Underdog MLB Picks to Click 4/25

Apr 25th 2023

Jackson Roberts

Welcome to the encore performance of the Picks to Click, a very original name that should be trademarked any day now. Whether you’re playing one-day contests, setting a week-long lineup or exploring the trade market, this column is designed to give you players at every position set up for a big Tuesday and beyond.

The maiden voyage produced mixed results on the day of the article, but the squad went absolutely gangbusters for the rest of the week. Between the barrage of hits from Brandon Marsh and Thairo Estrada and clutch bombs from Yordan Álvarez and Anthony Volpe, you were loving life if Underdog-chosen players graced your lineup.

This week, the goals are at least two Tuesday home runs, a .300 or better team batting average and a second straight winning pitcher prediction. There are some matchups that look like king-sized candy bars, so it’s time to begin tearing off some wrappers!

C - Gabriel Moreno (ARI)

The Diamondbacks deserve more coverage, both in general and from this sportswriter. They may not stay in first place long, but they’ve been assembling an incredibly fun and talented nucleus of young talent and Moreno seems to be the newest member of that core on the cusp of a breakout.

At the start of play on April 18, the 23-year-old rookie saw his OPS sitting at a measly .495, a sure sign of a young player taking his lumps. In the seven appearances he’s made since, he has three multi-hit games, his first D-Backs homer, and has raised that OPS all the way to .702, which is above the typical league average for a catcher. When the D-Backs acquired Moreno from the Blue Jays, the expectation was that he could become a star. That is by no means a certainty, but it’s beginning to become obvious why Arizona believed such things were possible.

It’s also a nice spot for Moreno–playing at home for the second straight series and facing a pitcher in Brady Singer who has had an extremely rocky start to 2023. Going into a good hitter’s environment at Chase Field and dealing with a deep Arizona lineup are not at all ideal conditions for a get-right game.

1B - Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)

There has to be at least one superstar in each iteration of this column, at least according to the precedent set a week ago. Vladito is the perfect choice this week because he’s riding a tsunami of momentum, punctuated by a go-ahead home run in Yankee Stadium that was as pure a WWE-style heel moment as we’ve seen in baseball all season to date.

Not only that, but Guerrero is raking against any and all comers. His 172 OPS+ to this point is five points higher than his 2021 campaign, when he led the majors in homers and total bases. Perhaps the talk he talked prior to 2022 was a little premature, but he seems to be living up to that immense billing with his latest production.

What would really make for a blockbuster, though, would be hitting a dinger against Mike Clevinger–a man who has recently chosen to make light of his domestic violence accusations by employing a warmup song by an artist who has been unapologetic about his rampant antisemitism. Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%.

2B - Nico Hoerner (CHC)

At a position with a stunning lack of star power currently, Hoerner has elevated himself quickly to the top of the food chain since moving over from shortstop. A true throwback hitter, Hoerner ranks in the top five of all of MLB in batting average (.355), runs (20), stolen bases (9) and hits (33). Add it all together and you have the tenth-best player in the majors this season if you’re going by wins above replacement (1.3).

Hoerner has never faced Blake Snell in his young career, but what he has done is rake against lefties. This season alone, he’s got a .409/.480/.455 slash line against those that throw from the south side of the pitcher’s mound. It’s not been a pretty start for Snell on the other side: 21 hits and 13 walks allowed for a 1.89 WHIP.

So, in summation: Nico Hoerner hits everyone. Blake Snell lets everyone hit. Once Hoerner is on base, he’s got a good chance to steal and/or score. Sounds like a winning formula this Tuesday night.

SS - Willy Adames (MIL)

Adames has been one of the hidden treasures in MLB for a long time now. Still just 27 years old, his game has continued to blossom and evolve from year to year. 2021 saw him flash All-Star offensive potential for the first time. 2022 saw him hit 31 homers, easily a career high, but the on-base percentage took a hit. In 2023, he may have finally figured out the perfect balance.

With four homers and a .366 on base percentage through 23 games, Adames is poised to challenge or completely blow away all his previous career-best metrics. Combined with an above-average glove at shortstop and the Brewers’ great start to the season, Adames is making a strong case to appear in Seattle for his first All Star game this season.

Plus, Adames will have a chance to tee off against Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull on Tuesday. Turnbull sports a 7.85 ERA through four starts and ranks in the bottom 20% of pitchers in K%, xWOBA, xAVG and Whiff%. 

3B - Yandy Díaz (TB)

At a certain point, it becomes time to stop calling Díaz “underrated” and start acknowledging him as one of the most useful bats in baseball. He ranked fifth in all of baseball last season with a .401 on-base percentage, just ahead of on-base god Juan Soto. This season, he’s getting on base at essentially the same clip, but with much more pop in his bat.

Last year, Díaz slugged .423. Through an eighth of this season, it’s up to .575. He’s in the top 3% of the league in average exit velocity at 95.4 mph, which would be a career high by over three mph. Maybe it’s offseason adjustments, maybe it’s still a small sample size, or maybe he’s caught a case of the barrels from the rest of the Rays’ lineup. Doesn’t matter, the results are still speaking loudly at the moment.

