Underdog MLB Picks to Click 5/16

May 16th 2023

Jackson Roberts

Here at the Picks to Click, we like to shoot for the stars. In a league where the average hitter bats .247, we strive for a .300 mark. We look for a pair of home runs to flex our power. And we try to cherry pick a starting pitcher to win each and every time out. It’s not easy, what we’ve set out to do. But you don’t become a legendary fantasy projector without setting lofty goals.

And it isn’t all bad news around these parts! For the second straight week, a member of the Picks fraternity took home Player of the Week honors. Last week Masataka Yoshida made us proud and this week, the award went to the other side of The Rivalry as Anthony Rizzo took home the top prize. This week, we’ll look to three-peat while crushing all of our goals for the first time.

Each week, the picks have conspired to go ever-so-slightly wrong, but the number one failing criterion has been batting average. We’ve loaded up on a couple singles merchants this week to try to combat that, but at the end of the day, it’s all about combing the slate to find the best combination of star power and matchup value. The models are sound; now it’s time to start churning out winners.

One more time, then, for the people in the back: The Search Continues. Here are the winning picks for Tuesday, and the rest of the week if you need them.

C - Cal Raleigh (SEA)

There’s nothing better than the universe feeding us the same bad starting pitcher on a Picks day for a second week in a row. Nick Pivetta has not only been atrocious, but is showing delusions of grandeur that rival even the most dramatic reality TV stars.

So the real question: which Mariner to choose? He’s actually done well against most of the individual hitters on the team when he’s matched up against them. The current Seattle roster is 9-for-51. Eugenio Suarez has the lone home run, but is also 1-for-7 overall. 

Raleigh has never seen Pivetta, but c’mon… he’s the Big Dumper! Don’t you blindly trust that things will work out in his favor? And the real kicker is that lefties have a 152 OPS+ against Pivetta this season, compared to “only” 124 for righties. Whether it’s a double off the Monster or a screamer into the bullpen, expect a big blow to come from Kelenic early in this game.

Author's Note: This column was mostly written BEFORE Raleigh hit two home runs Monday night, becoming the first player in the history of baseball to homer from both sides of the plate in a game at Fenway Park. No idea if this is good or bad mojo for the picks. But regardless, there was no way we could take out the Big Dumper.

1B - Christian Walker (ARI)

It’s been an eventful week for Walker. First he went 0-for-4 on Wednesday to derail what the esteemed writer of the Picks to Click had deemed the “C(h)ristian Parlay” on local radio in Syracuse, then he got ejected by umpire Ramon De Jesus for the egregious offense of sarcastically clapping his hands. A true villain, folks.

Nevertheless, Walker has nine home runs and a very solid 128 OPS+ thus far in 2023 and is faced with the exciting task of hitting against A’s lefty Kyle Muller. Muller’s 7.34 ERA is bad… but his Savant metrics might be worse! His xERA is 7.75, his xSLG is .550 and his xWOBA is .414. Ouch, ouch and more ouch.

2B - Marcus Semien (TEX)

As of late Monday evening, the Braves have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday’s game, as the rotation outside of Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider has been one collective question mark. But this pick is a blind vote of confidence in Semien, who sits among the cream of the crop at a surprisingly stacked position in MLB right now.

Semien rides a 15-game on-base streak heading into Tuesday, which has helped launch his season into a 2.4-WAR campaign. His 34 RBI and 23 walks lead all MLB second basemen, helping him to a 135 OPS+. And he’s done all this without double play partner Corey Seager behind him in the lineup, who may or may not have been activated by the time this article goes live.

The bottom line is, sometimes the picks game isn’t all about matchups and splits and xWOBACON. It’s about trusting the dudes you know are dudes, and Semien is simply one of the top dudes the game has going right now.

SS - Amed Rosario (CLE)

Shortstop ended up being the most difficult position to pick this week. We looked closely at Paul DeJong and Jorge Mateo, but both of their Tuesday matchups involve pitchers that throw with the opposite hands that the splits indicate are favorable. We don’t even know who’s pitching for the White Sox at the time of this writing, but we’ll take Rosario anyway.

Why? Because the Guardians started to do some very 2022 Guardians-y things this past weekend. Josh Naylor, who had been batting .191, launched go-ahead home runs in the eighth inning of three consecutive games Friday through Sunday. The Guards overcame a 6-2 deficit on Saturday with five straight hits, which Rosario was right in the middle of. They’re still below .500, but they appear to be finding their identity once again.

As with most Cleveland hitters, it’s been a rough go on the whole for Rosario in ‘23. The on-base percentage sits at just .298 and he has one lonely home run. But on any given day, Rosario can scratch out five hits. He’s the epitome of a pesky contact guy and every lineup, whether it’s big-league or fantasy, needs a guy like that.

3B - Spencer Steer (CIN)

We’ll excuse you for not having watched much of the Reds lately, but Steer has been quietly making himself at home in the middle of the Cincinnati lineup. His OPS sat at .712 on April 28 and rose all the way to .779 on Monday after a three-hit performance against the Rockies. 

Steer will also have good vibes going in spades on Tuesday. He’ll be playing his second straight game against Colorado, whom he also played his major league debut last September. How did that debut go? If you like home runs, you’d have to admit it went pretty darn well.

