Underdog MLB Picks to Click 5/30

May 30th 2023

Jackson Roberts

Esteemed readers of the Underdog Network, it is my great pleasure to report to you the results of the Picks to Click from a week ago, the 23rd of May, 2023.

On the batting average front, we saw a 10-for-32 output, good for a clip of .313. We saw four Tuesday home runs, including two from the formidable Paul Goldschmidt. And best of all, future Rangers Hall of Famer Nathan Eovaldi threw his second complete game of the season in a win at Pittsburgh.

In other words, the game has finally been won. The Picks achieved all their goals for one glorious week, and for that, I am ecstatic. But rest assured, dear friends. One victorious week has only made the quest for perfect picks more ravenous. We aren’t happy with one ring, we’re trying to build a dynasty.

Here then, are the brave soldiers tasked with putting a second title on the mantle:

C - Francisco Álvarez (NYM)

Coming off a dynamite weekend at Coors Field with a pair of three-run home runs, Álvarez is starting to look like the beast at the plate the Mets knew he would be when he was tearing up the minor leagues. It’s always difficult picking a player who’s been hot, because there’s a chance he may have wasted his good results before they count for the column. But in the case of Álvarez, I’m fully buying the breakout.

The most exciting thing about how Álvarez profiles as a hitter is that he succeeds equally against all pitch speeds. This season, he’s slugging .556 against fastballs, .535 against breaking balls and .625 against all other offspeed pitches. It’s visible in his balanced set-up at the plate; he’s on time to whatever you want to throw him.

In his short major league career thus far, Álvarez has had drastic reverse splits, which is concerning when starting him against a lefty pitcher. However, in this case, the lefty starter is Ranger Suárez, who has a 9.82 ERA in four starts thus far. If there was ever a time for the splits to start evening out, this is the right matchup.

1B - Triston Casas (BOS)

There are going to be a few spots in this column where we go looking for those true bargains, so consider this the first stop on the budget tour. 

Conventional wisdom will tell you Casas is having an absolutely dreadful season, which on the whole, he absolutely is. But his April was so ghastly that it might be overshadowing the fact that he’s been pretty darn respectable in May. In 27 games, he’s slashing .277/.360/.462, good for a 124 OPS+. 

Even better, Casas is heading home to Fenway, where Alex Cora said he expects all of his struggling lefty hitters to find their footing again. The comfort of knowing a medium-deep fly ball to the opposite field is likely to be a double is enough to bring comfort to any big leaguer. 

In terms of opposition, Reds starter Ben Lively has been good in 2023, but less so since he became a starter after two stellar relief outings. He’s also surrendered three total homers in his two starts despite only allowing two runs in each.

2B - Ketel Marte (ARI)

Marte has tattooed Rockies starter Kyle Freeland when he’s seen him, going 12-for-37 (.324) with four doubles and two homers, good for a .595 slugging percentage. That’s the highest of any D-Backs hitter against Freeland, and Freeland usually has not fared well against Arizona at all. Unless you’re crazy and think a 3-7 record with a 5.34 ERA sounds good!

I love picking hitters against divisional foes they see a lot–the advantage swings toward the hitter with each pitch they see and catalog in their brains. Marte has both seen Freeland a lot and crushed him when he has, which is fantastic. And overall, Marte is just a very savvy, professional hitter, who knows he isn’t going to draw a ton of walks but makes a lot of hard contact. This is one of my favorite picks of the slate.

SS - Tim Anderson (CWS)

Anderson hasn’t hit a home run yet this season. That’s a fact that’s both utterly depressing and speaks to the overall nightmare 2023 has been for the White Sox and all their supporters. He’s gone 153 at-bats with no bombs, fourth-most in all of baseball. And even worse–free agent signee Andrew Benintendi has the most! 196 at-bats without a dinger! Keep in mind, this was the player the White Sox gave the most money they’ve ever given anyone in free agency before! Wait, what were we talking about again?

Oh yes, Anderson having a good night Tuesday. Well, the only reasoning I’m going to give you is that he’s facing the Angels’ Tyler Anderson. Something just feels appropriate about the guy named T. Anderson in the box score hitting his first homer of the year against another guy labeled T. Anderson. Make this column go viral when it happens, folks.

3B - Eduardo Escobar (NYM)

Yes, two Mets are making the picks this week, which really tells you how certain I am that Ranger Suárez is going to get torched at Citi Field. It isn’t even that I think Suárez is a bad pitcher in the grand scheme of things, but these two teams have both been giving up runs in bunches of late. This series feels like chaos waiting to be unleashed.

