When Interleague play was introduced as a year-round event a couple of years ago, we may have dreamt about a series like the one starting today between the Mets and Yankees. It's early, of course, but having a Subway Series with a team that has won 11 straight against a surprising behemoth of bad contracts was probably a pipe dream when the schedule was released.
And so we head into the season's third weekend with that headlining series and a slew of intriguing matchups in this busy Friday. All 30 teams are eligible for today's contests, which makes the day a challenge and an opportunity to make some money as the week dwindles.
Friday April 24th
Locks: 7:05ET Mets @ Yankees
I mentioned that I preferred the afternoon slate over the early games, but even then Thursday was a weird day. The 12 combined games averaged just a tick under 7 runs, but with 41 of those runs coming over in only 4 games. And even then, there were no marquee pitcher putting up huge performances.
For the Early Only format, Bartolo Calon was again a revelation, as he racked up his fourth win and 12 points. However, the offense was not as solid. The Padres-Rockies game produced only 3 runs, and the offense combined for only 11.75 points, mostly on Gregory Polanco's big game.
The Late slate was much better, as we targeted the 13-run explosion in Toronto. Chris Sale was not his usual self in producing only 7 points, but the offense combined for a nice 19 behind Manny Machado's 2-homer game. The picks for both formats were competitive, but we did way better with the afternoon roster.
As the weather begins to get warmer, baseball fans enjoy the benefits. For today, the only rain threats shall appear in cities with domes or retractable roofs, so there shouldn't be any problem to pick any player you want.
Biggest Money Line Favorites
Friday is a day marked by parity. 11 of the 15 games have favorites at -125 or below, as the season is still pretty young and betting algorithms are probably not ready to discern the noise from the true talent levels. Still, there are two huge outliers on the West Coast, as the Mariners stand at -200 to beat the Twins behind Felix Hernandez, and the Angels are at -185 to beat the Rangers in what will be Wandy Rodriguez AL debut for Texas. Taking advantage of these two mismatches sounds like a plan for today.
Regarding over/unders, 13 out of 15 games stand at 8 runs or below, so we might be seeing another low-scoring slate.
Pitcher – Scott Kazmir ($9,100)
In my mind, there are three elite options among pitchers today. The obvious one is Felix Hernandez, as he faces the offensively-challenged Twins at home. Felix owns a career 2.08 ERA against Minnesota, which is his lowest versus any team he has faced at least 10 times. However, his price makes him a bit prohibitive and difficult to then build a well-rounded offense.
The second is Shane Greene, owner of a 0.39 ERA, and who gets to face the disappointing Indians. Greene's low strikeout numbers make him a bit difficult to trust going forward, but he remains a cheap option and probably has a great chance to earn a win.
Finally, Kazmir has the perfect combination of an affordable price and the right matchup to exploit. In 8 career starts against the Astros, he is 3-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 55 strikeouts over 49.1 innings. To start the season, he has struck out 23 over 20.1 frames, while the Astros are whiffing on over 25% of their PA's – the worst mark in the league. Kazmir already dominated Houston 10 days ago on the road, and should have no problem making an encore at home.
Others to Consider: King Felix ($11,500), Shane Greene ($8,700)
Catcher – Chris Iannetta ($2,200)
There is a game in Colorado again, so the stacking options start there (though the Giants are starting Chris Heston, who has been impressive). There are also the Angels facing Wandy Rodriguez, as he owns a 5.09 career ERA versus AL teams. The Orioles return home, the Cardinals face the broken Matt Garza, and you could make a case for the Nationals if Mat Latos is really as bad as he has looked.
We start with Iannetta, who is 5-for-44 to start the season, but is almost guaranteed to start and gets to face a lefty. For his career, Iannetta's slugging percentage is exactly 100 points higher against southpaws, and we know that the Angels can score runs in bunches. Facing Wandy Rodriguez and the lousy Texas bullpen may be just what the doctor ordered after being 1-hit on Thursday (a game they won, by the way).
Others to Consider: Nick Hundley ($3,300), Caleb Joseph ($3,100)
First Base – Albert Pujols ($3,500)
If we're going to bet the farm on the Halos, it seems wise to go for their one hitter with some actual experience against Wandy. Pujols has batted 3-for-6 against his former NL Central foe, as he has also made it a habit to crush lefties even in his current form. Pujols may be batting below the Mendoza Line, but still possesses the talent to produce the occasional monster game.
Others to Consider: Matt Adams ($3,200), Chris Davis ($3,500)
Second Base – Joe Panik ($2,800)
It may be an extremely small sample, but Panik has really enjoyed his brief time playing at Coors. In 15 plate appearances, he has reached base 7 times, scored 4 runs, and hit a couple of doubles. Just as the Giants seemed doomed, they went out and swept the mighty Dodgers (capped by two straight walk-off wins), so they could be headed to build on this stretch. Panik hits second in the lineup, which bodes well for a series at Colorado.
Others to Consider: Kolten Wong ($3,200), Devon Travis ($3,100)
Third Base – David Freese ($3,500)
In 15 plate appearances against lefties this season, Freese has 3 homers, a double, 5 RBI, and a 1.610 OPS; it is a very small sample, but is consistent with Freese's extreme platoon splits. It carries some risk to put all eggs in one basket, but at this point we are fully committed. And remember, Freese's career will always be defined by what he did against the Rangers one night in October.
Others to Consider: Matt Carpenter ($4,400), Kris Bryant ($3,900)
Shortstop – Brandon Crawford ($3,000)
The current PPG leader among shortstops with at least 10 games played is Zack Cozart, and he is the only one averaging at least 3 PPG. So yeah, you will never be faulted by going cheap at this position. Just like with Panik, it makes sense to go with a middling hitter at a park in which he's enjoyed success. Crawford has 12 extra-base hits in 108 career at bats in Coors, with 15 runs and 18 RBI to match. At this price, he deserves a shot.
Others to Consider: Jose Iglesias ($2,800)
Outfield – Mike Trout ($5,500), Jason Heyward ($3,200), Seth Smith ($2,300)
After loading up on Angels, it was almost inevitable to go with their brightest start, wasn't it? In the rare day in which we can afford the most expensive non-pitcher in the game, let's take advantage. Trout has a .500 OBP at home this season, and should get plenty of times to produce in the middle of a big day for the Angels.
Heyward has had a slow start to the season, but still hits high in the Cardinals lineup that now gets to face the broken version of Matt Garza. At his bargain price, he looks like a good candidate for today.
Finally, we have the uber-cheap Smith, who has become a platoon bat in Seattle. He specializes in mashing righties, and he gets to face Phil Hughes. Smith has 5 hits in 10 career AB versus Hughes, and this season owns a .588 slugging at home. It definitely makes sense to give him a try.
Others to Consider: Corey Dickerson ($4,900), Matt Holliday ($3,500), Angel Pagan ($3,400)