The MLB season is, finally, around the corner and there is quite a bit to sort out before the season starts. The lockout overshadowed a league-shifting offseason that involved some of the best players in baseball. With that comes changes in the futures market. It can be difficult to guess whether or not these changes can work immediately, but what it does give is the potential for good value spots. That includes the local baseball team.
Philadelphia Phillies +450 to win the NL East
The hype is real for the Phillies. After a decade of playoff-less baseball, the Fightins’ are geared up to take the NL East crown for the first time since 2011. Does that mean they will? No. However, the odds don’t accurately depict how close the Phillies are to the competition. The Braves sit at the top at +130 with the Mets not far behind at +135.
Think of the Phillies as the Boston Red Sox of last season. There weren’t many things that separated the Red Sox from the Phils in 2021. Phillies had a slightly better starting rotation, Red Sox had a slightly better bullpen and both teams were nearly identical defensively. What was the difference between the Phillies 82 wins and the Red Sox 92 wins? That would be a top five offense. In most metrics the Phillies land right around the middle of the league (14th wOBA and 20th wRC+), while the Red Sox finished in or near the top five. That’s a 10-win difference the Phillies make up for this season. It would be a surprise, with the additions of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, if the Phillies don’t finish as one of the five best lineups in baseball, and if they do, the division will be there for the taking.
San Diego Padres +325 to win the NL West
First let's start with this: the Dodgers are going to win the NL West. They’re by far the best team in baseball and will likely be the eventual World Series champions. The thing is, it obviously doesn’t make sense to bet the Dodgers at -200. However, if you want to take another team in the West, I would rather take a chance on the Padres rather than the Giants.
The Giants were a cashing machine last season as they were undervalued by sportsbooks all season long. It was wrong to doubt the Giants then and seems like a bad idea to do it again this season. Don’t get it wrong, the Giants are still going to be good, but regression from an insane 107-win season seems likely. The Padres this season have the upside to compete with the Dodgers. The pitching staff is deep, has the potential to be the best in MLB, and is healthy coming into the season with Mike Clevinger having no limitations in 2022. What needs to come through for the Padres is the top-end of the lineup. Padres were an average lineup last season and need to be more than that to keep up with the Dodgers. And that’s already off to a bad start considering Fernando Tatis Jr. is likely to miss several months of the season. The hope is Manny Machado can carry the load until Tatis Jr. returns. It can happen, but just know the risks if you are taking the Padres to win the West.
Cardinals +210 to win the NL Central
The pricing for the NL Central is pretty spot on. There’s only two legitimate teams that can win the division and the correct team, the Brewers, are favored. That doesn’t mean the Brewers are without their issues. In fact, I hate their lineup. There are just too many risks and things that need to happen for the lineup to be good. Can Christian Yelich return to form? Can Luis Urias continue to build off of his breakout season? Can Willy Adames repeat his career-best numbers from last season? There’s just so many unknowns that can easily go south for the Brewers.
The Cardinals however have a solid lineup that, with a few breaks, can build off a 90-win season. The troubling concern is starting rotation depth. Jack Flaherty has had numerous injury problems and is already starting the season with a shoulder injury. The concern of pitching depth can be alleviated at the trade deadline and I think the Cardinals lineup, led by Paul Goldschimdt and Nolan Arenado, can keep them within striking distance of the division in the meantime. Especially with Arenado likely to improve in year number two with the Cardinals.