If you look at the MLB standings right now, you’ll see a bunch of teams many predicted to finish either in last or close to last place leading divisions through the first few weeks of the season. The American League playoff picture (again, it’s only April 24) features the Red Sox leading the AL East, the Royals leading the AL Central, the Athletics leading the AL West, and the White Sox and Mariners as the only other two teams with winning records. The Yankees are a mess but are showing signs of heating up at the plate.
The National League East is still wide open, with the Mets leading the way with an 8-7 record. The Brewers lead the NL Central despite being without Christian Yelich for the last week and with Keston Hiura batting .111. The Dodgers are pacing all of baseball with a 14-6 record, but the surprising Giants are 13-7, and the Padres are 12-10 and have been going toe-to-toe with the Dodgers recently. The landscape is sure to change in the coming months, but the early returns are somewhat surprising.
Here are my top betting plays for Saturday, April 24. Have questions or want to talk baseball or betting? Feel free to reach out on Twitter @mikeMaher.
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Boston Red Sox over Seattle Mariners: -1.5 (-110)
Mariners starting pitcher Chris Flexen is 26 years old but spent the 2020 season in the KBO after his MLB career got off to a rocky start. The results in Korea were excellent, and he is likewise off to a strong start with the Mariners, with a 3.38 ERA and 2.91 FIP through his first three starts of the season. The main difference has been a reduced reliance on his fastball. While it’s still his primary pitch, he has been throwing it 33% of the time in 2021 compared to 58.4% in 2019.
But there are some red flags despite some of the early success. His Statcast numbers show a lot of blue, and his 1.63 WHIP is unsustainable. Perhaps most importantly, his Whiff% is among the worst in baseball, an indicator that he just isn’t missing bats. Even if that isn’t a true indicator that trouble is coming, it often leads to bad luck.
On the other side, the Red Sox have one of the hottest offenses in baseball. Their team wOBA of .349 is tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the highest mark in baseball. And on the hill for the Red Sox is Nathan Eovaldi, who is off to one of the strongest starts of his career. A superb 1.70 FIP backs his solid 3.04 ERA, and his .323 BABIP is actually somewhat higher than his career mark of .309.
The #Reds and #RedSox are currently tied for the highest team wOBA in baseball at .349.
— mike Maher. (@mikeMaher) April 24, 2021
The Mariners are one of the best stories in baseball, but Chris Flexen is due for some regression, and it’s likely we see one of his first stumbles of the season on Saturday in Fenway Park. As for Eovaldi, it’s unlikely he pitches this well or stays completely healthy all season. But ride the wave while he is healthy and pitching well.
Minnesota Twins over Pittsburgh Pirates: -1.5 (-111)
Alex Kirilloff has arrived, and though he went hitless on Friday, his arrival energizes what was already a good offense in Minnesota. The return of Josh Donaldson helps, too. They’re without Max Kepler for an undetermined period of time after the outfielder landed on the COVID-19 list, but this was already a sneaky-deep lineup even before Kirilloff was called up.
Saturday’s pitching matchup features Minnesota’s Michael Pineda against Pittsburgh’s Trevor Cahill. Pineda is off to an excellent start to the season, with a 1.00 ERA (3.15 FIP), 0.72 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts over his first 18 innings. Cahill has a 9.69 ERA through his first three starts, though that does come with a 3.18 FIP. He has received a ton of bad luck, but much of that bad luck is earned.
On offense, the Pirates has one of the worst offenses in baseball and have been without Ke’Bryan Hayes. Their .256 team wOBA is fifth-worst in baseball over the last week, and they’re batting just .194 as a team during that span. This all points to the Twins cruising to an easy win on Saturday. The moneyline is a little steep at -230, but I’m confident enough to give a couple of runs to get the -111 odds.
Diamondbacks-Braves OVER 8.5 Runs (-110)
Most sportsbooks have this over/under at nine runs, but you can get it on FanDuel at 8.5 as of Saturday morning. The matchup here features Madison Bumgarner (Diamondbacks) pitching against Drew Smyly (Braves). Bumgarner was awful in the shortened 2020 season and is off to an equally terrible start to the 2021 season. Smyly revived his career a bit with the San Francisco Giants in 2020 after a couple of bad years, but he isn’t off to a strong start with the Braves.
Over the last week, the Atlanta Braves have had one of the best offenses in baseball. Their .348 wOBA is fourth-best in baseball over the last week, and some of their hitters who had been off to slow starts are heating up. The Diamondbacks have scored five or more runs in five straight games and 11 of their last 13 games and recently dropped 14 runs on the Cincinnati Reds. With the potential for easy offense in this one, take the over and grab it at 8.5 at FanDuel while you can.
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Mike Maher is an editor and featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blog, The Birds Blitz.
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