3 MLB Prop Bets to Target on 4/25/19
Player props can be useful in a variety of ways, from taking advantage of them straight up (to the tune of cold hard cash) to measuring a player's potential to produce in daily fantasy baseball. High odds for a hitter bombing a home run or a pitcher tallying several strikeouts is something worth considering in building your FanDuel lineups. And that's a two-way street.
While you can use those odds in fantasy, you can also utilize our fantasy projections and a variety of other tools to help make money on betting everyday player props.
For the purposes of this article, we are using the odds provided at FanDuel Sportsbook to pinpoint three spots where value can be had on those players likely to go yard and over- or under-perform their expected strikeout total.
Please note that betting lines and our game projections may change throughout the day after this article is published.
Mookie Betts WILL Hit a Home Run (+320)
In 2018, Mookie Betts won the American League MVP behind 32 home runs, a .449 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and .294 isolated slugging (ISO). According to Statcast, he finished the year sixth in barrels per plate appearance rate (9.9%) and in the top 25 in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate.
This year, Betts has just four dingers and a .185 ISO in in 110 plate appearances, but his batted-ball numbers -- though they aren't among the leaders -- yell regression. His 40.0% hard-hit rate isn't far off last year's mark, while his 45.3% fly-ball rate is a tick higher. His home-run-to-fly-ball rate has dropped by 4.6% despite producing the same exact launch angle (18.3 degrees) and making contact in the zone at a higher clip.
Tonight seems like as good a time as any for Betts to get back to his MVP self. Against Jordan Zimmermann and the Detroit Tigers, his Boston Red Sox sport an implied total of 5.46 runs -- the highest of the day to this point. We have them projected at 1.44 total home runs with Zimmermann allowing a slate-high 1.20 in his time on the bump.
Our projections are certainly warranted. After posting very mediocre metrics in 2018, the 32-year-old vet has seen his skill-interactive ERA (SIERA) balloon to 5.01 with 1.65 home runs allowed per 9 (HR/9), the result of a 35.3% hard-hit rate and 43.5% fly-ball rate. Hitters have made contact on 91.6% of pitches in the zone, Zimmermann's highest since the 2010 season.
For what it's worth, Betts has also seen Zimmermann quite well in a small sample, going 3-for-4 with two walks and a home run. Tie it all together, and we project him for 0.27 home runs on the night. That ties him for third on the main slate and ahead of teammate J.D. Martinez, who has significantly shorter odds (+230) to leave the yard at Fenway.
Andrew Benintendi WILL Hit a Home Run (+600)
Sticking with the Bo Sox at Fenway, Andrew Benintendi checks in with nearly double the odds -- and therefore, the return -- of Betts and short of three-times the odds of Martinez. Plus, he has the added benefit of the platoon advantage against tonight's starter.
Including last year and this year's early results, Benintendi has been far better against right-handed pitching. While he's been held to four home runs and a .139 ISO versus southpaws, he has turned a 30.7% hard-hit rate and 36.3% fly-ball rate into 14 home runs and a .184 ISO in the other split. At home, his ISO jumps to .194 despite a rather low 6.4% home-run-to-fly-ball rate (HR/FB).
Zimmermann should help to boost that here tonight. His HR/FB rate has been in the double-digits for the past five years, and going back to last year it's 15.3%, yielding 1.9 dingers per 9. Against lefties, that crosses the 2.0 threshold, as Zimmermann's watched 18.0% of fly balls go beyond the fence, while he's allowed a 35.9% hard-hit rate and 40.3% fly-ball rate.
At Fenway Park, Zimmermann has a 7.04 ERA and 5.12 xFIP for his career. He's allowed 1.8 HR/9 and 2.2 to those batters hitting from the left side of the box. Lefties have a lower fly-ball rate, but because of a 39.3% hard-hit rate, they've put together a 28.6% HR/FB rate across 38 plate appearances in Boston.
Benintendi is projected for just 0.18 home runs, but there aren't many teams in action on Thursday, putting him in the top 20 of all hitters on the main slate. A potential return of $600 for every $100 isn't a bad way to double up on the Red Sox' bats.
Caleb Smith UNDER 6.5 Strikeouts (-115)
Tonight in Philadelphia, we get a very intriguing pitching matchup between the Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola and the Miami Marlins' Caleb Smith. While Nola -- a Cy Young candidate a year ago -- has struggled early on, Smith has been a force to be reckoned with. The 27-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 2.35 ERA in four starts, and he's managed to improve last year's high strikeout rate (27.0%) to 33.3%, leading to a count of 11.35 per 9 innings.
Smith has managed strikeout totals of 8, 7, 6 and 8 so far, and he's gone six innings in all but his first start of the season. However, he doesn't have the longest of leashes, after logging a number of short appearances last year, and given his strikeout ways, his pitch count can get up there.
There's also the large matter of opponent here. The only team Smith didn't exceed tonight's strikeout total against? These Phillies. Against them, Smith did strike out six, but it took a season-high 99 pitches in six innings, as he walked three in the process.
That has a lot to do with Bryce Harper and company's ability to avoid strikeouts. Overall, Philadelphia is 13th in swinging-strike rate (11.3%) and 20th in strikeout rate (22.6%), yet they are 25th at 20.3% against left-handed pitching. Between Harper's above-average splits against lefties and the strong right-handed hitters at the top, they give pitchers like Smith problems. They own the eighth-highest walk rate in the split, which is backed by a career 7:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Phillies' lineup against Smith.
Our models have Smith striking out a respectable 5.80 in 5.62 innings, but that won't be enough for those betting the over. The under is the smart play and returns $86.96 for every $100 laid.