Escobar counts as the second of my value picks because he’s lost his grip on a starting spot this season. Brett Baty now gets the lion’s share of third base innings and Escobar is left to take up spot starts at every infield position but first. Against Suárez, though, I have a pretty good feeling he’ll start and play second base…

…because Escobar is 3-for-5 with a homer and a double thus far in his career against Suárez. Yes, small sample sizes are a thing, but a 2.000 OPS still speaks for itself.

OF - James Outman (LAD)

Outman had been mired in a brutal slump of late, going hitless in the last seven games of the Dodgers’ road trip, an 18-AB span. But he went 1-for-2 with a sac fly in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Nationals Monday night, which I think means more good things are close behind.

All hitters are prone to fall into slumps on the road. You’re sleeping in unfamiliar beds every night, consistently growing more tired with each mile traveled, plus to top it off, this road trip saw the Dodgers face perhaps the other two best teams in baseball at the end of it in the Braves and Rays. Now Outman gets to sleep in his own bed and go up against Jake Irvin, who has a 5.92 FIP. That’s a comfort factor that stats can’t quite quantify.

OF - Joey Wiemer (MIL)

Now this is the nadir of our dive into the depths of bargain players with terrible stat lines. Wiemer, a promising rookie with a knack for making spectacular plays in center, has struggled at the plate lately, dipping his OPS+ all the way to a meager 61. But the matchup against Blue Jays lefty Yusei Kikuchi could be what he needs to get his bat heated up.

It’s always smart practice to be wary of small-sample splits, but Wiemer’s are so drastic it’s almost impossible to believe they aren’t indicative of long-term trends. He’s got a .476 OPS in 122 plate appearances against righties and an .877 OPS in 44 against lefties. 

To be an everyday big-league center fielder, you’d love to see Wiemer start to produced half-decent results against righties. But in this format, I don’t care, as long as he barrels a couple against Kikuchi. For a bargain bin deal, you could do a lot worse than Wiemer on Tuesday.

OF - Austin Hays (BAL)

I find myself gravitating towards the Orioles a lot right now, and who could realistically blame me? Not only are they one of the best teams in baseball, but they’re one of the most fun, and when my Picks succeed, I want to see celebration. And no celebration is better in the entire sporting world than a guy named “Mr. Splash” unleashing the full force of a water cannon all over an entire section of rowdy O’s fans.

So let’s go with Hays, who has faced Cal Quantrill four times in his career thus far without a hit. One of the most successful strategies in column history is picking the hitter who seems to be “due” against a certain pitcher, and since Quantrill has not yet struck Hays out in those four at-bats, I’m chalking the hitless results up to small sample size and bad luck. Bring on Mr. Splash!

DH - Shohei Ohtani (LAA)

I’ve been saving the Ohtani pick for seven weeks now, carrying it around in my pocket like a college student studying abroad with their parents’ credit card, having been told it was “for emergencies only.” I vowed to save the pick for a matchup I absolutely loved and this week brings with it that ideal matchup I sought.

Ohtani has 20 career at-bats against Chicago starter Lucas Giolito. Two of those turned into homers, one a triple and one other a double. That means Ohtani has already hit for the cycle in his career against Giolito. Two weeks ago in Baltimore, Ohtani also came within a double of hitting for the cycle in Baltimore.

See what I’m getting at here? The signs from the universe are starting to align. Ohtani is as close to a walking cycle as there is in baseball, yet he’s done it just once thus far in his career. Does he have to hit for the cycle Tuesday to make this pick a success? No. But would it be the greatest thing to happen in the history of these picks if he did it after I called his shot? You betcha!

(Also, I put that specific video in the column as a reminder of just how ridiculous this man truly is. I'm talking about him as an unfair pick as a DH when he's also leading the American League in strikeouts on the mound. There's simply no one else in the sporting universe who can compare.)

SP - Bryce Elder (ATL)

A winning strategy in this column, which simultaneously has no format and attempts to fit every format, is to pick the juiciest pitching matchup and then try to find value elsewhere. And you won’t find a surer bet right now than “pitcher facing the Oakland A’s.” I actually love the fact that the A’s broke their 11-game losing streak in Mike Soroka’s return to the Braves Monday, because that means they’ve used up all their winning baseball for at least the next week.

But let’s not be fully negative, because Elder has been excellent this season. In six of his ten starts, he’s allowed one run or zero. The other four starts have been two, two, three and four runs. He keeps his team in the game at any and all costs. And aside from that four-run start against the Marlins, in which he allowed three home runs, he’s only let up one dinger all season.

But yes, it sure helps make the decision to play Elder when you assume his excellent offense is going to score a bucketload of runs against the putrid A’s pitching staff.