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Free MLB Pick Saturday

#917/918 ‘UNDER 9’ Oakland Athletics (Mengden) at Chicago White Sox (Covey) 1:10 PM CT

After playing a double-header on Friday fatigue could be in play in Chicago as the Athletics and White Sox compete. There were 23 runs yesterday in a split but quality starting pitching is on the mound Saturday.

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Dylan Covey is nearly 27 and after flaming out last season with a 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in his first MLB action he has been better prepared for this season’s opportunity, living up to the potential that made him a quality prospect ironically in the Oakland organization for years. In seven starts this season Covey owns a 2.90 ERA with a corresponding 2.95 FIP. He has solid strikeout potential and has surrendered just one home run in 40 innings despite facing Cleveland three times while also facing Boston and Milwaukee in his starting efforts this season.

Daniel Mengden was also a fourth round pick from the AL West with the Astros product joining the Athletics organization in 2015. After rocky run of starts in 2016 Mengden was effective last season in seven starts and has been a reliable starter for the competitive A’s this season. His ERA is 4.06 and Mengden doesn’t have big strikeout counts but he owns a very low walk rate and two rocky outings are skewing the numbers. Mengden threw eight strong innings vs. the White Sox earlier this season and he should be in position for another solid start today.

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These teams have had high scoring games this season with the ‘over’ 5-0 but despite a clear upgrade on the mound the total Saturday is the same as both games on Friday. The bullpens have better numbers than expected for teams out of contention and the matchup favors the pitchers with Oakland batting just .234 the past 10 games and the White Sox batting just .217 the past 10 games with Chicago in particular less successful vs. right-handed pitching of late. Expect this game to break the season trends in this series this season.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#913 Los Angeles Angels (Richards) -105 over Toronto Blue Jays (Happ) 6:05 PM CT

J.A. Happ has conventional power lefty splits with dominant numbers vs. left-handed batters but great struggles vs. right-handers, allowing a .259 batting average against with a .340 wOBA. Happ also has struggled at the Rogers Centre with a 5.40 ERA on the season and his 11.4 K/9 doesn’t look sustainable. Facing a lineup filled with quality right-handed bats Happ could be in line for a marginal start having allowed 14 runs in his past four home outings.

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While the Angels have faded from a hot April pace the team is getting great numbers in a comeback season for Garrett Richards. With a 10.2 K/9 and a 3.47 ERA Richards is looking like the front-line starter the Angels need. He has a very low strand rate but is getting groundballs and strikeouts and he has pitched extremely well on the road where the Angels are actually 14-4.

Toronto has dropped seven of the last eight with the offense topping five runs only once in the past 16 games. Both teams have struggled at the plate and with relief pitching in recent games but the situation may be direr for Toronto with numerous injuries leaving the roster quite thin. The Jays are actually just 11-15 at home this season and this should be a favorable matchup for the superior Angels team.

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Nelly’s Baseball has won four of six weeks this season – don’t miss Tuesday’s MLB guarantee. Bobby Dalton was 3-0 on the diamond Monday night as well!

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Free MLB Pick Wednesday

#925 Baltimore Orioles (Bundy) +140 over Los Angeles Angels (Heaney) 9:05 PM CT

The Orioles have been a disaster this season at 8-21 but the offense has posted four or more runs in five of the past six games and the lineup has hit about 20 points higher vs. left-handed pitching this season. After a hot start the Angeles have cooled off losing four of the past five and the offense has failed to top three runs in seven of the last eight games as this looks like an overvalued team.

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Dylan Bundy may be 1-3 but the other numbers make it clear he is one of the AL’s top pitchers. His ERA of 2.97 coincides with an even low 2.81 FIP and his K/9 of 10.9 is an elite figure. Bundy allowed seven earned runs in his last start after allowing a total of just five earned runs in his first five starts and a bounce-back outing should be in store in Anaheim with Bundy featuring a 1.54 ERA on the road this season.

Andrew Heaney has struggled in three starts for the Angels despite facing the struggling offenses of the Royals and Giants in two of his outings. His ERA is 6.91 and while his .429 BABIP is sure to go down he has received few groundballs and isn’t likely to keep up his current strikeout pace. Heaney hasn’t had sustained MLB success since a brief window in the 2015 season and he looks like a high risk favorite at this price with a lineup batting just .193 in the past 10 games behind him.

