2017 MLB Season Preview: Odds on Everything

The Cubs celebrate after winning the 2016 World Series.
By Arturo Pardavila [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0]

Trends mean everything to some bettors. Those types will want to mark their calendars for the year 2124 (side note: I don’t understand how calendars work). If history repeats itself, that’s when the Cubs are scheduled to win their next World Series title, after ending a 107-year drought last season.

More logical and discerning bettors might want to circle October 2017 instead, because the Cubbies return the vast majority of their dominant roster and enter the season as favorites to repeat, which no team has done since the 2000 Yankees.

There are other teams out there with batting orders that are just as stacked (see the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers) and pitching staffs that are just as deep (see the Mets, Indians, Nationals). But no team is as complete, top to bottom. Coming away with anything but another ring will be a disappointment for Joe Maddon and company. Same goes for the Bo-Sox and Indians in the AL, after both teams spent amply in free-agency.

 

Not every team enters the season with such lofty expectations. Many would just be happy to have their name in the playoff conversation come August and September. As much as Yankee fans hate to hear this, their team is one of them. The future is blindingly bright for the Bronx Bombers, but with so much youth on the roster, it’s too early to be thinking about rings.

Will the Yanks end up being sellers at the deadline? Will Gary Sanchez challenge for the home-run title? How will the year pan out for the crosstown rival Mets and their injury-prone starting rotation?

I look at the odds for the entire 2017 MLB season, below. I promise it’s not entirely Big Apple focused. From MVP to the Cy Young to the 3,000-hit club, like A-Rod at J-Lo concert, I hit on it all!


2017 MLB Odds and Props

NB: all odds are for the 2017 MLB regular season unless otherwise stated.

Odds to win the 2017 World Series

  • Chicago Cubs: 11/2
  • Cleveland Indians: 8/1
  • Boston Red Sox: 9/1
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 9/1
  • Washington Nationals: 14/1
  • Houston Astros: 18/1
  • New York Mets: 18/1
  • San Francisco Giants: 24/1
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 24/1
  • St. Louis Cardinals: 33/1
  • Texas Rangers: 33/1
  • Detroit Tigers: 33/1
  • New York Yankees: 40/1
  • Seattle Mariners: 40/1
  • Kansas City Royals: 45/1
  • Baltimore Orioles: 50/1
  • Colorado Rockies: 50/1
  • Los Angeles Angels: 66/1
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: 75/1
  • Tampa Bay Rays: 100/1
  • Minnesota Twins: 115/1
  • Philadelphia Phillies: 125/1
  • Miami Marlins: 125/1
  • Oakland Athletics: 130/1
  • Atlanta Braves: 150/1
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: 160/1
  • Cincinnati Reds: 200/1
  • Milwaukee Brewers: 200/1
  • San Diego Padres: 275/1
  • Chicago White Sox: 300/1

There’s a clear line between the upper crust (Cubs, Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers), the legit contenders (Nats, Astros, Mets, Giants, Blue Jays) and the rest of the league. Some think the Cubbies should be in a class by themselves. They were undoubtedly the best team in baseball last year — and return much of the same lineup in 2017 — but let’s not forget how fortunate they were to beat the Indians in the World Series. If Cleveland’s starting rotation doesn’t resemble a bunch of extras from World War Z, the drought lives on. The Tribe, Bo-Sox, and, yes, even the Dodgers have the personnel to take four of seven from the Cubs.

Odds to meet in the 2017 World Series

  • Cubs-Indians: 13/1
  • Cubs-Red Sox: 16/1
  • Cubs-Yankees: 66/1
  • Mets-Yankees: 195/1
  • Dodgers-Angels: 166/1
  • Orioles-Nationals: 199/1
    Cardinals-Royals: 330/1
  • Cubs-White Sox: 499/1
  • Reds-Indians: 499/1
  • Giants-A’s: 830/1

Intra-city and intra-state rivalries make for compelling World Series. A 2016 rematch is a lot more likely.

