MLB Underdog Picks Today | Odds, Predictions for Blue Jays vs Mariners, Royals vs Yankees (Friday, July 21)
Thomas Skrlj/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Danny Jansen and Yusei Kikuchi
The Payoff Pitch podcast MLB experts break down their favorite picks from the day's slate every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, including each analyst's favorite underdog on the slate, and they've got two more to recommend today.
You can read about their picks below, and be sure to subscribe to Payoff Pitch for MLB picks and predictions all season long.
Blue Jays vs. Mariners, 10:10 p.m. ET
Yusei Kikuchi vs. Bryce Miller
Anthony Dabbundo: I think we've given Yusei Kikuchi a bad rap. I think there's a reason why the Blue Jays have consistently given this guy an opportunity to be in their starting rotation, even though it has looked really ugly at times. It's because the stuff has always been good, and, if he could ever figure out the command, he could be a good major-league starter.
I think there are signs that that has happened this year. His first pitch strike rate is up this year, relative to last year. His zone rate is up this year to 43.1%, which is still below the league average but better for him. He's changed his pitch mix a bit to improve his command, and it has kind of worked. He's dropped off his cutter and hasn't really been using it, since he really couldn't command it. As a result, he's been throwing more curveballs and commanding that pitch better.
He has a career-low walk rate, he's pitching from ahead more often and he's trusting his stuff. He isn't aiming as much; he's throwing to the middle of the plate and letting his stuff do the movement. Is he still getting barreled sometimes? Yes, for sure. However, the Blue Jays have a much better offense here.
The one thing I love about the Blue Jays offense, which has been consistently true for years, is that they hunt and crush fastballs. They are one of the best fastball hitting teams in the league, and that's pretty much all Bryce Miller has. Miller's repertoire is pretty limited. His fastball has less juice in the last month. He's lost a couple of ticks off of that fastball, and his Stuff+ is down. I think Miller is a bit of a vulnerable pitcher.
With the better offense, even though Seattle has the bullpen advantage, I do like Kikuchi and the Jays at a dog price here.
Royals vs. Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET
Alec Marsh vs. Clarke Schmidt
BJ Cunningham: Should Clarke Schmidt and the Yankees offense, given their current state, really be a -200 favorite? I get it, the Royals are the worst offense and team in Major League Baseball right now, but Schmidt is a very average MLB starting pitcher.
He has a 4.17 xERA, and he's in the 40th percentile in average exit velocity allowed and barrel rate allowed. His PitchCom is very interesting, because, if you look at his sweeper, cutter, sinker and changeup and his xOBP allowed on those pitches, he's actually been pretty decent. But when you look at Stuff+, only one of those pitches, the sweeper, has a rating over 100. His stuff isn't really that great, and his expected metrics are telling us that he's just an average Major League pitcher.
I know it's been beaten to death, but the Yankees, since Aaron Judge got hurt in the beginning of June, are bottom five in SLG and weighted OBP, and they've scored the second fewest runs, just three runs more than the Royals.
Alec Marsh is going to be on the mound for the Royals. He's been bad in his three-start sample size, but, if you dig into his prospect description and how he got here to the majors, it's kind of interesting. After the pandemic season, he really jumped on his velocity and on his fastball.
Early on in the minors, he was hitting triple-digits, and then he kind of went back to the mid-90s while his fastball didn't have much movement. It got kind of exposed, so he's been working to try and utilize his changeup and his slider more early in the count. Scouts have graded both those pitches as above average, and they kind of help him hide his below-average fastball. He's working out those kinks, and he was somewhat of a decent starting pitcher coming up through the minors.
It's very hard to get behind this Royals offense right now; it's really, really bad. But guess what? Over the last two weeks, they've put up better offensive numbers than the Yankees. Given where the Yankees' offense is right now, and given that Clarke Schmidt has been very average, I don't think the Yankees should be this high of a price. I only have the Yankees projected at -148.
The Royals are down to +170, which is probably close to the cutoff for me. I like +175 a lot better, but, either way, I do like the Royals tonight.
Payoff Pitch Underdog Picks for Day, Date
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