MLB Betting Advice: Handicapping Teams that Could Start Fast
by Trevor Whenham - 3/28/2014
As we get ready for the start of the MLB season (the real start - that charade in Australia doesn't count), here is a look at three squads who have a chance to break out of the gates faster than people expect, and deliver some early-season baseball betting value:
Miami Marlins: The last year or two it has been very easy to forget that the Marlins even exist. They had yet another complete sell-off, and they fielded a very young and ridiculously cheap lineup last year. While I don't expect them to be a major contender this year, they have done enough in the offseason to be better than people think - especially early on.
Jose Fernandez is coming off a Rookie of the Year award, and a third-place showing in the Cy Young voting, so he is the man everyone talks about in the rotation. Behind him, though, the team has assembled a lot of guys who can really throw the ball hard. Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter in his last start last year. Nate Eovaldi throws smoke. Jacob Turner has a lot of potential, though he will need to be better than he was last year. There is depth, too, with at least a couple of good options for the fifth starter. The bullpen is solid, too.
Giancarlo Stanton has the makings of a star in this league, and he is now at the point in his career where he could take a big step forward. He, and the rest of the young roster, are helped by the addition of a few key veterans to add experience and stability to the team. Guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who won the World Series last year, Rafael Furcal, Reed Johnson, and Garrett Jones have plenty to offer this team.
Spring Training records mean very little, but the tone of a team in spring can be important. The Marlins have the best spring record in the National League, and they have been playing loose and looking like they are having fun. That's the kind of thing that can carry over to the start of the season and get the team a few good wins before anyone is paying any attention.
Toronto Blue Jays: It has become very popular to be down on this team this year. That sentiment is far from undeserved after the mess of a season they are coming off of. At least early in the year, though, this team has a chance to rise up above what people think.
For starters, health was a massive problem for them all year, but their roster is largely healthy to start the year. Encarnacion and Bautista are a fearsome duo in the middle of the order - one of the best in the league - and Jose Reyes is healthy. The disruptive force that was J.P. Arencibia is mercifully gone, and Dioner Navarro is a massive upgrade behind the plate. Melky Cabrera has some upside after last year as well, and Brett Lawrie can only get better if he can manage to stay healthy.
The rotation is an issue given that they failed to add another piece through the winter and spring, and the fifth spot is a question mark. They were so badly hit by injuries and poor performance last year, though, that they can't be any worse than they were. With Dickey and Buehrle up front, and Morrow, Hutchison and McGowan behind, this isn't a rotation you will tell your great-grandkids about, but it should be reasonably solid for a couple of trips through.
A lousy offseason has expectations very low, but this isn't fundamentally a massively different team than last year outside of half the rotation. This is a team that has a good chance to exceed expectations early on.
Baltimore Orioles: With the Red Sox as the defending champs, the Rays in good shape, and the Yankees drawing plenty of attention thanks to their superstar pitching addition, there is plenty of room for value in the bottom half of the AL East, so it is no surprise that this is the second team from that division here. This is, simply, a better team than they are getting credit for.
Ubaldo Jimenez was a solid addition to the top of the rotation, and he joins a group that lacks a superstar ace but which is deep and more than capable. Nelson Cruz won't add a whole lot as a fielder, but he can pound the ball, and Baltimore is as good a place to do that with good success as any. There is no shortage of positional talent, and it is young and only improving. The bullpen is solid.
Showalter is a good manager, and he a great fit for this squad. I don't think that this team is going to shock the division and win it all this year by any means, but they are ready to go out of the gate, and I would be far from shocked if they were at the top of the divisional standings at the end of April.
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