MLB

MLB Futures: The Tampa Bay Rays Offer Plenty of Betting Value

By most any projection system, the Tampa Bay Rays are expected to be one of the best teams in baseball this season.

The biggest problem for the Rays is that they share a division with the New York Yankees, possibly the best team in the MLB. Over 162 games, it was going to be really tough for Tampa Bay to win the division, likely relegating them to a spot in the Wild Card game and giving them a tough path in the postseason.

While the Rays are still in the AL East with the Yanks, they have a much better shot to win the division in a 60-game campaign than they did in a normal season. The odds reflect that -- which we'll elaborate on in a minute -- but I think the betting market is still selling Tampa Bay short overall.

As such, here are some bets to make on the Rays at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Rays to Make the Playoffs

Odds: -138

I don't see a ton of value here, but there's still some value. The -138 line implies odds of 58%, but Fangraphs' projections have the Rays with a 61.2% chance to make the postseason. And to be clear: the Wild Card game counts as making the playoffs, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

A huge thing the Rays have going for them -- in addition to being good -- is an awfully friendly schedule. A whopping 26 of the Rays' 60 games are against the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins, all of whom Depth Charts has among the bottom-six squads in baseball. So nearly half of Tampa Bay's matchups come against what should be three of the worst teams in the game.

Are the Rays a lock to make the postseason? Nope.

We're going to see some wonky stuff in this 60-game season. The Rays' projection of 33 wins, per Depth Charts, is tied for the third-most in baseball, yet it's also just six more wins than the projection for the Blue Jays, who Fangraphs hands only an 8.1% chance to make the postseason. Things will be tight this year, and close-game luck is going to play a massive role.

But betting value is betting value, so I like taking the Rays to make the playoffs at this -138 line.

Rays to Win the AL East

Odds: +300

As I said in the intro, the betting market has adjusted for the volatility of the shortened season, and it's resulted in the Rays getting a boost in their odds to win the division.

Before the pandemic, Tampa Bay was +380 to win the AL East -- a long way behind the Yankees' line of -440. Now the Yanks are at -290 while Tampa has been moved to +300. I liked Tampa Bay at their odds pre-COVID, and I really fancy their chances in a 60-game sprint.

At +300, the Rays' implied odds to win the AL East are 25%. Per Fangraphs' projections, Tampa has a 33.5% chance to win the division, and Depth Charts forecasts the Rays and Yankees for 33 wins apiece.

One of the big advantages the Yankees have over Tampa Bay is that New York is wildly deep, especially offensively. That doesn't figure to matter as much in the shortened season.

All in all, the Yankees should be favorites in the AL East. New York is pretty loaded. But Tampa Bay is really good, too, and the 60-game campaign gives the Rays a decent shot at winning the division -- a better shot than their +300 line implies.

Also Worth Checking Out

Rays to Win the American League (+750)
Rays to Win the World Series (+1700)

Last year we saw the Washington Nationals ride a fearsome pitching trio and some hot bats to a title. The Rays can follow that same blueprint.

Tampa Bay's trident of Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton is right up there with any threesome in the game, making Tampa Bay a nightmare to face in a playoff series. The Rays figure to lag behind offensively compared to other elite teams -- they're projected for the eighth-fewest runs per game (4.63) -- but their staff makes up for it as Tampa is pegged to allow only 4.19 runs per game, the fewest in baseball by 0.12 runs. In fact, only one other American League team is projected to surrender fewer than 4.60 runs per game (the Houston Astros at 4.59).

These two bets kind of go hand in hand, and they also correlate to the previously mentioned bets. There's a smidge of value in each of these lines.

A +750 line implies an 11.8% chance to win the AL, but Fangraphs gives the Rays 12.7% odds. Similarly, a +1700 line implies 5.6% odds to win it all, and Fangraphs has Tampa with a 6.9% chance to win the World Series.