Houston Astros 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Expect Continued Excellence Despite Veteran Losses

Houston Astros 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Expect Continued Excellence Despite Veteran Losses article feature image
Credit:

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve.

  • The Astros are coming off a 103-win season, but have lost several veteran players in free agency.
  • Despite those losses, the Astros are well-positioned in an AL West that should be considerably worse than last year.
  • Houston has several Top-100 prospects who could contribute this season, led by pitchers Forrest Whitley and Josh James, and outfielder Kyle Tucker.
  • The return of a healthy Carlos Correa could also make a huge impact, as he's an MVP candidate when 100%.

Original analysis published on Feb. 22. 

Times are slightly a-changing for the Houston Astros, but fans need not worry. Though some familiar faces are gone, the Astros’ core remains largely intact AND they have new star players on the way. I guess it pays off to be terrible for a few years.

The Astros are expected to be one of, if not the best team in MLB and barring several major injuries, I don’t see what’s stopping them.

2018 Results

  • Record: 103-59 (-0.9 units), 83-79 ATS (-0.6 units)
  • Over/Under Record: 69-84-9
  • Preseason World Series Odds: +525
  • Win Total: 97.5
  • Most Profitable Starter: Gerrit Cole (24-8, +4.4 units)

103 wins, -0.9 units? How can that be?

Well, thanks to Houston’s World Series win in 2017 and loaded roster in 2018, it was very difficult to profit from it on a game-by-game basis. The Astros were dogs just 11 times last year and favorites of more than -300 10 times!

Expect these heavily-juiced lines to continue, and another year of similar results for the Astros. If they underachieve and win only 90 games or so, they could be a rather unprofitable team.

2019 Odds

  • World Series Odds: +600
  • Division Odds: -800
  • Win Total O/U: 96.5
  • Playoff Odds: Make -1400, Miss +800

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the ‘Stros’ preseason futures are among the best in MLB. In fact, they are tied with the Yankees for best World Series odds and highest win total, and are the biggest divisional and playoff locks in the league.

Despite losing some veterans in free agency, they should sail smoothly to a division title as the Athletics are bound to fall back and the Mariners decided to sell off several key contributors.

My first future bet this season was taking the over on their win total, and I also was able to bet them -200 to win their division. Westgate opened later that same day at -800, which is probably more realistic. I personally wouldn’t lay -800 on any season-long baseball bet, but there should be better prices than that available around the market.

Roster Notes

  • Additions: Michael Brantley, Robinson Chirinos, Wade Miley, Aledmys Diaz
  • Subtractions: Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Brian McCann, Tony Sipp, Martin Maldonado, J.D. Davis, Jandel Gustave
  • Potential Lineup
    1. George Springer – CF
    2. Jose Altuve – 2B
    3. Alex Bregman – 3B
    4. Michael Brantley – LF
    5. Carlos Correa – SS
    6. Yuli Gurriel – 1B
    7. Josh Reddick – RF
    8. Tyler White – DH
    9. Robinson Chirinos/Max Stassi – C
  • Projected Rotation
    1. Justin Verlander
    2. Gerrit Cole
    3. Collin McHugh
    4. Wade Miley
    5. Brad Peacock
  • Prospect Watch: Forrest Whitley (No. 7, RHP), Kyle Tucker (No. 8, OF), Yordan Alvarez (No. 44, OF), Josh James (No. 62, RHP), Corbin Martin (No. 81, RHP)
  • Key Injuries: Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John, out for season), Joe Smith (Achilles, mid-late 2019)
  • MVP Candidates: Alex Bregman (+1500), Jose Altuve (+2000), Carlos Correa (+2000), George Springer (+3000), Michael Brantley (+10000)
  • Cy Young Candidates: Justin Verlander (+1200), Gerrit Cole (+1500), Collin McHugh (+8000), Wade Miley (+10000)

Analysis

Player to Watch: Carlos Correa

For the past few years, Correa has been among the top five preseason MVP candidates in the American League. The former #1 overall pick just turned 24, but is coming off the worst year of his young career.

This is largely due to a back injury, which forced him to miss a good chunk of time. When he returned, he didn’t look quite the same. In the second half of the season, he posted an OPS of just .517 and hit just two dingers in 37 games.

The Astros (and myself) are counting on him to return. I believe he will, as he says he’s back to full health.

A healthy Correa is one of the best players in MLB. The Astros were able to win 103 games last year without him making his expected contributions, and their lineup is looking even more potent this year.

Bonus injury hype: Correa also underwent surgery to fix a deviated septum, which could have also been bothering him last year. Now that his back and breathing abilities are back to 100%, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t return to being one of the best players in baseball.

Pitcher to Watch: Josh James (Update: Will begin season in bullpen)

Speaking of deviated septums, Houston’s projected fifth starter, Josh James, credits much of his breakout success in 2018 to dealing with his sleep apnea. Not exactly the same as a deviated septum, but another odd injury that messed with his sleep, comfort and energy levels.

With a March ’93 birthday, James is the oldest player on MLB.com’s Top-100 prospect list, but it appears the wait has been worth the while.

He began 2018 in AA, where he struck out nearly 16 batters per nine in 21.2 innings before being promoted to AAA. There, he spent most of his season striking out nearly 13 per nine before getting a late call up to the show.

His strike-out ways continued, where he K’d 29 men in 23 innings with a 2.35 ERA.

Josh James, Wicked 88mph Slider. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/Ra67JALNOo

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 8, 2018

The only pitchers who strike out that many batters and aren’t wildly successful are those who also walk a ton of batters. Walks were a slight problem for James in the minors, where he walked 3.5 men per nine in more than 450 innings, but he wasn’t giving up free passes at a Robbie Ray-esque rate.

With his upper-90s fastball and hard, biting slider, James has the ability to jump right into the rotation and help fill the voids left by Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers Jr.

Summary

Houston knew that it would need to let some of its free agents walk this winter, but thanks to incredible organizational depth, it shouldn’t matter too much. The Astros started from the bottom, now they’re here … stacked MLB roster, stacked farm system.

As I mentioned, I am quite fond of this team and its chances this season. Taking the over on its win total was my first MLB bet of the offseason as I believe it is in a position to reach 100 wins again.

The Astros’ division will be worse, and although their rotation has some question marks, an improved offense should help them carry over the success they’ve had the past two years.

Their lineup is exceptionally deep, and truly has no holes. Their infield has three MVP candidates in Correa, Alex Bregman — who emerged as the team’s best hitter last year — and Jose Altuve, who took home the award in 2017.

Their outfield isn’t as elite, but it’s still quite good with the addition of Michael Brantley to go along with George Springer and Josh Reddick. Kyle Tucker, the eighth-best prospect in the MLB, could end up taking Reddick’s job at some point, too.

Their bullpen is also sneaky good despite not being all that talked about. Though he’s not exactly a nice fella, Roberto Osuna is a very good closer. Ryan Pressly broke out with a career year thanks to 12.8 K/9. Will Harris has the 11th-best ERA over the past four years out of 297 pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched. Hector Rondon has more than 10 K/9 in each of his past three seasons.

There’s a lot of proven commodities there, and given their farm system, they have the ability to go out and acquire more talent at the deadline, if necessary.

The only concern of mine is that Verlander and/or Cole get hurt. Regardless of any injuries among starting pitchers, I’m hoping Top-10 prospect Forrest Whitley, the 6’7″ flamethrower, can jump into the rotation at some point during the season and make an impact.

All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 22.

Transactions accurate as of Mar. 24. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign.

Advanced data via Fangraphs.com, prospect ratings via MLB.com, prospects in prospect watch expected to be MLB-ready in 2019.

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