Underdog MLB Picks to Click 5/9

May 9th 2023

Jackson Roberts

If you’ve followed the Picks to Click over the past three weeks, you’ll instantly understand the significance of the following phrase, a phrase that is quickly morphing into our mantra… 

The Search Continues.

These picks have been so, so close to achieving their goals. They are threefold, each simple on its face but all excruciatingly difficult in tandem: .300 batting average, two home runs and a win on the mound.

Last week, Masataka Yoshida delivered the power and Tyler Wells picked up career win number 11, but seemingly every hitter in the lineup went 1-for-4 or 1-for-5. That won’t cut it in this game–we’re looking for multi-hit nights, preferably with pop. The rationale has been mostly sound, but this week, we’re making minor tweaks to ensure we find stone cold winners. 

It’s going to be a fantastic full-slate MLB Tuesday and a week with tons of fun matchups across the league, so let us stall no further and delve into the Picks. Regardless of your chosen fantasy format, may the odds be ever in your favor!

C - Will Smith (LAD)

Dodger fans happy to see their team in first place should be parading around SoCal sporting “I heart Will Smith” t-shirts. The Dodgers are 14-7 when he plays, compared to 7-9 with him out of the lineup. Now back and mashing after an early season concussion, Smith’s .306/.411/.556 triple slash line speaks so loudly that we need add nothing else.

Tuesday, Smith and Co. face Eric Lauer, who you may remember as the man who suffered a fingernail injury and saddled the Picks to Click with our first and only starting pitcher loss thus far. If you don’t think we’re out for revenge, you don’t know the Underdog Way. The 4.40 ERA for Lauer is masking a world of poor Savant metrics and expected stats–he has a 5.84 xERA and ranks in the bottom 10% in average exit velocity.

We project Smith gets the start Tuesday because he’s the clear-cut best catcher on the Dodgers and because Clayton Kershaw is not the starting pitcher. But Smith is 0-for-9 against Lauer (that’s called being due!) and Austin Barnes is 5-for-14 with a home run. Monitor the Dodgers’ lineup on Underdog MLB’s Twitter and if Dave Roberts opts for the track record over the talent, start Barnes in his place.

1B - Anthony Rizzo (NYY)

In what has been a topsy-turvy season for the Yanks so far, Rizzo has been the marker of consistency. His average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and OPS+ are all less than 10% off from his All-Star career averages in either direction. And with Aaron Judge sidelined, Rizzo leads the team in basically every major offensive category.

This column isn’t a space to wax poetic about any given player, but Rizzo is worth making an exception. For someone who’s never been an MVP finalist (his highest finish was fourth, back-to-back in 2015-16), he’s done everything else you’d want in a big-league career. Three All-Stars, four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger and a World Series ring. Not at all bad for a former sixth-rounder from Parkland, FL.

Against the A’s and journeyman starter Drew Rucinski (journeyman in the truest sense of the word, since he took a five-year hiatus from MLB that included time as the Opening Day starter of the 2020 KBO champion NC Dinos), it is safe to infer that the Yankees can expect to score runs. When they’ve done that this season, Rizzo has been leading the charge more often than not. Sometimes, the logic behind these picks flows beautifully.

2B - Ozzie Albies (ATL)

Albies is setting a new standard for himself in 2023. He’s on career-high paces in OPS and OPS+ and with nine homers already, he’s on pace to shatter his career high of 30 if he stays on the field for a full season. And the good news for Albies is that Tuesday night, he’s entering a fantastic home run situation.

Boston starter Nick Pivetta has allowed seven home runs already in just 30.1 innings. That ties him for 17th-most bombs allowed, with just three pitchers on the list above him having thrown more innings. And if a couple balls hadn’t been killed in the wind his last start against Toronto, the numbers would look even worse.

Plus, we like the fact that Albies has unsavory career numbers against Pivetta: 5-for-26 with just a single extra base hit. There’s nothing else in the peripherals that suggests Pivetta is uniquely qualified to deal with high-contact lefties and the majority of that stat line comes from Pivetta’s early days with Philadelphia, so we believe this matchup is ripe for course correction.

SS - Rodolfo Castro (PIT)

We can’t only pick blue-chippers for our lineup. That would not only be impossible in most formats, but it’s also guaranteed by the laws of karma that some of our chosen superstars would go 0-for-4 with three punchouts.

No, we need to sprinkle in players like Castro, who won’t be All-Stars this season, (unless he proves us wrong, in which case we’re here for it!) but who can catch barrels with the best of them for one glorious evening. And it just so happens Castro went deep Monday night, so why not keep the good times rolling?

Castro ranks in the 77th percentile of all players in hard hit percentage and the 70th percentile in barrel percentage. Those aren’t elite metrics at all, but we certainly know he’s got high end power potential. Connor Seabold, the Colorado starter Castro will face, is awful at generating swings and misses (16th percentile in whiff percentage) and ranks well below average in limiting extra base power. It’s a matchup ripe for loud contact.

This column was made for overlooked players like Castro. He’s a dreadful defender at shortstop, keeping his overall WAR down, but there is significant thump in his bat that can be unleashed with little to no warning. On Tuesday night, we’re ready for a show.

