Monday MLB Odds, Picks: Today’s Expert Projections (July 3)

Monday MLB Odds, Picks: Today’s Expert Projections (July 3) article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Jazz Chisholm Jr., Ildemaro Vargas, Andres Gimenez

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 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.

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Expert Picks for Monday, July 3

Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Drew Smyly vs. Julio Teheran
First Pitch: 2:10 p.m ET

I have discussed Julio Teheran in this space several times. Even though he is coming off his worst start of the season (7 ER, 4 HR allowed) against the Mets, Teheran still carries a respectable 3.83 xERA or expected ERA, in part due to his new cutter (.179 batting average against) which has generated weak contact from opposing offenses.

The right-handed Teheran will face the lesser split from Chicago's offense on Monday (19th, 96 wRC+ vs. righties vs. 10th, 107 wRC+ vs. lefties).

And while Milwaukee's offense has struggled with lefties this season (77 wRC+, 29th), the Brewers have recently performed much better against southpaws since adding right-handed bats like Andrew Monasterio, Owen Miller and Blake Perkins to the fold. Since the calendar turned to June, the Brewers rank 16th (90 wRC+) against left-handed pitching.

Drew Smyly (3.67 xERA) offers fairly traditional splits (career 3.59 xFIP vs. lefties, 4.39 xFIP vs. righties). Still, Smyly is a significantly more effective arm than his underlying xFIP (4.87) might suggest. Like Teheran, he generates a lot of weak contact to compensate for a subpar strikeout rate.

Pitching models are somewhat pessimistic on Smyly, putting him at 95 Pitching+ (91 Stuff+, 100 Location+), which is a couple of points worse than Teheran (97 Pitching+, 83 Stuff+, 104 Location+). In a vacuum, I would choose Smyly as the better starter.

However, I don't see a significant difference between the two starters on paper in the context of Monday's matchup. I projected Milwaukee as -117 favorites; bet the Brewers' moneyline up to -110.

Additionally, I set the total at 8.3; bet Under 9 to -118 or Under 8.5 to +100.

Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals

Luke Weaver vs. Jake Irvin
First Pitch: 6:05 p.m. ET

I don't hold a positive opinion on either Luke Weaver (5.30 xERA, 99 Pitching+) or Jake Irvin (4.84 xERA, 98 Pitching+).

Per Stuff+, Irvin has an above-average curveball (105 Stuff+) which he throws more than 30% of the time. On a per-pitch basis, his curveball and sinker (27% usage rate) have returned a positive pitch value across a limited sample (47 2/3 innings).

Weaver has an above-average curveball (117 Stuff+) and cutter (107), but only the curve has netted a positive pitch value this season.

The Reds have the superior offense (17th vs. 25th in wRC+ vs. righties), particularly since the Elly De La Cruz promotion (Reds rank fifth with a 120 wRC+ vs. righties over that stretch).

However, the two bullpens are comparably terrible; the two teams rank in the bottom three of all bullpens both for the season and since the start of June.

I projected Washington closer to even money (+100) in this matchup; bet the Nats' moneyline at +109 or better.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Miami Marlins

Miles Mikolas vs. Braxton Garrett
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET

Former seventh overall pick (2016) Braxton Garrett (4.14 xERA) might finally be hitting his peak form at the MLB level. In six starts since May 31, Garrett has a 2.14 ERA, 1.86 xFIP, and a 45:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 2/3 innings.

Over that span, Garrett has a 36.2% strikeout rate, a 3.2% walk rate, elite levels, and a 10-percent improvement upon his season-long mark (23.2% K-BB%).

Garrett eliminated his four-seam-fastball this year while introducing a cutter (18.2% usage rate) in early May.

Pitching models still think he has a below-average arsenal (with zero plus pitches), and that command (107 Location+ since 5/31) has been the carrying tool.

Garrett generates an abundance of called strikes. Among 194 qualified starters (min. 20 innings pitched) this season, Garrett ranks 13th in called-strike rate (19.2%) and fourth in called-strike plus whiff-rate or CSW% (32.2%). For context, Jacob deGrom, Spencer Strider, Tyler Glasnow and Shane McClanahan are the pitchers who surround him on the CSW% leaderboard.

While Garrett might be improving, Miles Mikolas (5.23 xERA) is getting hit significantly harder than he did last season. Mikolas was extremely lucky in 2022 (3.29 ERA, 3.89 xERA), and he parlayed that performance into a three-year, $55.75M contract at age 34.

However, his strikeout rate has dipped, his BABIP has spiked (from .249 to .322), and his groundball rate has tanked (37.6% vs. 45.7% career).

Those groundballs have mostly turned into line drives rather than flyballs, too. If his home run rate normalizes (0.91 HR/9 vs. 1.05 HR/9 career; 8.4% HR/FB rate vs. 11.8% career), you might see the ERA for Mikolas ascend towards his expected mark (5.23).

Even without Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the lineup, I would set the Marlins as -128 favorites in this matchup; bet the Fish to -120.

Atlanta Braves vs. Cleveland Guardians

Bryce Elder vs. Gavin Williams
First Pitch: 7:10 p.m. ET

Another week, another chance to finally cash in baserunners against Bryce Elder (3.74 xERA).

The righty continued to defy mathematics in his last outing, with his strand rate now sitting at 84.6%, nearly 13% higher than the MLB average (71.7%). I still believe Elder is an effective pitcher — who will continue to get better throughout his career — but I can't project him as anything beyond a mid-rotation starter, given his underlying indicators and below-average K-BB%.

The betting market knows that Elder is not a 2.44 ERA type pitcher, but the pitching models are very pessimistic about his outlook (74 Stuff+, 100 Location+, 96 Pitching+)

Conversely, the same models are optimistic about Gavin Williams (103 Stuff+, 105 Location+, 106 Pitching+), a former first-round pick (2021) with a plus fastball.

Williams dominated in the high-minors: 34.3% strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A this season and has seemed very effective through two MLB starts, albeit against lower-caliber teams (Kansas City and Oakland).

Williams will face his first actual test on Monday against a Braves offense that has smashed 63 home runs in 26 games since the start of June; no other team has more than 48. Over that span, the Braves have a ridiculous .306/.370/.573 triple slash AS A TEAM and have scored seven runs per game.

Even in a difficult matchup, I set Cleveland as +119 underdogs; bet the Guardians' moneyline at +129 or better.

Zerillo's Bets for Monday, July 3

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  • Cleveland Guardians (+140, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +129)
  • Houston Astros (+125, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to +121)
  • Houston Astros / Texas Rangers, Under 9.5 (-120, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -121 or 9, -103)
  • Miami Marlins (-120, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -120)
  • Milwaukee Brewers (+100, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -110)
  • Milwaukee Brewers / Chicago Cubs, Under 9 (-115, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to -118 or 8.5, +100)
  • Minnesota Twins F5 (-215, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -260)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates F5 (+140, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to +115)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates F5 +0.5 (-105, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to -115)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates (+148, 0.5u) at Caesars (bet to +144)
  • San Diego Padres / Los Angeles Angels, Over 8 (-105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -106)
  • Seattle Mariners (+128, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +124)
  • Seattle Mariners / San Francisco Giants, Over 7 (-105, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -117)
  • Washington Nationals (+116, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to +109)

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