Will the Milwaukee Brewers Repeat as National League Central Champions in 2019?
With football in the rearview mirror and position players having joined pitchers and catchers at spring training, it is safe to say that we have officially reached baseball betting season.
All 30 Major League teams have converged on Arizona and Florida to begin preparations for the 2019 regular season, which will get underway in a little over a month. At this point, only a handful of teams look strong enough to actually win the World Series this season. There will certainly be some unforeseen surprises along the way, but by the end of the year the true contenders will have surely separated themselves from the pretenders.
Regardless, all 30 teams have some hope as spring training begins. Few people expected the Oakland A’s or Tampa Bay Rays eventually amounting to much around this time last year, so not everything is set in stone. There is plenty of betting value available as we speak, even with the regular season still a month out.
BetOnline has posted brand new odds for each of the league’s six divisions. Let’s run through them and try to find some value.
National League East
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|New York Mets||+275|
The NL East may well be the most wide-open division in baseball, which can make it tricky to peg from a betting perspective. 1 of the 2 teams with the best odds (Washington and Philadelphia) may well get a boost in the coming weeks. The Nationals will find out whether superstar slugger Bryce Harper returns, while the Phillies have been linked with both Harper and the game’s other premier free agent, Manny Machado.
Obviously, where those guys decide to eventually sign will have a big impact on the odds. The winds seem to be blowing in favor of Harper landing in Philadelphia, but time will tell. As a result, the Phils look like a pretty tempting option to win the division at +275. If he puts his name on the dotted line, Harper would join a deep and talented lineup that also includes guys like Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco.
The Phillies have already been active this winter, as they have added quality veteran bats like Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura to the fold. This is already looking like one of the more stacked lineups in baseball, and adding one of the game’s 10 best hitters in Harper would certainly boost them even more.
The Phillies’ starting staff is young overall, but it is laden with talent. Aaron Nola emerged as a bona fide ace last season, and behind him the Phillies are hoping that Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin or Jerad Eickhoff can take a similar step forward. Veteran Jake Arrieta helps provide stability, too.
On paper, there is a ton to like about the Phillies. This team collapsed in September last year after remaining in contention for most of the campaign, but the players they have added this offseason should help prevent a similar meltdown in ‘19. I’d be all over taking Philly to win the NL East at +275, especially because the odds will get less profitable if they do wind up nabbing Harper.
I was a bit surprised to see Harper’s old team, the Nationals, with the best odds at +250. Washington was never able to get out of its own way a season ago, when they were arguably the most disappointing team in baseball. The Nats still won 82 games, but they came nowhere close to seriously challenging the Braves in the division. The Nationals reportedly offered Harper a 10-year deal worth $300 million to return to DC, but they were turned down.
Harper may be regretting that now considering his market has hardly taken off. Even without many teams in the mix, Harper returning to Washington at this point seems fairly unlikely. The Nationals did sign a big-money free agent in Patrick Corbin, and the talent atop their pitching staff is unquestioned.
Even if Harper doesn’t return I still like Washington’s chances at enjoying a bounce-back season. The on-paper talent up and down the roster is right there with Philadelphia, so I’d be surprised if Dave Martinez’ crew faltered again in 2019. I’d still slightly prefer the Phillies to win the division from a betting perspective, but it’s hard to hate the Nationals at +250, either.
The Mets appear to have improved, but I’m bearish on the +275 price for New York. Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie are nice players, but they’re not exactly transformative at this stage of their respective careers. The Mets are also likely to be without star slugger Yoenis Cespedes for most, if not all, of the campaign. The pitching looks decent, but the Mets routinely underwhelm compared to expectations.
The Braves (+300) actually won the division by 8 games a season ago, but with the other contenders having improved, oddsmakers think Atlanta has fallen behind. The Braves did sign Josh Donaldson to man the hot corner, but the former MVP is a bit of a question mark following a couple of injury-plagued seasons in Toronto and Cleveland. The young players here (Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies) make the Braves an interesting option, but I’m not convinced they have the pitching to trump teams like Philadelphia or Washington.
I’d bet on the Braves at +300 before I’d bet on the Mets at +275, but both look like secondary options at this point. Miracles do happen, but humans landing on Mars is more likely to happen than the Marlins winning anything of substance in 2019.
National League Central
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+225|
The NL Central may prove to be the most unpredictable division of all. It’s not unfathomable to think that any of these 5 teams could wind up on top. At least one of these teams will wind up flopping, but this is looking like a quality group, top-to-bottom.
The Brewers wound up winning the Central a season ago, but you can get Milwaukee at +300 to repeat as champs right now. I’m as skeptical of their starting pitching as anybody else, but the Brewers at +300 looks like a total bargain. Milwaukee has won 86 and 96 games in each of the last 2 seasons, so they’re no fluke. This team came to within a game of advancing to the World Series last fall.
