MLB Predictions Saturday | Expert Picks, Odds, Previews

MLB Predictions Saturday | Expert Picks, Odds, Previews article feature image
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Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images. Pictured: Yu Darvish.

Welcome to Opening Pitch, our daily column that you'll find throughout the 2024 MLB season.

The goal for Opening Pitch is to highlight top daily projection edges for MLB moneylines and totals, share favorite bets and provide some betting notes and analysis.

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

Here are my favorite bets for Saturday, May 18.

MLB Predictions Saturday | Expert Picks, Odds, Previews

Pirates vs. Cubs

Saturday, May 18
2:20 p.m. ET
MLB.TV
Pirates Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
+160
8
-105o/ -115u
+1.5
-140
Cubs Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-190
8
-105o/ -115u
-1.5
+116
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Bailey Falter (PIT) vs. Shota Imanaga (CHC)

To put it simply, the Cubs were overpowered by Paul Skenes on Friday. Chicago didn't muster its first hit until the right rookie-hander exited the game. Skenes struck out 11 over six scoreless. 

Luckily for Chicago, the Pirates hand the ball to left-hander Bailey Falter on Saturday. Despite mitigating damage his last time out vs. Chicago (6 IP, 2R), I doubt a repeat quality start is in order. 

The Cubs rank inside the top five in wRC+ against left-handed pitching (121) and Falter’s underlying metrics are alarming. He can't strikeout batters — career-worst 15.6 K% — and he ranks in the bottom 3% of all pitchers in xSLG (.518). 

The ball should be flying at Wrigley Field on Saturday. The wind is blowing out and Falter is a heavy fly-ball pitcher (50%). With negative regression looming (5.42 xERA, 43.7 hard-hit%) and the Cubs drawing their best possible split, I’m looking to buy a bounce-back performance on Saturday. 

We’ve also seen this Pirates bullpen implode time and time again. Need I remind you of what happened after Skenes was taken out last week? Or even yesterday?!

Back the Cubs team total over in a plus matchup.

The Pick: Cubs Team Total Over

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Padres vs. Braves

Saturday, May 18
7:15 p.m. ET
FOX
Padres Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
+110
8.5
-118o/ -104u
+1.5
-192
Braves Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-130
8.5
-118o/ -104u
-1.5
+158
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Yu Darvish (SD) vs. Bryce Elder (ATL)

I will admit, I was fortunate to have escaped Bryce Elder’s last outing with a win. I can't thank Brandon Nimmo enough for that walk-off home run to cap off a fun Mother’s Day. 

But I’ve learned from my mistakes — don’t trust the bullpen. Even if Austin Riley is out and the Braves offense struggles more than usual, they’re still the Braves. But in this pitching matchup between Yu Darvish and Bryce Elder, I have to side with the Padres. 

It’s gross, I know. This is the same Padres team that took two of three from the Dodgers before the Rockies came into Petco Park and left with a sweep. San Diego did take the series opener on Friday, however.

I'm a firm believer in the Padres offense. Manny Machado’s underlying metrics show promise and eventual positive regression, and we’ve seen both Jurickson Profar and Jake Cronenworth provide stability in a high-ceiling lineup. 

Elder is … not good. And that’s being nice. He is still overperforming expectations (5.21 xERA) all while posting a career-worst .289 xBA and 47% hard-hit rate. He’s being barreled more often and rarely generates chases or swings and misses, for that matter. 

Elder is a nibbler. He relies on a pitcher-friendly defense as he attacks the corners of the zone and tries to keep his sinker and slider low to generate more ground balls. He’s been able to mitigate damage (78% strand rate) despite all the alarming underlying metrics. 

Darvish, on the other hand, has been extremely impressive in the early going. He’s improved his numbers significantly from last season (2.43 ERA, 3.16 xERA), generating less barrels and bringing his xBA down 10 points from 2023. 

Darvish has revamped his arsenal, now throwing his slider (23.1%) and four-seam fastball (22.4%) a lot more. He has a deep pitch mix and the ability to throw eight pitches hands him a nice advantage. 

