MLB Predictions Today | Odds, Picks for Brewers vs Reds, White Sox vs Braves, More (July 14)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Kopech
Welcome back to Major League Baseball! The All-Star Break has concluded and the second half of the season begins for all 30 MLB teams on Friday night across the league. Two of the biggest surprise teams in the league face off in Baltimore as the Orioles host the Marlins, while an NLCS rematch begins up I-95 with the Phillies hosting the Padres.
The two best teams in the NL Central will have yet another weekend series, this time in Cincinnati as the Brewers visit the Reds. The highest profile matchup of the weekend begins on Apple TV+ on Friday as Julio Urias and the Dodgers travel to face Justin Verlander and the Mets.
With the trade deadline fast approaching now, the next few weeks will decide if the Mets will be buyers or sellers.
Here are my best bets for the full 15-game slate on Friday in MLB.
Marlins vs. Orioles
7:05 p.m. ET · Sandy Alcantara vs. Dean Kremer
Alcantara looked like his old self last week against the Phillies, and I'm expecting more of the same for him in the second half of the 2023 season. The market continues to consistently move against him start to start, but it's at the point where the market has downgraded him too far from the peak he reached in his 2022 Cy Young campaign.
His 63.9% strand rate is nine percent lower than his career average, his BABIP allowed is 23 points higher than his career average and he hasn't lost anything in terms of Stuff+ that would expect regression in other key areas.
The changeup has been considerably less effective this year, but overall, Alcantara still projects around a 3.50 rest of season ERA. That's considerably better than the 4.72 ERA he currently sports.
Compare this to Dean Kremer, who is a backend starter. He was never as bad as his early season batted ball numbers suggested, but Kremer has a slightly below average strikeout rate and his Pitching+ puts him right at league average.
You combine that with above average walk rates and he's a pitcher with a 4.50 consensus rest of season projection. That's a full run worse than Alcantara, and the bullpens aren't different enough with everyone available to warrant Baltimore as a favorite in this game.
I'd bet Miami at anything plus money on Friday night. We spent the first half of the year selling high on Alcantara, but we've reached the floor of the market on the Marlins righty.
Dodgers vs. Mets
7:10 p.m. ET · Julio Urias vs. Justin Verlander
In the last 30 days, Justin Verlander ranks inside the top 12 for starting pitcher Stuff+. This is notable because at no point last year did Verlander's stuff rank inside the top 10 and his declining whiff rates and strikeout numbers suggested a real skills loss, even as he won the Cy Young in Houston last year.
Verlander's swinging strike rate has cleared 9.6% or higher in four of his last six starts, which only happened in two of his first six to begin the season.
There's been a lot of talk about the decline for Verlander and Max Scherzer at the top of the Mets' rotation, but the veteran righty has a 3.49 xERA over the entire season despite a sub-20% strikeout rate. As the strikeouts make a small renaissance in his profile from the improved stuff, Verlander is still near a top-tier starting pitcher.
Julio Urias had a dominant return from the injured list against the Pirates with eight strikeouts and now he gets to face a Mets lineup that is still just 17th in wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Neither bullpen has any depth at all, but all of the top bullpen arms will be deployed if this is a close game fresh off the all-star break. As a result,
I'd bet under 8.5 at -115 or better.
Brewers vs. Reds
7:10 p.m. ET · Corbin Burnes vs. Graham Ashcraft
I wrote a column on Wednesday highlighting seven pitchers who were being undervalued by the market at the moment and could be good to bet on in the second half. One of those pitchers is Corbin Burnes.
The Reds remarked after their game against with Burnes last weekend that it was the best stuff they'd seen all season long from any pitcher. Cincinnati has a young lineup that is aggressive and could chase a lot of Burnes' stuff outside the zone, which is when the Brewers righty is at his best.
There were legitimate reasons to downgrade Burnes in the early season as his swinging strike rate and strikeout rates dipped following a loss in cutter velocity. His cutter velocity was below 93.7 mph in three straight May starts. Now, he has an average cutter velo of 94.5 or higher in four of his last five starts. He had one blowup against the Diamondbacks in the first inning of a June 19 start, but he still is in the top five in overall Stuff+ among starters for the season.
Burnes continues to see market sentiment against him, but the depth of his arsenal is a major advantage for him compared to his counterpart. Graham Ashcraft has two elite pitches — cutter and slider — but he doesn't throw anything else and teams have clearly been able to get to him as games progress.
Pitches 1-25 in an outing, Ashcraft has a .713 OPS allowed. That jumps to .919 and .830 for pitches 26-50 and 51-75, respectively. Ashcraft needs a third pitch to consistently be an MLB starter, and he'll be extremely volatile until that is sorted out.
Milwaukee should be a bigger favorite than -120, and I'd bet their ML at -120 or better. I'm also adding under 10 runs at -115 or better given the favorable matchup for Burnes. The elite Stuff+ projections and healthy and rested Reds bullpen should have this total closer to 9.5
7:20 p.m. ET · Michael Kopech vs. Charlie Morton
Atlanta had most of its starting lineup in the All-Star Game, which means a lot of travel for the Braves to and from Seattle. It's a weird situational spot for the White Sox, who had just one All-Star.
There's a chance that the Braves' bats are a bit flat as a result and could get caught by the excellent stuff of Michael Kopech. Kopech allows a ton of barrels and has poor command, but the free-swinging Braves lineup will strike out against the right pitcher. His 26% raw strikeout rate gets a bump in Truist Park, a friendly park for strikeouts according to Baseball Savant Statcast park factors.
I know that he's coming off the injured list and hasn't pitched since June 27, but he was consistently posting strikeout numbers over one per inning prior to the injury. If you conservatively assume one strikeout per inning, he only needs to go about 13 outs for over 4.5 at +130 to be worth a bet. Kopech could give up plenty of runs and still hit this.
8:10 p.m. ET · Tyler Glasnow vs. Alec Marsh
You're not going to get me to say much friendly about Alec Marsh's underlying profile. His reliever-level command and sky high walk rates are a major issue and certainly factor into the poor projections for him in this start. But the Royals do have a rested bullpen and Tyler Glasnow is not the same Glasnow we remember from years past yet.
The strikeouts are starting to come back, but the fastball velocity dip means he's more vulnerable to homers and barrels. He's better than his 4.65 xERA would suggest, but I'm not convinced he's as good as the 3.3 consensus projection ERA is for the rest of the season. If you take the average of that and say he's a 4.00 ERA pitcher, there's no way the Rays can be a -300 road favorite.
Tampa Bay's offense has slowly come back down to earth after an unsustainable first two months. There's a lot of advantages everywhere for the Rays in this game, but at +240, I see value in taking a shot against a slightly diminished Glansow.