When choosing where to place your money this summer on MLB futures, there’s no better place to start than choosing a World Series winner. The payouts are often very good and if nothing else, it allows you to hedge your bet as the season wears on.
When searching for the best value, you have to take into consideration a few key factors. Obviously, you have to look at rosters and talent, but the schedule this year could play nearly as an important part of who makes the playoffs. You also have to pay attention to who on the roster is actually in camp, and can make an impact from the get go. An ever changing list, it’s something to consider as earning victories early on will be just as important as those deciding matchups late in the year. In a 60 game season, a single win will most likely be the difference between who’s playing in October and who’s going home.
Once in the postseason however, it’s back to business as usual, where the traditional components will determine the outcome. Every team that makes the playoffs can hit, but doesn’t always have the pitching it needs to win a 5 or 7 game series. The postseason always comes down to pitching, but most recently it has been the bullpens that have played a major factor. The team with the deepest pen to complement at least two or three great starting pitchers, usually has the best chance to win.
Much of the seasons outcome will also depend upon who can stay healthy and who can avoid COVID-19 for the truncated season. Overall depth will be the final deciding factor with players likely coming and going all season long. That said, let’s take a look at a few of the best odds, not the most likely to win, but the teams whose payouts offer the most bang for your buck.
The Tampa Bay Rays
Listed at 18 to 1 on Vegas Insider.
The Rays are loaded with talent from top to bottom. They may not have the household names the Yankees or Dodgers do, but they do possess players who do their specific jobs very well and as a whole are pretty tough to beat.
It all begins with their starting pitching and their 3 aces atop their rotation. Snell, Morton, and Glasnow all possess unhittable stuff and could all plausibly compete for the Cy Young this season. The bullpen is one of the nastiest in the game, led by last year’s steal at the deadline, Nick Anderson. Armed with a fastball that can reach triple digits and a spin rate that’s off the charts, he strikes out just about everybody he faces. There’s also the electric setup duo of lefty, Jose Alvarado, and righty, Diego Castillo, who both have experience closing. Chaz Roe is also available who arguably throws the best slider in the game, which basically looks like he’s throwing a frisbee. Then there’s Oliver Drake, who throws a splitter that even though the batter knows is coming, still can’t hit it. Finally, there’s last year’s standout Collin Poche, another spin rate specialist who literally only throws a 93 mph fastball, that amazingly strikes out a third of the hitters he faces. Add in the potential of two way prospect Brendan McKay, and they’ve got themselves all the depth they need to make a nice post season run.
The lineup consists of guys who can be mixed and matched for any situation, who possess a nice mix of power, speed, and on base ability. No team will platoon more, which makes game planning against them very difficult.
Their schedule works in the favor as well. The Rays will play 60% of their games within their division, while the other 40% will be played against the NL East. Contrary to what many believe, the AL East isn’t really that good, outside of the Rays and Yankees! The division consists of the bottom of the barrel Orioles, the Red Sox who lost Mookie Betts and have absolutely no starting pitching, the Blue Jays who are decent, but are no better than a .500 club at best, and the previously mentioned Yankees, who will be their main competition. Tampa will also have to face off against the defending champs, the Washington Nationals, but they too lost a major star in Anthony Rendon. The Mets are down Noah Syndergaard and possibly DeGrom for the start of the season, the Marlins are the Marlins, and the Braves are scary, but they may be without Freddy Freeman for a while and their starting pitching doesn’t intimidate anyone. And of course we can’t leave out the Phillies, who are picked to finish second to last in the NL East, just above the Marlins. All in all the Rays are setup to win a ton of games and possibly the division.
One other point to consider is the importance of getting off to a hot start this season, which is something the Rays accomplished last year when they started 37 and 23 over their first 60 games.
The Rays have a clear path to the postseason, and with their top starters and fantastic bullpen they’ll be tough to eliminate come playoff time. Getting past the Yankees will be their biggest hurdle, but at +1800 (or 18 to 1 for you novices), it’s got to be one of the best picks you can make all year. Get them now before the odds drop.
The Cincinnati Reds
Listed at 25 to 1 on Vegas Insider.
At 25 to 1 they are just too good on paper to pass up. They pass the eye test in every way. They’ve added the hitters, the rotation looks solid, the bullpen has enough to get the job done and a payout where 50 bucks will get you $1,250 is too good to miss. Now of course the team as a whole lacks playoff experience, but in such a strange season and playing in front of no fans, throw experience right out the window, because no one has played under such conditions.
