2019 MLB Season Betting Preview: Our Favorite Team-Based Futures
Jasen Vinlove, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Brandon Nimmo
The 2019 MLB season begins on Wednesday morning (5:35 a.m. ET) with the Japan Opening Series between Oakland and Seattle.
The New York Yankees (+500) are the current World Series favorites with the Houston Astros (+600), Boston Red Sox (+700) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+700) not too far behind. If you’re looking for the biggest longshots, that honor belongs to both the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles. The Fish and O’s clock in at an astounding 2000-1 to win the World Series.
In terms of season win totals, the Yankees (97), Astros (96.5), Red Sox (94) and Dodgers (93) top the board, while the Orioles (59), Marlins (63.5) and Tigers (68) rank the lowest.
Here are our staff’s favorite team-based future bets:
Washington Nationals NL East (+300)
The Nationals are kind of getting the shaft from oddsmakers thanks to the whole Bryce Harper fiasco.
Not only did the slugger leave Washington, but he also went to the Phillies, which in theory doubly hurts the Nats’ chances. Don’t get swept up into the hysteria, though, the Nationals are still very good.
In fact, Fangraphs thinks the Nats have a 55.9% chance of winning the very competitive NL East – a far cry from the 25% implied odds suggested by the +300 odds.
Their rotation has three aces leading the way and their lineup is full of above-average players with multiple all-star caliber guys.
It’s not a “lock”, but with a 3-1 payout, I love this bet.
Washington Nationals to win NL Pennant (+1200)
Same team, different bet. I actually also took the Nats to win the East, but I tacked on this future as well, and of the two, it’s the one I slightly prefer.
While I’d echo everything Mark said (obviously, cause I made the same bet), the Nationals should set up especially well for the postseason, and if they do end up playing in October, I’d like to be set up for that potential situation.
With +300 odds (25%) to win the division and +1200 (7.69%) odds to win the National League, oddsmakers are saying that the Nats go on to win the Pennant only 30.76% of the time that they win the East.
But considering their three-headed monster of a rotation, I’m inclined to think that their updated Pennant odds (if they won the division) would be a worse payout than the currently implied +225 in that scenario, adding value to an already valuable bet.
Cleveland Indians World Series (+1400)
There is value on Cleveland across the board based upon Fangraphs projections. PECOTA likes the three-time reigning AL Central champions even more, with a World Series probability set at 14.5% (fair odds of +590).
The Indians boast the best rotation that they have had during their current run of success, adding control artist prospect Shane Bieber (ZiPS projects a 3.49 FIP) to the mix behind four 200-plus strikeout starting pitchers; the ace troika of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer, and mid-rotation talent Mike Clevinger, each of whom posted career-best walk rates in 2018.
The Indians lost an excellent offensive player when Michael Brantley signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros, but he was subpar defensively (-3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in left field in 2018).
Cleveland replaced Brantley with Leonys Martin (+11 DRS in center field over the past two seasons), who could eventually form a 2014-2015 Royals-esque defensive combination with Bradley Zimmer in the outfield.
The Indians can still add additional offensive pieces or bullpen arms to this team, but their rotation has more top to bottom quality than any other starting staff in the American League; the one area where their competition will struggle the most to improve.
New York Mets under 85.5 wins (-115)
When it comes to baseball, I like cheering for misery. Orioles under, Marlins under…I’m aware that the market thinks these teams are going to be awful, but I think they’re going to be REALLY awful. And what franchise is accompanied by more misery than the New York Mets?
The Mets number was a little perplexing because I’m just not sure there are enough wins in this division to justify this number. You can make a reasonable argument that the Nationals, Phillies and even the Braves are better than the Mets and those three teams make up 75% of the division schedule.
Fangraphs has them at 82.6 wins, and I’m inclined to agree that this looks like a .500 team to me. It’s easy to get really excited about Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz as splashy additions, but by adding them you’re essentially paying them for having just had either their best season or a series of really productive seasons. I’m not sure either will eclipse their past successes.
Also, I mean, you’re rooting for the Mets to lose. It’s almost charming. Under.
Chicago Cubs under 88.5 wins
As a Cardinals fan, I want the Cubbies to underperform this season but my homerism for the Redbirds isn’t the only thing influencing this bet.
The numbers say Chicago will disappoint in 2019. Baseball Prospectus has the North Siders finishing last in the NL Central (79 wins), Fangraphs is projecting Chicago to go 82-80 and The Action Network’s Sean Zerillo is the most bullish on the Cubs (85.5 wins) but still sees the team going under their win total.
This line is just too high with the Cubs playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series +8000
I am higher on the Reds than most people but I’m OK with that.
Cincinnati should stay in the playoff race thanks to a solid offense that will be buoyed by the addition of Yasiel Puig, the arrival of Nick Senzel and hopefully a breakout from Jesse Winker.
That doesn’t even mention Joey Votto, one of the best hitters in the Majors, and Eugenio Suarez, a terrific middle-of-the-order bat. With Votto, Suarez, Puig and Winker in the heart of the order, the Reds should have no problem scoring runs and that should hopefully give the pitching staff some wiggle room, because they will need it.
While Cincinnati lacks depth in the rotation and there are a lot of question marks, there is some potential here.
Sonny Gray came apart with the Yankees last season but it was clear there was some sort of disconnect between player and team over pitch selection, so a bounce-back season is not out of the question. Alex Wood has shown flashes of brilliance with the Dodgers and if he can stay healthy, he can anchor the staff.
The key cog will be Luis Castillo.The 26-year-old right-hander was fantastic in his first season at Great American Ballpark but suffered through a sophomore slump in 2018.
If either Gray, Wood or Castillo can emerge as a No. 1 starter, the rest of the crew, which includes veteran arms Tanner Roark and Anthony DeSclafani, should be serviceable enough to keep the Reds in games.
The last thing I’ll say about this bet is that the National League should be very competitive this season. Only three teams (Marlins, Diamondbacks and Giants) have Season Win Totals below 77 wins. These teams are all going to beat up on one another, so I’ll throw a dart on the Reds to still be standing when the dust begins to settle.
Seattle Mariners over 71.5 wins
Like most projection systems, I think this number is just a little too low. Even though I hate taking teams to go over win totals. This team looks a whole lot different than it did last season, which I’m OK with.
There are reasons to think this lineup will be middle of the pack in the AL, especially if Jay Bruce and Domingo Santana can rebound at least a little. Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi should provide a little stability in the middle of the rotation.