The Cardinals and 5 Under-the-Radar 2019 World Series Bets
The calendar is about to flip to February, which can only mean one thing: baseball season is upon us.
February actually means more than that, but pitchers and catchers reporting means we are about to embark on another long summer of America’s pastime. The Boston Red Sox just won their fourth World Series in the past 14 years, and it’s safe to say that Alex Cora’s men will be primed to go back-to-back in 2019.
Boston may be the early odds-on favorites, but winning 2 straight World Series isn’t something we see very often. No team has won consecutive World Series titles since the Yankees won 3 straight at the turn of the century.
Baseball tends to be more random than some of the other major American sports, which presents all sorts of unique challenges from a betting angle.
Several sportsbooks have already released their projected regular season win totals despite the fact that a number of high-profile players are still free agents.
Where guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado wind up playing next season will obviously affect win projections quite a bit, so it’s safe to expect some tinkering from oddsmakers in the weeks leading up to the season.
We also have some way-too-early 2019 World Series odds at our disposal, courtesy of MyBookie.ag. A lot can change between now and the beginning of the season, but what better time than now to try and make some World Series calls? Below are 5 teams that could beat the odds as under-the-radar World Series bets.
Los Angeles Angels (+4500 to Win World Series)
It’s been a while since the Angels have been relevant in the title picture. We haven’t seen the Halos in the postseason since they were swept away by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 A.L. Division Series. Despite having had the best player in baseball on their roster for the last handful of years, L.A. hasn’t finished any better than second in the division in any of the last 4 seasons.
The team would obviously want to keep Mike Trout around forever, but if they don’t start competing it’s going to be hard to convince him to stay, regardless of how much they offer to pay him. Trout only has a couple of seasons left on his current contract before he hits the free agent market. The clock is ticking.
It’s not like they haven’t tried, of course. The Angels have not been shy about spending money, it just hasn’t resulted in wins. In fact, the Halos have made just the one playoff appearance since breaking the bank to sign Albert Pujols in the 2011 offseason. Pujols is now 39 and well past his prime, so it’s safe to say that deal was quite the flop.
Still, it’s not like Trout is playing with an aging Pujols and a bunch of nobodies. There is still some talent here. Shohei Ohtani just finished his Rookie of the Year campaign, and he looks like the real deal.
While Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Angels will still have his bat in the lineup as their everyday designated hitter. Ohtani will offer Trout some protection.
Whether the Angels contend in 2019 will largely depend on how the pitching staff holds up. Los Angeles lost a couple of key contributors in Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker, but those guys weren’t exactly beacons of health while they were around.
The Angels replaced them with a couple of buy-low candidates in Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. There’s no telling whether Harvey and/or Cahill will ever be able to replicate their old form, but there is reason for optimism.
The Angels will also have the fortune of playing in the A.L. West. Other than the Astros, who look like a near-lock to win the division for a third consecutive year, there isn’t much to fear. I’m skeptical that the Oakland A’s can recapture their magic from a season ago, while the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers are both firmly entrenched in the rebuilding stage.
At worst, the Angels are looking at a third-place finish in the division. If the pitching can perform, which is a big if, they should be relevant in the playoff chase.
St. Louis Cardinals (+1400)
Are the Cardinals really ever sleepers? Probably not. This is one of the marquee franchises in Major League Baseball, and it always feels as though they’re at least on the fringes of the playoff picture. They gave it a good run in 2018 before ultimately falling well short.
However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect this team to improve in 2019. The Cards have been one of the few active teams this offseason. St. Louis made a splashy trade to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks before signing ace reliever Andrew Miller. Miller struggled with injuries last season, but if he can rediscover his old form he’s arguably the best relief weapon in all of baseball.
Scoring runs shouldn’t be an issue for this team. Adding Goldschmidt gives the Cardinals some consistent thunder in the middle of the order. Goldy is a career .297 hitter that has hit at least 30 home runs in 3 of his last 4 seasons. Still just 31, there’s little reason to expect any sort of decline for him any time soon.
St. Louis can surround Goldschmidt with a number of other capable bats, including Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong and Jose Martinez.
As is the case with the Angels, a lot depends on the starting pitching. Carlos Martinez was wildly inconsistent last season. Martinez still put up a solid 3.11 ERA, but his SIERA of 4.45 was by far the worst mark of his career. If the Cardinals are going to keep up with the Cubs and Brewers in the division, they’re going to need Martinez to show consistency.
