Expert Picks and Predictions for All MLB Games Monday April 3rd

by Taylor Smith
on April 3, 2017

After the 2017 season officially kicked off with three games yesterday, we have another 12 contests set to go down today. With names like Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg set to take the mound, we could see runs coming at a premium all around the league today.

There are also some weather concerns in certain spots, so make sure to keep an eye on that as the day goes on. Without further ado, here’s how the first full MLB slate of the season will play out.

Atlanta Braves at New York Mets

  • Julio Teheran (7-10, 3.21 ERA) vs. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA)
  • Weather: Mostly cloudy, 55 degrees. 10% chance of rain
  • Total: n/a

The Mets will be hoping that they’ll get some better injury luck this season than they did last year, but it was reported Thursday that left-hander Steven Matz will miss the next few weeks with a sore elbow. Welp. So much for that.

Still, they’ll be looking to start 2017 with a win on the shoulders of Noah Syndergaard, who emerged last season as the true No. 1 on the Mets’ staff. Thor went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and boasted a strikeout rate of about 29 percent, which was among the best marks in MLB. He was really the lone constant in a rotation that was crushed with injuries last season, and he’ll try to retain his place at the top of the list of baseball’s elite young fireballers.

On the other side, the revamped Braves will start the season on the road with Julio Teheran on the mound. Atlanta was obviously terrible last season, but Teheran was quietly solid. His 3.21 ERA across 30 starts was easily the best mark on the Braves’ starting staff in 2016, and the Mets couldn’t figure him out at all. The Colombian right-hander started four games against New York and went 2-0 with a microscopic 0.90 ERA.

Atlanta’s lineup is littered with serviceable veterans, but on the surface it doesn’t appear as though they should be giving Syndergaard many problems. The cold weather in New York certainly favors the pitching staffs, and neither of these offenses is particularly thunderous in the first place. Expect a low-scoring affair.

Pick
New York
3
Atlanta
2

Miami Marlins +1.5 at Washington Nationals -1.5

  • Edinson Volquez (10-11, 5.37 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 3.60 ERA)
  • Weather: Cloudy, 65 degrees. 10% chance of rain
  • Total: 7.5

With Max Scherzer’s 2017 debut pushed back to Friday thanks to a finger issue, the Nats are rolling with co-ace Stephen Strasburg instead. Not a bad alternative. Staying healthy has always been a problem area, but when he’s right he’s one of the very best strikeout arms in the game. Strasburg’s strikeout rate was above 30 percent last season, which would’ve ranked third in all of baseball if he’d made enough starts to qualify for the leaderboard.

The Marlins, meanwhile, are having to resort to new addition Edinson Volquez as their opening day arm. He scuffled big time last year with Kansas City, posting an ERA of 5.37 across nearly 190 innings of work. He was certainly the victim of some bad luck (.319 BABIP against), but he wasn’t missing many bats, either. He’s one of the more hittable pitchers on this opening day slate of games.

As a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Nationals post one of the higher run totals on the day. Health permitting, this will be one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball top-to-bottom, and it all starts with Trea Turner. Turner was absurd after being permanently called-up midway through last season, and he’ll be an elite table-setter in front of Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper.

The Nats are heavy favorites in this spot, so they look like a fairly safe pick. I’d hammer the over here, as well.

Pick
Washington
8
Miami
3

Pittsburgh Pirates +1.5 at Boston Red Sox -1.5

  • Gerrit Cole (7-10, 3.88 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15 ERA)
  • Weather: Mostly sunny, 52 degrees. 10% chance of rain
  • Total: 9

Despite having a pair of dominant lefties in Chris Sale and David Price on the staff, the Red Sox are rolling with defending AL Cy Young champ Rick Porcello on Opening Day. While he was solid last season, he surely benefited from an inflated win total. Boston’s electrifying offense helped propel him to a league-leading 22 wins against just four defeats last season.

On the other side, the Pirates will hope that Gerrit Cole can put his disappointing ‘16 campaign in the rearview mirror and rediscover his ace form. Cole’s numbers were down across the board before he was eventually shut down in mid-September. He has the toughest matchup of any starter on the board today going against a Red Sox team that scored a league-high 878 runs last season.

While they’ll be missing David Ortiz in a big way, there are still enough elite bats here to believe scoring won’t be a concern all year long. Mookie Betts will be looking to build off of his MVP-caliber season, while a trimmed-down Pablo Sandoval will try to redeem himself as the club’s starting third baseman.

The Pirates have plenty of capable bats, as well, which explains the high over/under for this interleague affair. The smart money’s still on the Sox at Fenway, but don’t be surprised if the Bucs are able to chase Porcello relatively early from this one. There should be some fireworks in this game.

