MLB Expert Picks | Odds, Projections for Friday’s Slate
Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Naylor, Bryan De La Cruz, Chas McCormick
Welcome to Opening Pitch, my column that you'll find daily throughout the 2023 MLB season.
My goal for Opening Pitch is to highlight my top daily projection edges for MLB moneylines and totals, share my favorite bets and provide some betting notes and analysis, mainly as I react to opening and overnight lines while using my baseball betting model.
I will look to release a new version of Opening Pitch daily between midnight and 3 a.m. ET; after I enter my overnight bets in the Action Network App and update the MLB projections. Hopefully, you will use it as your morning betting guide to get ahead of the baseball markets.
You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.
Expert Picks for Friday, July 14
San Diego Padres vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Yu Darvish vs. Cristopher Sanchez
First Pitch: 6:05 p.m. ET
Sanchez has impressed across five appearances, posting consecutive quality starts against the Nationals and Rays — both of whom hit lefties well — in his past two outings. The southpaw has posted a 3.27 xERA while halving his walk rate (4%) compared to his career mark (8.4%).
Pitching models peg Sanchez at an 88 Stuff+ figure (thanks to a plus slider) and a 100+ Location+ mark (100 Pitching+) — a slight decrease in stuff, but a significant improvement in command compared to prior seasons.
The Padres project better against lefties (109 wRC+, 11th) than righties (99 wRC+, 16th), but as I mentioned, Washington (107 wRC+, 13th) and Tampa Bay (125 wRC+, 3rd) presented equally tricky matchups.
Offensively, the Phillies are in their superior split (15th vs. righties, 21st vs. lefties). And although Yu Darvish (4.87 ERA) has underperformed compared to his underlying indicators (3.68 xERA, 105 Pitching+) this season, I still project the Phillies as a slight favorite (52.6%, -111 implied odds) in this matchup.
Bet the reigning NL champions at -102 or better.
Miami Marlins vs. Baltimore Orioles
Sandy Alcantara vs. Dean Kremer
First Pitch: 7:05 p.m. ET
I think the betting market has over-corrected concerning Sandy Alcantara, and I'm prepared to back the reigning NL Cy Young winner in his current form.
Through his first 11 starts of the season, Alcantara posted a 4.93 ERA, 4.44 xFIP, 11.9% K-BB% or strikeout minus walk rate, and a 43.8% groundball rate.
Across seven outings since the start of June, Alcantara has posted a 4.40 ERA, 3.43 xFIP, 14.1% K-BB% and 57.6% groundball rate, much more comparable to his 2022 results (3.29 xFIP, 17.7% K-BB%, 53.4% groundball rate).
Alcantara's Stuff+ (105) hasn't necessarily improved in his past seven starts, compared to those 11 prior outings (111), but his command has (108 vs. 103 Location+), and the overall package (109 vs. 105 Pitching+) is better.
Dean Kremer (5.64 xERA, 100 Pitching+) is somewhere between a back-end starter and a replacement-level pitcher. Kremer can eat innings at the back-end of a rotation, and his best skill is availability. Baltimore could stand to upgrade its starting rotation if it's serious about contending in 2023; I trust Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells, but Kremer, Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson are liabilities.
I set the Marlins as -117 favorites for the first five innings (F5) and -103 favorites for the full game; bet the Fish in both halves to -108 and +106, respectively.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds
Corbin Burnes vs. Graham Ashcraft
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET
Like Alcantara, Burnes is another former NL Cy Young winner who has underperformed (3.94 ERA) compared to his underlying metrics (3.65 xERA, 119 Stuff+).
His strikeout rate has fallen dramatically — from his career peak of 35.6% in 2021 to 23.1% this season — alongside a 1-mph velocity dip, and his K-BB% (14.3%) has moved toward league average. But Burnes has four above-average offerings (114 Stuff+ four-seamer, 137 cutters, 139 slider, 126 curveball) and retains elite upside.
Corbin Burnes struck out 117 batters with his cutter in the 2021 regular season, so here are all 117 of his cutter strikeouts, as a treat. pic.twitter.com/VZRqSbrQzO
— Cut4 (@Cut4) November 18, 2021
Conversely, Graham Ashcraft (6.28 ERA, 5.53 xERA) has one potentially elite pitch (165 Stuff+ on his slider) that consistently returns negative results.