Is Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff a 5-man rotation good enough to hold up? We’ll see, but Milwaukee should have no issue scoring runs. The Brewers patched up one of their few weak spots by signing catcher Yasmani Grandal away from the Dodgers, while Mike Moustakas was re-signed after coming over from Kansas City a season ago.
The Brewers finished 12th in the majors in runs scored last year, and I’d be shocked if they didn’t improve on that this season.
St. Louis is listed as the favorites (+225) here despite a third-place finish last season. The Cardinals have been one of the few active teams this winter, which surely explains why oddsmakers are bullish on them. Paul Goldschmidt was brought over from the Diamondbacks to provide some middle-of-the-order thunder, while the Cardinals are also hopeful that Andrew Miller can rediscover his dominant form after struggling with injuries in Cleveland a year ago.
The starting pitching comes with some question marks, but it’s easy to see why the Cardinals are optimistic. I’d prefer to bet on the Brewers at +300 over the Cardinals at +225, but St. Louis isn’t a bad option.
The Cubs haven’t become a dynasty since winning the 2016 World Series, but they will still be plenty relevant in the title hunt. Chicago’s chances hinge almost entirely on what the starting pitching does. The Cubs boast 5 big-name starters on paper, but questions about age and health remain. Is Jon Lester going to continue to regress? Is Cole Hamels still as good as he looked with the Cubs last season? Which Jose Quintana will show up? Will Yu Darvish prove he’s worth the $100-plus million the Cubs gave him last winter?
If everything breaks right, the Cubs have enough talent to be the best team in baseball. So, there is more than enough reason for optimism in the Windy City. The Cubs at +250 to win the division look better than the Cardinals at +225.
The Reds and Pirates are understandable long shots. These teams may have better odds if they played in more watered-down divisions, but the competition in the NL Central looks stout. Cincinnati has been aggressively improving their roster, but the team still looks like it’s a good ways behind the Cubs, Cardinals and Brew Crew. I slightly prefer the Pirates at +700, but this team is probably still a year or 2 away.
National League West
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||-150|
|San Diego Padres||+700|
|San Francisco Giants||+1000|
The NL West looks like the most clear-cut division. The Dodgers were challenged by Colorado and Arizona a season ago, but Los Angeles ultimately had enough juice to come out on top after beating the Rockies in Game 163. L.A. would then march on to the World Series, where they were beaten for the second consecutive year.
The Dodgers were expected to be one of the Harper suitors, but they seem to have fallen by the wayside. Instead of making many splashy moves, L.A. seems to have taken a cost-cutting approach this winter. Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood were shipped to the Reds. Grandal signed with Milwaukee. Brian Dozier and Manny Machado won’t be coming back after coming to Los Angeles in midseason trades.
Even after losing so much talent, the Dodgers are still clearly the best team the NL West has to offer. The Rockies look like the next best thing, but I’d be surprised if they mounted a serious charge again. Arizona should take a step back after losing the likes of Goldschmidt and Corbin.
The Padres make for a somewhat interesting bet at +700, but San Diego is likely a couple of years away from mounting a serious challenge. Signing Harper or Machado would close the gap between they and the Dodgers, but Los Angeles will rule the NL West again in 2019.
American League East
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|Boston Red Sox||+150|
|New York Yankees||+150|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+450|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+1000|
The Tampa Bay Rays proved to be quite pesky a year ago, but I’m skeptical that an encore performance is in store. Stranger things have happened, but it’s tough to imagine the AL East being anything other than a 2-horse race in 2019. This will come down to the Yankees or the Red Sox, as it so often does.
The Red Sox, of course, are coming off of their fourth World Series title since 2004. Boston slayed some dragons along the way, as they got through the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers on the way to the title.
Boston will be running it back with pretty much the same team that just won it all. Star reliever Joe Kelly left for the Dodgers as a free agent, while Craig Kimbrel is still a free agent. The bullpen looked great during the postseason, but let’s not forget that the relief corps was an Achilles heel for this team during the regular season. Nathan Eovaldi and Kelly transforming into unhittable flamethrowers helped mask their troubles.
I tend to think the regular season version we saw of the Sox’ bullpen was the real one. This lineup is still going to score runs in bunches, so struggling to put other teams away may not even prove all that catastrophic for the 2019 iteration of the team, at least during the season.
The Yankees won 100 games last year, but many still saw them as something of a disappointment. Such is life for baseball’s marquee franchise. New York didn’t stand much of a chance against Boston in last year’s ALDS, so they have worked this winter to fortify some things. The possibility of signing either Harper or Machado is still there, though the chances look remote. Still, this team is stacked.
New York’s bullpen is quite a bit stronger than Boston’s, and it got even better this winter when Zack Britton was re-signed and Adam Ottavino was plucked off the free agent wire. Having that kind of a bullpen is a massive weapon these days, especially come playoff time.
The rotation is less formidable, but it did improve with the acquisition of James Paxton. Paxton’s health is always questionable, but when healthy he’s one of the best left-handed starters in the game. Bringing back J.A. Happ gives the Yanks added depth in the rotation.
