He had SL +109 earlier today, ending a 0-4 MLB run. For tonight:
MINNESOTA -1½ +116 over Chicago
8:10 PM EST. Justin Steele (LHP CHC) was a highly-regarded 5th round pick in 2014 out of a Mississippi high school and earned a $1 million bonus. He has spent the vast majority of his pro career as a starter, but he has only started three games out of 14 appearances at this level this year covering a lousy 26 innings. He underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017 and returned in late 2018. An oblique injury cut short his 2019 campaign in June. At his best, Steele works impeccably with a fastball/curveball combo but as more film becomes available, MLB hitters are scorching him. Ever since moving to the rotation, Steele has posted a 6.39/6.44 ERA/xERA split with six walks and 11 K’s in just 13 innings. His swinging strikes have progressively decreased every game. In his last start, his hard hit ball % was 50% and his groundball rate was 10%. The Cubbies are desperate for rotation bodies so Justin Steele is starting not because he earned it but because of the process of elimination. Dude has a long way to go and he’s not very good to begin with.
Twins OF Nelson Cruz was acquired by the Rays Thursday, July 22, in exchange for RHP Joe Ryan and RHP Drew Strotman. Point being, Ryan is a product of Tampa’s incredible nurturing of quality starting pitchers. Make no mistake that Ryan’s minor-league numbers are gaudy. Across three levels, the 23-year-old dominated with a 0.84 WHIP, a 13.3 K’s/9 and .173 oppBA. He struck out 326 batters in 226 innings. This season at Triple-AAA, he struck out 92 batters in 66 innings to go along with a BAA of .173.
Just a word of caution about Ryan’s fastball usage remaining so heavy. Ryan was throwing fastballs about 76% of the time at Triple-A in 2021. Per Synergy, of the 160 swinging strikes Ryan garnered this year, 122 of them have come from the fastball, with hitters whiffing at the slider second most often, but just 18 times all year. There’s no current big league starter who throws their fastball this much. Among qualified arms, Frankie Montas has the heaviest fastball usage at 62%. Freddy Peralta’s usage was once in the 70% range but has come way down during his breakout. The good news is that the Cubs nine can be easily had once or twice through the order by Ryan. Regardless, we’re going to trust the Twinkies to score a bunch while the Cubs cannot be trusted to keep pace.
Cleveland -1½ +169 over KANSAS CITY
8:10 PM EST. After eight starts, Logan Allen (LHP - CLE) has an ERA of 7.93 to go along with his 1-5 record, thus, his curb appeal is awful. The efficient market thinks so too, as Kansas City opened at -120 at many joints and is up to the present price you see here. Logan Allen has a 64% groundball rate and a 14% line-drive rate. Although the sample size is small (29 innings), his pitching lines consistently show a strong groundball lean and it also shows that batters are not making hard contact. Dude has been on the extreme side of unlucky, with a ridiculous 56% strand rate. League average strand rate is 76%. Allen has a xERA of 2.60 over his last 14 frames and offers up the best value on the board today.
Jackson Kowar (LHP -KC) has made two career starts and has walked five batters in five innings while striking out two. His first-pitch strike rate is 48%. A former first-round pick out of the University of Florida, Kowar has pitched well at every minor league stop, including a dominant 0.85 ERA in 31.2 innings in AAA in 2021 with a K% of 33.9%. Kowar has always been known as a prospect for his fastball-changeup combo, but he’s a two-pitch pitcher with weak command and that’s a massive problem at this level. Kowar Jackson and the Royals are wrongly being billed as the chalk today.