Pick
Boston
8
Pittsburgh
6

Colorado Rockies -1.5 at Milwaukee Brewers +1.5

  • Jon Gray (10-10, 4.61 ERA) vs. Junior Guerra (9-3, 2.81 ERA)
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Roofed stadium)
  • Total: 8.5

The Rockies feel that they have a team capable of challenging the Dodgers and Giants atop the NL West. While that remains to be seen, we’re excited to get our first look of the year at emerging ace Jon Gray. His 10-10 record and 4.61 ERA don’t jump off the page, but the Oklahoma native is going to rack up strikeouts by the boatload. Making hitters swing and miss is the way to succeed at Coors Field, and Gray certainly has that in his arsenal.

Junior Guerra really came out of nowhere to enjoy a solid 2016 for Milwaukee. The 32-year-old won’t blow you away, but the fastball typically sits in the mid-90s and his splitter is his go-to strikeout pitch. There’s nothing really spectacular here. He’s not an ace, but he’s no trash horse, either. Guerra really just grades out as a fairly average MLB starter.

Vegas likes the Rockies on the road here, and it’s easy to see why. Miller Park isn’t quite Coors as far as hitters’ parks go, but it certainly favors batters over pitchers. Even with Ian Desmond sidelined with a broken hand, Colorado’s lineup is littered with guys that like hitting the ball out of the ballpark. The one-through-five of Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story is incredibly potent.

We think the Rockies get Gray an early lead, and the hard-throwing right-hander doesn’t look back from there.

Pick
Colorado
7
Milwaukee
3

Toronto Blue Jays (n/a) at Baltimore Orioles (n/a)

  • Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. Kevin Gausman (9-12, 3.61 ERA)
  • Weather: 90% chance of rain, 64 degrees
  • Total: n/a

It’s no secret that these two teams aren’t big fans of one another. The Jays infamously ended Baltimore’s season in the Wild Card Game last year after O’s manager Buck Showalter curiously decided against using the best reliever in baseball, Zach Britton, in several key late-inning situations. During the offseason, Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette explained his team’s lack of interest in then-free agent Jose Bautista by saying his team’s fans “hate” Bautista. Well then.

So, MLB’s schedule makers gave us a gift by pitting these two AL East rivals against one another on Opening Day. The Jays are going with steady veteran Marco Estrada, while the Orioles are throwing improving young right-hander Kevin Gausman into the fire.

Estrada was serviceable if not spectacular for Toronto last season. He has posted a combined ERA of 3.31 over the last two seasons and went 2-0 in four starts against Baltimore last season. Toronto lost slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the Indians, but brought in a couple of decent replacements in Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. Pearce is a noted masher of left-handed pitching, while Morales was a relatively unsung hero during the Royals’ recent deep playoff runs.

The rotation is certainly the biggest question heading into this season for the Orioles. Longtime top prospect Kevin Gausman came on strong toward the end of last season, though, and has looked strong enough in the spring to earn the nod on Opening Day. The lineup looks largely the same as it did last season when it was one of the most potent in baseball. The only real change will be at catcher, where former Diamondback Welington Castillo will take over for the departed Matt Wieters.

These two clubs will be duking it out all season long in an attempt to keep up with the Red Sox in the AL East. Rain could very well be a factor in this one, and soggy weather does have a way of keeping scoring down a bit.

Pick
Baltimore
5
Toronto
3

San Diego Padres (n/a) at Los Angeles Dodgers (n/a)

  • Jhoulys Chacin (6-8, 4.61 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA)
  • Weather: Sunny, high of 72 degrees
  • Total: n/a

Here we have the biggest pitching mismatch on the board. Three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will take the mound at Dodger Stadium against journeyman right-hander Jhoulys Chacin and the Padres. Kershaw has been on the hill for each of the Dodgers’ last two Opening Day dates against the Padres. He completely dominated them last April 4th at Petco Park, going seven innings while striking out nine and allowing no runs and just one hit in a 15-0 LA walloping.

Now that the Padres have gone into a full-on rebuild, Kershaw will be facing a severely watered-down San Diego lineup. There are a few solid bats here (Wil Myers, Austin Hedges), but it’d be quite the shock if Kershaw didn’t just mow through them 1-through-9 with relative ease.

We obviously can’t expect them to drum up 15 runs like they did on Opening Day last year, but the Dodgers should also be able to do plenty of damage here against Chacin. While he wasn’t terrible last season with the Brewers and Angels, he’s still rather hittable and is particularly susceptible against lefties. The Dodgers certainly boast their fair share of left-handed power, including Corey Seager, Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson.

There’s no reason to get cute here. Follow the logic, take Kershaw and the Dodgers and collect your stacks of cash afterward.

