The first was used on Sanchez, the second on Noah Syndergaard and the third on Asher Wojciechowski. Justin Nicolino, Sam Dyson, and, technically, Kris Bryant also were selected that year in what most consider Toronto’s strongest draft effort of the past two decades. That’s all gone now, with the final piece to leave starting an Astros’ combined no-hitter in his first trip to the mound for another organization.
Tonight, Sanchez is set to make his third outing for Houston as the team heads to Oakland for a divisional matchup. Can he continue his new-found success in Orange and Blue? Let’s dive into the featured Showdown slate on DraftKings.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Astros have won 10 of their past 11 games against AL West opponents.
— The “Inning 1 OVER 0.5 runs” market has hit in each of the Astros’ past 10 road games against AL West opponents.
— The Astros have led after three innings in each of their past eight night games against AL West opponents.
— Each of the Astros’ past four games after playing the previous day have gone OVER the total runs line.
— The Astros have won the first inning in each of their past three Thursday games against the Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum.
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
It’s truly difficult to get a sense of Mike Fiers’ ($10,600) viability. On the one hand, from a strictly results-based perspective, he essentially has been the best pitcher in the American League going back to June 17. Within that span, the veteran has thrown 65 2/3 innings across 10 starts, maintaining a pristine and league-low 1.64 ERA. However, there’s obviously a different lens in which you can view that stretch of good fortune. Of the seven qualified starters with an ERA below 2.50 within that same run, Fiers is not just leading all seven with an opponent contact rate of 83.5%, he’s the lone man with a mark above 76%. Strikeouts and contact suppression, especially with the new baseballs, are the definitive ways to consistently succeed. This is made more than apparent by Fiers drastically outperforming both his FIP (3.56) and xFIP (5.05) the past two months. Strikeouts are also the way to make a dent in the world of DFS. To wit, despite surrendering a mere nine runs dating back to the beginning of July, Fiers has exceeded 20 DKFP in only two of his seven outings. To make matters worse, both of the performances came against the White Sox, who own MLB’s second highest strikeout rate over the past 30 days (27.1%). The Astros? Well, they possess the league’s lowest rate within that timeframe at 18.7%, meaning Fiers will be lucky to surpass the three strikeouts he’s racked up in his past two meetings against Houston. For a pitcher with the slate’s second most lucrative salary, that’s not very enticing.
As for the Athletics’ positional players, there are a few more exciting options. Mark Canha ($7,600) sports team-high marks in both ISO (.250) and wOBA (.373) against right-handed pitching in 2019. Robbie Grossman ($5,400) owns a .295 average and .385 OBP hitting off of RHPs going back to the beginning of June — statistics he brings along with a high-leverage batting order slot. Corban Joseph ($4,000) is a left-handed bat that produced a .421 wOBA this season at Triple-A who can be had at the minimum price point. Still, the most interesting name on Oakland’s 25-man roster might be Khris Davis ($6,200). Formerly the American League’s home run king, Davis is in the midst of a massive slump that’s been dragging on since roughly mid-June. However, he’s had a lot of success this year when given the opportunity to bat opposite right-handed pitchers with non-overpowering fastballs. In fact, the 31-year-old possesses a horrendous .271 xwOBA when seeing pitches above 95 mph from RHPs. Fortunately, Sanchez does not throw that type of gas as a starter, sitting at just 92.5 mph with his four-seam since joining the Astros. On righty pitches between 90 mph and 95 mph, Davis has produced a team-best .427 xwOBA, putting Sanchez’s arsenal right in the power-hitter’s wheelhouse. Matt Chapman ($7,200) also has benefitted from facing lower-velocity righties.
Whether or not you believe that Houston’s coaching staff wields magical pitching powers, the changes Sanchez has made since being traded from Toronto are undeniable and not totally surprising. Really, look no further than Gerrit Cole as a template for the Astros’ organizational philosophy on pitch usage. Cole, when employed by Pittsburgh, didn’t rely nearly as much on his sinker as Sanchez had in his time with the Jays; but he almost completely scraped the offering upon arrival in Houston. To fill the void, Cole instead turned to higher doses of his four-seam and his curveball, and the results have been eye-popping. Now, we’re dealing with only a two-start sample when it comes to Sanchez’s pitch mix, yet going from tossing his sinker in 40.9% of counts in July to just 6.6% of counts in August is the type of tangible change that makes one believe in a sudden run of success; though the opposition Sanchez has faced in an Astros’ uniform can’t be ignored, either. Nothing says welcome to a new team quite like drawing the lowly Mariners and Orioles, squads that might be as responsible for Sanchez’s recent strikeout spree as his uptick in curveball usage.
In any event, for the purposes of this slate, you really don’t have to believe the former All-Star is fixed for the long haul, just that he can suppress this version of the Athletics’ offense. Considering how vastly different they’ve performed with a right-hander on the mound as opposed to a lefty, it’s honestly not too difficult a scenario to envision. While Oakland possesses the league’s third-highest ISO (.222) and fourth-best wRC+ (115) when facing a southpaw, those numbers fall off a cliff when the team takes on an RHP. Additionally, the Athletics are one of seven squads striking out in more than 25% of their plate appearances so far in August, giving Sanchez another opportunity to showcase his new skill set. The other crucial thing to remember here is win expectancy and ceiling. Despite being on the road, Houston is favored to win this contest, and Sanchez adds that fact to his recent run of three straight 20-plus DKFP outings. Fiers might have a higher floor than the 27-year-old, but the difference in upside between the two starters is massive. With Fiers’ archetype indisputably anti-DFS, there’s no reason for Oakland’s righty to be the higher-priced option of the duo.
Finally, when it comes to the Astros’ bats, there’s almost no wrong direction to take. Yordan Alvarez ($10,800) is in possession of the team’s highest xwOBA against right-handed pitching dating back to the start of July (.451), but the much cheaper Michael Brantley ($7,800) ialso s posting a figure above .400 within that same span of time. Carlos Correa ($8,000) is slashing .262/.377/.585 since coming off the IL towards the end of last month; and Yuli Gurriel ($8,200) somehow has a .460 ISO and a microscopic 10.2% strikeout rate across his past 147 trips to the plate. Essentially, Houston can supply offensive pieces for whatever build you end up deciding on, pieces that should be immensely viable with the team’s implied run total up above five once again.
Finding myself unable to trust Mike Fiers as a legitimate DFS value, I’ll be leaning heavily towards Astros players when creating my lineups for this slate. Aaron Sanchez ($14,100 CP) or Yordan Alvarez ($16,200 CP) make for more than acceptable high-end Captain’s Picks, but you also could build your teams around Michael Brantley ($11,700 CP) or Carlos Correa ($12,000 CP) for a slightly more balanced approach. In any case, I think Houston rolls on this Thursday evening.
Final Score: Houston 5, Oakland 2
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.