It’s Spring and hope blooms eternal. Thirty Major League Baseball teams all broke camp with postseason aspirations at the very least. Of course, many of them might be foolishly optimistic, but then again, who thought the Astros were playoff ready in 2015? The Royals Series-worthy in 2014? And the Mets’ young pitching carrying the load all the way to the World Series in October last Fall?
The point is, you never know, and for at least a few days, every team rightly believes that this could be their year…
And of course, it is my job to burst the bubble.
I’ll be covering National League action this season on The Sports Geek, so this preview will have a Senior Circuit bent. Let’s take a look at some of the best win total over/under plays as well as a few value future wagers.
2016 SEASON PREVIEW:
Favorite OVER/UNDER Win Total Plays –
- St. Louis Cardinals OVER 87.5 – Bet against the Cardinals at your own peril. Much of the angst around St. Louis is based on the departure of Jason Hayward and the emergence of Chicago as the unbeatable super-team. However baseball recent history is littered around the shortcomings of super teams (see: Washington Nationals 2015). Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a healthy Adam Wainwright to anchor the rotation this season for a team that won 101 games last year without him. There are major concerns with Yadier Molina and his health, but as we saw last season, this is a team that always seems to find a way to plug the holes and keep winning. I’ll take the OVER and bank on the Cards doing what they always do; win 90 and make the postseason.
- Milwaukee Brewers UNDER 69.5 – This pick is a bet on the strength of the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates and the sneaky offense of the Reds if Votto, Bruce, Phillips and Mesoraco are healthy. The Brewers or Reds will pile up a bunch of losses in this division, but I’m going to bank on the Reds edging out Milwaukee for the cellar. Milwaukee has some bats if Braun and Lucroy can have good seasons, but the pitching is pretty disastrous. Add in the best division in baseball and it is going to be a long summer in Brewerland.
- Arizona Diamondbacks OVER 82.5 – Perhaps this is a reaction to the Giants picking up Cueto and Samardzjia and the perceived growth of the Dodgers with Corey Seager joining the talented mix, but it is hard to not love the D’Backs going OVER the barely .500 mark. First off, just adding Zack Greinke to a team that won 79 games should help. Paul Goldschmidt is a great underrated MVP candidate (and a nice value at +750). Greinke grabbed the headlines, but the acquisition of Shelby Miller is really why I like them to make the jump in 2015. Adding him to Patrick Corbin gives the ‘Backs a nice top three to the rotation. That’s some good pitching to support an offense that trailed only the ballpark-aided Rockies in run scored in the National League in 2015.
DIVISION/ NLCS / WORLD SERIES Values:
- Arizona Diamondback +400/+1400/+2500 – When you consider division mates Los Angeles and San Fran are both +115, +400 for a team with the best offense in the division and some added front line pitching becomes a nice value play. They also have a little easier road to traverse than the brutal gauntlet of the Cubs/Pirates/Cardinals playing 36 times each.
- St. Louis Cardinals +275/+1100/+1800 – Same logic as above. The world is gaga over the Cubbies. This same Nationals logic yielded some massive Mets payouts in October. I am not saying Chicago collapses – they are certainly the best team in the league on paper, but nothing in baseball is guaranteed. And no organization in baseball has the level of resilient organizational success over the last twenty years as St. Louis.
- Washington Nationals +110/+700/+1800 – My favorite value here is to win the whole darn thing. Plus-110 is too slim for a divisional crown, but as we have seen in baseball, if you win the division and grab one of the eight lotto tickets, anything can happen. That makes +1800 a steal, especially when you consider how much tougher the tickets will be to acquire in the brutal NL Central. This WAS the team of the ages just 12 months ago. Don’t be surprised if they live up to that mantle, only a year later than expected…
- Anthony Rizzo +1400 – Kris Bryant holds the far slimmer odds, but Rizzo is the most dependable cog in the machine expected to win the National League. When you look at Bryant at half that price, Stanton on a team unlikely to make the postseason at just +600 and Bryce Harper at an insanely lean 2:1, Rizzo becomes a nice sneaky value.
- Corey Seager +5000 – It’s rare to capture Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, but it HAS happened before, and if Seager lives up to some of the immense promise he has shown and leads the Dodgers to the postseason, it is entirely possible. They have a ton of talent, but not a ton of massive stat accumulators. Seager has the type of all-around WAR-producing game that could really register with voters. At 50:1, it’s a nice long shot value play.
- Yoenis Cespedes +2500 – He hasn’t ever done it for a full season, but he got some consideration for MVP for his two months of brilliance last Fall. If he can even come close to replicating that impact over a six month stretch, the Mets talented left fielder could steal the MVP trophy.
- Zack Greinke +1400 – Finally out from the shadow of Kershaw, Greinke has a chance to write a nice award-winning narrative if he can lead the Diamondbacks to the playoffs. He was brought in, and paid a King’s ransom to do just that – if he is successful, he could pick up some hardware along the way.
- Adam Wainwright +2000 – If he is healthy, this is a guy who was right there in his last two full seasons, 2013 and 2014. He has a chance to once again be the ace of a playoff-caliber staff. 20:1 is a nice value.
- Jose Fernandez +1400 – Yes, his team will likely miss the playoffs, but the most talented young arm in baseball is finally healthy. If he can remain that way for a full season, a Cy Young Award seems more like destiny than hope…
It’s going to be a great season, and I’m looking forward to a fun summer. My picks for this column are focused on VALUE over “prediction.” We’ve had some pretty good success with the Season Preview in the past, tabbing value in the Royals in 2014, Red Sox in 2013 and a few other sneaky teams who exceeded expectations. My favorite undervalued teams are the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Nationals. I am a little wary of a backslide in Pittsburgh, as the rotation is a little suspect after Cole and Liriano, and can’t help but be wary of the Mets and Cubs taking a little regression to the mean. New York’s offense was dreadful for five months, and then caught fire. Can they hit enough over six months and get sustained brilliance from a young pitching staff that ALL burst on to the scene at the same time?
Good luck this season – let’s make it a great one!