Underdog MLB Picks to Click 5/23

May 23rd 2023

Jackson Roberts

We’re not standing on ceremony this week, folks. The Picks have been good, but not good enough. We’ve been like Rocky during the Siberian training montage all weekend, finding the hidden gems within each matchup. With hearts on fire, we strive to bring you greatness this week. The search continues, indeed. Here are the winning players for any and all fantasy formats, Tuesday and beyond:

C - Shea Langeliers (OAK)

When a team is about to face the Mariners, it’s a safe bet that the first thing the hitters do is check the pitching matchups to see if they’ll run into Marco Gonzales or not. Gonzales is the proverbial ugly dragon in the otherwise loaded rotation of the M’s and fortunately for Langeliers and his teammates, he’ll start against Oakland Tuesday night.

Now, for whatever reason, Langeliers has struggled mightily against lefties. He’s got a .440 OPS against southpaws this season, compared to .805 against righties. But who has he faced? Oh, just Jeffrey Springs, Justin Steele, Patrick Sandoval, Andrew Heaney and Framber Valdez. Most of us would struggle against lefties like those, too.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is surrendering at least a .439 xSLG on all four of his pitches. Righties and lefties alike are teeing off against the poor fellow, and at a catching position where not a lot of hitters are finding success this season, Langeliers seems to be as good a bet as any to go off against a pitcher struggling as mightily as Gonzales.

1B - Paul Goldschmidt (STL)

This is, believe it or not, the first time a player has been a repeat feature in the Picks over our six-week history. It’s well-deserved, too, because Goldschmidt has been nothing but consistently awesome for going on twelve years at this point. And he’s facing a pitcher in Graham Ashcraft who has consistently been getting smoked in the month of May.

Ashcraft’s calling card is his pure, raw stuff. It’s the high-90s cutter mixed with the video game slider. But when you only throw two pitches most of the time and they both move in the same direction, hitters are eventually going to figure you out. That’s why Ashcraft’s ERA has ballooned from 2.00 to 4.84 in just three bad outings. Which does not bode well for facing a Cardinals lineup that has consistently put up crooked numbers over the past couple weeks.

Meanwhile, Goldschmidt is matchup-proof, velo-proof and all-around unflappable. He’s in the 98th percentile in xWOBA and 96th in hard hit percentage. His OPS is above .850 against both righties and lefties. He’s the hitter we all wish we could be and against a struggling arm like Ashcraft, he’s the hitter you’re terrified to see striding towards the plate.

2B - Gleyber Torres (NYY)

Torres is one of the most confusing players in baseball. At any moment, he could look like a future Hall of Famer or that kid on your high school team who always forgets the signs. Why, just last week against Toronto, he was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a throw, at second base doing the same, tried for an unrealistic force out at second when he had an easy throw to first… but also had two clutch RBIs in a game the Yanks won 6-3.

Here is a certainty about Torres, however: He absolutely rakes against the Orioles. In his 72 career games against Baltimore, he’s slashing .318/.392/.600. So that actually makes this week somewhat easy to predict. As the ultimate hot and cold hitter, Torres seems like a lock to be hot against the team he’s treated like his own personal punching bag over his five-plus seasons in the league.

SS - Trea Turner (PHI)

It’s discouraging seeing Turner’s OPS continue to oscillate around .700. We’re therefore giving him a strong shot of Picks to Click mojo, because the game of baseball is in a better place when Turner is lighting up the box scores.

We turn, then, to Arizona starter Ryne Nelson, who has been somewhat unlucky in pitching to a 5.48 ERA. Statcast thinks that number should be 4.60 and that the .359 average he’s allowing on fastballs should be about 57 points lower. But the fact remains that Nelson pitches off his fastball and Turner has feasted on fastballs throughout his career. That trend has to regress to the mean at some point, so why not now?

3B - Isaac Paredes (TB)

One of the most successful picks in the short history of this column came when choosing a batter who had awful stats against the pitcher he would face that night, when Dodgers catcher Will Smith, 0-for-9 previously against Milwaukee’s Eric Lauer, went 3-for-4 with a home run. We’re applying the same theory here.

Paredes is 0-for-5 in his career against Blue Jays starter José Berríos with three strikeouts in that time span. But if we look a little deeper, we see that Paredes is slugging .714 with a 42.1% hard hit rate this season against a sample of 123 sinkers, a clear indication that he’s figured something out against the pitch.

