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MLB Picks: Sean Newcomb, Tanner Roark Square Off in Atlanta

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Oskeim Sports previews Thursday’s MLB game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.  Oskeim recommends an investment on the Braves as one of his MLB picks for May 31.

Atlanta southpaw Sean Newcomb toes the rubber with a 2.75 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.09 FIP and 3.79 xFIP in ten starts this season. The 24-year-old boasts a 26.6% strikeout rate and excels at keeping the ball on the ground (50.0% ground ball rate), which has resulted in a minuscule 0.49 HR/9 rate.

One concern I have with Newcomb is his lack of command and control. The talented lefty posted a 59% first strike percentage and a 5.1 BB/9 rate in his major league debut last season, a span covering 100.0 innings.

My other concern with Newcomb is the fact that he has been very lucky in terms of batted balls in play.  Specifically, Newecomb owns an unsustainable .229 BABIP this season, which is very likely to regress towards his career .275 BABIP.

Newcomb is supported by a solid Atlanta bullpen that owns a 3.27 ERA at home and a 2.92 ERA versus divisional opponents. In contrast, Washington’s relief staff enters tonight’s game with a 4.46 ERA on the road, a 4.07 ERA at night and a 5.43 ERA in divisional play.

Newcomb also benefits from facing a Washington lineup that is batting just .217 with a .666 OPS against left-handed starters in 2018 (3.6 runs per game).  However, the Nationals own the league’s 3rd-best walk rate, which could be problematic for Newcomb.

Meanwhile, the Braves are averaging 5.5 runs per game at home and 5.4 runs per game against divisional foes. Atlanta is a profitable 13-5 in its previous eighteen games against National League East opponents, 4-1 in its last five home affairs and 5-1 in Newcomb’s last six outings.

Washington veteran Tanner Roark has pitched well this season, posting a 3.17 ERA, 3.78 FIP and 3.95 xFIP across 65.1 innings of work.

The most significant red flag for Roark is his incredible good luck with batted balls in play this season (.229). With a career .275 BABIP, Roark is likely to see his surface statistics worsen as the season progresses. The 31-year-old had a breakout campaign in 2016 (2.83 ERA), which was fueled by inducing soft contact (23.1% soft contact rate).

In fact, Roark’s 86.2 mph exit velocity was the 16th lowest among 142 pitchers with at least 300 batted balls in 2016.  Roark’s ability to induce soft contact all but disappeared last season (16.7% Soft%), resulting in a 4.67 ERA and 4.15 xFIP.

With that said, the righty does exhibit decent control (2.62 BB/9) and keeps the ball in play (0.96 HR/9) by virtue of a career 46.5% groundball rate.

The Nationals are just 2-8 in Roark’s last ten starts with four days of rest, 2-5 in Roark’s last seven outings against National League East teams and 2-7 in his last nine outings following a Quality Start in his previous appearance.

Take the Braves behind one of the top left-handed prospects in the game as one of Oskeim’s free MLB picks for Thursday, May 31.

Oskeim Sports’ Free MLB Picks for May 31:

  • Atlanta Braves (-117) over Washington Nationals
  • Baltimore Orioles (+165) over New York Yankees

Oskeim Sports provides daily MLB picks for serious sports bettors.  Oskeim also publishes free MLB picks right here at his award-winning Blog.  If you are interested in one of Oskeim’s top-rated MLB Picks Packages, be sure to visit the online store and use Promo Code WIN30 to save 30%!