Odds to lose 100-plus games

  • Padres: 2/1
  • White Sox: 2/1
  • Brewers: 5/1
  • Reds: 5/1
  • Twins: 9/1

It’s not easy to win in the bigs. It’s not easy to lose this much, either. Going back to 2010, only eight teams have hit the century mark, and three of those were the fully rebuilding Astros (2011, 2012, 2013). No single team is projected to lose more than about 94 games this season. Obviously the White Sox and Padres, two teams that will be spending more time preparing for the draft than trying to win ball games, will give it a run.

As for the Twins, they lost 105 games last year, but just 79 the year before that with much the same team. Call it the hazards of relying on young talent. Paul Molitor’s group should be much better than last year with their pups a year more experienced and the rest of the AL Central on the decline. Just how much better … ?

Odds on largest win total increase from 2016

  • Twins: 7/2
  • Rays: 6/1
  • Diamondbacks: 8/1
  • Astros: 17/2
  • Braves: 9/1
  • Angels: 10/1

The Twins should be about a 72 to 77-win team this year. That would be a massive jump from 59. None of the other bottom-feeders from last season are going to be that much better, though the Rays should be competitive again in the AL East, potentially relegating Baltimore to the basement.

Over in the NL, Arizona was a popular pick to make a leap last year. It didn’t happen. They have top-end talent in Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt. If guys like Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb continue to get better, and Shelby Miller can return to his 2015 form, the 93-loss D-Backs should make strides.

MVP Odds

American League

  • Mike Trout (Angels): 5/2
  • Jose Altuve (Astros): 7/1
  • Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): 9/1
  • Mookie Betts (Red Sox): 9/1
  • Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): 12/1
  • Carlos Correa (Astros): 16/1
  • Robinson Cano (Mariners): 20/1
  • Edwin Encarnacion (Indians): 25/1
  • Manny Machado (Orioles): 35/1
  • Jose Bautista (Blue Jays): 40/1
  • Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): 40/1
  • Gary Sanchez (Yankees): 40/1

Trout broke the mold last year by winning MVP even though he was on a dismal team. Does that open the door for guys like Machado and Jose Abreu (White Sox)? Nah. Trout is the exception that proves the rule. The winner is going to come from a contender unless Trout is head-and-shoulders better than everyone again. (Also, the composition of the voting body changes from year to year. Last year may have featured fewer people who valued team success.)

Altuve is the best player in the AL not named Mike Trout and his Astros should be in the mix for the West crown. If he continues to up his power numbers, the diminutive second baseman could walk away with his first award.

With Encarnacion off to Cleveland, the pressure is on Donaldson to put up MVP-type numbers like he did in 2015. A rejuvenated Jose Bautista and newly acquired Kendrys Morales should keep him protected in the meat of the Jays’ order.

Betts finished second in MVP voting last year. Will he be as protected in the Boston lineup now that Big Papi has retired? I have my concerns. I also have my doubts that Yankee wunderkind Gary Sanchez can keep up the torrid pace he set in his first half-season. Plus the Yanks are still a year or two away.

National League

  • Kris Bryant (Cubs): 6/1
  • Bryce Harper (Nationals): 7/1
  • Corey Seager (Dodgers): 9/1
  • Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 9/1
  • Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins): 18/1
  • Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 22/1
  • Buster Posey (Giants): 25/1
  • Anthony Rizzo (Cubs): 25/1
  • Freddie Freeman (Braves): 30/1
  • Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks): 30/1

Bryant is the reigning champ. He improved in almost every statistical category in his second season, upping his home runs (26 to 39), RBIs (99 to 102) and average (.275 to .292). What’s the ceiling for the 25-year-old? It’s scary to think. The Cubs have a loaded roster, of course, so his numbers will need to scream “LOOK AT ME!” again to stand out above Rizzo and the rest.

Harper had an off 2016. His WAR dropped from an astounding 9.9 to just 1.6. A bounce back is in the cards.

The perpetually contending Dodgers found their cornerstone last year in shortstop Corey Seager. If the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year makes the same sort of gains that Bryant did from year one to year two, he’ll be at the forefront of the MVP discussion. And he doesn’t have the same competition for attention in the Dodger lineup.

If you’re looking for a narrative to jump on, consider Stanton. Most people would tell you his odds are longer than 18/1. But if he leads the tragedy-struck Marlins to even respectability, voters could latch onto the storyline.

