MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Cubs vs Marlins, Mariners vs Blue Jays, More (Friday, April 28)

MLB Picks Today | Odds, Expert Projections for Cubs vs Marlins, Mariners vs Blue Jays, More (Friday, April 28) article feature image

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images. Pictured: Bo Bichette

Friday's Major League Baseball slate features four head-to-head matchups of teams that made the playoffs last season. The Astros host the Phillies in a World Series rematch, the Blue Jays and Mariners will battle again after their dramatic AL Wild Card Round series last season and the Mets host the Braves in a matchup of the NL East's top two teams. The Cardinals and Dodgers cap off the full 15-game MLB slate at 10:10 p.m. ET as both teams look to bounce back from poor starts to the 2023 season.

First pitch of the first game is at 4:10 p.m. as the Royals visit the Twins. Here are my best bets from the Friday MLB slate.

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MLB Picks for Friday, April 28

Cubs vs. Marlins, 6:40 p.m. ET

Marcus Stroman vs. Jesus Luzardo

The Marlins' lineup may not look fearsome on paper, but it does project as an above average group against right-handed pitching. Miami gets a home matchup with its big outfield against Marcus Stroman, a pitch-to-contact pitcher who induces a lot of grounders and has had an excellent start to the 2023 season. Miami still has six above average hitters projected in the BAT X rest of season projections and Jazz Chisholm Jr. appears to finally be breaking out of his slow start to the season this week.

Jesus Luzardo is the better pitcher based on Stuff+, xERA and K-BB%. While he's had problems with the locations and the command in the past, Luzardo and the Marlins should be more of a favorite at home. Even with the Cubs' better offensive projection against lefties, you could find a projection system that makes Luzardo better by more than a half run.

There are some bullpen concerns with the Fish after a long outing Thursday, hence why I'm splitting my bet between first five and full game money lines.

Bet: Marlins F5 ML and Full game ML (-115 or better)

Mariners vs. Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET

Luis Castillo vs. Alek Manoah 

Alek Manoah has gotten a lot more attention for his poor start to the 2023 season, but Luis Castillo’s decrease in velocity makes him more vulnerable early in the season too. He ranks in the top 10 among MLB starters in lost velocity on his fastball this season, and the resulting drop in Stuff+ makes his projected ERA considerably higher than it was in the preseason.

His fastball sits at just an 87 stuff+, per Eno Sarris’ model from the Athletic, and his overall Stuff+ is well below average at 89. It hasn’t translated on the field at this point in the season because Castillo has a career best early season K-BB%, but he could run into trouble against the Blue Jays offense that is elite against fastballs. Toronto was a top three offense against the heater last year.

An early season velocity dip is nothing new for Castillo, as he often takes time to build up to peak velocity as his arm and the weather warms up throughout the season. He’s a notorious slow starter in the past and a few excellent starts to begin the year doesn’t change that, especially when his velocity just isn’t there.

Manoah’s problems are much more widely discussed because of his mediocre underlying peripherals. The Blue Jays righty doesn’t have a single pitch that registers as above average by Stuff+. Given that he used to rely heavily on his elite slider to get outs and whiffs, and that slider has seen a drop off this year, Manoah is a significantly more compromised pitcher. He’s still capable of shoving — like he did in the Bronx on Saturday — but the Blue Jays righty is more prone to blow ups too given his middling command grades.

Both starting pitchers come into this game overvalued, and thus I’m going to bet the overs. I’d bet the over 4.5 in the first five innings at -115 or better and the full game over 8.5 runs up to -115. Both offenses may be in their worse offensive platoon split, but both pitchers project for a 4.00+ ERA in their rest of season numbers. Castillo will likely be a bet on pitcher later once his velocity returns, but he’s not right now.

I’d bet over 8.5 at -115 or better.

Bet: First five over 4.5 runs, full game over 8.5 runs (-115 or better)

Yankees vs. Rangers, 8:05 p.m. ET

Clarke Schmidt vs. Jacob deGrom

It looks like Aaron Judge will be out for the Yankees. The market tends to overreact to the absence of a superstar player and I'd expect no difference for someone like Judge. If the Yankees get north of +200, I'd still bet them without Judge. Clarke Schmidt is using a curveball more his last couple starts in an attempt to improve his clear problem against left-handed bats. His last start against Toronto was the best of his career.

Three of the four best hitters in the Rangers' lineup bat from the right side, which is a major positive for Schmidt's chances. Once you get past Jacob deGrom — who has had fatigue problems beyond four or five innings this year — this game is basically a coin flip in the second half given the clear Yankees' bullpen advantage.

Bet: Yankees +200 or better without Judge

Phillies vs. Astros, 8:10 p.m. ET

Aaron Nola vs. Framber Valdez

If you've read me at Action Network before then you know I've been consistently higher than the market on Aaron Nola for the better part of the last two seasons. With that being said, I'm officially concerned about Nola's drop in velocity early in the season. Nola has never been reliant on his dominant fastball velocity, but there's a big difference between sitting 91 and 93. Nola improved his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate in 2022 to post a career best K-BB%.

That also came with the longest season of his career as the Phillies played into November in the World Series. It could just be early season build-up for Nola and he'll be fine long term, but the short-to-medium concerns exist. He maintains his elite curveball, but the drop in fastball velocity now has it as a below average pitch. The resulting Stuff+ number gives me no choice but to bump his ERA projection upward.

Framber Valdez's fastball velocity has actually ticked up a couple notches too, and he matches up well with the Phillies' free swinging lineup. Philadelphia is bottom 10 in the league in chase rate, meaning they will swing at pitches outside of the zone. Valdez relies on that to induce weak contact and ground balls, and a result, he pitched extremely well in three outings against the Phillies last season – two of them in the World Series.

The biggest question is whether or not Yordan Alvarez returns to the lineup for Houston. That's something to monitor, but I'd bet the Astros -135 in the first five innings at BetMGM, and would play it up to -145.

Bet: Astros F5 ML (-145 or better)

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