Five MLB Starting Pitchers on Losing Teams to Watch

By Steve Makinen  () 

Last week, I put together a piece on my Starting Pitcher Power Ratings, and while it might have laid out quantitatively on the chart of all 150 starters, I was still asked if there were any pitchers I thought held better value at this point. My answer, of course, is I typically look for pitchers that are off to very good starts and are still being underpriced simply because of the team they pitch for. Unfortunately for them, oddsmakers will never give them the respect they would have if they played for someone like Houston, or the Dodgers. With that in mind, here are five pitchers you may or may not have been backing so far in 2019. They have demonstrated the ability to carry the teams in their starts, and thus should be on your betting radar. These are also guys that the top teams could be setting their sights on come trade deadline.


I’m not sure how “below the radar” Luis Castillo is anymore but he is still affordable as a starting pitcher option due to the Reds’ offensive woes. Castillo has been dominant this season after two campaigns with the Reds in which he demonstrated capability but was too inconsistent to back. In 2019, he has reached the level of dominant, thanks in most part to a very live arm that goes 96 MPH on average on his fastball. He has also shown much better control than he did when he first stepped onto the Major League field. With a WHIP of 0.97 right now and K’s per 9 of 10.62, Castillo has the ability to put the Reds on his back and win games almost single-handedly. With his team coming off a loss this past Saturday, Castillo will look for immediate revenge when he takes on the Giants again on Friday evening in San Francisco.


Matt Boyd pitches for the American League’s worst offensive team by far. Otherwise you would probably have backed him more often than you can honestly boast. He is only 3-2 right now, but it could be argued that the left-hander has pitched well enough in each of his seven starts to win them all. In his two most recent starts, Boyd struck out 18 hitters in 13 innings. His current WHIP is 0.99 and his K’s per 9 are a sparkling 11.66. His start in 2019 is a bit more surprising than Castillo’s in that his fastball is in the low 90’s and he hadn’t demonstrated the same dominant capability in his first few years in the league. That said, he is one to back going forward.


Caleb Smith is also a left-hander, and pitching for the woeful Marlins is sure to be a top target of contending teams in the next few months. This is Smith’s third year in Miami and he is picking up in 2019 where he left off a year ago. His stats are fantastic (0.83 WHIP, 45 K’s in 36 innings) and he boasts an individual record of 3-0. Keep in mind that Miami had nine total wins as of this writing. Trust me when I say that you will NEVER overpay for Smith as long as he remains with the Marlins. He was scheduled to start against the Cubs on Tuesday.


I have to reiterate that one of the qualifiers for making this exclusive list was being on a losing team. John Means certainly fits that bill pitching for the anemic Orioles. Means pitched Monday against the Red Sox and will be scheduled to take on the Angels on Sunday. The trust in Means is still developing as he hasn’t spent that long of a time in the O’s rotation (just five starts) but he has demonstrated good command and the ability to overpower hitters on occasion. At this point I wouldn’t go “all in” on Means, but he is certainly worth tracking in the coming weeks, and could prove himself to be a nice option as a live underdog.


After a somewhat lackluster campaign a year ago, Frankie Montas of Oakland is emerging as one of the team’s top options in the starting rotation. His first seven starts produced an ERA of 2.75, WHIP of 1.22, and K’s/9 of 8.08. Four of his starts have come against the likes of Houston (2x), LA Angels, & Boston, making the production level even more impressive. He is another pitcher with a huge arm, averaging over 96 MPH on his heaters. He has been respected for a long time on a prospect level but he is finally starting to realize that potential and could become a dominant pitcher by the end of 2019.

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