MLB Season Preview & World Series Picks

It’s spring, and in the immortal words of Casey at the Bat poet Earnest L. Thayer, “hope springs eternal” for nearly every team in major league baseball.  Across the league, thirty teams begin the six month journey with hopes of playoffs dancing in the heads.

Well, maybe 29.  I’m pretty sure the Marlins are aiming to just lose less than one hundred…

So every team might think they are alive heading into the season, but which teams provide the best value for future wagers?  For the record, if you are placing any future MLB wagers, be sure to shop lines as they differ greatly for futures.  This column is based off the current odds on on March 31st.

Best Values to Win the National League & World Series:

Cincinnati Reds – 6:1 (12:1 World Series)                     

The Reds enter the season winners of the Central Division two of the last three seasons, but having yet to advance past the first round of the playoffs.  This season they return essentially the exact same roster as last year, with the exception of Todd Frazier taking over full time for Scott Rolen at third base, and the trading away of strike-out prone leadoff hitter, Drew Stubbs.

The jettisoning of Stubbs might prove the best move of any NL team.  His replacement, Shin-Soo Choo struck out 16 fewer times in more than 100 more at bats in 2012, but most importantly his OBS of .373 was nearly one hundred points higher than Stubbs anemic .277.  That equates to someone on base 10% more often for the potent middle of the lineup of Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce.  That should equal longer innings and more runs.

And of course, the pitching staff is as good as any in the league, especially if Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo are as good as they were last season as the #3 and #4 starters.  If the starters can give them seven innings, handing the ball to Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman is reminiscent of the late 90’s Yankee teams with Stanton and Rivera.

The Reds should win the Central.  And though it’s hard to say they are head and shoulders better than the Nationals, Giants, Dodgers and Braves, they ARE the only team without another elite team in their division.  That’s what makes them the best value in the NL – the likelihood they will be IN the tournament.  And as we’ve seen in the last decade, get IN and who knows what might happen…

Other Good Values:

Atlanta Braves – 7:1  (14:1 World Series)

Atlanta is getting overlooked around all the excitement around the Nationals.  However, from top to bottom, I think I prefer the Braves roster.  Their pitching is fantastic and they have a better bullpen from the Nats.  If Washington doesn’t see any regression from Bryce Harper and their young pitching staff, they should be fine.  If they do slip a bit,  Atlanta is right there waiting in the wings.

Milwaukee Brewers – 22:1 (50:1 World Series)

The Brewers are a bit of a longshot, but with the Cardinals weakened starting pitching Milwaukee could very well be the second best team in the Central.  They finished the year ablaze, storming back into the post season race after a terrible first half of the year.  Cincinnati is expecting a ton of a lot of second year players like Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart.  Should their pitching falter at all, Milwaukee could swoop in and win the Central Division.  That makes 22:1 & 50:1 respectively pretty good value wagers.

Best Values to Win the American League & World Series:

The American League was full of splashy off season acquisitions that make for some interesting lines heading into the 2013 season.  I’d be wary of the Toronto Blue Jays.  We’ve seen it happen time and tie again; the team that “wins” the offseason fails to live up to expectations on the field.  Toronto could very well win it all on the 20th anniversary of their first World Series title, but at 15:4 to win the AL and 8:1 to win the World Series, it isn’t a real good value wager.  Likewise for the Yankees at 9:1 & 20:1.  They might be the best team by September, but with all their early season injuries and their brutal division, it is pretty easy to see them missing the playoffs altogether.  I’d stay away from those two teams, if for no other reason than it is the only divison in MLB where all five teams have a legit chance to win the divison –  that makes them all slightly overvalued wager-wise.

So, that’s who I don’t like… let’s get back to a few good values.

Detroit Tigers – 17:4 (8:1 World Series)

I like the Tigers as much for their awesome collection of talent as I do for the weak division they play in.  Chicago is no better than last year’s team that faded desperately down the stretch.  Kansas City has some intriguing young talent, but doesn’t feel quite ready to challenge the Tigers and Cleveland and Minnesota were a complete mess last year.

Verlander is healthy and under contract, and they have the best proven offense in the American League (I say “proven” because Anaheim is certainly a tantalizing lineup on paper with Josh Hamilton’s addition).  But the Angels, like the Jays, Rays and Yankees; play in a tough divison and will have to get through Oakland and Texas before worrying about winning a ring.

The best combination of division schedule and talent in the American League is easily Detroit.

Other Good Value Teams – American League

Seattle Mariners – 50:1 (100:1 World Series)

Are the Mariners winning the pennant?  Probably not.  But watching the way they finished the season with an 18-9 run from the middle of August to early September before playing a lot of their minor league call-ups was enough to make 50:1 an interesting flyer.  The Rangers are weakened by the loss of Hamilton and Oakland has to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.  It makes the Mariners an interesting long, longshot.

Boston Red Sox – 14:1 (30:1 World Series)

Yes, I know I just wrote the AL East was so balanced that is makes the top teams a lousy value wager.  But for that exact same reason it makes the long odds on Boston a much better value.  No team in baseball was more ravaged by injuries than the Boston Red Sox.  The three seasons prior to last they won 274 games, an average of 91.3 per season.  I’m not sure they can bounce back in a division this loaded, but at 14:1 & 30:1 respectively, there is some good value there.

Enjoy the season!  And be sure to visit daily for free MLB breakdowns and picks.

Chris Scheeren / Author