Well, can’t delay any longer. Time to put up or shut up with some pre-season picks. Free agency has mostly shaken out (for the love of God, someone pay Dallas Keuchel & Craig Kimbrel) and we’ve got as good an idea of who’s going to be strolling onto the diamond for every big league club.
Go ahead and join me in taking these picks to the bank. I’m giving you guaranteed* winners here, along with some fun longer odds picks if you want to live dangerously.
My Winner: Boston Red Sox (+125)
C’mon, I’m not picking against the champs, especially when I get (+125) odds as opposed to (-111) with the Evil Empire. Sure, I can acknowledge the elephant in the room: bullpen isn’t shaping up great right now. Lot of question marks. But that’s something I trust the Sox to fix as the season goes on.
Good news, this team is going to hit enough to where having a top-tier staff isn’t necessarily essential (regardless I think Sale & co. in the rotation have a fine year as a group). Mookie, JD, & Benintendi are going to rake, and look for Rafael Devers to take a step forward as well. Hell, you might even get production out of Dustin Pedroia, which would just be playing with house money at this point. Take the Sox, take the odds.
My Longer Odds Pick: Tampa Bay Rays (+1000)
I get it; you need a lot to go right here. It’s hard to lay down big bucks on a team that might occasionally hit Joe Wendle in the 3-hole (yikes). But, this team is young, and they’ve got arms. Look for Snell to contend for another Cy Young, and adding Charlie Morton was a big play for a solid veteran arm. If Tyler Glasnow finally fulfills a decent amount of his potential, and Brent Honeywell/Jose De Leon come back strong from injury and provide a jolt, don’t be too surprised to see the Rays making a run this September.
My Winner: Cleveland Indians (-303)
Listen, I love the Twins. I wrote a “What You’re Betting On” piece about the Twins. I’ll spend all summer tweeting about how much I love the Twins.
But I’m here to pick winners. The Indians may not have had the best offseason, but they’ve still got Kluber, Bauer, Carrasco, and Clevinger as their top-four starters. They’ve still got Lindor & Ramirez. With that rotation, and enough offense to support it, it’s tough to see a scenario where the Indians don’t take home another AL Central crown. They’ve got more potential Cy Young candidates than most teams have reliable starters.
My Longer Odds Pick: Minnesota Twins (+300)
But hey, let’s not forget about the Twins! They had a great offseason, and they’re going to be good this year. The offense is going to hit, and if you get solid bouncebacks from any of the following of Buxton, Sano, Martin Perez, etc, then the Twins could make a run. They’re getting my money.
My Winner: Houston Astros (-500)
When it comes to gambling on a division champion, the AL West absolutely stinks. The Astros are far and away better than every team in the division. You know who has the next best odds? The Angels at (+650)! You know who the Angels have in their lineup every day? Mike Trout, potentially the best player in baseball. You know who else they have in their lineup every day? The corpse of Albert Pujols with a terrible contract and potentially a rotation where everyone has an ERA over 4.00. The Astros are the boring pick to win the division, but the right pick.
My Longer Odds Pick: Oakland A’s (+700)
Hey, they added Jurickson Profar, that’s kind of exciting right? Bunch of young guys who could all take a step forward this year, catapulting themselves off last year’s Wild Card run, right? I mean, if you want a longshot, take the A’s. At least it’ll be fun.
Wild Card Teams: New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins
My Winner: Washington Nationals (+275)
Pitching or power? I’m going pitching and betting on a healthy Nats pitching staff to carry them to an NL East crown. As I wrote in my “What You’re Betting On” piece about the Nats, if the pitching staff reaches its healthy potential, the offense has enough thump to get them into the postseason.
I could look stupid in September with a Nats third place finish, but I doubt it. If Strasburg & Corbin each start 30 games, you can book the Nats for October.
My Longer Odds Pick: Philadelphia Phillies (+175)
Before you shout at me, yes I’m aware that the Phillies aren’t the “longer odds” pick here, as they’ve got the best odds to win the division. But, picking a team with longer odds than the Nats would mean the Mets or the Marlins, and sorry guys... not happening. So I’d be remiss not to mention the Phillies also as a good bet.
As good as the Nats pitching staff is, the Phillies lineup is equally as nasty. Adding Harper to Hoskins, Cutch, Segura, & Realmuto makes for potentially the best lineup in the NL and easily the best in the NL East. This will be the most exciting division race hands down, so good luck with your gambling.
My Winner: Chicago Cubs (+200)
This to me was the toughest division to pick (the odds reflect that, with the top-3 teams between +200 & +250), but I’ve just gotta pick the Cubs here. Optimism on bounce-backs is the reason why.
Kris Bryant may not return to MVP form, but he’s going to get closer to All-Star caliber than not. Yu Darvish finally seems healthy and by all indications seems nasty in Spring Training. A healthy Darvish gives the Cubs the most reliable rotation in the divison, with potentially the most offensive firepower as well.