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Free MLB Pick Friday

#975/976 ‘UNDER 9.5’ Los Angeles Angels (Heaney) at Kansas City Royals (Hammel) 7:15 PM CT

Jason Hammel had a tough luck 2017 season with the Royals, switching back to the American League following winning the World Series with the Cubs in 2016. Hammel lost 13 games and had a 5.29 ERA but his FIP was nearly a run lower than his ERA and he has usual featured a low walk rate. Hammel has made two adequate starts for a struggling Kansas City team in 2018 and his ERA is solid a 4.09 and with a corresponding 2.94 FIP. Both games came on the road and he could be in line for a strong start tonight following up a very good start in Cleveland last Sunday.

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The Royals have scored the fewest runs in baseball with 2.9 runs per game while hitting only 24 extra base hits including only four home runs. That should bode well for Andrew Heaney in his 2018 debut. Heaney impressed for the Angeles in 2015 but lost most of the past two seasons to injury. He was sharp in a minor league assignment last week and looks poised to return to prominence on an Angels team off to a great start.

The Angels have had some success offensively including scoring six or more runs in all five games on the current winning streak but three of those games came in favorable conditions in Arlington. Offsetting the offense is Los Angeles allowing a grand total of eight runs in the past five games with marvelous relief pitching. Cooling conditions with wind and rain are forecast tonight as this game is a risk to be postponed but ultimately 9.5 looks hard to reach if this game does go off as scheduled.

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2018 AL Win Totals

Here are three American League win total projections for the 2018 MLB season. Check out Nelly’s 2018 MLB Preview Issue and consider joining Nelly’s for the 2018 season. We’ve won each of the past three years on the diamond and won in five of six regular season months in the 2017 MLB season. Coming off huge returns in football and basketball this year we are ready to keep the profits coming in this summer!

AL EAST

BEST BET: UNDER 94½ – New York Yankees: As strong as the Yankees looked last season they won just 91 games. Boston and Toronto greatly underachieved last season and New York took advantage with the Yankees going 44-32 in the division. New York also went 15-5 in a favorable interleague draw vs. the NL Central and this is a team with a new manager and as likable as Aaron Boone is he hasn’t ever done this before. Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery still carry risk as extremely young starters that had success last season while Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia are wild cards at their age. The biggest questions remain with whether Aaron Judge will look like the MVP candidate he did in the middle of the season or if he will be the high strikeout player of the late summer months. Giancarlo Stanton has also never had to deal with the type of attention and scrutiny he will see this summer and is a risk to struggle in this first year in the Bronx. Juggling the at-bats for the outfield and DH spots will also be a challenge with Gary Sanchez also unlikely to be able to DH as often as he did last season.

AL CENTRAL

BEST BET: OVER 82½ – Minnesota Twins: Minnesota won 85 games last season despite going only 41-35 vs. AL Central foes. Cleveland remains a formidable AL contender in the division but the prospects for the Royals, Tigers, and White Sox are poor, featuring the AL’s three worst season win total projections. The Twins also get to trade a tough NL West interleague draw for facing the NL Central teams this season to possibly gain a few more wins. The loss of Jorge Polanco for half of the season hurts but getting potential full seasons from Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano could provide a boost. Logan Morrison also provides a proven big bat in the middle of the lineup for a team that has struggled to fill a viable DH in many games with Morrison and Joe Mauer able to share first base and DH duties. The rotation should be much more reliable with the pick-ups of Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi, along with the return of Phil Hughes and potential growth from Jose Berrios. Ervin Santana will miss the first month of the season but the team has more depth in the rotation than they have had in years. The bullpen also adds a few veterans that could stabilize the unit as Minnesota doesn’t look like a team that will fall in the win column in 2018.

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AL WEST

BEST BET: OVER 74 – Oakland Athletics: The A’s have a lineup with a lot of potential power with the pick-ups of Jonathan Lucroy and Stephen Piscotty, joining the trio of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, and Matt Olson who combined for 92 home runs last season. A full season from Matt Chapman could also yield big power numbers. The rotation won’t wow anyone but Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea are capable options and the Daniel Mengden showed some promise last season. Oakland won 75 games last season and turned in a strong run to finish the season with a 17-7 run the final 24 games. Oakland had some bad luck last season going 4-9 in extra-inning games and also could see better interleague returns in 2018. Other than Houston the rest of the division features a great deal of uncertainty as the opportunity to move up could be there for Oakland after a three-year cycle below .500. Oakland went 21-36 vs. the Astros, Angels, and Mariners last season and improvement in those games could make a big positive dent.

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Late Season MLB Spoilers

Late Season MLB Spoilers

08/01/2017

The trade deadline has made it clear which teams are going after a big postseason run in 2017 but there are a few under the radar teams that may still have some promise in the final two months of the season even if the 2017 season will go down as an insignificant one.