Rookie of the Year Odds

American League

  • Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox): 5/1
  • Aaron Judge (Yankees): 8/1
  • Yoan Moncada (White Sox): 8/1

The frontrunners here are (semi-)known commodities. Benintendi (105 at-bats) and Judge (84 at-bats) nearly lost their rookie eligibility last year (130 at-bats). We’ve already seen what they can do against major league pitching.

Moncada is going to start the season in Triple A, but the fire-sale that’s looming on the southside of Chicago will have the top prospect in the bigs soon enough.

National League

  • Dansby Swanson (Braves): 3/1
  • Hunter Renfroe (Padres): 8/1
  • Robert Gsellman (Mets): 8/1

Swanson had 129 at-bats in 38 games last year, just one short of losing his rookie eligibility. His slash-line (.302 BA/.361 OPB/.442 SLG) was all-star level. Even if he’s not quite that good this season, he could run away with the award.

Outside of Swanson, there aren’t a ton of inspiring NL rookies slated to begin the season in the bigs. Gsellman’s had a solid spring, though, and should slot in as the Mets’ fifth starter. Given the likelihood that one of their top-four get injured, he should see plenty of work this season if he’s even half decent.

Renfroe should stick in the rebuilding Padres’ outfield and has the power to garner votes, launching four taters in his 11-game late-season call up last year.

Cy Young Odds

American League

  • Chris Sale (Red Sox): 5/1
  • Corey Kluber (Indians): 12/1
  • Justin Verlander (Tigers): 12/1

Chris Sale is the obvious frontrunner now that the former White Sox ace will have some run support in Boston. After Sale, there are about nine or ten guys who could easily swoop in with a big year. We’ll give the slight edge to guys like Kluber and Verlander, who have put together Cy Young seasons before. Verlander’s obviously had his battles, but looked like his vintage self at times last season.

National League

  • Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2/1
  • Max Scherzer (Nationals): 5/1
  • Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 8/1

The NL is more top heavy than the AL. When Kershaw is healthy, he’s still the best (regular season) pitcher in baseball. His odds would be even shorter, but the back issues which sidelined him last year could resurface.

Scherzer and Syndergaard round out the top three. But there’s no shortage of ridiculous talent nipping at their heels; see Jake Arrieta, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg. Seriously, if Strasburg can ever stay healthy for a full season, his stuff can be just as dominant as Kershaw’s.

Odds to throw the MLB’s next no-hitter

  • Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 33/1
  • Max Scherzer (Nationals): 33/1
  • Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): 45/1
  • Noah Syndergaard (Mets): 45/1
  • Jake Arrieta (Cubs): 49/1
  • Chris Sale (Red Sox): 49/1
  • Justin Verlander (Tigers): 49/1
  • Chris Archer (Rays): 55/1
  • Madison Bumgarner (Giants): 55/1
  • Corey Kluber (Indians): 55/1
  • FIELD: 1/4

Scherzer threw two no-hitters in 2015 and is still at the top of his game. He’ll have the advantage of facing light-hitting teams like the Phillies and Braves more often than his competitors, all of which puts him on level footing with Kershaw.

The rest of the list is mostly populated by power pitchers. Guys like Arrieta and Verlander struggle with their control at times and end up walking their fair share of hitters, but that doesn’t count against a no-hit bid and they have the stuff to keep the ball out of play.

Even listing (what I see as) the ten most likely players to throw the next no-hitter still leaves the odds heavily in favor of the field. Most years we see unheralded hurlers piece everything together for a night. Kudos to you if you predicted that Mike Fiers, Hisashi Iwakuma, or Chris Heston would toss a no-hitter in 2015.

Odds Mike Trout finishes top-two in MVP voting for the sixth straight year: 3/2

As I mentioned, the composition of the MVP voting-body changes from year to year. The Angels’ likely status as non-contenders will matter a lot more to some voters than others. There should be enough who recognize his import, Angels’ record notwithstanding, that he finishes way up the list as long as he has another classic Mike Trout season. And why would we expect any other sort of season?

By Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]

Over/Under number of times Jacoby Ellsbury reaches base via catcher’s interference:  2.5

Last year he reached base an MLB-record 12 times via CI. That was a ridiculous anomaly. The previous record was eight. His own career high was four, according to Matt Snyder. Catcher interference isn’t really something you can be good at. Sure, there are little things you can do to make it more likely — and Ellsbury’s normal swing seems to be one of them — but the cat’s out of the bag now. Expect catchers to be on their guard.

Over/Under number of Cubs voted to start the All-Star Game: 3.5

Five Cubbies were voted starters last year: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Dexter Fowler. It was the perfect confluence of a big-market team with a huge following and a number of All-Star worthy performances. Fowler’s now a Cardinal. But the Bryant, Rizzo, and Russell trio should be big vote-getters, again, as long as they aren’t dismal out of the gate. Masher and fan-favorite Kyle Schwarber will fill the void left by Fowler — in All-Star voting, that is, not in the field. How do I put this delicately? Schwarber sucks at fielding.

Over/under date on which Adrian Beltre joins 3,000-hit club: June 2, 2017

The best baseball player everyone totally ignores needs just 58 more hits to reach 3,000. Beltre’s averaged about 1.2 hits per game over his last five seasons. The last couple have seen his production dip a bit, but not significantly. The guy can still ball at 37.

If he keeps up that pace — which, in reality, goes back a decade — he’ll get to 3,000 in early June. That assumes he gets a few games here and there for rest but doesn’t suffer a major injury.

Odds Albert Pujols joins 3,000-hit club during the 2017 season: 8/1

Pujols needs 175 hits to reach 3,000. That’s a lot of hits. Pujols has done it before, nine consecutive times in fact (2001-2010). He hasn’t done it since, though. I don’t see him suiting up for more than the 152 games he played last year, nor improving on his 159 hits. He’s 37 after all.

But hey, Beltre did it last year! So I’m saying there’s a chance.

By Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/]

Odds on the first Brave to homer in SunTrust Park

  • Freddie Freeman: 3/1
  • Matt Kemp: 7/2
  • Adonis Garcia: 6/1
  • Dansby Swanson: 8/1
  • Brandon Phillips: 8/1
  • Nick Markakis: 9/1
  • Bartolo Colon: 1,000/1
  • FIELD: 14/1

Odds at least one player hits 50-plus home runs: 7/4

It’s been four years since anyone hit 50 dingers and only two guys have done it since 2007 (Chris Davis, 2013; Jose Bautista, 2010). But balls are travelling farther the last couple years for whatever reason (the juice is loose?) and there’s no shortage of guys with 50-plus potential. Giancarlo Stanton was on pace for nearly 60 in his injury-shortened 2015 campaign. The sherpas of the big leagues will be pushing for the 50-homer summit.

Over/under number of players to hit 40-plus home runs: 6.5

After just three players, combined, hit 40-plus in 2013 and 2014, we’ve seen 16 hit the mark in the last two seasons. Don’t expect too much of a regression, what with the juiced balls and all.

Odds David Wright breaks the Mets’ franchise home run record: 3/1

Wright needs 12 home runs to break Darryl Strawberry’s record (252). Once upon a time, Wright would have been a virtual lock to hit 12 long balls. He averaged just over 22 per year in his first ten seasons in the league. But not only are his power numbers trending down, he also can’t stay on the field anymore. He’s played just 75 games over the last two seasons, notching 12 homers in the process. The chances of him playing anything close to a full season — or even three quarters — are somewhat slim (more on this below).

Over/Under number of at-bats for David Wright: 144.5

If Wright plays his new, standard 40-ish games, he should be right around the 145 mark.

Mets' 3B David Wright
Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/]

Over/under combined wins by the Mets top-four starting pitchers: 40.5

Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey have the potential to be the most dominant rotation in the majors. Injuries have hampered most of the quartet, though, and expecting all four to be fully healthy all season is a pipedream.  Their current career averages would have them around 37.5 wins for the year. With a little better injury luck, they should average double-digit wins, cumulatively.

Odds Tim Tebow …

  • gets an at bat for the Mets this season: 250/1
  • retires or is released before the end of the 2017 World Series: 2/1

Tebow is actually playing decently in Spring Training. Not “big leagues” decent, but decent enough to last a full season in Single A.

