Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:15 PM EST.
4:15 PM EST. With a large chunk of their best offensive talent (Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer), and a couple of valuable arms (Jason Vargas and Mike Minor) gone via free agency, and with the depletion of the once stellar bullpen over time, the oddsmakers projected win total of 71 is a good bet this year to be in the ballpark. What goes up, as they say. One thing, or series of things the Royals did this offseason was add some veteran free agents. We’re not talking about great players, necessarily, but useful ones, such as outfielder Jon Jay and first baseman Lucas Duda, who at least make a team a little bit more competitive. However, this is a lineup that a smart pitcher should dominate and that brings us to James “Big Game” Shields and the South Side.
The White Sox season win total is 67½, which is an automatic over bet because they are not that bad. This season represents Year 2 of The Rebuild, and the White Sox have by and large already picked the collection of talent with which they are going to ride for the foreseeable future. So, while 2017 was largely spent wondering if, when, and for what players like Jose Quintana and David Robertson would be traded, 2018 is a year of consolidation and monitoring the guys who already started arriving in the majors at the end of last year. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Yoan Moncada could make almost any team in the majors. Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon are still crucial players for the timing and shape of the next winning White Sox team, but they are somehow “old news” at this point. Unfortunately, it looks like another year of Rodon missing the first few months with an injury, although at least this year he’s coming off of a surgery for a specific diagnosis and treatment rather than vague pain issues. One of the underrated things about a rebuild is the opportunity to give a bunch of playing time to marginal guys who suddenly turn out to be more than anyone expected. Sure, it was nice the Astros got Alex Bregman out of their, uh, calculated losing, but Dallas Keuchel and Jose Altuve were marginal prospects who emerged as stars simply because Houston didn’t have any reason not to play them. Nick Delmonico might be that type of guy.
When James Shields starts opening day, you are in trouble but this is a courtesy start for Shields, as he’s a veteran guy that will serve more as a teacher in the bullpen than an effective starter but we’re willing to roll with him here. Make no mistake that it’s a gamble. Shields’ has gone from being good to nothing more than an innings-eater and has now further devolved into what, exactly? Strained lateral cost him most of 1st half last year, and then he was shelved late due to bad knees. In between, skills were little better than the year before. Shields’ is still owed a tidy $21 million in 2018, so he'll be around but this is not the time to fade. There will be much better opportunities.
Danny Duffy posted a 3.81 ERA in 2017 over 24 starts but don’t buy it. Injuries (June oblique, Sept elbow) derailed hopes for a 2016 repeat and his fortunate hr/f kept it from being worse. Duffy’s 2nd half control fell more in line with his pedestrian first-pitch strike rate and his command says he has mid-rotation skills. September surgery, albeit minor, further tempers expectations. For Duffy, this is a start with lots of questions. Duffy's matchup sub-scores are all weak. Last season he pitched well in Kauffman Stadium, with a 3.48 ERA but the White Sox found him very hittable, pounding out 34 hits in 22 IP, and producing 19 ER without a home run. Pitching for the Royals, K.C and Duffy are a big risk, thus, this is not a wager on Shields’ but a fade against K.C. with Duffy starting.
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Chicago +122 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.44)