3B - Rafael Devers (BOS)

We’re counting this as our “superstar” pick for the week because if there’s anyone still out there that doesn’t consider Devers as exactly that, they should lose their expert badge.

A quick primer on Devers’ early career resume: 2018 World Series champ, two-time All Star, 2021 Silver Slugger at a loaded third base position, led MLB in total bases as a 22-year-old in 2019. In fact, Devers still leads all of baseball in total bases since the start of 2019. He stays healthy for full seasons and he makes hard, consistent contact to all fields. He’s everything you want in a franchise cornerstone.

Against Braves starter Charlie Morton, Devers appears due for success. He’s just 8-for-31 with two doubles lifetime against the ageless wonder, with no unusually high strikeout or whiff numbers that raise major red flags. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of time before a star connects against any given pitcher.

OF - Brent Rooker (OAK)

At this point, Rooker is flying under no one’s radar. When you enter a season with -1 career WAR and lead the show in OPS on May 9, people tend to notice. They also tend to question whether you can show any staying power. So it’s time for all of us in the analysis business to decide whether or not we believe.

So consider this a resounding vote of confidence. Rooker’s whiff rate is slightly alarming, but he’s also showing elite barrel and slugging rates and is also walking like a bona-fide All-Star–the result of being surrounded by the rest of the Oakland A’s in a lineup. We’re buying the age-28 season breakout and considering Rooker a lock as the pick to represent those A’s in Seattle in July.

Under the bright lights in the Bronx, up against struggling righty Clarke Schmidt, it’s now time for Rooker to have a statement performance. Sure, the A’s might keep losing at a historic rate, but if he goes deep a couple times against the Pinstripes, he’ll elevate himself to a household name. And if he wasn’t already, he’ll also be considered a prime candidate to move elsewhere in the Oakland franchise’s never-ending quest to shed every good ballplayer that walks through their doors.

OF - Mark Canha (NYM)

Canha admittedly hasn’t done much to write home about this season. He’s made a career out of being a pesky on-base guy with some pop and none of that identity is showing at the plate right now. However, there are two things that point to this being a good pick. 

One, Great American Ballpark is a home run launchpad. Its current park factor for home runs is 145 (100 is standardized league average) and no other place in baseball checks in above 128. Canha has just three homers this season, but that’s counting games at brutal pitcher-friendly parks like Oakland Coliseum and Comerica Park, and Citi Field ranks 22nd in park factor in its own right.

Two, Canha is streaky. A’s and Mets fans both know that he can go silent for a fortnight, but also carry their team’s offense when he gets rolling. He’s been in a lull for most of the season, but the Reds’ pitching staff could the the ultimate jolt of caffeine that both he and the Mets’ offense as a whole could use to jump start their season.

OF - Mitch Haniger (SF)

Some may remember Mitch Haniger as the man who delivered one of the most electric singles in Seattle Mariners history, despite the fact that the Mariners missed the playoffs that season. Others, especially baseball fans to the south of us, may remember him as the man who mashed a 460-foot moonblast in Mexico City just under two weeks ago.

This week, though, we look forward to remembering him as the man who pumped two balls over the left field wall at Oracle Park because he was facing the Nationals and Patrick Corbin, who is coming off his only good start since 2019 and is therefore due to resume being clobbered. Swing away, Mitch.

DH - Harold Ramírez (TB)

Do the underlying numbers suggest Ramírez will keep up a pace so torrid he’d garner down-ballot MVP votes? Perhaps not, but they certainly don’t suggest he’s some average Joe. The Rays’ primary DH ranks in the top 3% of the league in wOBA this season while trending in the right direction year-over-year in almost all contact and power metrics.

Here’s what we really like about Ramírez: he is finding a way to scratch a hit across in just about every game he’s playing at the moment. After starting the season 0-for-10 in his first three games, he has at least one knock in 19 of the other 23 he’s played since. He also has yet to go more than seven straight games without a home run and it’s been six since his last. Against a rookie hurler in Grayson Rodriguez who is struggling early on with hard contact, it feels like a blast is imminent.

SP - Lucas Giolito (CWS)

The impending free agent righty has been excellent in his last five starts, pitching at least six innings each outing and surrendering just 0.6 hits per inning. With the White Sox languishing, he looks like one of the top targets on the starting pitcher market at the trade deadline. Sadly, though, this pick really isn’t even about Giolito.

Though this isn’t an official proclamation, the Picks to Click will be riding with “starting pitcher facing the Kansas City Royals” moving forward until A) the Royals face a pitcher whose skill level is as poor as their lineup’s, or B) the Royals prove they can hit anything that would garner a speeding ticket on I-85. 

Oh, you’re scared of Bobby Witt Jr.? He’s got the same OPS+ as Michael A. Taylor. You’re nervous about the game being in Kansas City? The Royals are 4-16 at home. Any solitary sign of hope K.C. had about their offense at the beginning of the season has been completely snuffed out and their only objective now is to avoid being remembered for historically putrid levels of production.


Once again, folks... The Search Continues. Victory shall soon be ours.