Pick
Los Angeles
7
San Diego
1

Detroit Tigers -1.5 at Chicago White Sox +1.5

  • Justin Verlander (16-9, 3.04 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (13-12, 3.20 ERA)
  • Weather: Rainy, 49 degrees. 90% chance of rain
  • Total: 8

AL Cy Young runner-up Justin Verlander will look to build on his resurgent 2016 on the road against an up-and-coming White Sox squad. The right-hander was excellent in three outings against Chicago last season, posting a tidy 2.57 ERA across 21 innings. He’s in a good spot here, as he’ll get to pick on one of the least experienced lineups in the league. Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu are a couple of big bats to worry about, but there really isn’t much else here to worry about.

The Tigers’ bats will have to deal with lefty Jose Quintana, who remains the subject of trade speculation. It seems inevitable that the ChiSox will deal him eventually as they continue their rebuild, but for now he’ll take over as the No. 1 starter in place of the departed Chris Sale. He’ll have his work cut out for him today against a Detroit lineup with plenty of Thunder.

Miguel Cabrera has a long track record of success against Quintana. In 43 head-to-head at-bats, Cabrera is hitting .349/.440/.605 with a pair of home runs. Victor Martinez (.436 average), Ian Kinsler (.304) and JD Martinez (.321) are others that have enjoyed facing Quintana in the past.

Regardless of the BvP (batter vs. pitcher) success working against Quintana, this should be a great pitching matchup. Weather could be a concern, as well, with rain in the Chicago forecast for much of the day. We’ll put our faith in Verlander against that watered-down Sox lineup.

Pick
Detroit
5
Chicago
1

Kansas City Royals +1.5 at Minnesota Twins -1.5

  • Danny Duffy (12-3, 3.51 ERA) vs Ervin Santana (7-11, 3.38 ERA)
  • Weather: Scattered showers, 56 degrees. 50% chance of rain
  • Total: 8

The Royals will be looking to get 2017 off on the right foot after injuries largely derailed their World Series defense last season. Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon each missed significant time last season, which derailed their hopes of a third consecutive trip to the postseason. Emerging ace Danny Duffy will be on the hill opposite veteran right-hander Ervin Santana in this one.

Santana was suspended for the first chunk of 2016 after testing positive for performance enhancers, but once he returned he pitched fairly well for the Twins. He doesn’t really strike anybody out, though, and the Royals were a tough team to strike out last year.

Twins hitters struck out nearly 23 percent of the time last season, which was the sixth-highest rate of any team in the league. That bodes well for Danny Duffy, who came on strong late last season as one of baseball’s brightest young power arms. His strikeout rate of 25.7 percent was tied with Chris Sale for the 12th-best mark in the majors.

Vegas slightly favors the Twins here, and Minnesota may surprise some people and emerge as a decently potent offense after a miserable 2016. Duffy’s a tough customer, though, and it’s hard to overstate the advantage KC has on the hill in this one. We’ll take the Royals.

Pick
Kansas City
5
Minnesota
2

Philadelphia Phillies +1.5 at Cincinnati Reds -1.5

  • Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.71 ERA) vs. Scott Feldman (7-4, 3.97 ERA)
  • Weather: Stormy, 57 degrees. 80% chance of rain
  • Total: 9

Who said Opening Day was for aces? Jeremy Hellickson and Scott Feldman don’t really come to mind when you think of elite, high-end arms, but here they are starting for their respective clubs. Hellboy was frequently named in trade rumors last season, but wound up sticking around with Philly. Feldman, meanwhile, will be making his third career Opening Day start in his first season with the Reds.

Neither of these clubs really boasts an explosive offense, but it’s tough to imagine plenty of runs not being put on the board here. Weather could bring some delays or even a postponement, though, so keep an eye on the Cincinnati forecasts as we get closer to first pitch. Vegas seems to like the Reds’ chances of getting to Hellickson, though it’s tough to really bank on Feldman delivering a shutdown performance on the other side.

This one could go either way. The popular money seems to be slightly favoring the Phillies, but Hellickson was far worse on the road (4.33 ERA) than he was at home (3.16) last season. It’s easy to see those struggles continuing in the hitters’ haven known as Great American Ballpark here.

Pick
Cincinnati
6
Philadelphia
4

Cleveland Indians (n/a) at Texas Rangers (n/a)

  • Corey Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA)  vs. Yu Darvish (7-5, 3.41 ERA)
  • Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 78 degrees. 10% chance of rain
  • Total: n/a

This should be a fun one between a pair of clubs that won their respective divisions last season. The AL champs will look to close the deal this time around, and they’ll kick off the 2017 campaign with former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber taking the hill. After a stellar regular season, the Klubot went into extra gear during the playoffs. In six postseason starts, he allowed just seven runs across 34.1 innings, which is good for a cool 1.83 ERA.

He’ll be opposed by Yu Darvish, who will be starting on Opening Day for the first time in his five-year big league career. He was limited to just 17 starts last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, but looked no worse for the wear. The big right-hander went 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and posted an unbelievable strikeout rate north of 31 percent. It was the third straight season Darvish has posted a strikeout percentage of 30 percent or better.

