Yankees Improvements Makes them a Solid MLB Pick Against the Blue Jays

Jason Lake

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 12:47 PM GMT

The New York Yankees started 2015 with a 6-1 loss at home to the Toronto Blue Jays. Those same teams will meet Wednesday with the Yankees priced as high as –140 on the baseball odds as we go to press.

It’s a sad, sad day, folks: Derek Jeter no longer plays shortstop for the New York Yankees. It’s sad for baseball fans who love the Bronx Bombers, and it’s sad for everyone who made money fading the Yankees last year. They dropped 2.40 betting units despite winning 84 games, partly because of Jeter (.617 OPS) and his season-long retirement tour.

Maybe there’s still some money to be made off the Yankees, though. Jeter’s replacement, Didi Gregorius, was 0-for-2 and made a serious baserunning gaffe in Monday’s 6-1 season-opening loss to the Toronto Blue Jays (+115 away). Those same two teams will meet again on Wednesday (7:05 p.m. ET) with New York pegged at –140 on the MLB odds at press time.

 

The Fresh Scent of Pine
Let’s not dump all over Gregorius just yet. Sure, he had a rough debut for the Yankees, and he only posted a .653 OPS in 80 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks last year. But Gregorius has the tools to be a solid defensive shortstop. According to Neil Paine’s analysis of the advanced stats at FanGraphs, the Yankees have improved more than any other team in the majors at shortstop, by 2.7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

The bigger concern for the Yankees is starter Masahiro Tanaka, who’s trying to pitch with a partially torn UCL and allowed four Toronto runs in four innings on Opening Day. But Tanaka isn’t starting Wednesday – that honor goes to Michael Pineda (2.71 FIP in 2014), who despite his solid numbers finished in the red last year at minus-2.17 units on a team record of 6-7. That included a 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays (+101 at home) on Aug. 30.

Run production might not be as much of an issue this year. Jeets is gone, and bounce-back seasons are expected for both Mark Teixeira (.711 OPS) and Carlos Beltran (.703 OPS), although there might not be much bounce left for these ancient thirtysomethings. As for Alex Rodriguez, who knows what he’s got left in the tank, but there’s a decent chance it’ll be more than what Yangervis Solarte (.718 OPS) provided last year.

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In With the New
While the post-Jeter Yankees are only 33-1 on the World Series baseball odds list at Bovada, the Blue Jays (83-79, plus-1.19 units last year) are pegged at 20-1 after their latest offseason makeover. Gone are Brett Lawrie (.722 OPS), Colby Rasmus (.735 OPS), Melky Cabrera (.808 OPS) and Adam Lind (.860 OPS); in are Josh Donaldson (.798 OPS with the Oakland A’s), Russell Martin (.832 OPS with the Yankees) and Michael Saunders (.791 OPS with the Seattle Mariners), the latter of whom isn’t expected to debut for the Jays until later this month. But as always, Toronto’s season at the plate hangs on the health of its two big boppers, Jose Bautista (.928 OPS) and Edwin Encarnacion (.901 OPS).

At least we know Bautista and Encarnacion are healthy for Wednesday. Much harder to predict is what you might get on any given day from 40-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (4.32 FIP). He hasn’t replicated his 2012 Cy Young season for the New York Mets, which isn’t that much of a surprise after switching leagues. Still, Dickey was wayward enough to drop 3.70 betting units last year on a team record of 16-18. He seems to be more vulnerable in April, as well, as he tries to dial in his knuckler.

Given Pineda’s quality, and New York’s expected improvements in the batting order and on the field, we’re more inclined to recommend the Yankees for Wednesday’s MLB picks. It’s a soft recommendation, though. Keep the bet size small as we wait for these two teams to show us what they’ve got, and may the sphere be with you in 2015.

Free MLB Pick: Take the Yankees