MLB Expert Picks, Predictions, Odds for Friday, March 31

MLB Expert Picks, Predictions, Odds for Friday, March 31 article feature image

Photo Illustration by Matt Roembke. Pictured: Cristian Javier and Jose Ramirez.

  • The MLB slate for Friday, March 31, has five games and plenty of betting value.
  • Our MLB analyst has looked over the matchups and come up with a number of bets to recommend.
  • Continue reading for Sean Zerillo's full betting card from Friday's MLB slate.

Welcome to Opening Pitch, my new 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 find my projections for every MLB game in the Action App (on both the PRO Projections tab and the game pages) and our Projections Hub (which you can bookmark).

You can also shop for the best lines on our odds page.

Let's jump into a rare five-game slate for a Friday.

Expert Picks for Friday, March 31

New York Mets vs. Miami Marlins

I don't look at any betting lines before modeling these games each day because I like to try to predict which teams or totals I will bet on based on my numbers.

I expected to have multiple moneyline wagers on Miami while building projections for the first two games. The betting market is higher on the Marlins than I gave it credit for.

I only show a slight edge on the Marlins (projected -101) at current prices, and I would look to bet the Fish if the market moves to +103 for the first five innings (F5) or +108 for the full game.

You can bet the Under at current prices (Under 8, -110 at FanDuel) and down to 7.5 (+100). I projected the total at 7.26. Additionally, you can bet the F5 Under 4.5 to -130 (projected 3.84).

Jesus Luzardo carried a 3.39 xERA last season in a bounce-back campaign, but some pitching projections expect him to regress closer to 3.9 this season, roughly where I project the Mets' David Peterson.

Both pitchers offer a relatively wide range of projection outcomes, but what I like is the performance trend. Each found a career peak in 2022 — took a slight step back — and then recovered toward the end:

Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros

You already know that I'm high on Cristian Javier, who I talked up for wins leader, strikeout leader and Cy Young bets this offseason. Javier carried a 2.43 expected ERA or xERA last season, second behind only Spencer Strider (2.39) and well ahead of the rest of the pack, including Clayton Kershaw (2.51), Carlos Rodon (2.64), Justin Verlander (2.66) and Shohei Ohtani (2.68).

I'm also high on Lance Lynn for this season after potentially finding a slider to neutralize lefties. Per Jake Mailhot of FanGraphs: "During his career, Lynn has run a pretty pronounced platoon split (nearly 50 points of wOBA). After adding the slider, his wOBA allowed against left-handed batters fell from .395 to .258, and his strikeout rate increased from 17% to 23%."

Regardless, both teams are in their lesser offensive split. Both project better against left-handed pitching than righties. Last season, Houston ranked second against lefties but ninth against righties; Chicago ranked fourth against lefties but 23rd against righties. The personnel isn't entirely the same, but it gives you an idea of the relative potency between the splits.

All this is to say that I would bet the Under 7.5 to -105 (projected 7.1) and play an F5 Under 4 to -115 (or 4.5 to -150).

Houston is closer to the value side of the moneyline; however, I would need odds nearer to -140 in either half to jump in (projected -156 F5, -153 full game).

Colorado Rockies vs. San Diego Padres

Update: With the total dropping to 7.5, I would look to play the Over at -112 or better (projected 8.1.)

I project a slight edge on the Padres' F5 moneyline and would look to place that bet at -161 or better. Otherwise, I would pass on this matchup.

Kyle Freeland doesn't have as drastic home/road splits as his teammate German Marquez, but he is certainly more effective (4.70 xERA at Coors; 4.27 Away).

Nick Martinez wasn't necessarily much more effective in the bullpen (3.98 xFIP) than in the rotation (4.09 xFIP through June 18) last season, even though his ERA improved significantly (from 4.03 to 2.74).

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Cleveland Guardians vs. Seattle Mariners

The Guardians were pitiful against lefties last season (84 wRC+, 27th) and are starting Hunter Gaddis in place of Triston McKenzie against former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray.

Six different projection systems put Gaddis' ERA between 4.54 and 4.76. At the same time, Ray was an entire run better last season (3.59 xERA), so why would I recommend the Guardians as a bet down to +134, aside from my projected edge (projected moneyline +123)?

While Cleveland didn't hit lefties particularly well last season, it brought in two above-average bats in Josh Bell (career 105 wRC+ vs. lefties) and Mike Zunino (101), who owns four homers against Ray.

For a team that doesn't strike out, the Guardians chase pitches outside of the zone a bunch, but they foul off a lot of pitches and swing and miss less often than any other team (9.1% in 2022). Expect Cleveland to work deep counts, foul off pitches and attempt to draw walks and knock Ray out of the game.

In my model, these offenses and bullpens are relatively similar, but Cleveland has a sizable defensive and baserunning advantage.

If Gaddis can keep the game tied until it turns to the bullpens, then this becomes an actual coin flip.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

I'm pretty high on Dustin May for 2023. He's reached the performance inflection point after his Tommy John surgery and had a strong spring (18 1/3 IP, 7 BB, 20 K).

I would consider betting on the Dodgers F5 line at -160 or better (projected -173).

However, as I mentioned before Opening Day, I project a smaller gap between these bullpens than the market is accounting for; therefore, I would bet the Diamondbacks' full game line at +178 or better, at a similar edge.

I don't project value on either side of the total in either half.

Zerillo's Bets for March 31

For additional bet notifications, follow me in the Action Network App. 

  • Cleveland Guardians (+150, 0.5u) at WynnBet
  • Chicago White Sox / Houston Astros F5 Under 4.5 (-137, 0.25u) at BetRivers
  • Chicago White Sox / Houston Astros Under 7.5 (+100, 0.5u) at Caesars
  • Colorado Rockies / San Diego Padres, Over 7.5 (-110, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • New York Mets / Miami Marlins, Under 8 (-110, 0.5u) at FanDuel

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