MLB Handicapping: Pitchers with Betting Value
by Trevor Whenham - 4/6/2015
I have a favorite thing to do at the start of every baseball season - which is where we find ourselves right now. I like to look around the rosters for pitchers I am excited about. I'm not talking about the superstars or the guys who have had proven success. I'm looking for guys who are poised to take a big step forward this season. The reason is simple - when you are right about these guys there is massive value, and major profits, to be had.
As we get ready for this season here are five guys that stand out in my eyes:
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Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates: Cole is a former No. 1 overall pick who has two good years in the pros already - a 21-12 career record and a 3.45 ERA - so I am not exactly starting off with an obscure guy. He has had 19 and 22 starts, respectively, in his first two years, though, so he should see more action this year. And he certainly has the potential to really shine in that added action. The experience should really help, and he is young enough that his ridiculously fast fastball shouldn't lose any velocity this year. He has a strong team behind him that will help him when he needs it, and he has the pitches to confuse and confound. Cole has been a useful, solid starter the last two years. Now I expect him to become a star - one of the elites in the National League.
Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics: Gray, like Cole, is looking to build on a strong base. In his first full season as a starter last year he went 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA. There is another step to climb here, too. He strikes out a lot of batters, he has a full arsenal of pitches, and he is cool under pressure. The A's should be a decent defensive team, and Gray steps in as the ace of the staff. That's a lot of pressure for a young pitcher, but he has given every indication in his career to date that he can handle it. His 74 walks last year in 33 starts were a bit of a concern, but if he can get that in line then he has the chance to put together a very good year and move up into the upper tier of American League pitchers.
Collin McHugh, Houston Astros: No one has been paying any attention to the Astros lately. There is a good reason for that, too - they have been just terrible. Hidden among their struggles, though, were some emerging gems - and McHugh is right up there near the top. He had bounced around with the Mets and Rockies for two years with limited action and hadn't shown much. He got his opportunity in Houston last year, though, and he really played well. His 11-9 record was decent given the team he played for. More impressively, he had a stellar 1.02 WHIP, and his 2.73 ERA was nothing to sneeze at, either. I don't think the upside for McHugh is as high as the previous two on this list, but he should be at least as good as last year - and on a team as forgettable as Houston is still likely to be, that could be very useful for bettors.
Nathan Eovaldi, New York Yankees: I am not high on the Yankees at all this year and have real concerns about both Tanaka and Sabathia in this rotation. Surprisingly, though, Eovaldi offers some nice value despite the mess. They picked him up in December because of the Ivan Nova injury. He had not been hugely impressive in two years with the Marlins, but it's hard to shine for a team like that. He's only 25, and he has a world-class fastball and a very nice slider. His WHIP of 1.38 is solid, and he should be able to improve. He won't get a lot of attention at the back end of the Yankees rotation, but he has a chance to take a big step forward and really be useful.
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays: Odorizzi had a record of just 11-13 last year in his first full year as a starter, so that obscures some of the good things that the 25 year old did. His WHIP of 1.28 last year was more than solid, and he has really nasty movement on his pitches - movement that he can call on reliably in a number of situations because he has a wide range of pitches. He's penciled in as the third starter in the Tampa Bay rotation, and expectations aren't high for the Rays, so he should be able to operate without pressure. I don't expect him to be a superstar, but he should be more than useful for bettors this year.
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