Tuesday MLB Odds, Picks & Predictions: Red Sox vs. Rays Betting Preview (June 22)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Wander Franco
- MLB's No. 1 prospect, Wander Franco, is set for his MLB debut on Tuesday night when the Rays host the Red Sox.
- The Rays have lost six straight and face a Red Sox lineup that started the season as one of the best in MLB.
- Collin Whitchurch breaks down the matchup and whether Tampa Bay is worth a bet with Franco in the lineup.
Red Sox vs. Rays Odds
|Red Sox Odds||+110|
|Over/Under||7.5 (-118 / -104)|
|Time||7:10 p.m. ET|
Wander Franco has been the consensus top prospect in baseball since the conclusion of the 2019 season. On Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, fans will get their first look at him in a major-league uniform.
Franco, the 20-year-old phenom who has ranked No. 1 on the prospect lists of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus for each of the last two seasons, will be with the Rays for their series opener against the Boston Red Sox, hoping to provide a boost to a team that has gone from the best record in the American League to a half-game behind Boston in the AL East race in the span of about a week and a half.
How should you bet Franco and the Rays against the scuffling Eduardo Rodriguez? Let’s see where we can find an edge.
Rough Luck For Boston’s Rodriguez
Boston has regained first place from the Rays more thanks to Tampa’s struggles than any sort of overwhelming hot stretch of its own. Since sweeping the rival Yankees in the Bronx on June 4-6, the Red Sox have only one series win — a two-game sweep of the Braves last week. They’ve lost two of three to the Astros, Blue Jays, and most recently the Royals.
The pitcher Franco will be taking his hacks against in his debut is Eduardo Rodriguez, who continues to be one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball. The 28-year-old is posting career-best numbers in K-BB% — to 20.6% from a career mark of 15.9% — but enters the latter stages of June with a 6.21 ERA, the third-worst ERA in the majors among pitchers who have thrown at least as many innings as him (ahead of only Carlos Martinez and Brad Keller).
The metrics indeed think Rodriguez has been unlucky, and the aforementioned K/BB numbers are a big reason why. His expected numbers (xFIP 3.38; xERA 3.54) conclude as much, and even the less-bullish DRA (4.78) is nearly one and a half runs lower. But Rodriguez isn’t faultless in his numbers. The .380 BABIP is certainly unsustainable and will come down, but Rodriguez is also giving up less soft contact than ever before in his career.
The Hard% isn’t beyond the norm (28.4% actually down from his career mark of 29.2%) but all of the soft contact he once allowed is gone. His Soft% is down nearly nine percent from when he last pitched in 2019 (13.9% from 22.7%). Collectively, 86.1% of the batted balls against Rodriguez can be classified as hard or medium.
The Wander Franco Section
When Franco was 17 years old, he got his first taste of stateside-affiliated action — something uncommon for someone his age. He proceeded to hit .351/.418/.587 in the Appalachian League and immediately become one of the 10-or-so best prospects in baseball.
All he’s done since is completely obliterate every stop along the way. There hasn’t been many stops, mind you, as the year 2001 written on his birth certificate indicates he didn’t need to marinate much in the minors (not unlike recent fellow consensus top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr.), and would’ve likely already debuted if it weren’t for the canceled minor-league season in 2020 and the Rays’ presumed desire to get another year of service time out of him by delaying his promotion this year.
Franco has, to put it simply, the best bat-to-ball skill in the minors and a chance to have the best in the majors fairly quickly. He’s elite there, and very good to great at virtually everything else. We’re talking about a player who has a chance to compete for batting titles and put up above-average power and speed numbers at a young age — while competently handling the toughest position on the defensive spectrum.
None of this means a whole lot about your bet for tonight, I know, but if you’re gonna gamble on and watch Franco’s debut, it’s important to learn just how exciting he truly is as a prospect.
For Tuesday, the Rays utilized bulk guy and often-times starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough behind an opener (Andrew Kittredge). The 6-foot-5 lefty had his worst outing of the season against the Red Sox way back on April 7, allowing six earned runs on nine hits in five innings. He’s been solid overall this season, with a seven-outing stretch of allowing three earned runs or fewer snapped last time out against the White Sox.
Red Sox-Rays Pick
After a hot start to the season, Boston’s offense has regressed to being only slightly above-average, and they’re exactly average (100 wRC+, 15th in MLB) against southpaws.
Yarbrough has mostly worked as a straight starter this season, but has been the bulk guy following an opener on four occasions, and Tampa is 3-1 in such games, with the only loss a 1-0 decision to the Yankees in early May.
It’s tempting to back Rodriguez and the Red Sox given their status as small underdogs and the likelihood of positive regression from Rodriguez. Likewise, Tampa’s six straight losses — including a four-game sweep in Seattle over the weekend — make them entirely fade-able.
But you don’t bet based on what’s happened, you bet based on what you think will happen. The unquantifiable aspect of Franco’s presence giving Tampa’s lineup a boost, combined with the Rays’ success with the opener/Yarbrough strategy, plus Rodriguez’s general poor luck and struggles, make Tampa as a short favorite the worthy play. I would do so to -120.
Pick: Rays -114 (bet to -120)