Five Value MLB Teams for 2008
by Trevor Whenham - 03/28/2008
Baseball starts with a game on Sunday and a full slate on Monday to kick of the long, glorious regular season. I know that Oakland and Boston have already played two games, but I am not counting that Japanese dalliance as anything more than a lame joke. As we stand on the brink of the season, it's time for bettors to assess what has happened since last season - free agency, trades, payers moving up or moving on, spring training - and identify which teams might treat bettors well this season. Last year there were 11 teams that were profitable if you were, for some strange reason, to have bet on every game they played last year. Here are four teams that stand a good chance in my eyes of could earn that distinction this season:
Chicago White Sox - A team doesn't have to be a great one to earn money for bettors. It just has to be consistently better than the public thinks it is. Chicago could be one of those teams. The Sox certainly don't lack power, so they will be able to punish unsuspecting opponents. They don't hit for average, they strike out too much, and they don't have a strong leadoff hitter, but if they can improve a bit in any of those areas then they are better than last year. The addition of Orlando Cabrera both as a player and a leader should help on this front. Pitching is a bit of a question with the depth of the rotation, but it shouldn't be disastrous, and there are some very good young arms in the minors ready to come up when called upon. The bullpen is where the team really shines, and where my optimism stems from. The additions of Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink make the pen much better, and give the team much more of a chance to give a lead to the deadly Bobby Jenks. The season total for the team is just 78, and if all falls well they could win 10 percent more of that without too much trouble. That would make them profitable.
Kansas City - Washington and Texas were both profitable last year because while they weren't very good but they were better than people thought and they did it in a way that people didn't notice. Kansas City could do the same thing this year. It all starts with Trey Hillman, their new manager they brought in straight out of Japan. He's one of those guys that you get excited about when you listen to him for just a second. He could really inspire a young but reasonably talented team. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are two youngsters that could have big years after sometimes-rough rookie seasons. The addition of Jose Guillen will add both power and experience. The pitching staff is also young, but has some high points. Zach Greinke was outstanding in the second half of last season and he could have a heck of a year if he can carry some of that momentum forward. Gil Meche gets some grief because of his huge contract, but he is solid and capable. The bullpen is young, and a lot hinges on their ability to come through, but if they can then the Royals, perennially a terrible team, could be a bit better than normal. That's all it would take to make money.
Seattle - Last year I was very high on this team and that faith paid off handsomely - they were the second most profitable team in the league. I like them even more this year. I honestly don't understand what is happening here - they won 88 games last year, they improved fairly significantly in the offseason, and the season total is only 83.5. The Mariners play in a division that isn't going to be as strong as it has been at times, and the Mariners have the talent and the opportunity to take the lead if they choose to. Leading the way is one of the best one-two punches in the league with Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard. Those two will give opposing hitters serious headaches. Hernandez will benefit from not having to be the lone wolf in the rotation. The batting order hasn't changed much, but it didn't really need to because it worked pretty well last year. Richie Sexson had a rough year last year, but it is more than reasonable to expect that he will revert to form this year. Jose Guillen is a big loss, but Brad Wilkerson will take his place, ad he should be so happy to finally be with a contender that he could have a big year.
Cincinnati - The Reds were 9-21 in May last year and it just gutted their season. I don't see new manager Dusty Baker letting that happen again. The roster is far from perfect, but it has a ridiculous amount of power. As important, Jay Bruce, last year's Minor League Player of the Year, is sitting in Triple-A ready to step up and contribute if one of the many bats falters. The real potential is in the pitching staff. Aaron Harang is a legitimate No. 1 and Bronson Arroyo can be very good if his head is in the right place. Young, impressive talent is everywhere - Homer Bailey is a potential star, and Johnny Cueto could be even better. Edinson Volquez is another young pitcher who could turn into something special. Josh Fogg was added to the roster to add veteran depth, and he showed his value in Colorado's run last year. I'm not suggesting that the Reds are postseason contenders, but they could be more consistent than they were last year, and that means money.