Flowers are blooming, Birds are chirping, and baseball season is right around the corner, which means it’s time for our MLB 2021 season preview and specifically a look at the AL East odds.
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So, put down your NCAA brackets, and let’s start preparing for a somewhat normal season of baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be strategizing where to place my money before the 2021 MLB season gets started on April 1.
With that, let’s get into our MLB previews. First up the AL East odds and how the teams stack up.
This is really going to come down to whether good hitting can beat mediocre pitching. Or whether the many, many questions about these teams’ rotations can be answered for good or bad.
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AL EAST ODDS: New York Yankees (-200)
Win Total: 95.5
World Series: +550
American League: +230
Click here for more Yankees AL East odds.
The Yankees are, on paper, the best team in the AL East, with a solid lineup from top-to-bottom, reasonable decent defense and the best SP in baseball – apologies to Jacob deGrom. The Yankees can simply MASH, with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, just to name a few. There’s no soft spot in the lineup. However, three major questions persist for the Bronx Bombers on how you value whether or not to wager on their AL East odds.
They haven’t been able to keep their big guns healthy – and injury concerns loom for Judge and Stanton. Gary Sanchez has been miserable at and behind the plate and really needs to bounce back in a big way, and there is a startling lack of a lefty presence as Aaron Hicks is literally the only lefty in their projected starting lineup. So far this spring, however, Sanchez has two HRs and is hitting over .300. He’s also thrown out both runners that attempted to steal on him. Add to that, the Yankees invited ol’ Jay Bruce in for a spring tryout and he looks like he’ll win a bench spot over Mike Ford, giving the Yankees a left power bat on the bench.
Where the Yankees could get exposed in 2021 is just who will toe the mound for them after Ace Gerrit Cole. They opted not to get in on the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes, nor did they trade for a stud like Luis Castillo. Instead, they are rolling the dice on previously injured reclamation projects, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, and young kids, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Domingo German. The Yankees are also hoping former ace Luis Severino can return from Tommy John surgery and make an impact by July. Hey, if Kluber returns to his 2017 form, Severino comes back strong in July and just one of the other pitchers emerge, the Yankees should win 95-100 games without much work. If not, this patchwork rotation has the potential for disaster. Domingo German looks dominant early on in the spring for whatever that’s worth.
I like the Yankees to win 96-98 games, but is that enough of a cushion to bet the over?
The Yankees are the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series, but at +230, it’s not a bet I can endorse. If I’m going to bet on the Yankees at this juncture, it’ll be to win the Series at +550. I think they’re a near-lock to make the playoffs and once they do, their odds will be lower.
AL EAST ODDS: Toronto Blue Jays (+350)
Win Total: 86.5
World Series: +2200
American League: +875
Click here for more Blue Jays AL East odds.
The potential from this Toronto lineup can be described as utterly terrifying to everyone else in baseball. Toronto has masterfully groomed young prospects Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel into full-fledged star hitters. They added superstar George Springer in the off-season, along with under-rated shortstop Marcus Semien (he’ll move to 2B for Toronto) to put together an impressive lineup from top to bottom This team will score a TON of runs.
What is unclear is if they will need every bit of those runs to offset their potentially terrible pitching. The Blue Jays were not quiet with their pitching, adding five impact pitchers in the offseason, but huge questions remain. Steven Matz was terrible in 2020 and the Mets let him go. Robbie Ray has been trending downward in Arizona for several years now, despite his big-K ability, Ross Stripling was fairly solid as a Dodger spot starter, but Tyler Chatwood is merely a journeyman at this point. Kirby Yates was terrific in 2019 for San Diego but struggled mightily in 2020. The Blue jays are hoping some of these moves pan out, nominal ace Hyun-Jin Ryu stays healthy and young arm Nate Pearson emerges. If the Jays get any kind of pitching, they will go toe to toe with the Yankees for the division. But their bullpen is fairly mediocre to weak and the prediction here is 87-89 wins. However, they will be a hell of a lot of fun to watch and can put up 8-10 runs on any given night.
I have a slight lean on the OVER win total, because this team has the potential to win big and win big for AL East odds backers if their pitching is anything but horrific. I also think they represent some nice value to win the World Series at +2200. Remember, a team doesn’t have to win the Series for us to profit on this bet.
AL EAST ODDS: Tampa Bay Rays (+350)
Win Total: 85.5 wins
World Series: +2500
American League: +850
Click here for more Rays AL East odds.
