July 17, 2014
By Matt Zylbert
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Editor’s Note: Matt Zylbert has been enjoying yet another very profitable baseball season with his over/under bets, being 139-107-13 (56.5%!), +$2,049 for the year. In addition, he’s 35-19-2 (64.8%!) since mid-June, and considering he went on that historic 169-99-16 (63.1%), +$6,206 run last year from July 6 until the end of the season (Which was the best streak in the entire country), he’s only getting started! Why would you not invest in guaranteed profits? Click to win!
Here we are once again at the All-Star break, mired somewhere in the middle of yet another crazy baseball season. It’s a strange time, isn’t it? For me personally, being someone who obsessively studies and follows this stuff literally every single day and night over the course of the six-month journey, it’s the only portion of the year where time seems to be frozen, as we all collectively wait for our favorite teams and players to return to action and resume the latest installment of America’s national pastime.
Through the first three-months-and-change of the campaign, we’ve already observed some pretty wild events and performances, while being in the midst of saying one of the most emotional goodbyes to any professional athlete in recent memory, but as hard as it is to believe, we still have another two-and-a-half months to go, and that doesn’t even include the always eventful playoff slate. With only a select amount of time left, you may be looking for starting pitchers -- my specialty, and what is really the nucleus for my annual success in over/under betting -- that are on the rise to ride consistently in gambling so with that being said, I present to you five up-and-coming Zylbert Guys (In alphabetical order), whom I’ve been tracking closely for awhile, and appear to be on the hinge of breaking out into something much bigger…
Jake Arrieta - Chicago Cubs
By now, the secret is out about Jake Arrieta, but since I was one of the few on his bandwagon when he first became a Cub last year following a once-thought-to-be meaningless acquisition, I will gladly take this opportunity to revel in it, given how hard he had fallen in Baltimore. After beginning the year on the DL, Arrieta finally arrived to the big league rotation in the beginning of May, when he actually defeated longtime Cubs nemesis Adam Wainwright, and since then, has pitched masterfully. In fact, he’s been so good that despite missing the first month of the season, he was drawing some serious All-Star consideration, something that once seemed unfathomable for a guy who struggled mightily for years while not showing many signs of hope as an Oriole.
Arrieta has transformed himself into a legitimate upper-rotation pitcher, carrying a 5-1 record, 1.95 ERA, and 1.01 WHIP into the second half of the season, but the most impressive stat of all, however, might be his K:BB ratio, which sits at a very impressive 85:22 mark in 78 innings of work. From a betting standpoint, Arrieta has been an unders machine, producing a 7-3-3 record in favor of under bets (I’m actually 5-0-2 with his unders this year), even while regularly drawing low lines. I said it early on in the year when Arrieta first made his return and I’ll say it again: This is someone that could very well be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter in 2015. I actually really like the Cubs next season and am seriously eyeing their Over Win Total as my best bet for ’15 (I said the same thing about the Marlins in this very column a year ago concerning this season, and what a terrific call that turned out to be), and Arrieta will be a big reason for that. In the meantime, his ascension should be taken seriously and bet on accordingly.
Roenis Elias - Seattle Mariners
Oh man, if there’s one starting pitcher that has made their debut in 2014 and caught my eye more than anyone else -- while coming out of the blue to do it, as this kid was barely recognized within his club’s strong young pitching depth previously -- it’s southpaw Roenis Elias, Seattle’s sneakily-emerging rookie. While Elias’ numbers at the moment are far from desirable (7-8, 4.54 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), the 25-year old actually displayed enormous potential prior to a recent three-start stretch that has seen the left-hander yield five runs or more in each outing. In fact, entering late-June, Elias possessed a very respectable 3.74 ERA, and even though that number has since ballooned up almost a full run, I really think Elias will get back on track in the second half and ultimately become an impact player for awhile.
Pitching in a home venue like Safeco Field for half your starts certainly helps, but it’s also his strikeout potential that leads me to believe he can sustain success at the big league level. Elias has actually registered five or more strikeouts in 13 of his 19 starts, and prior to his current funk, he had also exhibited notable consistency, having surrendered three runs or less 11 times in 16 tries, including an impressive complete game shutout in Detroit on June 1 when he outdueled reigning AL Cy Young Max Scherzer. Just like his arrival onto the major league scene, most still aren’t familiar with him but it won’t be long before more people know the name Elias… Roenis Elias.
