Pitchers to watch with intriguing Rookie of the Year odds


Because of MLB’s changing rules with regards to eligibility and organizational player control, more rookies than normal made their debuts on Opening Day. As the season progresses, more and more youngsters end up reaching the big leagues and making an immediate impact.

Bettors can find an edge on these lesser-known pitchers that the sportsbooks and markets have less data on to sharpen up their lines. Here are three young pitchers bettors should look to back until the league Rookie of the Year markets catch up to their true quality.

Roansy Contreras, Pittsburgh Pirates

Contreras (40/1, BetMGM) has made three big-league starts this year for Pittsburgh after appearing in relief in his first three outings. The results have been excellent to this point. He’s pitched 15 ²/₃ innings, allowed just three runs (two earned) and struck out 16 batters. Contreras has displayed plus command for a rookie pitcher too, walking just three batters per nine at this point as a starter.

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Eno Sarris of The Athletic has a pitching model that examines the velocity, spin and movement of pitches alone. One hundred is considered average for stuff+, and Contreras comes in at 113.7. He has plus fastball velocity (96.7 mph average in 2022) and an excellent slider that’s produced a 48.2 percent whiff rate this year.

What’s most impressive about Contreras is that he does have a second-breaking pitch — his curveball — that he can use to get outs. Contreras has a 3.21 xERA, 3.18 FIP, and 3.29 xFIP so there’s nothing lucky about his start in the big leagues.

Given a favorable home park and a weak division, Contreras is likely to finish the season with an ERA well below 4.00. He’s been underrated in the betting market, so jump on him before oddsmakers start making adjustments.

Kyle Bradish, Baltimore Orioles

The biggest question mark for Bradish (130/1, FanDuel) was his command, which had been an issue in the lower minors and one that he improved in the higher levels of MiLB. Thus far in the big leagues, Bradish has a 7.6 percent walk rate, which puts him above average for MLB pitchers. His strikeout rate is above average too.

So you’re probably wondering why I’ve chosen to highlight a pitcher with a 6.82 ERA and 5.57 xERA in his young career. When we look across the board at his regression indicators, they are all pointing solidly up for Bradish.

Kyle Bradish
Kyle Bradish
Getty Images

First, his stuff+ and pitching+ numbers put him slightly above average for MLB starters. Second, his strand rate is 65.4 percent, which is more than 7 percent below the league average. His K/BB ratio is solidly above average, which is one of the most controllable indicators for a pitcher’s future success.

I don’t expect Bradish to continue to allow more than two homers per nine innings, or a 24.2 percent HR/FB rate. Once those numbers regress back toward the league averages, Bradish will see his ERA decline.

Until that happens, there will be value betting on Bradish.

Edward Cabrera
Edward Cabrera

Edward Cabrera, Miami Marlins

No franchise in baseball has done a better job of developing young pitching talent than the Marlins. And Cabrera (40/1, BetMGM) may be another gem. From Sandy Alcantara to Pablo Lopez to Trevor Rogers, the Fish have an excellent young group of arms. But for now, my eyes and money will be on Cabrera.

The 24-year-old right-hander throws a 97 mph fastball, which is impressive enough. But he also can toss a changeup at 92 with 10 inches of vertical drop on it. I don’t know if that even qualifies as a change, or how MLB hitters are supposed to be able to hit those two pitches in tandem. Call it whatever you want, but Cabrera just dominated the Rockies in his debut, tossing six innings of one-hit ball, striking out nine, and walking four.

The control could continue to be a problem for Cabrera, but he has the upside to be profitable for bettors this season.

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