Earlier this year we looked at the best and worst value bets to win the American League and National League pennants. Next up, I’ll examine the odds to win each of the six MLB divisions. Now that Manny Machado and Bryce Harper have each signed, let’s take a look at the odds per team.
|ODDS TO WIN 2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST|
|New York Mets||3/1|
ODDS TO WIN 2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
|St. Louis Cardinals||2/1|
ODDS TO WIN 2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
|Los Angeles Dodgers||1/4|
|San Diego Padres||10/1|
|San Francisco Giants||30/1|
ODDS TO WIN 2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
|New York Yankees||5/6|
|Boston Red Sox||7/5|
|Tampa Bay Rays||10/1|
|Toronto Blue Jays||30/1|
ODDS TO WIN 2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
|Chicago White Sox||25/1|
|Kansas City Royals||50/1|
ODDS TO WIN 2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
|Los Angeles Angels||10/1|
And here’s a look at my top two value picks to win an MLB division in 2019.
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays (Odds: 10/1)
With Baltimore and Toronto both playing for 2019 and beyond, the American League East currently looks a lot like it did at the end of last season. The Rays are coming off of a 90-win campaign, during which they flipped the game of baseball on its head – riding a Cy Young season from its only regular starter, Blake Snell, and a dominant group of role-flexible pitchers to a 90 win season. Snell (180.2), Ryan Yarbrough (147.1), and Tyler Glasnow (107.2) were the only pitchers on the roster who threw more than 100 innings on the season.
Tampa Bay came charging down the stretch in 2018, after trades for outfielders Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows, and the call-up of top prospect Willy Adames, winning 65% of their games in August and September (a 36-19 stretch). This offseason, they added Charlie Morton to their rotation, solidified what had long been their biggest weakness at catcher – with a trade for Mike Zunino – and took their annual crack at finding a cost-efficient DH, signing Avisail Garcia after he was non-tendered by the White Sox.
Top pitching prospects Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon should both be ready to return from Tommy John surgery at some point during the 2019 season, providing additional quality to what is already one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. The Yankees (-135) and Red Sox (+120) each have season over/under win totals that are set 9-12 wins higher than Tampa Bay, but I see that gap more in the 4-8 range, on paper, within the margin of luck in one-run games to provide value at 10/1.
National League East
Washington Nationals (Odds: 5/2)
The Nationals over/under was released at 89.5, three wins higher than each of the Braves (+230), Mets (+290), and Phillies (+220), yet their divisional odds don’t seem to reflect that. Almost assuredly, the win totals included the assumption that the Phillies would sign one of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. In fact, the Nationals have officially lost Harper to the Phillies, but they have spent that money upgrading their own roster in multiple spots – adding Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez to the rotation, Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki at catcher, Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen, and Brian Dozier to their infield.
Juan Soto proved that he could be one of the stars of this sport, after his impressive debut at the age of 19 last season. Half of all MLB players called up at age 19 reach the Hall of Fame, and Soto has all of the tools to continue to blossom. Speaking of tools, Harper’s playing time replacement, Victor Robles, who won’t turn 22 until May, is another five-tool prospect in his own right and is ranked as high as the No. 4 prospect in baseball. He dealt with injuries in 2018 but could be an All-Star caliber center fielder.
One concern about this roster is the potential for their bullpen to completely fall apart. Rosenthal is coming off of Tommy John surgery, Kyle Barraclough (added from Miami) has shown declining skills, and Sean Doolittle and Koda Glover have each had injury problems of their own.
I don’t like this bet nearly as much as I like the Rays, but I do feel that the Nationals are generally being undervalued by the public heading into this season.