Back Milwaukee in the first half (F5) up to -132, and play Under 10 to -113 (projected 9.18).
Cleveland Guardians vs. Texas Rangers
Aaron Civale vs. Jon Gray
First Pitch: 8:05 p.m. ET
Aaron Civale (3.70 xERA) has essentially matched his expected stats from last season (3.80 xERA), but a fortunate BABIP (.245) and strand rate (82.1%) have led to a generous 2.56 ERA across nine starts.
Last season, Civale stranded just 62.5% of baserunners — roughly 10% than the league average — and his ERA ballooned to 4.92 across 20 appearances.
Pitching models think Civale is the Guardians' best starting pitcher — with superior Stuff+ figures (110) to Triston McKenzie (107) and better command (106 Location+) than every pitcher on the roster except Gavin Williams (107).
The same models prefer Civale to Jon Gray (96 Stuff+, 100 Location+), which aligns with the difference in their xERA per Statcast (4.26 xERA for Gray).
I projected the Guardians as +112 underdogs in the first half (F5) and +124 underdogs for the full game. I also set the total at 7.7.
Bet Cleveland on the F5 moneyline at +122 or better, and play their full game line down to +134. Additionally, bet Under 8.5 to -120 (or Under 8 to -102) with two fully rested bullpens coming out of the All-Star break.
Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels
J.P. France vs. Shohei Ohtani
First Pitch: 9:38 p.m. ET
While I bet Shohei Ohtani for AL Cy Young coming into the season, I'm higher than the betting market on J.P. France (105 Stuff+), who has four above-average offerings (fastball, cutter, slider, curveball) and is working to harness his command (99 Location+).
France carried a 30% strikeout rate across three seasons at Triple-A but couldn't get his walk rate below 10%. Oddly, his strikeout rate (17.6%) has been subpar, while his walk rate (7.7%) has been better than expected across 11 starts at the MLB level.
This is a nice little slider from J.P. France to strikeout Julio Rodriguez pic.twitter.com/j63bnxOHlY
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) May 7, 2023
Ohtani (3.81 xERA, 122 Stuff+) has had ups and downs this season because his command (95 Location+) has slipped (10.6% walk rate) compared to the past couple of years (6.7% walk rate in 2022).
The Angels face a challenging schedule in the second half (average .514 winning percentage, fifth most difficult in MLB) — including six games each against the Astros, Rangers and Rays — and they'll play most of those contests without Mike Trout. It isn't easy to envision a playoff run for Ohtani in Anaheim.
For Friday, back Houston at +134 or better (projected +124) and play Under 8 to -118 (projected 7.26).
Zerillo's Bets for Friday, July 14
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- Boston Red Sox / Chicago Cubs, Under 9.5 (-120, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -130 or 9, -110)
- Chicago White Sox F5 (+225, 0.25u) at WynnBet (small to +222)
- Chicago White Sox (+215, 0.25u) at FanDuel (small to +202)
- Cleveland Guardians F5 (+124, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +122)
- Cleveland Guardians / Texas Rangers, Under 8.5 (-115, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -120, or 8, -102)
- Detroit Tigers (+172, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +155)
- Houston Astros (+145, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +134)
- Houston Astros / Los Angeles Angels, Under 8 (-110, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -118)
- Kansas City Royals F5 (+240, 0.25u) at FanDuel (small to +235)
- Kansas City Royals (+265, 0.25u) at FanDuel (small to +215)
- Los Angeles Dodgers F5 (-105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -110)
- Los Angeles Dodgers / New YorkMets, Under 8.5 (-102, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -110)
- Miami Marlins F5 (-106, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -108)
- Miami Marlins (+110, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +106)
- Miami Marlins / Baltimore Orioles, Over 8 (-115, 0.5u) at Draftkings (bet to -123 or 8.5, -105)
- Milwaukee Brewers F5 (-120, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -132)
- Milwaukee Brewers / Cincinnati Reds, Under 10 (-110, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -113)
- New York Yankees F5 (-190, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -210)
- New York Yankees / Colorado Rockies, Under 12 (-118, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -128 or 11.5, -108)
- Philadelphia Phillies (+105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -102)
- San Francisco Giants / Pittsburgh Pirates, Over 9 (-105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -112)