MLB Expert Picks Today | Bets for Tigers vs Orioles, Astros vs Braves, More on Friday, April 21

MLB Expert Picks Today | Bets for Tigers vs Orioles, Astros vs Braves, More on Friday, April 21 article feature image

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images. Pictured: Adley Rutschman.

Every team in Major League Baseball is in action on Friday night, setting up a full 15-game card. The Cubs and Dodgers will play the second of their four-game series at Wrigley Field as the standalone day game (2:20 p.m. ET). The Blue Jays and Yankees will begin their season series in the Bronx, and the Astros and Braves face off in a rematch of the 2021 World Series at Truist Park.

Here are my thoughts and favorite bets from the Friday slate:

The ultimate MLB betting cheat code

Best bets for every game

Profitable data-driven system picks

Tail the sharpest bettors in the world

Reds at Pirates, 6:35 p.m. ET

Graham Ashcraft vs. Mitch Keller

Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene are the two Reds starters who get the most hype and market respect, but what if Graham Ashcroft is the best of the three right now?

It's certainly possible, especially after Ashcraft shoved last week at home in a start against Philadelphia. Only three pitchers — Jacob deGrom, Shohei Ohtani and Spencer Strider — have a higher Stuff+ than Ashcraft at this point in the season. Ashcraft doesn't have the command of those guys, but his slider and cutter combination is befuddling hitters. His slider grades out better than Gerrit Cole's and his cutter is comparable to Corbin Burnes', which some hitters called the best pitch in baseball in 2022. Both offerings are top five in their respective pitches in terms of velocity, shape and movement.

The projection systems don't really believe in Ashcraft because he won't put up the strikeout numbers that Greene or Lodolo will. That's true, but the BABIP numbers may be too high against him. Projections put him in the low-to-mid 4s for an ERA projection. He's only been barreled three times in his first 51 batted balls, which has led to a .260 BABIP.

Mitch Keller always had average stuff, but for the first time in his career, he's upped his fastball velocity and added a new pitch to have above average stuff. Keller sits with a 102 Stuff+, and that's with a league-average fastball and a new sweeper that is off-the-charts good in the grading system. The season is young, but Keller's 4.31 xERA puts him right in the mix with last season's data. That's a positive indicator, given that Keller had a stellar second half last season from a results perspective.

The market opened this total at 9 and it's been bet down to 8.5, but I still like the under at the current market price. I'd bet under 8.5 at -115 or better. Both pitchers are still a bit undervalued.

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Tigers at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET

Michael Lorenzen vs. Tyler Wells

Tyler Wells doesn't put up stellar strikeout numbers, but he's excellent at inducing weak contact, usually in the form of popups. Wells is consistently undervalued by the market because his K-BB% doesn't wow, but his Stuff+ is above average and he's finally getting normal usage as a traditional starter in Baltimore.

Wells has just 6.05 K/9 in 16 innings in 2023, but because his cutter and changeup are his two best pitches, that produces a low BABIP. His career BABIP is .233, which is way lower than the projection systems see him going forward. Most models from Steamer and The BAT have him in the mid 4s with ERA, but he's closer to a 4.00 ERA pitcher. The models project him for a .274 consensus BABIP for the rest of the season, but he's highly likely to beat that number.

The market opened this game as low as -140 and the Orioles have been bet up to -175. This follows the trend from last season and early this year where there's a ton of sharp money moving the market in favor of Wells. I'd still bet Baltimore up to -180 because of the Tigers' poor splits against right-handed pitching. The Tigers were the worst offense in baseball against right-handers last year and don't project any better against them this season.

Tigers starter Michael Lorenzen has had command issues any time he's been a starter in MLB. Now facing an offense that's bottom seven in swing rate; he could run into plenty of traffic on the bases due to walks.

Astros at Braves, 7:20 p.m. ET

Hunter Brown vs. Bryce Elder

Hunter Brown is the top pitching prospect in Houston because Stuff+ grades him with four above average pitches. He's been excellent in 18 2/3 innings this season, and the gap between him and Bryce Elder is bigger than the market is projecting with this line.

Brown's 109 Stuff+ is miles better than Elder's 71. Even if Stuff+ is almost certainly underrating Elder because it is missing something on his changeup, that's a massive gap in true talent. The average projections have Brown at a 3.60 ERA vs. a 4.10 ERA for Elder.

Using Pitching+ projected numbers though, Elder is closer to a 4.50 ERA pitcher. Atlanta has the better offense and is playing at home, but I still like Houston in the first five innings because of Brown's superior stuff.

Pick: Astros F5 (-110 or better)

The must-have app for MLB bettors

The best MLB betting scoreboard

Free picks from proven pros

Live win probabilities for your bets

Cardinals at Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET

Steven Matz vs. George Kirby

The Mariners have the split advantage on both sides of this matchup.

The Cardinals project considerably better against left-handed pitching than right, mainly because of Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O'Neill in the middle of their order. The Mariners project much better against left-handed pitching because of southpaw mashers Eugenio Suarez and Teoscar Hernandez. I'm also considerably higher on George Kirby in the short and long term than I am Steven Matz.

Kirby has elite command and I've compared him to Aaron Nola in the past. He doesn't quite have the same strikeout numbers or elite breaking ball as Nola, but Kirby will strike out more than the 17% of hitters he has this season going forward. It's too early in the season for the metric to become predictive, but his 112 Location+ is elite and tracks well given his Minor League track record. His slider and curveball both grade out as above average and his Stuff+ overall sits at 101 through two starts. This is better than it was during his rookie season. His new slider — a pitch he learned in the middle of last season — also looks better with each passing week.

Matz has a 95 Stuff+, which is down from last season, and only one of his pitches grades out as above average. He's also seen a spike in walk rate and hard hit rate, a sign that his command isn't quite there. Matz projects similarly in the systems to Kirby, but I like the latter much more.

Seattle has the better starter and bullpen and is playing at home. For that reason, I'll bet them -135 or better on the moneyline.

Pick: Mariners ML (-135 or better)

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.