The Tribe’s big splash of the offseason was the signing of slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who defected from the Blue Jays. He’ll add some serious thunder to the middle of an Indians order that certainly wasn’t lacking in that department previously. He’ll be the natural replacement for Mike Napoli, who left for a third separate stint with these Rangers.

Texas lost Carlos Beltran to Houston over the winter, but the lineup still looks beefy from top-to-bottom. The Rangers will be hopeful that Shin-Soo Choo can somehow stay healthy after he battled constant injuries last season. This lineup gave Kluber some problems last year, as he allowed seven runs across 13 innings in two starts against Texas.

Darvish is entering an important season, as he’s set to embark on the final season of his current contract. The 30-year-old will likely be in for a massive payday next winter if he stays healthy this season, so there’s plenty of incentive for him to come out and show the league he’s worth the investment. His season gets off to a fine start against a potent lineup here.

Pick
Texas
4
Cleveland
3

Seattle Mariners (n/a) at Houston Astros (n/a)

  • Felix Hernandez (11-8, 3.82 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (9-12, 4.55 ERA)
  • Weather: Irrelevant (Roofed stadium)
  • Total: n/a

Here we have a matchup between former Cy Young winners that struggled tremendously last season. Dallas Keuchel followed his 2015 award-winning campaign by bursting into flames last season, finishing just 9-12 with a 4.55 ERA. The bearded southpaw was battling inflammation in his throwing shoulder all season long, but all indications are that he’s fully healthy and feeling ready to roll heading into 2017.

Hernandez’s downward trend is concerning, but the Mariners don’t seem too worried about it. He’s still only 30, but Felix has a lot of mileage on that right arm. After logging at least 200 innings in every season from 2008 until 2015, Felix was down to just 153.1 innings last season and his 3.82 ERA was his highest mark since his third big league season.

Felix’s velocity has also been trending down, which you may expect for a guy that’s been around as long as he has. He was terrible in his two starts against Houston last year, as he lasted just 10 total innings and allowed 14 runs on 19 hits. The Astros also blasted him in his lone start against them in 2015.

Both of these teams have high expectations this season, and they’re expected to be the chief competitors to the Rangers’ AL West crown. Despite a pair of ace-caliber pitchers taking the hill in this one, don’t be surprised if we see plenty of offense. Seattle ranked sixth in the Majors in runs last year (768), while Houston was 15th (724). Both clubs added some thunder to their respective lineups during the winter, as well.

Following a brutal 7-17 April that all but dashed their playoff hopes last season, you can bet the Astros will come into the first month of this season with a renewed focus. Getting off to a positive start is crucial, especially in a division expected to be as competitive as the AL West. Keuchel looks like his 2015 self in this one, and Houston’s deep bullpen does enough to keep the Mariners at bay in the late innings.

Pick
Houston
4
Seattle
2

Los Angeles Angels (n/a) at Oakland Athletics (n/a)

  • Ricky Nolasco (8-14, 4.42 ERA) vs. Kendall Graveman (10-11, 4.11 ERA)
  • Weather: Clear skies, 71 degrees
  • Total: n/a

The nightcap brings us an AL West showdown with the Angels visiting the Athletics in Oakland. It’s also a showdown between two of the most hittable pitchers on the entire slate. In 32 starts between the Twins and Angels last season, Nolasco posted a strikeout rate of just about 17 percent along with a 4.14 FIP in nearly 200 innings. Graveman’s K-rate was an awful 13.7 percent, though his game is more geared toward inducing grounders. His ground ball rate of 52.1 percent was the ninth-best mark in all of baseball last season.

We typically think of Mike Trout as a one-man show for the Angels, but that isn’t entirely true. There are some other workable pieces in this offense, namely Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin and CJ Cron. Cron is coming off a breakout campaign during which he hit a solid .278/.325/.467 with 16 homers and 69 RBI. The 27-year-old should improve on those numbers and provide some serious thunder in the middle of the order.

The A’s seem destined to another last-place finish in the division. They didn’t really do much during the offseason to improve in the immediate future. For a team in the midst of a rebuild, there are an awful lot of veterans here, including Rajai Davis, Jed Lowrie, Trevor Plouffe and Matt Joyce. Even with slugger Khris Davis in the middle of things, this isn’t a lineup that will strike much fear into anyone.

Despite the fact that this one is taking place in a pitcher’s park between two offenses that don’t look amazing on paper, we’re tempted to predict there will be some scoring in this one. Neither starter seems likely to fully shut down the opposing team, and there are plenty of bats on either side capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. We’ll give Oakland the slight edge, as Graveman enjoyed a good bit of success (3.39 ERA) in his home yard in 2016.

Pick
Oakland
6
Los Angeles
4
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