Youngster Jack Flaherty is the real deal, but can the rotation hold up behind him? Miles Mikolas was an All-Star last season, but I’m not sold on the long-term viability of his arsenal. Daniel Poncedeleon got good results last season, but he pitched over his head a bit. Who’s going to round out the rotation? John Gant? Austin Gomber? The back end of the rotation is unsettled, which gives me some pause.
The National League isn’t as strong at the top as the A.L. is, so it’s fathomable for a team like the Cardinals to make a leap here. I love the value that comes with betting on the Cards here.
Washington Nationals (+1600)
Were the Nationals the biggest disappointment in the league last season? If they weren’t, they were close to it. The Nats were pegged by many to serve as the chief challengers to the Dodgers and Cubs in the NL, but they wound up missing out on postseason play altogether.
It made very little sense considering the talent level on the roster. One big question mark with this team is whether Bryce Harper will come back.
Harper rejected a 10-year deal worth $300 million earlier in the offseason, but with his market apparently not having developed the way he might have liked, could he circle back and return to D.C. next season? It’s always possible.
If Harper comes back, the Nationals’ odds are going to improve. Even if he leaves, I still like the value you can get on Washington at +1600 here. The team added Patrick Corbin to a rotation that already featured a pair of aces in Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. That gives the Nationals arguably the best top of the rotation in all of baseball.
Anibal Sanchez was a nice under-the-radar signing, while Joe Ross has shown signs of competence in the past. Starting pitching shouldn’t be much of a problem for this team.
They should also be able to score plenty of runs, with or without Harper. Even if he leaves, the team still has boppers like Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman and Trea Turner populating the lineup. Washington still ranked eighth in the big leagues in runs scored (771) last season.
The N.L. East is a strong division, but I’m banking on a bounce-back season for the Nationals here. Bringing Harper back would only enhance their chances, of course. Even if he signs elsewhere, I still think you can bet on the Nationals winning it all next season at +1600. They still have as much on-paper talent as anybody.
Milwaukee Brewers (+1300)
Are the Brewers a sleeper? Absolutely not. Milwaukee made a charge in 2017 before taking the next step in a big way last season.
Milwaukee improved last winter by adding Lorenzo Cain and eventual N.L. MVP Christian Yelich to their outfield. All the Brewers did last year was win a National League-high 96 games and topple the Cubs in the division.
The Brewers also came to within a game of making it to the World Series for the first time in decades, so they won’t be sneaking up on anybody in 2019. They even added to what was already a potent lineup by signing former Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal to a 1-year deal earlier this month.
The Brewers are another team whose chances hinge on whether their starting staff can keep it together. Manager Craig Counsell infamously used his bullpen like crazy during the team’s playoff run at the expense of his starting rotation. Guys like Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley would start games before giving way to the ‘pen awfully early.
The Rays showed last season that that kind of strategy has legs, but we’ll see how the Brewers approach the regular season. At first glance, the starting rotation is clearly worse than some of the other contenders. The Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, Yankees and others have an obvious leg up on the Brewers in that regard.
Still, anything can happen once the playoffs roll around, as the Brewers showed us last fall. You don’t necessarily need to have a dominant starting staff in order to make a real postseason run.
I’m less enthused by the Brewers as I am with some of the other teams on this list, but any time you can get a legitimate World Series contender at +1000 or better, it’s hard not to like it.
New York Mets (+2000)
As mentioned previously, the National League East could be tough this season. The Braves, Phillies, and Nationals were engaged in a 3-way playoff race for most of last season. I’d expect all 3 to be involved again this year, and there’s at least an outside chance that the Mets can mount a bit of a surge of their own.
Is betting on the Mets to do good things risky? Of course. This has been one of the more inept franchises in baseball for years. It’s pretty easy to forget that this team was in the World Series just 4 years ago, where they were ultimately beaten by the Royals. The Mets haven’t won even 80 games in either of the past 2 seasons.
It seems like they’re trying, though. New York has a couple of aces atop the rotation in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, and this winter they have made splashy moves to acquire capable contributors like Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Jed Lowrie.
The Mets’ lineup is pretty heavy with lefties, especially when you remember that righty Yoenis Cespedes could miss all of 2019, but there’s some thunder here.
It’s a bit surprising that the Mets’ odds are as favorable as they are, but there is still some profit potential in the +2000 price tag.
Do I trust the Mets? Absolutely not, but there is undeniably some talent here. The N.L. East is pretty wide open, too, so you can at least squint and see a route for the Mets to find their way back to relevance this season.