Over/under career MLB home runs for Tim Tebow: 0.5

The O/U for career MLB at-bats for Tim Tebow is also 0.5.

Odds Cubs finish with MLB’s best record in the 2017 season: 5/4

The Cubs finished eight wins better than the next best teams last year (Rangers, Nationals). They could easily regress by a few, and the Nats and Rangers could hit the century mark; injuries can and will happen. But Chicago is the deepest and most balanced team in the bigs by a pretty wide margin. Their run differential (+270) was nearly a hundred better than the number two team (Boston, +176). They actually underperformed in terms of expected wins by only hitting 103 last season.

Odds to have the largest home run increase from 2016 (minimum 20 HRs):

  • Bryce Harper (Nationals; 24 in 2016): 5/1
  • Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins; 27): 11/2
  • Gary Sanchez (Yankees; 20): 7/1
  • Jose Bautista (Blue Jays; 22): 9/1
  • Jose Abreu (White Sox; 24): 9/1
  • Carlos Correa (Astros; 20): 12/1
  • Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks; 24): 20/1
  • Corey Seager (Dodgers; 26): 25/1
  • Trevor Story (Rockies; 27): 49/1

In his first three seasons in the league, Harper didn’t hit more than 22 home runs. Then he skyrocketed to 42. Then he came crashing back to an earthly 24. Was 2015 the outlier, or was last season an off-year? The truth is probably in between. Expect about 30 jacks from the former MVP.

The sky is the limit for Stanton’s home run numbers. As discussed, he has 50 or 60 home run potential in that powerful frame of his. That said, he’s never hit more than 37 in a season. Until we see him stay healthy for a full campaign and consistently go yard, it’s hard to give him shorter odds than this.

I don’t actually expect crazy numbers from Sanchez this year. But with so many guys in the mix for this prop, his sheer potential puts him near the top: we really don’t know the ceiling for the Yankees’ new masher, unlike many of the older players on the list.

Over/Under combined “Baby Bomber” home runs by the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge: 62.5

Let’s be clear, they could obliterate this total. Sanchez (20 HRs in 55 career games) has 40-homer potential on his own. Bird had 11 home runs in just 46 career games. While Judge only has four in 27, he’s also 6’7 and 275 pounds. But when you’re talking about guys this young, there just isn’t enough statistical history to feel safe in projecting large increases — or even stable production — so the mean is just over 20 per player.

Odds to be traded before the end of the 2017 MLB Season

  • Jose Quintana (White Sox): 1/3
  • David Robertson (White Sox): 2/5
  • Sonny Gray (Athletics): 1/2
  • Andrew McCutchen (Pirates): 1/1
  • Brian Dozier (Twins): 1/1
  • Ryan Braun (Brewers): 1/1
  • Eric Hosmer (Royals): 5/4
  • Bartolo Colon (Braves): 2/1
  • Howie Kendrick (Phillies): 2/1
  • RA Dickey (Braves): 3/1
  • Matt Holliday (Yankees): 3/1
  • Francisco Liriano (Blue Jays): 5/2
  • Jose Bautista (Blue Jays): 4/1

There’s a fire-sale coming in Chicago. The White Sox have held onto Quintana and Robertson for now, thinking that their value will only increase as the season rolls along and teams in contention start to feel the pressure to add pieces.

Like the White Sox, the A’s start the year with basically no post-season hope. Joe Sheehan said their roster resembled an expansion team that has to pilfer unwanted players from existing rosters. I can’t disagree. Gray is the jewel in that turd pile and on the last year of his contract.

The odds for the rest of the players on the list are basically correlated with their respective teams’ chances of contending. The Jays, for instance, won’t be keen to part with a quality starter (Liriano) and proven playoff performer (Bautista) if they are even in Wild Card contention, which they should be.

Odds Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez announce their engagement in 2017: 3/1

Like oh my gawd you guys. Could A-Rod and J-Lo be any cuter together? They’re reportedly getting pretty serious. Who knows if they’ll tie the knot one day. The real pressing question here is: what will their couple nickname be? I think Lo-Rod has a nice ring to it, and a certain singable quality.