MLB Picks, Predictions: 3 Expert Bets for Astros vs Rangers, Phillies vs Orioles & More

MLB Picks, Predictions: 3 Expert Bets for Astros vs Rangers, Phillies vs Orioles & More article feature image

Tim Heitman/Getty Images. Pictured: Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers.

Welcome back to the Wednesday MLB slate breakdown. We have a perfect split of afternoon games and night games to keep your baseball appetite satisfied throughout the entire day today.

Be sure to check out our MLB odds page for up-to-the-minute odds changes across multiple sportsbooks, as well as our MLB Projections page, which helps you find the best value across the board.

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Blue Jays vs. Dodgers

4:10 p.m. ET · Yusei Kikuchi vs. Tony Gonsolin

Yusei Kikuchi is actually starting to make some pretty drastic improvements this season.

First off, he's figured out the control issues that have plagued him in the past, as his BB/9 rate has lowered from 5.19 to 2.70 and his Location+ rating has improved from 94 to 101.

That's massive news, because Kikuchi has some nasty pitches that can give opposing hitters a lot of problems. It starts with his fastball, which has a 121 Stuff+ rating and has produced a whiff rate close to 30% this season.

Yusei Kikuchi, 95mph ⛽️…and Kick-uchi K Strut.

He just gets so excited every time he K's a hitter. 😀

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 22, 2023

He then has a wipeout slider and a good curveball to complement his fastball, with both pitches owning a Stuff+ rating over 100.

The good news for Kikuchi is the Dodgers are much worse against lefties than they are against righties.

Tony Gonsolin is a big-time negative regression candidate. His actual ERA sits at 3.94, but his xERA is up at 4.84. A lot of that overperformance is coming on his fastball because Gonsolin's xwOBA is over 100 points higher than his actual wOBA allowed.

It just kind of sums up that Gonsolin hasn't been the pitcher that he was the past few seasons. His hard-hit rate allowed and barrel rate allowed are by far the highest of his career, and he's also not getting the swings and misses that he's used to, with his K/9 rate below eight for the first time in his big league career.

The Blue Jays also have the advantage in the bullpen for this matchup, with a better xFIP, Stuff+ and Pitching+ rating than the Dodgers.

I have the Blue Jays projected as -104 favorites, so I like the value on them at +132.

Orioles vs. Phillies

6:05 p.m. ET · Kyle Bradish vs. Ranger Suarez

Kyle Bradish has such an interesting profile as a starter. He was a highly touted prospect coming up and has posted a 3.05 ERA, but his expected ERA is up at 4.20.

Then when you dig into his Statcast profile, he doesn't look like a sub-3.5 ERA type of pitcher.

Image via Baseball Savant

However, when you dig into Bradish's Stuff+ numbers, he's been a top-five pitcher in baseball over the past 30 days. He also has allowed only three earned runs in his last four starts.

Image via FanGraphs

Ranger Suarez will be on the mound for the Phillies, and he's someone who has been an average to below-average starting pitcher. Suarez owns a 4.49 xERA and has a Stuff+ rating of just 84 with none of his pitches having a rating over 100.

Here's the problem Suarez is running into: When he was putting up really good numbers in 2021 and 2022, his groundball rate was above 55%. In 2021, it was getting close to 60%. This season, he's dropped down closer to a 50% groundball rate, which is why you see his xERA rising.

He throws a sinker, fastball, curveball and changeup as his main four-pitch combination, with everything designed to be down in the zone to induce those groundballs because he doesn't have a lot of velocity.

You couple that with the fact that he's been a little wild with a BB/9 rate of 3.33, and you get a below-average MLB starting pitcher.

The Orioles hit lefties better than they do right-handers, ranking top 10 in wOBA. They'll be able to platoon eight right-handed bats against Suarez.

I have the Orioles and Bradish projected at -113 for the first five innings, so I like the value on them at +110.

Rangers vs. Astros

8:10 p.m. ET · Andrew Heaney vs. Framber Valdez

This line is far too high for the Astros against one of the best offenses in baseball.

Framber Valdez has been impressive this season, but his 2.94 ERA is not as elite as it seems when you dig into his expected metrics. His xERA sits a full run higher at 3.97.

Valdez has been one of the best groundball pitchers in baseball, but that has changed this season  His groundball rate is now down to 53.4% after it consistently sat above 60% for his career. His sinker just hasn't been that effective, allowing a .367 xwOBA to opposing hitters.

The bad news for Valdez in this matchup is that the Rangers absolutely obliterate left-handed pitching. Texas ranks second in MLB with a .355 wOBA and 128 wRC+, and it owns a .352 xwOBA against left-handed sinkers this season.

The Rangers faced Valdez earlier this season and tagged him for five runs in six innings.

Texas will start Andrew Heaney, who has been a below-average starting pitcher with his xERA sitting at 4.81. Heaney utilizes only three pitches — a fastball that he throws over 58% of the time, plus a slider and changeup as his two off-speed pitches. However, all three pitches are generating a whiff rate of over 25%, and all three have a Stuff+ rating over 100.

So, Heaney is not a significantly worse pitcher than Valdez.

I think the price on the Rangers for the first five innings is far too high at +150, as I have them projected at -128.

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