This is the sixth in a series of MLB divisional previews from a betting perspective. The season begins Thursday.
Playing in empty ballparks this season probably will be a welcome sight for the Houston Astros, who were expected to incur the wrath of opposing fans after an offseason cheating scandal.
Baseball’s pause in play because of the coronavirus pandemic also allowed Astros ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander to recover from groin surgery.
Houston is the favorite to win its fourth consecutive AL West crown, but the Athletics, Angels and Rangers might have something to say about that. The moribund Mariners have nothing to say.
“I like the Angels, A’s and Rangers,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “I think there’s value on all three of those teams. It wouldn’t surprise me to see one of those teams win the West.”
Here are team-by-team breakdowns, listed in order of the teams’ odds to win the division at the Westgate:
Futures odds: 12-1 to win World Series, 5-1 to win AL, -140 to win division
Season win total: 35
Last season: 107-55 (first in division, lost 4-3 to Washington in World Series)
Outlook: The Astros, coming off three consecutive 100-win seasons, also return former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and the bulk of a batting order that finished last season with the highest slugging percentage (.495) in baseball history.
“We’ll know quickly if they can mash the ball without cheating,” said handicapper Micah Roberts (Sportsline.com). “They have good enough pitching to win, but I’m not as sold on their bullpen.”
Futures odds: 20-1 to win World Series, 9-1 to win AL, 2-1 to win division
Season win total: 33½
Last season: 97-65 (second in division, lost to Tampa Bay in wild-card game)
Outlook: Oakland is coming off back-to-back 97-win seasons and wild-card berths and finished last season on a 35-17 run.
The top three batters in the lineup — Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson — each topped 30 home runs and 90 RBIs last season, and cleanup hitter Khris Davis was the 2018 home run champion with 48.
Pitcher Jesus Luzardo is the +450 second choice to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.
“They seem to do well every year,” Westgate sportsbook manager Randy Blum said. “Oakland has good young pitchers coming up and could challenge Houston for that division.”
Los Angeles Angels
Futures odds: 25-1 to win World Series, 10-1 to win AL, 8-1 to win division
Season win total: 30½
Last season: 72-90 (fourth in division)
Outlook: New manager Joe Maddon takes over a team that bolstered its Mike Trout-led lineup by adding baseball’s reigning RBI leader in Anthony Rendon. Cleanup hitter Shohei Ohtani returns to the starting rotation following 2018 Tommy John surgery.
Trout is the +150 favorite to win his fourth AL MVP award. Ohtani is 12-1 to win the MVP, and Rendon is 20-1.
“That lineup has the ability to get hot,” Roberts said. “I would take a shot with the Angels to win the division.”
Futures odds: 80-1 to win World Series, 40-1 to win AL, 18-1 to win division
Season win total: 28½
Last season: 78-84 (third in division)
Outlook: Texas added pitchers Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to a starting rotation with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. Bishop Gorman High School graduate Joey Gallo is the 14-1 second choice to win the home run title.
“You can make a case that the Rangers have the best starting five in the AL,” Esposito said.
Roberts and Blum also see potential in Texas.
“In a short season, they’re the type of team that could get hot and make a run,” Blum said.
Futures odds: 300-1 to win World Series, 150-1 to win AL, 80-1 to win division
Season win total: 24
Last season: 68-94 (fifth in division)
Outlook: Seattle is one of six teams tied for the longest odds to win the World Series at 300-1.
“I absolutely hate the Mariners this year,” Blum said. “I don’t like their pitching. I don’t like their hitting. They’re just not a good-looking team.”
(Based on Review-Journal analysis, informed by opinions from bookmakers and handicappers)
Futures: A’s to win division (+240 at Circa), Angels to win division (8-1) for longer shot, Corey Kluber to win AL Cy Young (25-1 at MGM Resorts), Joey Gallo to win home run title (20-1 at William Hill)
Win total: Rangers over 28½, Mariners under 24
MLB betting previews
— NL East
— AL East
— NL West
— AL West