The 2020 MLB season was…strange. It started. It stopped. It started back up again with an abbreviated schedule, no fans in the stands, a universal DH, and expanded playoffs. There are high hopes for the 2021 season, though there is still some uncertainty.
Despite being well into the offseason, there is still no official word on whether or not the universal DH will continue in 2021, though the league reportedly told teams to operate under the assumption of no universal DH this season. That is affecting how various teams approach the offseason, and it is affecting the markets for veteran sluggers like Nelson Cruz, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Brantley, and others.
As for MLB futures wagers, January is an interesting time to look at the odds for the best potential bets. With so much still unknown, including whether or not there will be expanded playoffs again in 2021 and where many of the premier free agents will sign, the odds are better than the ones we’ll see in a few months.
The trick is identifying the best bets without all of the information available.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best bets to win the 2021 National League Pennant based on the current odds.
Odds to Win the 2021 National League Pennant
The Dodgers Remain the Favorites
Although they were down 3-1 in the playoff series against the Braves last season, the Dodgers otherwise cruised to a World Series victory in 2020, going 47-17 in the regular season and 13-5 in the postseason. Oh, and they might be even better in 2021. Starting pitcher David Price opted out of the 2020 season, and the Dodgers barely utilized top prospect Gavin Lux. Justin Turner and Joc Pederson may depart in free agency, but Los Angeles would have one of the best lineups in the National League even if they don’t replace them. Their rotation currently consists of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, and Dustin May, with Tony Gonsolin in the bullpen and Josiah Gray potentially ready to debut this season.
Because of all this, +220 almost feels like a gift. They’ll face competition from the rising San Diego Padres and the talented Atlanta Braves, but the National League is the Dodgers’ to lose as things stand right now.
Pick: Dodgers +220
The Best Value Plays
At +410, their odds aren’t that much better than the Dodgers, but the San Diego Padres have been a team on the rise for a couple of seasons now. They already have Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Trent Grisham, Eric Hosmer, Tommy Pham, and Wil Myers on offense, and they added another potential superstar in Ha-seong Kim from the KBO this offseason. As for their pitching, they won’t have Mike Clevinger in 2021, but they acquired Blake Snell from the Rays and Yu Darvish from the Cubs to go with a rotation that already includes Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet.
As for a team with longer odds, the Washington Nationals at +1400 is intriguing right now. They dealt with injuries and weren’t very good in 2020, but this is still a team that boasts a rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin at the top and has a lineup built around Trea Turner and Juan Soto.
I’m taking the Nationals at +1400 with the hope that they add a bat such as DJ LeMahieu to the middle of their lineup (they have already acquired Josh Bell, but that doesn’t move the needle for me) and/or an arm like Corey Kluber to their rotation. They have been connected to both in rumors, and I expect them to be active in the coming weeks.
Update: Since this was written, the Nationals signed Kyle Schwarber:
— MLB (@MLB) January 9, 2021
The Atlanta Braves have better odds than the Padres right now, but I think the Padres are the better team with fewer question marks. And while it may be the Dodgers’ pennant to lose, I expect the Padres to be their top challenger this season.
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