The trade deadline has passed and the market turned out few true ‘buyers’ that went all-in for a big push in the final two months. With a few divisions essentially wrapped up already the top contenders mainly went after postseason pieces and the teams still muddled in tight races mostly focused on minor additions.

There are not likely to be major changes in the standings in the final two months but there are a few teams that will likely end up out of the postseason picture that could put together strong finishes while possibly playing spoiler in the wild card or division races. Here are a few teams to keep an eye with some potential for late season success especially in upcoming underdog situations against contenders.

Philadelphia Phillies: Count me among those that were wrong on the Phillies as a potential deep sleeper in the National League. After a respectable April Philadelphia posted miserable mid-season results to feature the worst record in baseball most of the season. With a 10-6 run since the All Star break the Phillies have found some life offensively and with some high-end talent in the rotation this is a team that some of the contenders might not want to see down the stretch if they are caught in a tight race.

Young talent in the rotation coupled with an above average defense made the Phillies an appealing threat to improve on a more respectable than most expected 71-91 2016 season even if the offensive potential was limited. Ultimately injuries devastated the rotation and the roster currently has zero qualified starters with veteran Jeremy Hellickson recently traded. Vince Velasquez, Jared Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola have all missed time but all three have shown some recent promise with Nola in particular on a dominant run with a 1.49 ERA in his last seven starts. Late April call-up Nick Pivetta has shown some real promise as well with good strikeout potential. The Philadelphia lineup has also been hitting its best stretch of the season with an .819 team OPS in the past 21 games, scoring five runs per game on average.

The August schedule will provide a good opportunity for the Phillies to keep posting winning results with only two series vs. teams in contention, facing the Rockies and Cubs in three-game sets. They have 10 games with the Nationals and Dodgers in September which could provide potential value opportunities as the NL East and NL West divisions will likely be locked up by then. While the 2017 season can’t be saved the Phillies could gather some momentum to possibly live up to NL sleeper status in 2018.

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Miami Marlins: There were mixed opinions on the Marlins this spring and the more pessimistic predictions have come true as Miami is 14 games out of the NL East lead and six games below .500. Being the second best team in the division isn’t much consolation though Miami’s season scoring differential is only modestly negative. Miami would need a miraculous run to get back into the wild card race currently 10 games out but the Marlins could play some decent ball down the stretch and possibly get above the .500 mark by October.

The lineup has been fierce with Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna providing great production. J.T. Realmuto is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball and Christian Yelich has been heating up since the All Star break after a lackluster first half. Justin Bour should be back in the lineup by mid-August as this will be a team that can produce some crooked numbers even against quality pitching, currently sporting a .811 team OPS over the past 22 games with nearly 5.2 runs per game while posting equally solid results vs. lefties and righties. There is also a bit more promise in the pitching staff right now with the return of Adam Conley who has looked much sharper since coming off the DL. Left-handed rookie Chris O’Grady has also turned in decent early returns while Dan Straily and Jose Urena are competent options on the mound.

Miami has games with both Colorado and Arizona in the final two months as they could impact the NL wild card race and they also have a mid-September home series with the Brewers that could be meaningful for the NL Central and wild card pictures. Down 14 games in the division the Marlins do face Washington 12 more times as if they want to make a run at a miracle charge in the division the head-to-head opportunity is there.

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Minnesota Twins: After adding Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia looking to improve their postseason chances the Twins changed course and flipped Garcia as well as shipped off closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline. A nightmare schedule out of the break that featured the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers pushed the Twins downward in the division race while the Royals and Indians put together long winning streaks. The Twins are still only 4.5 games out of the second AL wild card and they stopped short of selling off Brian Dozier or Ervin Santana as the team could still act like it is playing for something the rest of the way.

The lineup for the Twins is still fairly impressive, particularly against right-handed pitching. Dozier had a huge late season run last year and has shown recent signs of heating up. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton will be back at full strength soon after July injuries and Eddie Rosario has quietly turned in a fine season for the Twins, going from a platoon role to being a clear every day starter in left field. The pitching for the Twins has been a problem with only two firm spots in the rotation for Santana and Jose Berrios and the bullpen has blown several recent games. Ultimately the Twins likely made the right call to sell in the crowded AL picture but this is a team that could play well down the stretch with a favorable schedule.

The Twins have eight games with the slumping White Sox in August and they have 10 remaining games with the Tigers before the season ends. Minnesota has gone 8-4 vs. the Royals this season and seven early September meetings with Kansas City could have a big impact on the AL Central picture. Milwaukee, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and New York will also draw the Twins in the final two months as Minnesota will play a meaningful role in the playoff race even if they won’t likely be the team benefitting.