The Reds pitching pitching staff was surprisingly very good last year, but the team struggled to score runs. This year however, with all the new additions, that should hardly be the case. Shogo Akiyama is going to be an on base machine leading off for the Reds, something he did very well in the NPB and has shown a knack for in camp. He’ll be followed by Mr.-get-on-base-anyway-you-can Joey Votto. I know he had a down year last year and is getting up there in age, but if he can get on base even 38% of the time, the Reds 3, 4, and 5 guys will almost exclusively be hitting with runners on. The newly acquired Nick Castellanos was an absolute beast when he got out of Detroit and showed his true potential in Chicago. Moustakas coming over from Milwaukee, will add another power lefty bat to complement last year’s runner-up, home run champ Eugenio Suarez. The Reds round out the lineup with guys like Jesse Winker who has a .907 career .OPS vs righties, and top prospect, 5 tool player Nick Senzel. They also added Freddy Galvis at short, who’s practically a perennial gold glove contender and hit 23 home runs last year. They have a guy on the bench in Phil Ervin who absolutely destroys left handed pitching and a catcher in Tucker Barnhart who won’t kill you at the plate and is a wall behind the dish.
Their schedule is also quite favorable. They’ll face off against the Brewers whose starting pitching is mostly awful. The Pirates have no shot. The Cubs after Darvish don’t have a ton of quality arms in the starting staff or bullpen. And while the Cardinals are competitive, they have a lot of questions regarding their lineup. Much is going to fall on Goldschmidt’s shoulders and a bounce back year from Matt Carpenter. Paul DeJong doesn’t scare anybody and Goldschmidt is a notorious slow starter and hasn’t been the same caliber of player the last couple of seasons. The Reds will also get a few games against the Tigers and Royals which will additionally help their cause.
At 25 to 1 you just can’t pass up on them. As a popular sleeper pick among analysts, many are wary to actually put their hard earned cash down on them simply because, well, they’re the Reds. But consider this expert ready to pony up and root for the Big Red Machine all season long.
The Minnesota Twins
Listed at 16-1 on Vegas Insider.
After last year’s home run barrage I’m not sure the Twins weren’t another team stealing signs and somehow got away with it. Half joking aside, no other lineup punished the ball like the Twins did last year and now they’ve added Josh Donaldson. With 4 or even 5 guys in the lineup who could possibly hit 40 home runs and another three guys who could hit well over 30 in a 162 game season, it’s simply not fair when having to match up against these guys! You think the Royals have any chance when they come to town or even the White Sox who are gonna be much better this year?
They added Kenta Maeda, a huge under the radar move, and Rich Hill also from the Dodgers who’s absolutely made for a 60 game season. They have Berrios and Odorizzi at the top of the rotation and a decent bullpen that is headed by closer Taylor Rogers. Last season the side-arming lefty threw 69 innings with 11.74 K/9, a 2.61 ERA and 2.85 FIP. They have plenty of quality younger arms in case any of the starting rotation falters and will even add Micheal Pineda after his suspension is up, for the final few weeks of the season. At 16 to 1, count me in on the Twins.
The San Diego Padres
Listed at 40 to 1 on Vegas Insider.
And finally my long shot of the bunch, the San Diego Padres. No one actually thinks this team can win, but at 40 to 1, it’s just too much fun not to include them, and in such a short season anything can happen!
First off, when discussing the San Diego Padres you must start with one of the leagues most dynamic players, Fernando Tatis Jr. Yes, he strikes out a lot and his metrics say he got lucky, but when you watch this guy, all you see is a winner. He’s a force in the field, on the base paths, and at the plate. He was no different in the minor leagues, and is now a catalyst on a team that badly needed it. Add in OBP machine Tommy Pham to a starting core featuring Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, who I believe will have a nice bounce back year, and the Pads lineup is sneaky good. Machado will be entering his second year in San Diego and will be facing less pressure. Hosmer had nearly 100 RBI with only half a season of Tatis being in the lineup and without the services of Pham. Myers stunk, but he still displayed speed on the bases and showed some legitimate improvement at the end of last season. He was previously a 20/20 guy and I think with his retooled approach, he’ll have no problem returning to that level of play. The combination of defensive standout, pitch framing artist Austin Hedges and switch hitting masher Francisco Meija, will shore up behind the dish duties and neither has reached their full potential. They also have a young infielder named Ty France, who produced video game type numbers in AAA last year. If he can put it all together, he should find himself in the lineup rather regularly, especially with the DH coming to the National League.
The real strength of the team lies in the bullpen, which is thought of as one of the best in the league, and its uber talented young starting staff. Paddack, Lamet, and Lucchesi headline a fierce threesome who all average over a K per inning and likely have not hit their full potential either. Throw in the veteran Garrett Richards who is now fully healed from TJ surgery and is currently throwing bullets in camp and the underrated Zach Davies, and the Padres have a more than serviceable rotation. Davies who pitched to the tune of a very respectable 3.55 ERA in Milwaukee last year, now comes to the spacious confines of Petco Park, where home runs come to die, often getting caught up in the thick ocean air. The defense should be well above average as well, keeping unearned runs to a minimum. They have a ton of young prospects waiting in the wings if any of the 5 starting pitchers should falter, and the relief core lead by Kirby Yates and his microscopic 1.19 ERA is almost impossible to score runs on.
They won’t be anyone’s favorite to win it all, but at 40 to 1, no one would blame you for throwing a few bucks down on San Diego and rooting for the Friars all year.