This team should mash, just as it did a year ago. Giancarlo Stanton was a bit disappointing in his first year in the Bronx, but now that he has taken a year to acclimate himself to his new home I wouldn’t be shocked to see him go on an extended tear next season. Gleyber Torres will start his first full season in the big leagues. D.J. LeMahieu was brought in to provide some stability to the middle of the infield. Gary Sanchez is certainly a wild card, but we know what kind of damage he’s capable of inflicting.
I slightly prefer the Yankees to the Red Sox, but you can’t go wrong with either of them. One of these teams will win the division, so it’s essentially coin flip at +150 apiece. Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay won’t come particularly close.
American League Central
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|Chicago White Sox||+700|
|Kansas City Royals||+1400|
This division is atrocious. Some team could certainly rise up and shock the rest of the league, but as of now this collection of teams is incredibly underwhelming.
The Indians cruised to the title in the Central last year before being swept out of the ALDS by the Astros. Cleveland still has a deep starting rotation, but the rest of the team looks weak. The famed bullpen that led the team to the brink of a World Series title in 2016 has been torn to shreds. The lineup has lost Michael Brantley, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes.
The team’s projected starting outfield (Leonys Martin, Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen leaves plenty to be desired. Carlos Santana was brought back via trade, but he’s one of the more overrated hitters in the game. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are elite bats, but the lineup around them leaves a ton to be desired.
Could Cleveland pitch its way to an AL Central crown in 2019? Sure. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco is an elite 1-2-3 in the rotation. Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are nice young arms, too. There isn’t a ton else to like in the Central, which is why the Tribe are the favorites by default. I won’t talk you out of betting on Cleveland at -150.
The Twins have the next-best odds at +300, but the White Sox are also intriguing at +700. Chicago is one of the teams rumored to be in the mix for Harper and Machado. Machado seems like the more likely option to wind up in the Windy City, and the Sox have reportedly put an offer on the table for him. If Machado does sign on, he will join what looks like a pretty powerful lineup moving forward.
Jose Abreu is an underappreciated slugger. Daniel Palka, Tim Anderson, Welington Castillo and Yoan Moncada can bring the thunder, too. Put Machado into the middle of that lineup and the White Sox could be downright formidable.
Can they pitch? That’s more of a question mark. Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito used to be elite prospects, but both have struggled with consistency in the big leagues. Carlos Rodon is returning from a major injury that cost him half of 2019. The bullpen looks even sketchier. The White Sox do have some prospects on the way, but rarely do pitchers come up from the minors and dominate in the big leagues right away.
Minnesota is another team with some depth in the lineup. The pitching staff, while full of wild cards, does have talent, too. Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop are some new additions that will make the lineup deeper and more dangerous. The Twins’ ability to contend may hinge on whether Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano can finally break through and have a big year. Both have been among the Twins’ most highly-rated prospects for years, but we’re still waiting on them to step up.
I think the Twins are the safer bet than the White Sox, but there is reason for optimism with both. If forced to choose, I would still take the Indians to repeat as champs. Cleveland should land at least one more bat before the season begins. If you want some profit potential, though, I like Minnesota at +300.
American League West
|Team||Odds to Win Division|
|Los Angeles Angels||+500|
Like the NL West, the AL West looks pretty predictable. The Houston Astros have taken the division crown in each of the last 2 seasons, and it would be a major surprise if they failed to win it for a third time running in ‘19.
Houston will likely lose Dallas Keuchel and Marwin Gonzalez to free agency, but this is a stacked roster with plenty of high-end talent set to come up from the minor leagues. It’s only a matter of time before Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley are key contributors in H-Town.
This team can hit. This team can pitch. This team can close out games with the bullpen. The Astros fell short of their World Series goals last fall thanks in part to injury. Jose Altuve was playing with a fractured leg, while Carlos Correa was nursing a bad back just about all year. Both guys are now healthy and ready to roll, according to reports. Robinson Chirinos was brought in to add some pop behind the plate, while Brantley’s signing adds some much-needed left-handed power to the lineup.
The Oakland A’s were a strong challenger last year, but many expect Oakland to take a step back in ‘19. The starting pitching holding up last year looked like a bit of a miracle, and I think that house of cards is set to come crashing down. Mike Fiers is likely their Opening Day starter. The same Mike Fiers that couldn’t crack Houston’s playoff roster in 2017.
The Angels will be without the pitching version of Shohei Ohtani all year. L.A. does have the best talent of any non-Astros team in the division, but that isn’t saying much. I think the Halos can definitely push for a Wild Card berth, but I’d be surprised if they gave Houston a serious run in the West.
Seattle tore everything down after collapsing last September. The Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild. This division will be the Astros’ again in 2019. There isn’t much appeal in betting on Houston as heavy -200 favorites, but they’re the only team with a viable shot at winning the West.