It’s never easy making MLB futures bets before the start of the season. We all love to do it, sure, but that doesn’t make it any easier. The problem is that there are 162 games during the regular season, and a lot can happen in that time.
From our experience, it’s usually best to wait at least a month into the season so you can get a feel for each team before throwing any of those hard-earned greenbacks down. We promise that it’s not cheating; in fact, the odds may have changed since the start of the season, making it easier to spot great value.
Having said that, we’ve re-evaluated the futures market and have come up with the following suggestions for you to consider.
*Odds are via Fanduel Sportsbook as of May 4
Houston Astros, +2000 to win World Series
The Astros are far from the team that’s most likely to win the World Series. In fact, they are tied with the seventh-longest odds at +2000. However, they offer the most value because they have looked like a team that can win it all. Keep in mind they came on strong in the postseason last year despite having a losing record during the regular season. They still have a championship pedigree and a hunger to win another title.
Outside of the Dodgers, the Astros have the best run differential in the majors thus far. That means they are a little better than their record indicates. In fact, if they didn’t lose a few key players to COVID-19 at the same time, they might have the best record in baseball right now.
Pitching-wise, we’ll see how some of their younger arms hold up. But the rotation has been good so far and we know that the lineup can mash when everyone is healthy. Plus, bigger favorites like the Yankees and White Sox have underperformed this year, making the Astros an intriguing bet to either reach or win the World Series.
Jose Ramirez, +2000 to win AL MVP
If you thought Cleveland’s window to make the postseason and compete for a championship had closed, think again. The Indians are still a factor in the AL Central, and it’s largely because Jose Ramirez is crushing it early in the season. He already has eight home runs and has an OPS of .971. He’s also stolen 20 bases, so having a 20-20 season or even a 30-30 season isn’t out of the question.
Of course, the problem is that Mike Trout is going to put up crazy numbers. The same could end up being true for Byron Buxton, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a few others. But if Ramirez continues to mash and keeps Cleveland in contention despite a lackluster lineup, it will be hard to argue against him being the most “valuable” player.
If Ramirez and Cleveland’s pitching can keep the Tribe in contention, he’ll be an MVP candidate and has great value right now at +2000.
Tampa Bay Rays, +600 to Win AL East
The reigning American League champions have the second-longest odds to win the AL East this season, which means there is a ton of value in betting on the Rays because that division is wide open. The Yankees look like they could be fighting themselves most of the year. The Red Sox have started fast but may not be able to keep it going all year. Finally, the Blue Jays look good but perhaps they're not good enough to win the division yet.
If the Rays can just hang around, they’ll be in a great position to seize the AL East late in the season. The Rays still have to sort out their rotation, which is filled with uncertainty once you get past Tyler Glasnow. But the bullpen looks good and conventional wisdom says that some of their struggling hitters will come around.
Given the long odds, the Rays are the perfect team to take a chance on as a division winner.
Lance Lynn, +1500 to Win AL Cy Young
Lance Lynn probably hasn’t been quite as good as Gerrit Cole or Danny Duffy. The likes of Shane Bieber and Tyler Glasnow also look like serious Cy Young contenders in the AL. But Cole, Bieber, and Glasnow offer little value at +160, +320, and +450, respectively. However, Lynn at +1500 offers a huge payout if he can win the Cy Young.
Lynn has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball over the last half-dozen years. He’s started to take things to another level and is playing on a team that should score enough runs to help boost his win total.
Lynn may not have the upside of Cole, Bieber, or Glasnow, but he’s perhaps the most likely of those pitchers to remain steady all season, so if one or two of them drop off or get hurt, he will be a serious Cy Young contender when all is said and done.
Atlanta Braves, +750 to Win National League
Let’s face it, the Braves haven’t looked good this season. They now have only the fourth-best odds to win the pennant, which is why they are such a good bet. The payout is higher now than it was at the start of the season, and as Atlanta gets its act together, the moneyline will shrink again. In other words, now is the time to strike on the Braves, who remain a serious contender despite their slow start.
Granted, the Dodgers are still the safest bet. But the Braves were up 3-1 in the NLCS last year, so they can hang with Los Angeles and will be eager to make amends once they get to the postseason.
Injuries to the starting rotation and sluggish starts by a few star players explain Atlanta’s slow start, so it's not exactly a mystery why the Braves have struggled. Those issues should be cleared up over time, enabling the Braves to eventually get to the level they were at last year when they nearly knocked off the Dodgers to reach the World Series.
Cleveland Indians, +800 to Win AL Central
Much like the Rays, the Indians have the second-longest odds to win the AL Central, which is why there is value in that pick.
Outside of the Tigers, any team could win the division, which is why Cleveland should be considered. The Royals have started fast but may not be able to sustain it. The White Sox have been hurt by injuries that could hold them back. Plus, the Twins have been dreadful during the first four or five weeks of the season.
Meanwhile, the Tribe has plugged along and remained close to the top of the standings. To be fair, the Indians are a little challenged offensively. But the Cleveland rotation is still one of the best in baseball with Shane Bieber leading the way and Aaron Civale off to a great start. The team’s pitching is good enough to keep them in contention, so if the bats can wake up at some point, the Indians will have a realistic shot to claim the AL Central.
Seattle Mariners, +2500 to Win AL West
Realistically, the Mariners probably aren’t going to win the AL West. But given the odds, it might be worth taking a flyer on them. Stranger things have happened, after all.
The Mariners have somehow hung around and stayed close to the top of the standings early in the season despite the bottom half of the lineup producing nothing. If that changes at some point, Seattle might have something special.
With three other quality teams in the AL West, it doesn’t look like anybody else is poised to run away with that division. The Angels have their issues, the Astros are relying on a lot of young arms and the A’s have been mediocre outside of their 13-game winning streak.
It’s not impossible to envision the Mariners hanging around and making a run late in the year to win the AL West. At these odds, it’s worth a small wager, just in case.
Jacob deGrom, +800 to Win NL MVP
Based on the first month of the season, another Cy Young looks like a safe bet for Jacob deGrom. But what if he takes the next step and becomes one of the few pitchers to win MVP? It’s not that far-fetched if you’ve seen him. The guy had at least 14 strikeouts in three straight starts, looking virtually un-hittable. When he faced the Red Sox, deGrom had an “off-night” against one of the best lineups in baseball and still allowed only one run on three hits while striking out nine. That’s what deGrom does when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
Of course, the Mets will have to get their act together and become a serious contender. Otherwise, deGrom’s efforts will be largely wasted. But the two-time Cy Young winner has clearly reached another level that is worthy of MVP contention. He’s also 6 for 13 swinging the bat early in the season, so he’s contributing with the bat as well. Plus, deGrom has always been one of the best fielding pitchers in the game. If he keeps it up and the Mets actually contend, deGrom will have a serious chance to win MVP.
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