Not only does Steer get to face the Rockies, but he gets to do it in Colorado. It’s the closest thing MLB has to hitting on the moon–or at least it was, before the league decided to play in Mexico City. The Rockies will be handing the ball off to Chase Anderson, who had a 6.38 ERA with these same Reds a year ago before being claimed by Colorado off waivers from Tampa on Saturday. The Reds will surely be glad for a chance to do damage to Anderson for a change.

OF - Juan Soto (SD)

We saved our superstar pick for the outfield specifically because Soto is finally breaking out as a Padre. He raised his OPS from .779 to .909 in six days last week and has begun swinging aggressively at pitches in the zone early in counts once more. We’re looking at the Juan Soto of old again and boy, does it feel good.

It’s no secret that times are tough in San Diego right now. It’s safe to assume being under .500 and seven games back in the standings in mid-May was far from what they envisioned for themselves. But the good news is that often, baseball gives you a soft matchup when you need it most. Cue the Kansas City Royals.

Once the toast of the farm system, Brady Singer has been flogged by opposing hitters all season. He’s in the bottom 1% of the league with a ghastly 58.7% hard hit rate and 94.2 mph average exit velocity. His average sinker velocity is down 1.4 mph from a season ago and hitters are slugging .583 against it. This is a great spot for Soto and the rest of the Padres to do some damage.

OF - Jarred Kelenic (SEA)

Okay, so as it turns out, we didn’t only need to choose ONE Mariner going up against Pivetta. After crunching all the numbers (trust us, all of them), we remembered that hey, the Mariners’ best hitter all season is also a lefty, so let’s go with the Seattle lefty brigade!

Interestingly enough, Kelenic has been better against lefty pitchers this season–a .979 OPS compared to .870 against righties. However, he has yet to face a righty giving up bombs at a prolific rate like Pivetta (eight in just 34.2 innings). Plus, .870 is still really, really good. If we’re going to put a significant amount of eggs in any team’s basket, we’ll happily go with the team facing a pitcher who’s been as atrocious as Nick Pivetta has.

OF - Mickey Moniak (LAA)

Moniak produced one of the feel-good stories of the season thus far in Cleveland this weekend. The 2016 number one overall pick struggled mightily in Philly and ended up being traded to the Angels in the deal that sent Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Marsh to the eventual NL champs. And after being called back up Saturday, he smoked a home run in his first at-bat of the season, going on to produce a 4-for-8 line in the last two games of the series.

As much as we’d love the Moniak breakout to last, the crux of this pick is going against Baltimore starter Dean Kremer, who allows a .691 OPS to righties and a .927 to righties. Given that the only full-time lefty starter in the Angels lineup is Shohei Ohtani, we’ll risk it for the biscuit and take Moniak this week. We may have reverse-jinxed Ohtani into hitting three homers now, but hey, that’s how it goes sometimes.

DH - Joey Meneses (WSH) 

Let’s take a flier on someone having a subpar season to date, but whose underlying metrics support success moving forward. Meneses has just two homers and a putrid 4.1% walk rate, but he’s still making hard contact consistently. He ranks in the 86th percentile in hard hit rate and his expected batting average and whiff rates are also comfortably above average.

Also encouraging is the fact that the Nats will face Jesús Luzardo on Tuesday, who does have electric stuff, but throws the baseball with his left hand. Meneses sports an .892 career OPS against lefties, a full hundred points higher than his line against righties.

So could we have picked Ohtani here? Or Bryce Harper, who’s off to a torrid start to the season? Or maybe even just Yordan Álvarez because he’s a top five hitter on the planet? Sure. But this column is about the players exactly like Meneses. Guys who would normally be overlooked in fantasy competitions because the surface stats are poor, but who can provide real value for one matchup moment. Make us look great with a bomb in Miami, Joey!

SP - Seth Lugo (SD)

This is going to be the pick of record, because this column has pledged to go with “Starting pitcher against the Kansas City Royals” until it loses. We’re 2-for-2, so we’re sticking on the path. Lugo has been pretty darn solid this year too, 3-2 with a 3.18 ERA in his first year as a starter since 2017. However, there was a more fun story to write about this week, so…

BONUS SP - Alex Cobb (SF)

If you weren’t already, it’s time to start paying serious attention to Giants games whenever Cobb takes the hill. He leads all NL pitchers in rWAR at 2.4 and is tied for third in all of baseball with that Ohtani fellow.

Now we’re not going to go off and start canvassing for the Cobb Cy Young campaign… yet. He’s still got a massive difference between his xERA (3.61) and ERA (1.70). But there are lots of things to like! He’s cut his walk rate down to a career low of 4.1%, he has a career-high 38.5% whiff rate on his curveball and a career-high ground ball rate at 64.1%. These are all really, really positive developments.

The Phillies do present a challenging matchup in that they have a lot of thump in their lineup, but luckily for Cobb, the game will be played at nighttime in China Basin. As anyone who grew up playing baseball in San Francisco would know (points at self), it gets borderline frigid at that hour near the water, and balls simply do not fly. This is likely to be a low-scoring game with Zack Wheeler twirling for the Phils, but we’ll take the home-field advantage with Cobb.


As ever, folks… the search continues. See you next Tuesday.