Well, what’s Berríos’ primary fastball, you ask? Sinkers, of course! And they’ve been getting hammered, with a .500 SLG and .566 xSLG allowed over a 217-pitch sample size. So, why not ignore the short history of dominance Berríos has enjoyed against Paredes and look for both of their sinkerballing trends to continue?

OF - Kyle Tucker (HOU)

The Brewers have yet to announce who Tucker will face Tuesday as of this writing, due to the injury Wade Miley suffered in his most recent start. But putting blind trust in a hitter is okay when it’s a hitter as trustworthy as Tucker.

Tucker is a good, bordering on great hitter at most times. But when you put runners in scoring position, he transforms into prime Ted Williams. This season, he’s 15-for-38 with 21 RBI. Even if that has zero fantasy relevance, considering the Astros would need to put runners on base in front of him for it to matter at all, it’s a fantastic footnote and proves that no moment is too big for Tucker. Here’s to hoping those big moments present themselves Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

OF - Kris Bryant (COL)

There’s no denying Miami starting pitcher and #1 prospect Eury Perez has been dynamite through two outings. But the underlying numbers tell a tale of a rookie still due to take his lumps, and Bryant is the perfect candidate to deliver the blow.

Perez is throwing 47.0% fastballs through two starts, which have generated a .375 batting average, three homers, two doubles and a 1.063 slugging percentage. He’s escaped trouble because all of those homers have been solo shots. Plus, his slider and curveball have been filthy. But he clearly still wants to pitch off the fastball, which is going to have to catch up to him at some point.

Meanwhile, Bryant is hitting .319 against fastballs with a .401 xWOBA. Even elite velocities like Perez’s aren’t going to faze a veteran like Bryant. Even though Miami’s scouting department is sure to suggest a heavy dose of breaking stuff to the 2016 NL MVP, there’s bound to be a heater or two mixed in that he can exploit.

OF - Harrison Bader (NYY)

Statcast tends to suggest that 2022 playoffs/early 2023 regular season Bader is not the hitter his barrage of power would lead you to believe, and on the whole, that might be true. But why not keep the good vibes flowing a little bit longer?

It’s a small sample size, but Bader has a home run included in his four career at-bats against Orioles Tuesday starter Kyle Bradish. Even more encouragingly, he’s yet to swing and miss at a pitch in any of those four at-bats. That looks suspiciously like a hitter who’s not fooled one bit by any of the tricks a pitcher has up his sleeves.

DH - Jorge Soler (MIA)

It’s always difficult to tell which way the wind is blowing with Soler, who could easily play a full season and end up either 30% above or below league average in most hitting metrics. Heck, in 2021, he somehow managed to do both for two different teams. But looking objectively at his 2023 numbers, it’s hard not to like what’s on the page.

Soler, as you might expect, swings and misses and strikes out a lot. But other than that, his Baseball Savant page is a grid of red circles. He ranks in the 89th percentile in xWOBA, 95th in xSLG and most impressively, 97th in barrel rate. The 12 home runs and .509 slugging percentage tell the story in concrete stats as well.

Best of all, where will Soler be bringing his barrel-happy swing this week? Coors Field, the baseball world’s number one host site for barrel parties. And Colorado seems like a state that’s ready to embrace the widespread use of Soler power.

SP - Nathan Eovaldi (TEX)

If you haven’t been watching the baseball down in Arlington, here are a few general truths about this year’s Rangers team:

  1. They can flat-out mash the ball

  2. The bullpen is undoubtedly a little dicey

  3. Nathan Eovaldi is pitching better than ever

Eovaldi currently sports a 153 ERA+, a 2.46 FIP, a 0.99 WHIP, is giving up just 7.5 hits per nine innings and 0.4 home runs per nine innings. All of those would be career highs over a full season. He’s going deeper in games than ever, too: over his last four starts, he’s thrown nine, 8.2, eight and seven innings. 

The extended outings part is the key aspect here, because as established, the Rangers bullpen is quite bad at the moment. To fulfill the goal of earning a win on the mound, we’d like a pitcher to take that variable out of play as much as possible. And the Pirates’ lineup is one that thrives on contact, which plays into Eovaldi’s hands as an above-average ground ball pitcher. Count on Nasty Nate to keep the good times rolling.