MLB becoming a Brave New World
May 22, 2018 3:00 AM
by Ramon Scott
The Atlanta Braves aren’t necessarily back as America’s Team, but they certainly are the favorite of underdog bettors so far this season.
The Braves currently have the National League’s best record as their young talent has blossomed earlier than expected.
This team would’ve been an easy sell for the Superstation TBS back in the 1990’s. But for bettors, Atlanta’s sudden rise has produced at the window, primarily when the Braves have been plus-money.
In the ‘dog role, these young pups have produced over 13 units in 24 starts (16-8) when facing the chalk.
Dansby Swanson, one of the first arrivals in the Braves’ build, got his first hit in nine at-bats since returning from the disabled list on Saturday, as Atlanta took another series. The Braves are 7-0 in rubber games so far.
In some cities, fans complain about their teams’ fielding minor league lineups, but this current version of Braves features three members of a team that was a full-time Double-A infield just two seasons ago.
With Swanson back, Atlanta shifts Johan Camargo to third base. Camargo has battled a pair of untimely injuries that has actually slowed his big league progression. The Braves released Jose Bautista, who was a temporary experiment at third.
That pair is joined by 21-year-old slugging phenom Ozzie Albies, a super-talented middle-infield prospect from Curaçao who has muscled out 13 home runs so far this season after his late power tear for six home runs last season.
Unbelievably, the Braves have an even younger player making a game-by-game contribution in 20-year-old Venezuelan Ronald Acuna Jr.
Since the turn of the century, only 34 teams have ever had two players, aged 21 or younger, reach 300 plate appearances in one season. Albies and Acuna seem to be headed to make that mark.
Freddie Freeman, who is off to a terrific start (.325 BA, 9 HR) in this true leadership role, was a part of one of those duos with then-teammate Jason Heyward back in 2011.
The Braves also have a capable rotation in the East Division race against the Nationals and Phillies with Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran, who have combined to produce 10.5 units for backers. Mike Foltynewicz hasn’t produced a profit thus far, down nearly three units, but has a 2.87 ERA this season.
Atlanta’s current bullpen is the biggest question in the team’s season-long prospects, but it rates sixth in league-wide OPS entering the week led by stellar Dan Winkler, Arodys Vizcaino, and surprising rookie Shane Carle.
The Braves surely warrant a future consideration at 20-1 to win the World Series. Even Skip Caray would have trouble finding fault of this team’s potential.
DIAMONDBACKS (-108, 7.5) at BREWERS (Wed., 10:10): Division leaders, but Arizona’s lead has dropped as fast as the D’backs’ run production. Zach Godley not in a great spot here, but Brewers’ lefty Brent Suter has a 4.72 ERA and Arizona is up 7.5 units vs. LH starters. Miller Park has third-lowest combined run-production in day games (7) so far this season. MIL, 4-3
MARLINS (+170, 8o20) at METS (Wed., 4:10): Mets’ Jake deGrom isn’t profitable yet, but has a 1.75 ERA coming off a 13-strikeout effort in a win against Arizona as a -145 home favorite vs. Godley. Marlins’ Dan Straily certainly has intriguing value here, as he is up 5.5 units so far in just four starts after seven innings as a near two-dollar ‘dog at Atlanta on Friday. NYM, 4-3
MARINERS (EV, 8.5) at ATHLETICS (Thu., 12:10): What we get from Felix Hernandez is an all-out effort from the surprising team behind him. Sure, the King has an ERA over seven on the road but is up nearly 4.75 units for backers this season. Will it be enough against Sean Manaea at home, where he has a 1.78 ERA this year? Oakland up 5.7 units as a favorite. OAK, 5-4
ASTROS (-125, 8) at INDIANS (Thu., 3:10): Teams met last weekend in Houston with the Astros taking two of three, including a rematch of this pitching matchup with Charlie Morton and Mike Clevenger, won by the Astros, 4-1, as Morton improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.94. Clevenger is down 2.5 units despite and an ERA under three. HOU, 4-3
BRAVES (+110, 8.5u15) at RED SOX (Fri., 4:10): Fun weekend series starts with a matchup between Boston’s Rick Porcello and Newcomb. Boston is in the red a couple of units in 10 starts against lefties, but Porcello is up 3.5 units so far this season and Newcomb also solid at +4 units to-date. Braves are up ten units on the road. ATL, 5-4
ROYALS (-105) at RANGERS (Sat., 1:05): Happy birthday to Texas pitcher Bartolo Colon, who turned 45 on Thursday following a home start vs. the Yankees on Monday. Last week, Colon was blocking comebackers in his well-padded stomach like a hockey goalie as he pitched 7-2/3 innings of four-hit ball to beat Seattle. KC’s Ian Kennedy hasn’t won in seven starts. TEX, 5-4
CARDINALS (-109, 8.5) at PIRATES (Sat., 4:05): Cardinals battling a myriad of injuries, but have 22-year-old Jack Flaherty going here, coming off a 13-strikeout effort for his first win of the season, though he is down -3.3 units over four starts. Bucs have Trevor Williams, who has regressed since a good start but still sports ERA of 3.05 and WHIP of 1.08. PIT, 5-3
ANGELS (-110 8o15) at YANKEES (Sun., 10:05): Game of the week features Angels’ must-see star Shohei Ohtani against Masahiro Tanaka. Ohtani met another historical mark on Sunday becoming just the third pitcher since 1908 with 6-plus K’s in six of his first seven starts, a list which included only Tanaka and Herb Score. Make room for the Japanese media. LAA, 4-3
PADRES (+140, 8) at DODGERS (Sun., 1:05): Friars earned the money behind Jordan Lyles on Sunday after former Rockie delivered a career performance last week, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning with 10 strikeouts against his former team in SD. L.A.’s Alex Wood is 0-4 so far and is down -3.25 units for the season despite 3.32 ERA. LAD, 5-3
GIANTS (+150) at CUBS (Sun., 5:08): Yu Darvish earned his first win on Sunday, 6-1, at Cincinnati. Darvish has allowed one earned run or less in three of his last four starts, but allowed four or more runs in half of his eight starts. Giants’ Ty Blach wasn’t sharp on Sunday, but SF got the money as short ‘dog. CUBS, 5-4