How about this? The calendar shows March 31, 2021, which means it's Opening Day Eve. We're about to embark on a marathon; a grueling 162-game schedule that it's possible some of us used to take for granted. No more, after last season's oddball 60-game season. One of the many issues the 2020 season brings with it to 2021 is even more uncertainty than usual, which means gambling on baseball -- already a very difficult task -- gets even tougher than usual.
Still, we put our best foot forward and march on because there's money to be made. We've already submitted five "over" and five "under" picks with the win totals. This time around, we're going to take a look at the rest of the futures and toss out some good bets. I'll mention my picks along with some others that merit a look.
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The Dodgers are far and away the best team for me and the most likely to win the World Series. Our pal Dayn Perry might disagree. The odds don't scream "value" at +350, but that's still betting $100 to win $350 and winning is a hell of a lot better than feeling like you got good value and losing. If you really think the Dodgers are going to win it all, bet away. It's a good return.
The Mets are intriguing to me at +1000 to take the World Series and +550 for the NL pennant. That's a loaded lineup and picturing a playoff rotation of something like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman -- if the bullpen settles in like it can -- backing up that offense means this could be a really imposing October team.
On a bit of a longer shot, how about the Astros? They look like the best team in the AL West and maybe second-best after the Yankees in the AL. They still have a plenty capable offense (remember Yordan Alvarez is back to help replace George Springer's lost production) with a talented rotation. It's also possible Justin Verlander is back firing bullets (as an X-factor late-inning reliever in the playoffs?) after recovering from his late September Tommy John surgery. They are +2200 to win it all and +900 for the AL pennant.
As for me, no reason to get cute. I'm taking the Dodgers at +175 for the NL pennant and +350 for the World Series. I might throw a little on the Astros and Mets, too, actually, if I'm feeling saucy.
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The Mets and Braves are both +140 in the NL East and I feel like this is a stay away division for me, since it's a toss up. The Nationals at +650 or Phillies at +850 could attract some eyeballs, but I'm not seeing it. I'm really not seeing the Marlins at +2500, but if you like it, it's worth a flier (one could argue laying $10 to possibly win $250 is worth it even if you don't believe it'll happen).
The AL East is also a stay away for me because I'm pretty confident in the Yankees and they are -200. That is, you are betting $200 to hopefully win $100. The Rays and Blue Jays are probably more palatable to most bettors at +400 each, though losing is still losing and I don't think those end up cashing.
The NL Central is also probably a stay away because it looks like it could be a four-team race with four incredibly flawed and unpredictable teams. The Cubs (+475) probably have the best value here, though others might argue the Brewers (+320). The Cardinals are the favorite at +105. They are my pick but I don't feel any conviction in it.
The White Sox are pretty strong favorites in the AL Central at -120. The Twins have better value at +135, especially in light of the Eloy Jimenez injury for the Sox. Those who still like Cleveland will like the +800 line.
In the AL West, I like the Astros to win it. They are +130 and some might not think that's worth it, but a winner is a winner. If you like the A's at +130, have at it. The Angels at +375 made me blink for a second, but it's hard to see them winning the thing.
And, of course, I like the Dodgers to take the NL West but they sit at -250. If anyone likes the Padres, +200 is workable but still not great odds.
My actual picks here are the Astros and Dodgers (yes, laying the extra money).
Home run leader
Mike Trout, Pete Alonso and Joey Gallo are tied at the top here as +1200 favorites. Next is Juan Soto at +1400 and then Cody Bellinger and Ronald Acuna at +1500. I love me some Acuna here. He hit 41 homers in 2019 and then 14 in just 46 games last season. He's still only 23 years old and his slugging skyrocketed last season. The peripherals line up, too.
Several very solid candidates have +2000 odds: Yordan Alvarez, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Matt Olson. How about J.D. Martinez, Eugenio Suarez, Christian Yelich, Nelson Cruz and Jose Abreu at +3000? Good values, those, as well. Marcell Ozuna led the NL last season and he's back with the Braves, carrying +4000 odds to lead the majors in homers.
