MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Expert Picks for Athletics vs Blue Jays, Angels vs Rockies, More (Friday, June 23)
Jeff Dean/Getty Images. Pictured: Karl Kauffmann
Two of the hottest teams in baseball will meet in Cincinnati as the Braves visit the Reds. The pair have combined to win 19 straight games between them and the Reds have even vaulted themselves into an unlikely first place in the wide-open NL Central.
6:40 p.m. ET · Kenta Maeda vs. Joey Wentz
Kenta Maeda's last outing in Triple-A St. Paul was not particularly encouraging. The Twins right-hander still hasn't found anything close to a passable fastball, and the spin rates on his two best breaking balls were down considerably from his yearly average.
He's throwing as many sliders as fastballs because of the lack of fastball velocity, but the slider and splitter had just a 21% and 20% CSW, respectively. When you add that to the zero whiffs his fastball produced against a minor league lineup, I don't have much faith in Maeda's chances of navigating a major league lineup on Friday night.
Even though Detroit's lineup is well below league average and quite poor against righties, Maeda's level is nowhere near his best. His strikeout rate dipped below 20% when in the majors this season and I see no reason to project his base K rate much higher than that on Friday.
Maeda is opposed by Tigers lefty Joey Wentz, whose 87 Stuff+ makes him barely passable as an MLB starter. Only his plus command can really help him, but Wentz has a poor fastball and a 5.63 xERA.
Picks: Over 8.5 runs (-120 or better) and Kerry Carpenter to hit a home run (+550 or better)
Mets vs. Phillies
7:05 p.m. ET · Kodai Senga vs. Taijuan Walker
Kodai Senga has seen a significant drop in his Stuff+ ratings in the last month. If you compound that with his alarmingly high walk rates, you have a middling MLB pitcher right now.
On paper, the Phillies present a decent matchup for him because the Phillies are a free-swinging lineup that will chase pitches outside of the strike zone. Senga’s zone rate is just 38.7%, which is solidly below average among MLB starters. His walk rate is 13.4%, which places him in the sixth percentile in all of MLB.
Senga’s stuff debuted as clearly well above average but even that has trended downward to the point where the Eno Sarris’ Stuff+ model puts him at league average in the last 30 days (98 Stuff+). Combine that with reliever-level Location+ numbers in the low-to-mid 90s and there are major questions about Senga as an above-average starter trying to get through a lineup multiple times.
Some projection systems still forecast him in the 3.7-3.8 range, but I’m more inclined to believe The BAT is correct with its higher walk rates and a 4.67 rest of season ERA.
Senga dominated the Phillies in his last outing, but Friday night will have much more difficult conditions with a strong wind blowing straight out to center field at Citizens Bank Park. Even though it’s cool, the conditions will be good for offense.
Taijuan Walker has an even lower zone rate than Senga does, even if his walk issues are not quite as pronounced. Walker faces a very patient Mets lineup on Friday that should be able to generate a bunch of free passes.
Walker has done a good job of limiting the home run ball at home thus far, but given his history, regression is probably looming given the ballpark and wind conditions. I’d bet the over 9.5 if you can find -105 or better.
Pick: Over 9.5 runs (-105 or better)
7:07 p.m. ET · James Kaprielian vs. Chris Bassitt
Chris Bassitt is having one of the more bizarre seasons you'll find from an MLB pitcher. Home and road splits can be very noisy in small samples, but Bassitt has some pretty extreme splits this season. He has a 2.18 ERA in six home starts and a 5.89 ERA in nine road starts.
When you combine those splits with the increased variance in his starts — he's looked dominant at times and been awful in others – you start to wonder if opposing teams may have something in their home ballparks on Bassitt.
Bassitt also has real catcher splits in that his K/9 is much better with Danny Jansen behind the plate than Alejandro Kirk. Bassitt calls his own game using the PitchCom, so maybe there's something to his extreme splits. He relies on his command and deep arsenal, but if opposition hitters know what may be coming, it would certainly explain a lot of the weird results.
Either way, Bassitt is at home here and that's something to monitor going forward.
Bo Bichette was scratched due to a thumb injury on Wednesday, but the off day should get him back into the lineup on Friday. He and the Jays offense have a favorable matchup with James Kaprielian. I'm fading the A's righty because of his solid drop in velocity in his last outing. Kaprielian saw velocity loss on all of his pitches, not just the fastball.
Even though he's shown improved K rates this year, I'm selling him and betting against his longevity in a matchup against the Jays' deep lineup that won't swing and miss much.
Pick: Kaprielian under 15.5 pitching outs (-120 or better)
8:40 p.m. ET · Patrick Sandoval vs. Kyle Freeland
The Rockies will get Kyle Freeland back on the mound after a really difficult week for their staff and lineup. Colorado had to start Noah Davis on short rest on Tuesday, then lost starter Connor Seabold and bulk reliever Brent Suter just before Wednesday's game.
They only had six available arms able to pitch on Wednesday in Cincinnati. Freeland was sick all week and got extra time to rest up ahead of Friday's start and he's currently the only average starting pitcher in this entire rotation.
Injuries to the Angels have really hurt their lineup depth after they were blanked against the Dodgers in both games. The back half of the lineup could have three different hitters with projected wRC+ below 80.
The Rockies aren't much better right now given their injury situation — Brendan Rodgers, C.J. Cron, Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon are all out. The Rockies' two best hitters right now are lefties Nolan Jones and Ryan McMahon, both of whom have negative platoon splits against lefties.
Patrick Sandoval is at a career low in strikeout rate and zone rate, so command has been an issue for the Angels lefty. His Stuff+ is down, too, and now he goes to Coors Field, the toughest park in MLB for strikeouts. Even if he throws six innings, I'd bet his under 4.5 strikeouts at plus money. Elias Diaz will be in for Jorge Alfaro and he doesn't strike out much.
With the wind blowing in and both lineups not close to full strength, I'd bet under 11.5 at -120 or better.
Picks: Sandoval under 4.5 strikeouts (+105 or better) and Full game total under 11.5 (-120 or better)