Tuesday will see Díaz go against Luis Garcia of Houston, who is coming off a seven-inning, zero-run, nine-strikeout performance last Wednesday against Toronto. However, in his first three games of the season, Garcia allowed a home run per start and took two losses. It’s possible the beaded-haired Venezuelan could continue to shove after his dominant outing. But it’s also possible Díaz could take him deep before he’s even had a chance to reach for the rosin bag. 

OF - Cedric Mullins (BAL)

It’s really going to happen again, it seems. The Boston Red Sox are going to allow Corey Kluber to start a Major League Baseball game, throwing nothing but 87-mph meatballs directly over the middle-middle square of the K zone. That meant an Oriole absolutely had to be included in this list. The only question was, which one?

Adley Rutschman was tempting, given the 5-for-5 performance against Kluber and the Sox on Opening Day, but we’ll roll with Mullins. The 28-year-old center fielder has consistently punished Boston at Camden Yards, with a .327 career average, three homers and 18 runs scored in 26 career contests.

One could use this logic to back a Rutschman pick as well, but Kluber has been particularly atrocious against left-handed batting this year. In 48 plate appearances he’s allowed a .308 average, four homers, seven walks, all combining for an 11.00 ERA and a 2.11 WHIP. One word to describe this performance… ew.

OF - Taylor Ward (LAA)

A winning strategy in most fantasy formats is finding very good players who are even better against certain teams or pitchers. Ward has always been very solid against the Oakland A’s. But he’s become even better against them in their “We want to lose our way to Vegas” phase.

In his last games against Oakland, Ward has six multi-hit performances, three homers, two doubles, seven RBI and two stolen bases. He’ll be facing rookie fireballer Mason Miller on Tuesday, which could be a tough matchup the first time he’s ever seen him, but you’ve also got at least two at bats out of the bullpen to work with… not to mention the rest of the series against the worst pitching staff in baseball.

This was supposed to be a glowing review of Ward but it’s taking a turn into bashing the A’s it seems. Did you know Oakland’s league-worst 7.97 ERA is a full 2.4 runs worse than 29th-place (Colorado)? That’s greater than the gap between 29th and 3rd (Houston, 3.20). They’re also league worst in batting average, home runs, walks, hits and save percentage. It’s truly staggering. Honestly, just pick any Angel and there’s a great chance he’ll see success this week.

OF - Steven Kwan (CLE)

Kwan has become something of a forgotten man thus far in 2023, having gotten off to a much slower start than his torrid 2022 rookie campaign. And there’s no denying that sophomore slumps are a real threat to ballplayers, especially those who emerged out of relative anonymity. But if you’re going to bust a slump against anyone, it’s the Colorado Rockies’ pitching staff.

If the Oakland A’s didn’t exist, the Rockies would be an obvious pick for worst pitching in baseball. Tuesday’s starter Ryan Feltner actually leads the team in strikeouts, but he also has a putrid 15.9% walk rate and sports a 6.16 ERA. With his watchful eye and elite bat-to-ball skills, Kwan should be able to solve Feltner’s fastball-slider combo and get himself a couple knocks. Perhaps that would be all he needs to round back into his excellent 2022 form.

DH - Justin Turner (BOS)

This column will continue its fealty to bringing you authentic DH picks, rather than additional hitters who play most of their games at “real” positions that require a fielder’s glove. Turner has started 19 of the Red Sox’ 24 games at DH, which ranks fourth in all of baseball in a stat invented just now by this column called “DH rate.” 

Turner is also beginning to heat up, evidenced by his game-tying blast in the 8th inning at Miller Park American Family Field on Sunday. His .385 on-base percentage and 123 OPS+ are suddenly looking very solid for any hitter, let alone one embarking on his age-38 season.

Combine all that with the fact that Red Sox-Orioles games have been offensive circuses since the middle of last season and you have a recipe for at least one extra base hit from the red-haired ageless wonder. Baltimore will send Kyle Bradish to the mound and he has looked great in two short starts, but it may not even matter. The Sox have scored at least eight runs in five of the last seven matchups against the O’s.

P - Erik Lauer (MIL)

Lauer has quietly become a solid starter for the Brewers in the last two-plus seasons and thanks to solid offensive performances behind him, has won three of his first four starts to start the season. This pick doesn’t have a lot to do with his run prevention abilities, however. It has everything to do with the run prevention abilities the Detroit Tigers have against themselves.

Only one team this season has scored fewer than 70 runs. Only one has a team OPS under .600. Only one is hitting under .210 and has fewer than 150 hits. If it wasn’t obvious, those all apply to the Tigers. They’re the most abysmal offense this game has seen in quite some time.

So if Lauer can simply keep the ball out of the exact middle of the strike zone, there’s a great chance the Tigers will continue making weak contact. That tends to lead to quick at-bats, which lead to long outings, which lead to wins. Translation: Lauer is beating the Tigers on Tuesday.

And on that confident, borderline-cocky note, the curtain has fallen on Round 2 of the Picks to Click. Be sure to continue following @Underdog__MLB to ensure no last-minute lineup changes spoil your week, and the column will be right back here when you need it most, exactly one week from today!