Elder’s Stuff+ (77) remains well below average, as is his Pitching+ (93). Darvish holds the starting pitching edge here (99 Stuff+, 103 Pitching+) and the Padres offense has actually outperformed Atlanta to date against right-handed pitching (120 wRC+ vs. 107). 

It sounds like the Braves may be without Riley yet again — another plus for the Padres on Saturday. San Diego should not be underdogs here — I'd bet them down to a PK. 

The Pick: Padres F5 ML +100 | To -110

Angels vs. Rangers

Saturday, May 18
7:15 p.m. ET
FOX
Angels Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
+120
9
-106o/ -114u
+1.5
-172
Rangers Odds
MoneylineTotalRun Line
-142
9
-106o/ -114u
-1.5
+142
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute MLB odds here.

Patrick Sandoval (LAA) vs. Jose Urena (TEX)

Perhaps one of the most underrated pitchers this season has been southpaw Patrick Sandoval. Despite an elite 3.7% barrel rate allowed and improvements to his xBA, strikeout rate and command, his ERA sits at 5.00. 

Underlying metrics (3.49 xERA, 3.46 xFIP, 2.76 FIP) all suggest that positive regression is coming. The lefty keeps the ball on the ground and has been excellent at limiting hard contact, which is a huge plus against a free-swinging Rangers squad. 

Opposite Sandoval is Jose Urena, who has been much improved this season in limited innings. His xFIP is the lowest of his career and his biggest improvement has come in limiting barrels. Urena is not overpowering — he has a career 15.5% strikeout rate — relying on generating weak contact on the ground. 

I tend to think Urena is going to regress toward his career averages. While he’s mostly abandoned his worst pitch (fastball, 8.6%) for increased slider/sinker usage, Urena’s last five seasons have all featured an xERA of 4.94 or worse. 

The Rangers offense is definitely much more daunting than the Angels', but L.A. has been hitting much better despite the absence of Mike Trout. Players like Jo Adell and Zach Neto have been providing much-needed offensive boosts alongside Taylor Ward. 

From a pure pitching perspective, the edge is definitely in Sandoval’s favor. I’m looking to avoid bullpens and back the positive regression that’s coming for Sandoval. 

The Pick: Angels F5 ML +125 | To +105

Player Props to Consider

There are a few players I am eyeing to hit a home run on Saturday.

Miles Mikolas is a consistent fade when it comes to starting pitchers. His xBA has worsened from last season (.299), as has his xSLG (.500). He’s giving up a lot of hard-hit balls while rarely striking out the opposition. In fact, Mikolas is in the bottom 2% of all pitchers in whiff rate. 

Jarren Duran and Rafael Devers are two guys to consider here. Duran's rolling graphs on fly balls and hard hits have been slowly on the rise over the last couple of weeks while Devers … well, he's hit a home run in three straight.

Does St. Louis avoid Devers? Possibly. That's definitely a scare considering how dominant he's been — but Mikolas has elite control and rarely looks to avoid the opposition. I can see both of those players going for extra bases or hitting a HR.

Out in Cleveland, the wind is blowing in, but Ryan Jeffers draws himself a plus matchup. His breakout season has continued in dominant fashion, hitting 10 home runs in just 37 games.

Jeffers has crushed left-handed pitching this year (166 wRC+, .286 ISO) and he has a 60% extra-base hit rate against southpaws. The Guardians are starting Logan Allen, who ranks in the bottom 25% of all pitchers in strikeout rate, hard hits and average exit velocity.

In nine starts this season, Allen has allowed a home run on five occasions (55%). Perhaps most staggering is that Allen has allowed two-plus HRs in four of those five.

The last name I'll throw out there is Christopher Morel. I'm looking to back the Cubs team total, but Morel was who I successfully backed on Mother's Day against Falter. He is hitting the ball extremely well right now and is due for positive regression. Look for him to continue mashing.

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