My Longer Odds Pick: Milwaukee Brewers (+250)
The Cubs may be my pick to win the division, but I think the Brewers are the best bet. It’s a tight division and I’ll take the extra +50 with the Brew Crew. They retained their core, added Yasmani Grandal (playoff disaster aside, a solid upgrade) and may also get Jimmy Nelson back this year. They won’t take anyone by surprise this year as they did last, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win this thing.
My Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (-333)
Like the AL West, the Dodgers are just too overwhelming a favorite to pick against when you’re simply picking a winner. Giving odds in a futures bet sucks, but it’d take quite the collapse by the Dodgers or quite the surprise by anyone else to surpass them. The Rockies are really the only threat, with the Padres 1-2 years away and the Giants/D-Backs having essentially punted 2019.
Kershaw’s health aside, everything is lining up for the Dodgers to win the division with ease. They added A.J. Pollock and get Corey Seager back from TJ, which should lead to increased offense. Even if Kershaw misses a chunk of time (unfortunately routine as of late) there’s enough depth to overcome, especially if top prospect Dustin May throws himself into the mix.
My Longer Odds Pick: Colorado Rockies (+450)
I like the Rocks, I really do, but they’re also the longer odds pick by default. Evergreen statement, but the Rockies are gonna hit, and if you can score you can compete. Factor in a bounce-back by Jon Gray and continued excellence from Kyle Freeland, and hey, crazier things have happened.
Wild Card Teams: Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies
AL Pennant Pick: Houston Astros (+333)
Frankly this was a toss-up for me between the Astros, Yankess, and Red Sox. I think the Astros will have the better pitching staff top to bottom, plus a younger core, so they’re my pick.
NL Pennant Pick: Milwaukee Brewers (+800)
Surprise! They might not win the division, but they’re winning the NL by pulling the same sort of redemption arc that the Royals pulled a few years back. Keston Huira comes up ahead of schedule to win ROY, and Corbin Burns & Brandon Woodruff pitch like frontline guys down the stretch. A trade here, lucky break there, the Brewers end up in the World Series.
World Series Pick: Milwaukee Brewers (+1400)
Ladies & Gents, I’m riding with the Brew Crew this year. Wild Card to World Series champs, it’s happened before and I’m calling it again. Bonus bet for Lorenzo Cain to be World Series MVP. The city deserves it and the team might just well believe her.
Awards Predictions (Odds Unavailable):
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, HOU
Cole had a career year in his first year in Houston, and this year he takes another step forward and fulfills his #1 overall pick promise as a Cy Young winner.
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LAA
Hear me out, but this Trout guy is really good. I know, I know; picking the best player in baseball isn’t a stretch. But, despite his greatness, Trout has been denied the MVP for the past two years. If he’s his usual self in 2019, I doubt he’ll be denied three years in a row.
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR
The second he finally gets the call (hopefully sooner, rather than later) he potentially becomes a top-10 hitter in the league. If you’re scared off by his injury, bet on Eloy Jimenez instead.
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, WAS
It’s either him or DeGrom really (since it doesn’t seem like they can count on an 100% Kershaw at this point) and I’ll give Mad Max the nod since DeGrom took the honors last year.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, PHI
No more contract to worry about, hitters ballpark, great lineup. .400+ OBP, 45+ homers, and a first season in Philly MVP.
NL ROY: Keston Huira, MIL
This is betting that Huira hits like a man possessed his first month in AAA, so much so that the Brewers can’t avoid calling him up. Then he does the same thing in the bigs and outduels Victor Robles for the honor.
Bonus: The MLB TV All-Stars
These are the players that when their games are on, you better switch over to their team’s MLB TV feed to check them out.
C – Francisco Mejia – SD: This is assuming he spends a majority of the season with the Padres getting regular ABs, but it’s not out of the question that he’s the best offensive catcher in the NL this year.
1B – Paul Goldschmidt - STL: Maybe more people will pay attention to him now that he’s not playing in the men’s softball uniforms that the D-Backs wear.
2B – Keston Huira - MIL: Can you tell yet that I’m really high on Keston Huira?
SS – Andrelton Simmons – LAA: Best defender in baseball, at the most highlight-driven position in baseball. Trout is the main Angels attraction, but Simmons is nearly as fun.
3B – Nolan Arenado – COL: Catch all his ABs, and all his defensive highlights. It’s a true struggle to decide which is more impressive.
OF – Mookie Betts – BOS: Mookie Madness is real. Guy is just so good, and also watching highlights in Fenway Park also seems more fun.
OF – Ronald Acuna - ATL: Prettiest right-handed swing in baseball? Prettiest right-handed swing in baseball.
OF – Mike Trout – LAA: GOAT.
DH – J.D. Martinez - BOS: Watching a guy hit bombs to the entire field in the era of pull hitters and shifts is just too good to pass up.
SP – Corey Kluber - CLE: No one in baseball (except maybe the criminally unsigned Dallas Keuchel) paints the corners like Klubot.
RP – Jordan Hicks - STL: Filth. Just pure, 104 MPH filth.
By Kyle Bandujo