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Oakland Athletics: Oakland was considered the most obvious candidate to deal some key pieces at the deadline and the team finally shipped off Sonny Gray as well after sending off a pair of relievers. Yonder Alonso was kept however and this is a lineup with a lot of power led by Khris Davis and Ryon Healy. Marcus Semien also recently returned from injury and recent call-up Matt Chapman has displayed great power along with elite defensive capability. Oakland has a .780 team OPS over the past 12 games with some recent success in late July. Oakland can be a dangerous team down the stretch with a 31-24 home record that is one of the better marks in the AL.

Losing Gray isn’t a positive but the frequently injured right-hander hasn’t come close to his 2015 season results. The current rotation has some promise with lefty Sean Manaea delivering on his potential with a fine 2017 season going while Jharel Cotton has shown some upside despite being inconsistent. The Athletics have had recent success behind Paul Blackburn while 36 year-old Chris Smith has proven to be a crafty option on the mound. Oakland has delivered a few recent wins in the bullpen and the team is still playing with good energy as the ‘seller’ status of the club was certainly not a surprise.

Oakland has upcoming home matchups with Kansas City and Houston but most of the remaining schedule is against teams that are out of the running for the playoffs as the Athletics could have some favorable opportunities to put together winning results in the AL West basement. The lack of high-end starters other than Manaea should keep Oakland in the underdog role most nights even at home despite their success at the Coliseum. Frequent matchups with teams out of the mix including Baltimore, Texas, and the Angels could provide some favorable opportunities for Oakland to keep adding on wins towards a respectable finish.

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Nelly’s Free MLB Pick Thursday

 

#923 Tampa Bay Rays (Archer) -115 over Pittsburgh Pirates (Taillon) 6:05 PM CT

Chris Archer is back to being one of the better right-handed starters in the AL this season after a down 2016 campaign. Archer has pitched even better than his solid traditional numbers appear as he owns the fourth lowest FIP among all 77 qualified MLB starters at 2.88 even if his ERA is a full run higher. Archer has the second best K/9 in the AL and while the Pirates are a better hitting team vs. right-handed pitching they still boast just a .718 team OPS vs. right-handers which is the fourth worst mark in the NL. Tampa Bay is crushing right-handed pitching with a .809 OPS that barely trails the Astros and Yankees on top of the AL. The Rays are 32-22 vs. right-handed starters while going 6-2 so far in interleague games. Jameson Taillon has made three June starts after a six week absence due to a cancer diagnosis and while his future looks bright he is overvalued in a matchup against one of the top established pitchers in baseball. Taillon owns steady numbers but a FIP a half a run higher than his ERA is a red flag as is a very high strand rate and an unusually low home run rate. Taillon actually hasn’t pitched that well at PNC Park with a 4.22 ERA on the season and right-handed batters own a .278 average with a robust .845 OPS against him this season. Ultimately getting the Rays vs. a right-handed pitcher at near-even pricing with Archer on the mound is a great opportunity even with a bullpen edge for the Pirates and a slight losing road record for the Rays on the season.

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Free MLB Pick Friday

 

#915/916 ‘OVER 10’ Texas Rangers (Darvish) at New York Yankees (Tanaka) 6:05 PM CT

Masahiro Tanaka is still taking turns in the rotation for the Yankees despite disastrous results this season. His 6.34 ERA is perhaps a bit inflated as Tanaka is still getting strikeouts at a solid rate but he has allowed 21 home runs in just over 76 innings of work this season. In seven of his last nine starts he has allowed at least four runs and the Rangers are a formidable offensive team, especially against right-handed pitching. The Yankees own an .845 OPS against right-handed pitching this season to pace baseball and back at home after a rough west coast trip the New York bats should start to get back on the great season pace.

New York is scoring 5.7 runs per game this season and few teams have enjoyed as great of a home field edge with a 23-10 mark at Yankee Stadium, that includes batting .288 with a 7.6 runs per nine innings scored at home vs. right-handed pitching. Yu Darvish is still a big name pitcher in this Japanese star showcase on the mound but he is on pace to have his worst season since his rookie campaign in 2012. Darvish has seen a major decline in his strikeout rate this season and while his 3.35 ERA looks respectable his FIP is 4.13. Darvish has allowed at least three runs in four of his last five starts and his numbers are marginal despite a very low .247 BABIP and a nearly 82 percent strand rate. The Texas bullpen has been a mess in road games this season with a 6.15 ERA for the unit and this could be a difficult first game in New York following a tense series with the Blue Jays that wrapped up on Thursday. More than 10.5 runs per game have been scored at Yankee Stadium on average this season with the ‘over’ 21-12.