David Hale - Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves boasting a fabulous starting rotation is pretty much always a given with any baseball season (Even when they have to depend on the likes of Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang), and it appears that will remain the case so long as David Hale is featured as a prominent part of it. I first fell in love with Hale as soon as he made his major league debut last year, when he made two starts and produced an outstanding 14:1 K:BB ratio in his 11 combined innings, while also recording a 0.82 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
I was so excited for the right-hander that I actually tabbed him as one of my top three sleepers entering the 2014 campaign (Along with Tanner Roark and James Paxton; how many other people made that genius call on Roark besides me?), as I thought Hale would become a regular fixture on the Braves pitching staff, but alas, that would not end up happening, as the talented young right-hander only made a few starts -- and that apparently was only because of the team’s many injuries -- before being relegated to the bullpen once some of their older arms returned from the shelf. Hale made a spot start a few weeks ago and was excellent as always, and it’s only a matter of time before he resurfaces in the rotation. When that happens, look out. If you’re into fantasy baseball, you should claim Hale immediately if he’s reinstated as a starter later on this season. Just like I emphasized last September, David Hale is going to be legitimately tremendous, and for a long time.
James Paxton - Seattle Mariners
The fact that another Seattle pitcher is being featured in this article -- and one not named Felix Hernandez or Hisashi Iwakuma -- is a main reason why the Mariners are legitimate contenders this season (And I haven’t even discussed the more-known commodity, Taijuan Walker, who is basically a guarantee to succeed). This particular hurler, James Paxton, arguably has as high a ceiling, in my opinion, as any rookie in baseball, and actually might be my favorite up-and-coming left-hander in the game. As mentioned in my David Hale analysis, Paxton was another one of my top three sleepers entering the 2014 campaign, and through his first two starts of the season, it appeared I was spot-on with that call, considering the 25-year old southpaw recorded a 13:2 K:BB ratio in 12 combined innings, while putting together a 2.25 ERA and microscopic 0.67 WHIP in the process.
Unsurprisingly, Paxton won both of those games. Unfortunately, he’s been on the DL ever since thanks to a shoulder issue -- although he is finally close to returning -- and while his sample size this year is quite small, you only have to take a look at what he did last season when he received his first call-up to conclude how dominant this kid can truly be. Paxton made his first four career starts last September, and he was phenomenal, going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 21:7 K:BB ratio in 24 innings. Overall, he’s racked up 36 career innings thus far, and has a 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP to show for it, while opponents are batting just .164 against him. Yeah, this is someone that’s undoubtedly going to be special so make sure you ride him as soon as he makes his grand return.
Danny Salazar - Cleveland Indians
Yes, I realize Danny Salazar is currently in the minor leagues. Yes, I realize Salazar was nothing but horrific when he was up with the big league club for the first month-and-a-half of the 2014 season. Setbacks can happen with young pitchers, especially very early on in a career when said pitcher is tagged with the pressure of having high expectations from the organization. After the Indians’ surprising break-out run of a year ago (Successfully called by this author, remember), which featured Salazar’s immediate rise towards the end thanks to his standout pitching over ten starts, including a performance that almost single-handedly carried them past the AL Wild Card play-in game, the right-hander was expected to lead the rotation from here on out for years to come with his dominant arsenal.
Instead, Salazar endured the rockiest of runs for a starting pitcher, as he struggled to the tune of a 5.53 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, and only registered two quality starts in his eight tries. Furthermore, opponents were hitting over .300 against him, and the 24-year old averaged one home run allowed per start. Even so, I still believe what we saw last year from him, albeit in a not-so-large sample size, was no fluke or flash in the pan at all, and that Danny Salazar still has monster potential to become something big for a considerable amount of time. He’ll make his return at some point so make sure you keep close tabs on him.
Honorable Mention: Danny Duffy, Chris Archer, Kyle Gibson, Tyler Skaggs, Vance Worley (If he gets back into the Pittsburgh starting rotation), Tyler Thornburg (Just as I said last year, when he’s permanently in Milwaukee’s rotation, which should’ve been all along), Dallas Beeler
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