Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:00 PM EST.
MINNESOTA -1½ +150 over Cleveland
8:10 PM EST. Interesting matchup here, as both teams have pretty much thrown in the towel while both have underachieved to a large degree also, especially the Twinkies, who were projected to be a contender. What we especially like here is that Minnesota’s starter has an ERA of 5.35 while Cleveland’s starter has an ERA of 3.13. That discrepancy in surface ERA’s has produced a deflated price on the host Twins.
Griffin Jax (RHP - MIN) is coming off a 10 strikeout game against the White Sox. Jax hasn't had much success in his first crack at the majors, and with a below-average K% and K-BB% as well as a high fly ball rate, his skills show that his lackluster performance has been earned. However, that high fly-ball rate looks a little fluky, as in his two biggest minor league samples, 2018 High-A and 2019 Double-A, his rates were 30% and 31%, respectively, with ground ball rates of 54% and 49%. If his batted-ball output can shift in that direction as his MLB sample grows larger, that would be enough to bring his xERA below 4.50. Although he has not provided much length, Jax has pitched decently over the past 31 days, allowing no more than three runs per start to the tune of a 2.66 ERA and 3.51 xERA. Jax now faces a Cleveland team that owns a sub .700 OPS in August.
Strong ERA, limited skills for Cal Quantrill (RHP - CLE). This former Top 10 pick who ranked as a borderline Top 50 prospect in some publications years ago, Quantrill has seen his value drop significantly since his first MLB exposure in 2019. Heading into 2020 with a new club and new role (mostly), he proceeded to compile a 2.25 ERA spanning 18 appearances. Multiple injuries and organizational moves led to Quantrill getting another full-time shot in the Cleveland rotation in late May, and his 3.13 ERA would suggest that he's been fairly successful on the surface. However, if we look at his skills, they tell a different story.
Luck in strand% has boosted his ERA, but lack of command and control is holding him back. Quantrill’s K% has been well below average in three of the last four seasons, with '20 likely getting a bump due to sample size and the majority of appearances being in relief. His weak swing & miss rate echoes the same sentiment, as he only boasts one offering that's generating a double digit swing & miss rate (slider: 15%,, 21% usage).
Quantrill’s BB% from '18-'20 was favorable, but xBB in '19 and '20 (9%), as well as consistently mediocre Ball% results, demonstrate that his true skill level is leaning towards being below average in control. xWHIP from '19 and '20 fell right in line with his actual performance each season. Current WHIP is at risk of falling further if his hit-rate goes up even slightly. A spike in line-drive rate hasn't impacted him too heavily in WHIP as of yet, but that, too, is likely to change.
Quantrill’s ERA from '20 was obviously the result of significant strand rate luck. His strand rate is once again higher than the league average, but his xERA has trended in the wrong direction due to bottom-tier K-BB and heightened line-drive%/lower groundball%. HR/F is slightly lower than the 14% xHR/F he's averaged the last two seasons.
Make no mistake that Quantrill has been mediocre to bad since his move to the rotation: 4.50 ERA, 4.90 xERA, 1.31 WHIP, 9% K-BB, 28% hit rate and an awful 0/45% dominant start/disaster start split. While there's multiple starts with only 1 earned run allowed, his xERA results over the last two months are reflective of his actual performance (5.33 & 5.19). We're now years removed from his decent prospect rating, and at 26 years old he's hitting a point where his long term potential is growing increasingly futile by the day. In terms of this season, his inconsistency paired with lack of a league average K-BB confirm that his skills are weak and his results are luck-driven. Twins a bargain today.
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MINNESOTA -1½ +151 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.02)