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American League Value Starters

American League Value Starters

06/13/2016

Most of the elite starting pitchers reside in the National League as only three of MLB’s top 17 leaders in FIP are AL starters at this point in the 2016 season. Even so, it still costs a premium to back well established AL starters such as Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, among others. Here are some names that won’t offer the same chance of a dominant outing but can often be found with much more reasonable pricing and could be worth a look in many future matchups.

Matt Shoemaker (Los Angeles Angels): Pitching for the struggling Angels will keep Matt Shoemaker in the underdog role in many matchups but the 29-year old right-hander has pitched much better than his 3-7 record indicates. Shoemaker has been on a particularly strong run since mid-May, actually posting some of the best numbers in the AL in the past month. Shoemaker has pitched at least seven innings in five consecutive starts while posting 48 strikeouts in that span and delivering four quality starts. He owns a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season and his FIP is more than a run lower than his ERA. Opportunities in late June against Oakland and Houston could be favorable for Shoemaker even with an erratic offense providing support behind him.

C.C. Sabathia (New York Yankees): Many felt C.C. Sabathia’s career might be over when he stepped away from the team late last season but after a mediocre April in 2016 Sabathia has been on a roll in recent weeks and starting to look like the All Star starter of past seasons. His 2.28 ERA is a bit lower than will be sustainable but Sabathia has not allowed more than three runs in any of his 10 starts this season. His strikeout rate isn’t close to his best seasons and he is allowing frequent walks but he has allowed just two home runs in nearly 60 innings, no small feat for a Yankees pitcher. Sabathia has delivered great recent outings against formidable offensive teams including the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Tigers and he has a strong bullpen to help him pull out wins even with a limited offense for New York.

Collin McHugh (Houston Astros): With a 5-5 record and a 5.22 ERA McHugh is among the many Astros that has disappointed this season but his strikeout rate continues to climb back up in recent starts and strong outings may be ahead for the curveball artist that has been a bit streaky the past two seasons. McHugh has posted 37 strikeouts over his last five starts and while he has had few dominant outings he has gone nine straight starts without allowing more than four runs. His numbers have been hurt by pitching in some tough venues with recent road starts at Boston, Arizona, and Texas and his control has been excellent with one or zero walks allowed in nine of his 13 starts this season. The Astros may be on the verge of making a run to climb back into the postseason race and McHugh could offer some value in the coming weeks with his marginal conventional numbers.

Sean Manaea (Oakland Athletics): Young starters with potential are frequently overvalued when they get off to hot starts and AL starters like Michael Fulmer, Matt Andriese, and Danny Duffy are starting to get a bit overvalued. From a value perspective the rocky first three starts Sean Manaea are a great benefit as his conventional numbers still look pretty rough despite clearly turning a corner on the mound. The 24-year old rookie allowed 16 runs in his first 13 innings of work but in five starts since his numbers have improved dramatically. His strikeout numbers are climbing and he has allowed just 30 hits in his last five starts spanning nearly 33 innings. Take away one brutal start at Fenway Park vs. the league’s best offense and his numbers look much more reasonable and while Oakland doesn’t look like a playoff contender, they have a similar record to division foes Houston and Los Angeles despite being valued like one of the worst teams in the AL. Pitching at the Coliseum should also allow for some favorable situations for the young left-hander.

Colby Lewis (Texas Rangers): The Rangers have the best record in the American League and supporting Colby Lewis won’t cost the premium that backing Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, or even Martin Perez will. Lewis owns a FIP that is more than a run higher than his ERA but his numbers have been improving since the first month of the season and the bottom line is that he is now 21-7 in his last 28 decisions since May of last season. His 3.45 FIP is the 12th best in the AL over the last month and given how well the Rangers are playing Lewis will be worth a look in future matchups as the 36-year old continues to provide solid starts behind a team that has been dominant at home and shown improvement in the bullpen. Texas has had a knack for winning close games this season and Lewis could continue a charmed late career run.

Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians): The rotation for the Indians features high end talent but backing Corey Kluber or Danny Salazar will be expensive even with some erratic results for those strikeout artists. Bauer isn’t as dazzling but he has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his nine starts since moving into the rotation in late April. Bauer is still producing a decent strikeout rate and he has for the most part kept the ball in the ballpark with only six home runs allowed in over 68 innings of work. Bauer is getting a much greater rate of ground balls than he did the past two seasons and while his strikeout numbers are a bit less impressive than were projected early in his career, he has also lowered his walk rate and he has become a more reliable and consistent starter on a first place team.

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