Major longshot pick possibility: Josh Bell (+12500)
As for me, I'll take Acuna.
The NL MVP frontrunner is Mookie Betts at +800. I like someone from the Juan Soto (+850), Fernando Tatis (+900) and Ronald Acuna (+1000) trio. Corey Seager is set for a monster season in my view and he's +1300. It seems like there's finally fair value on Bryce Harper at +2000. I have picked Soto, but these names all look fine to me.
On the AL side, there's not much value on Mike Trout at +200 compared to others, but a winner is a winner. I thought maybe Shohei Ohtani could be good value, but at +2000 it's not nearly as high as I'd want, given the risk with his track record. I'll tell you, DJ LeMahieu seems awfully low at +3000. There are 12 players listed before him when he's finished fourth and then third in his two Yankees years. Gerrit Cole at +5000 is interesting if he has the year many believe he will. Trout was my pick
Whether it's due to his back injury history or simply that we've started to take him for granted, Clayton Kershaw is way underrated here for me. The NL Cy Young favorite is Jacob deGrom (as it should be) at +400. Trevor Bauer, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Yu Darvish follow. Kershaw has the same odds at +2500 as Charlie Morton, Brandon Woodruff and Dinelson Lamet. Kershaw was 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA (196 ERA+), 0.84 WHIP and 62 strikeouts against eight walks in 58 1/3 innings last year. He's my pick.
The AL Cy Young has three guys far ahead of the pack in Gerrit Cole (+350), Shane Bieber (+375) and Lucas Giolito (+500) and it really feels like the winner comes from that group. For a longer shot, how about Zack Greinke at +3000? I ended up taking Giolito.
Over in the AL, again, the favorite is my pick in Randy Arozarena at +400. Down the list, Alex Kiriloff at +1500 and Bobby Dalbec at +2000 look like quality buys.
- The favorite in RBI leader is Juan Soto (+800) and that makes sense. What about a few sluggers in the middle of totally loaded offenses, though? Marcell Ozuna (+1400) sticks out, as do Manny Machado (+1600), Pete Alonso (+2500) and Jose Abreu (+2500). Longshot? Kyle Tucker was sixth in the AL in RBI last season and looks ready for a full breakout in the middle of the Astros' order. He's sitting at +7500.
- The top three favorites in hits leader props are Trea Turner (+1200), Mookie Betts (+1300) and D.J. LeMahieu (+1300) and those make a ton of sense. I like Tim Anderson a lot here at +2000. Ozzie Albies and Jeff McNeil both sitting at +3000 look tasty as well.
- The runs scored favorites of Mookie Betts (+800) and Ronald Acuna (+800) make a lot of sense. How about George Springer at +2500? He's sitting atop a loaded lineup. Ditto for D.J. LeMahieu at +2500. As a longshot here, we can't be sure how the Mets will have their order configurated all season, but if Michael Conforto ends up toward the top for a majority of the season, his +8000 looks really nice here. I'll go with LeMahieu.
- In case anyone wants to throw money away, Justin Verlander is +4000 to lead the majors in strikeouts. He didn't have Tommy John surgery until Sept. 30. As for the rest of the category, it's hard to see it being anyone other than Gerrit Cole (+450) or Jacob deGrom (+500), though there are decent arguments for Max Scherzer (+1000) and Yu Darvish (+1200).
- Some beyond the favorites that stick out on saves leader if everything breaks right: Ryan Pressley (+1400), Trevor Rosenthal (+2000), Will Smith (+3000) and Jordan Hicks or Alex Reyes (pick a Cardinals closer!) at +5000.
- For wins leader, one of the Dodgers would be a nice pick with Trevor Bauer at +1300, Walker Buehler at +1500 and Clayton Kershaw at +2000. Max Fried is at +2500 and was 7-0 last year. Zack Greinke at +6000 is very intriguing.
Best of fortune to all 2021 bettors. We'll be discussing gambling regularly in this very space. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter @MattSnyderCBS.