MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Monday, May 22
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.
Expert Picks for Monday, May 22
Texas Rangers at Pittsburgh Pirates
Dane Dunning vs. Luis Ortiz
First Pitch: 6:35 p.m. ET
Luis Ortiz has struggled through his first two major league outings this season (8 IP, 14 H, 9 R, 5 BB, 4K), but the underlying pitch data (108 Stuff+) aligns with scouting reports, which gives the 24-year-old a plus fastball and slider. If he can refine his command, Ortiz can survive as a mid-rotation starter at the MLB level. And if he both refines his command and further develops his changeup, Ortiz could be a frontline starter.
His walk rate in the high minors (roughly nine percent in Triple-A) was manageable, and the Rangers aren’t exceptionally patient (19th in walk rate), even though their offense has been surprisingly dominant (118 wRC+; 2nd in MLB).
I expect Ortiz to succeed at the MLB level eventually; we may have to continue to back him until those positive results come.
For instance, Ortiz has much better stuff than Dane Dunning (79 Stuff+). Dunning thrives on command (101 Location+) — and a career-best 4.9% walk rate — to get through starts, but he’s bound for some negative regression (.234 BABIP; .306 career) at some point. And the overall package — even with significantly better command — doesn’t project more than a half run better than Ortiz (on an ERA) throughout an entire season.
I projected the Pirates around +105 at home in this matchup; bet the Buccos down to +115.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds
Jordan Montgomery vs. Brandon Williamson
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET
As I mentioned before his first start, the projections for Brandon Williamson (FIP range of 5.65 to 6.12) aren’t pretty. Over the past two seasons — and 35 starts between Double-A and Triple-A — Williamson has tossed 156 2/3 innings with a 140:97 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He’s a former second-round pick and top-100 prospect. Still, the pitch data (81 Stuff+, 92 Location+) from his surprisingly-strong MLB debut in Colorado (5 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K) aligns with projections and expectations based upon those minor league results.
After making his debut at Coors Field, Williamson will return home to Great American Ball Park for one of the more difficult matchups possible for a left-handed starter, with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado — two of the best southpaw smashers over the past decade — lurking in the opposing dugout.
The Cardinals rank eighth against left-handed pitching this season (116 wRC+) but lead MLB (127) against lefties since the start of last season.
I’m using the same projection for Williamson (5.45 Model Weighted ERA) as I did for his first start. Still, I show value on the Reds at home, down to +163.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Chris Bassitt vs. Trevor Kelley
First Pitch: 6:40 p.m. ET
The Blue Jays are a good team to use a right-handed opener against, with George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Matt Chapman, Whit Merrifield, and Alejandro Kirk proving a more significant combined threat than lefties Brandon Belt, Daulton Varsho, and Kevin Kiermaier.
Trevor Kelley will fill the opener role on Monday for the Rays before likely giving way to lefty Josh Fleming (career 2.38 xFIP vs. lefties; 4.84 vs. righties) in the middle innings.
While Chris Bassitt has pitched well in his past two starts, a low BABIP (.197) and an expected ERA (4.34) more than a run higher than his actual mark (3.05 ERA) screams regression.
I projected Tampa Bay to win this matchup around 56% of the time; bet their moneyline up to -117 (54% implied) at a two percent edge compared to my number.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
Gavin Stone vs. Charlie Morton
First Pitch: 7:20 p.m. ET
At age 39, Charlie Morton is likely trending in the wrong direction. Through eight starts, his strikeout minus walk rate (15% K-BB%) is at its lowest point since 2016, before he joined the Astros.
I like the matchup for the Dodgers‘ offense, which has hit righties (116 wrC+) far better than lefties (100 wRC+).
Conversely, the Braves are in their lesser split against rookie Gavin Stone, who will make his second MLB start after an impressive spring and results in Triple-A.
Surprisingly, pitching bots prefer the location metrics for Stone — as opposed to his overall stuff — even though his minor league results (41 K, 19 BB in 35 2/3 innings) might indicate otherwise.
Stone passes the eye test, scouts favor him, and pitching projections like him much more than these other young arms like Ortiz or Williamson.
Gavin Stone generated 24 swinging strikes en route to racking up a season high 10 strikeouts for OKC. His FB averaged 94.4 (+0.9 mph over his season avg), t96.3 👀 pic.twitter.com/BcVQCufTUQ
— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) May 17, 2023
I’m hesitant because of the below-average stuff and location metrics, but the model likes Stone and the Dodgers to +121 for Monday.
Houston Astros vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Cristian Javier vs. Corbin Burnes
First Pitch: 7:40 p.m. ET
While the results (3.25 ERA) are encouraging, Cristian Javier hasn’t been nearly as dominant as I thought he might be this season (4.03 xERA). He seems like a unicorn who can completely defy league averages surrounding BABIP (career .228) and strand rate (82.4%). Still, Javier’s ERA was justifiable last season, and the underlying indicators feel he has been quite lucky this year.
Corbin Burnes (3.48 ERA, 3.47 xERA) has taken a noticeable step back relative to previous seasons as his strikeout and walk rates trend in the wrong direction, but he still suppressed hard contact, and I don’t think he’s as bad as his 4.28 xFIP might indicate even though it indicates a drastic decline compared to previous seasons (2.00 xERA, 2.30 xFIP in 2020; 3.05 xERA, 2.85 xFIP in 2021).
While both teams rank in the bottom half of the league offensively, the Brewers have the better of the offensive splits. Houston projects better against lefties than righties.
I set the Brewers as coinflip favorites; bet their moneyline to -101.
Additionally, I think this total is a touch low due to the reputation preceding these pitchers; I set the total at 8.4, bet Over 8 up to -105.
Zerillo’s Bets for Monday, May 22
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- Arizona Diamondbacks (+195, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +193)
- Cincinnati Reds (+165, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +163)
- Cleveland Guardians (-120, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -120)
- Milwaukee Brewers F5 (-110, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -120)
- Milwaukee Brewers (+100, 0.5u) at DraftKings (bet to -101)
- Milwaukee Brewers / Houston Astros, Over 7.5 (-112, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to 8, -105)
- Los Angeles Dodgers F5 (+135, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +118)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (+125, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +121)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (+125, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +115)
- San Francisco Giants (+135, 0.5u) at WynnBet (bet to +131)
- Tampa Bay Rays F5 (-102, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -116)
- Tampa Bay Rays (-112, 0.5u) at FanDuel (bet to -117)
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