MLB Futures Betting Division Winners: The Tampa Bay Rays Aren't Getting Enough Love
Need to quench your sports thirst?
Putting down some futures bets is one way to stay involved with sports during this hiatus.
No one knows for sure when the MLB season is going to start. Heck, maybe there won't be a baseball season this year. But assuming the campaign gets going at some point, here are some division winner futures bets that look like good value at the moment.
First, let's check out the division favorites for 2020, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
|NL East||Atlanta Braves (+180)|
|NL Central||Chicago Cubs/St. Louis Cardinals (+220)|
|NL West||Los Angeles Dodgers (-1000)|
|AL East||New York Yankees (-440)|
|AL Central||Minnesota Twins (-175)|
|AL West||Houston Astros (-190)|
Four of the six divisions -- including each one in the American League -- feature a team with implied win odds of at least 50.0%, led by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, at -1000, carry an implied probability of a whopping 90.9% to win the National League West. The New York Yankees (-440), Houston Astros (-190) and Minnesota Twins (-175) are the three AL division favorites.
Elsewhere, the Atlanta Braves (+180) are a slight frontrunner in the NL East, while the NL Central is shaping up to be pretty crazy. Not only are the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals co-favorites, but the Cincinnati Reds (+270) and Milwaukee Brewers (+340) are firmly in the mix, as well.
Let's get to it.
Tampa Bay Rays (+380)
The Yankees (-440) are the clear favorite in the AL East, but I don't think the gap between the Yanks and the Tampa Bay Rays is quite as big as these odds show. Depth Charts projection system, which has numbers for a full season -- something that may or may not happen -- has Tampa with the fourth-most wins in baseball (90) in 2020, just three fewer than the Bronx Bombers. That alone makes betting on the Rays to win the division pretty appealing.
While the Yankees are loaded, the Rays are, too. Tampa Bay boasts incredible depth all across the board -- pitching, hitting and in their farm system. The big-league depth gives them a better chance than most to overcome a few injuries, while the stocked farm system could put them in a position to make a big midseason deal if they so choose.
The key to the Rays winning the AL East will likely be the health and performance of Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell. When healthy, those three give the Rays a fierce front-of-the-rotation trio. A year ago, Snell and Glasnow combined to throw just 167 2/3 innings, and yet the Rays still won 96 games and made the postseason.
Tampa's offense lacks some star power, but they make up for it in depth. Depth Charts has 10 Rays hitters projected for at least 1.0 Win Above Replacement, with Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe leading the way.
With full seasons from Snell (2018 Cy Young) and Glasnow (3.18 SIERA in 60 2/3 innings last year) in addition to Morton (3.54 SIERA in 194 2/3 frames) doing his thing, Tampa Bay should be one of the best teams in the league. And while finishing with a better record than the Yankees over a 162-game season is undoubtedly a tall task, if the campaign is shortened at all, that will increase the Rays' chances of catching variance lightning in a bottle.
Cleveland Indians (+310)
The Twins were an incredible story last year, winning 101 games en route to taking the AL Central by eight games. While Minnesota was a lot more good than lucky -- their per game run differential of +1.1 was the fourth-best clip in baseball -- their Pythagorean record had them at 97 wins, only four more wins than the Cleveland Indians' Pythagorean mark of 93, and last year was something of a nightmare campaign for Cleveland.
The Tribe lost Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injury while Jose Ramirez had a down season. Of course, Kluber (traded) and Salazar (released) won't be suiting up for Cleveland in 2020, and Carrasco -- who overcame Leukemia last year -- is an injury risk who is already dealing with hip and elbow discomfort. Plus, the club dealt away Trevor Bauer in 2019.
But the Indians still have two stud hurlers in Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber to headline their staff. Bieber was one of the breakout players of 2019, pitching to a dazzling 3.36 SIERA in his first full season. Clevinger was even better, sporting a 3.31 SIERA with a massive 15.2% swinging-strike rate.
Admittedly, the Indians will likely need Carrasco to have a fairly healthy season to mount a challenge against Minnesota, but the delay of Opening Day should be a big help in that regard. With a solid front end of the rotation and a lineup that features Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Oscar Mercado and Carlos Santana, Cleveland can compete with the Twins, a team Depth Charts projects to regress in 2020, forecasting Minnesota for 88 wins, just three more than the Indians.
Washington Nationals (+260) and New York Mets (+280)
Depth Charts sees a lot of value in the NL East as it projections the Washington Nationals and New York Mets for 88 wins apiece, one victory more than it has for the Braves. Personally, I prefer betting on the Nats here, so let's start with them.
Washington was something of a Cinderella story in 2019, capturing the World Series crown as a Wild Card team that recorded 93 wins, finishing four games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. But a few metrics pointed toward the Nationals being better than Atlanta a year ago.
The Nats actually had four more Pythagorean wins than the Braves did, and both teams had a per-game point differential of +0.7. What made the difference in the standings was Atlanta going 28-16 in one-run games while Washington had a 17-21 record in such contests.
Losing Anthony Rendon is without a doubt a big blow for Washington, but the backbone of this Nats team -- its trio of aces -- is still in place. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin give Washington an elite top of the rotation, and while the offense isn't great on paper, Juan Soto is a superstar, with Trea Turner a pretty good player in his own right. Victor Robles making a leap or an emergence from top prospect Carter Kieboom would be a massive boost, but this team is built on its starting pitching.
As for the Mets, they won 86 games last year, 11 fewer than Atlanta, but Depth Charts sees these two squads heading in the opposite direction in 2020. It's a little harder for me to buy into the Mets, but they definitely have some quality pieces.
Jacob deGrom is the key cog for New York, and he should once again be one of the game's top arms. Noah Syndergaard is a wild card, but he is coming off a nice year in 2019, when he threw a career-best 197 2/3 frames and had superb clips in strikeout rate (24.5%) and walk rate (6.1%). Another healthy, productive season from Thor is a must for the Mets to contend for the division.
Pete Alonso was a monster last year, bashing 53 homers as a rookie, and while it's fair to expect some negative regression, he should still put up very good numbers. Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto are good hitters, and Conforto may have another level yet in him after a career-high 33-dinger season a year ago.