It’s hard to believe, but we’re already about one-third of the way through the 2020 Major League Baseball season. There’s still a long way to go in a relative sense, but the postseason will be getting underway in just over a month’s time. Where the playoffs take place is still another matter, but the 16-team playoff field should make for some unique betting opportunities we don’t normally see in baseball.
The truncated 60-game schedule obviously reduces the number of opportunities for baseball bettors compared to the standard 162-game marathon we’re all used to seeing, but this year’s playoff and postseason awards races should be particularly thrilling. It’s hard to imagine any of the divisional races not coming down to the wire, and the heightened importance for every game adds a fun element of pressure to what may otherwise be run-of-the-mill games in August and September.
Let’s take a look at the various futures odds and props still available at MLB betting sites. Some teams that looked like good values to win the 2020 World Series may not look so rosy anymore, while some other teams have come out of nowhere to look like potential contenders.
What are some potential value bets to target before now and the end of the season?
Charlie Blackmon To Win National League MVP (+8000)
Many expected some weird things to happen in a 60-game season. As of this writing, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon has a slash line of .500/.527/.721 with three home runs and 20 runs batted in. Blackmon won a batting title just a couple of years ago when he hit .331, and this is an award the Rockies have dominated over the years.
Thanks in no small part to the extremely hitter-friendly conditions at Coors Field, the Rockies have accounted for 10 of the last 27 National League batting titles. Blackmon has always been an above-average hitter regardless of the ballpark, but his numbers are obviously inflated quite a bit because he plays half of his games in the thin air in Denver.
The Rockies are also sitting atop the NL West with a record of 12-5 on the young season. I’m certainly skeptical they keep that up with the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers in the same division, but their chances of competing are certainly improved now that the season has been shortened to a 60-game sprint.
Will Blackmon hit at least .400 for the entire season? Doubtful. It’s not impossible, though, considering he’s gotten a hit in exactly half of his at-bats through the first three weeks. Of course, he doesn’t have to hit .400 to win the league MVP award. If he continues to rake while leading the Rockies to an unexpected NL West title, Blackmon is going to be awfully hard to pass up in the race for NL Most Valuable Player.
Oakland Athletics To Win American League West (+180)
The Houston Astros have reigned supreme in the American League West over the past couple of years, but it’s worth wondering whether their time has come to an end. Houston’s lineup is still stacked, but the Astros have major issues in the pitching department. Gerrit Cole left for the Bronx. Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna might both be done for the year. Lance McCullers Jr. has looked a bit wobbly in his first season post-Tommy John surgery. Right now, Houston is trying to make its way through the season with eight-to-nine rookies in the bullpen. In related news, the Astros have already blown seven saves through 17 games.
SECOND WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM OF 2020
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) August 5, 2020
The Oakland A’s, meanwhile, have been happy to capitalize on the Astros’ struggles. Oakland is off to a hot 12-6 start, and they recently had an eight-game winning streak snapped. The A’s swept the slumping Astros in a three-game set in the Bay Area last weekend, and Oakland already has a four-game lead over the second-place Texas Rangers.
Beyond Houston, there isn’t much else that looks threatening about the rest of the division for Oakland. The Rangers have had issues scoring runs, while the Angels have struggled to prevent them. The Mariners are probably the worst team in baseball once the season is all said and done. If the Astros aren’t able to address their bullpen woes, the Athletics should waltz to the franchise’s first division title since 2013.
Tampa Bay Rays To Win American League East (+300)
The Rays were a trendy pick to challenge the Yankees for AL East supremacy this season. It’s still early, but the teams are still neck-and-neck at the top of the standings. New York is currently 1.5 games clear of Tampa Bay at the time of this writing, despite the Rays having taken three of the four head-to-head meetings between the teams earlier this season.
Obviously, there is still more than enough time left in the campaign for Tampa Bay to make up that ground. The teams will meet another six times before the end of the year. While it’s not ideal for the Rays that all six games will take place in New York, Tampa’s pitching talent will be enough to keep them in the race until the end of the season.
This bet is a numbers play. There isn’t much separating the two teams in the standings, yet you can get the Rays at +300 to finish ahead of the Yanks in the AL East. Are the Yankees the better team? Probably, but they’ve already had their fair share of injury woes, and anything can happen in a wild season. The Rays coming out on top isn’t the most likely outcome, but you’re getting good value for the risk in the +300 odds.
Lance Lynn To Win American League Cy Young (+1400)
Nobody was talking about Lance Lynn before the season began. Even three weeks in, you’ll hardly hear a peep about the Rangers’ right-hander. However, you can argue pretty easily that the burly veteran has been the most dominant starter in the league through the season’s first few weeks. Through four starts, Lynn is 2-0 with a 1.16 ERA alongside 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work.
The only reason Lynn isn’t 4-0 is because the Rangers’ offense has given him no help. He’s only conceded a total of three earned runs all year, with no more than two in any single outing. We have seen players like Mike Trout and Jacob deGrom win individual awards in recent years despite playing for bad teams, so it’s not like someone like Lynn on a non-contender winning Cy Young would be unprecedented.
There’s also a chance we see Lynn in another uniform by the time September rolls around. The 33-year-old has another year remaining on his contract, and a rebuilding team like Texas could stand to ship him out in exchange for some prospects. Lynn putting up these kinds of numbers while helping a possible World Series contender reach the playoffs would resonate a lot more with Cy Young voters, to be sure.
Will Lynn keep his ERA under 2.00 for an entire season? If there’s any season to do so, it’s this one. He’ll have no shortage of competition for AL Cy Young with Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, and a few other pitchers off to outstanding starts, but the value on Lynn at the current +1400 odds is too good to pass up.
Chicago Cubs To Win World Series (+1500)
The Cubs looked to be headed for a potential dynasty when they won it all in 2016, but things have gone off the rails since then. However, they’ve quietly been one of the hottest teams in baseball to start 2020. The Cubs are 11-3 out of the gates, which has them already 4.5 games clear of their three closest competitors in the National League Central.
Have the Cubs benefited from a soft schedule? Possibly. The Brewers, Pirates, Reds, and Royals aren’t necessarily the cream of the crop when it comes to opponents, but you still have to win the games on your schedule. The Cubs have done just that under first-year manager David Ross, including an impressive 7-1 triumph over the Cleveland Indians to open their 2016 World Series rematch earlier this week.
The Cubs improved to 11-3 on the season with a 7-1 win over the Indians tonight.
This is the 8th time since 1900 that the Cubs have won at least 11 of their first 14 games in a season. They made the World Series in 5 of the previous 7 instances (winning the Series 3 times). pic.twitter.com/eUA007wA5x
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 12, 2020
Chicago doesn’t necessarily have a dominant frontline starter, but the combination of Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood gives the Cubs serviceable rotation depth. The lineup is just as good as it was four years ago, if not better. The bullpen has its fair share of question marks, especially with Craig Kimbrel at the back end, but this team is still among the most talented in baseball on paper. This is the first time since 2016 they’ve really played up to their caliber.
It’s early, but the Cubs at +1500 to win the 2020 World Series offers solid upside. Getting through teams like the Dodgers, Braves, and Nationals come playoff time won’t be an easy task, but the Cubs are still worth a flier at their current odds.