Tampa is almost like the baseball version of Ratatouille. A little from column A, a dash of column B, and it doesn’t look good, but damn if it’s not tasty. The Rays continued to play their version of Moneyball 2021, letting big-time starting pitchers – Blake Snell and Charlie Morton – say goodbye and hoping they can find SP elsewhere. They didn’t spend a ton, but they made it to the World Series last year in a shortened season. I question whether their pattern of using 6-7 pitchers in almost every game will hold up over a long season. Basically, they are designed to win short series – or short seasons. This season will be 162 games and they don’t have a 200-IP starter on their roster.
However, they have playoff darling Randy Arozarena for a full season and he’s the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Add Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames, and Manuel Margot and they have a solid lineup. It could be made even better if all-world SS Wander Franco is promoted to the big leagues. (he’s +1000 to win ROY, a better option than Arozarena’s +350.)
Their bullpen is loaded with a ton of guys that all throw 100 mph. However, their starting pitching is now a mash-up of Tyler Glasnow, Rich Hill (yes that Rich Hill – he’s 417 years old), Michael Wacha, Ryan Yarbrough, and returning former Ray, Chris Archer. They also are hoping youngsters Brent Honeywell and Josh Fleming can step up. If all goes well, the Rays should win 90-92 and contend for a wild card. However, there’s a lot of IFs and I think the Ray slide to third in the East, with around 82-84 wins. 85.5 wins is really a scary bet because the Rays range is literally 82-92 wins, but I feel like the Rays get tired by August, so I’d bet the under at 85.5.
AL EAST ODDS: Boston Red Sox +2000
Win Total: 80.5
World Series: +5000
American League: +2300
Click here for more Red Sox AL East odds.
These are not your dad’s Red Sox. And that’s not a good thing since your dad’s Red Sox won more than a few World Series from 2004 to 2018. Really, the Red Sox decision to let Mookie Betts sail away to LA has signaled they are in a quiet rebuild. Injuries to Chris Sale in 2019 and Eduardo Rodriguez in 2020 (COVID-19) have really sunk the Sox. They are still competitive, however, with Rafael Devers at third and Xander Bogaerts at short, but J.D. Martinez is aging rapidly, and the Sox have no one to replace Betts. Alex Verdugo is a solid but not spectacular young OF.
The Sox have some young talent coming up in Bobby Dalbec at first, but their offense is not what it was back in 2018. The Sox also have no idea if or when Chris Sale will be back. Right now, they’re looking at July, but that’s optimistic and if he suffers any sort of setback, the Sox might decide to keep him shut down for all of 2021. Without Sale, the Sox are rolling with Eduardo Rodriguez, Nate Eovaldi, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta and Garrett Richards. All you need to know is that Garrett Richards got mercy-ruled in his first spring start, and while I’d seen that happen in little league, I did not know that was a thing in MLB. Their bullpen is about as good as Richards.
Hell, if you’re a Red Sox fan you might think it fun to toss some coin on their +2000 odds to win the AL East, but don’t waste your money. They won’t shock the world. And there are other teams with similar odds that could actually surprise. Their win total is a not-fun 80.5 as the betting sites are playing it smart since the Sox should roll in anywhere from 78-82 wins. I don’t see a lot of value here, but if you must be, take the under. Their pitching should keep them under .500.
AL EAST ODDS: Baltimore Orioles (+5200)
Win Total: 64.5
World Series: +10000
American League: +4000
Click here for more Orioles AL East odds.
In the past, Baltimore has made us a lot of money. I have bet on their ineptitude and they haven’t disappointed. Yes, The Orioles are terrible. But they are getting better, slowly, but surely. And while their +5200 to win the East might seem like a fun bet for $20 bucks, you’ll enjoy a pizza and beer much more with your $20.
What’s to like? Hitting. The O’s have it coming up. Right now, young studs Ryan Mountcastle (1B) and Anthony Santander (RF) are showing reasons for optimism. And the O’s have the best catching prospect in the last 25 years, Adley Rutschman primed to debut in 2021. Mountcastle and Rutschnman are both +1200 for ROY voting and both are supremely talented. However, it’s no sure thing that the O’s will push Rutschman and speed up his service time. And while they’re hoping to get quality pitching from 2020 rookies Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin, they went out and signed …uh…Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey. So…yeah. So much for Baltimore, 2021.
Betting on the Orioles win total is tough in 2021 because I think the Orioles win between 63-65 games…so, we are avoiding this. Gun to my head, I might take the bullet. Having said that, it’s always safer to bet the under with a team like Baltimore as far more can go wrong than right. I will say this…I don’t think they lose 100 games.