Yesterday, we started out the 2022 MLB season quietly with just a single article play. The good news is it cashed, so we’re 1-0 out of the gate. The even better news is the two futures I gave technically can’t lose for six months, and the NFL will have started by then. You’ll barely remember ever reading this.
Here’s what I like on today’s 13-game slate.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
I honestly think the Athletics might have the worst lineup in the entire American League. Oakland had a fire sale this offseason and the roster is now almost unrecognizable to what it was in 2021. To wit, the top five hitters in the Athletics’ Opening Day batting order from a year ago — Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Mitch Moreland — are all nowhere to be found on Friday. That doesn’t even include Starling Marte, who Oakland acquired for the stretch run in a trade with the Marlins, but now finds himself in New York with the Mets. FanGraphs projects the Athletics to average a league-worst 4.07 runs per game this season. No other team in baseball is projected for fewer than 4.34 runs.
Also crucial to this bet? Aaron Nola is really good. While a 66.8% strand rate ballooned his ERA to 4.63 in 2021 — and a terrible Phillies bullpen limited him to just nine wins — the advanced metrics tell a much kinder story than the surface ones. Nola’s 5.72 K/BB ratio was the fourth-best qualified mark in baseball, while his 3.37 xERA sat just outside the top 10 in 11th. He’ll do his part and an improved Philadelphia bullpen will (hopefully) take care of the rest.
I was torn between this and Nola’s strikeout prop, but the more enticing odds win out. I can understand some level of hesitancy here, as only six of Thursday’s 14 starters pitched into the sixth inning following a truncated Spring Training; but Nola’s actually one of a handful of pitchers I have little concern about when it comes to volume. Heck, Nola went 5.1 innings and tossed 70 pitches in his final tune-up start on Apr. 3. He’s about a week further along than most and I have no doubt he’ll pitch deep enough into this contest to give himself a chance to grab the win.
While John Means is far and away the Orioles best starting pitcher, that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement. In fact, over the second-half of 2021, Means pitched to a ghastly 5.01 FIP as he surrendered 2.02 home runs per nine across 75.2 innings. Even if you want to include the lefty’s sterling numbers from April and May, Means conceded 2.12 home runs per nine to opposing RHBs for the season as a whole. Let’s just say I’m not all that terrified of Means and leave it at that.
Conversely, I am terrified of Franco — as all pitchers should be. The 21-year-old phenom had a fantastic entry into the majors last season, slashing .288/.347/.463 across 308 plate appearances. However, it was specifically Franco’s numbers as a right-handed batter that have me intrigued. In his 110 PAs against southpaw pitching, Franco registered a 181 wRC+ to go along with a 1.020 OPS, which means he’ll be a tough out for Means all afternoon long. This is also to say nothing of how Franco matches up against Baltimore’s bullpen, which owned the worst FIP in baseball last season (5.15). He should easily clear this mark.
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