MLB Handicapping: Teams with Possible Betting Value
by Trevor Whenham - 2/21/2014
Part of what makes baseball such an intriguing sport is that you never know what you are going to see. Last year at this time everyone was jumping on bandwagons in Toronto, Washington or Anaheim. Meanwhile, many people — myself unfortunately included — were very skeptical about the Red Sox and didn’t view them as real contenders at all. It’s rare that things work out even remotely as expected in baseball. It goes without saying, of course, that if you can spot teams correctly in the preseason that go on to have surprisingly strong regular seasons then you are on the road to very nice profits. Using MLB season win totals as a guide, here are three teams this year that have the potential to exceed expectations:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Season win total 87.5): Given the reasonably high win total, this wouldn’t be a massive surprise. There is a decent chance, though, that this team could be dramatically better than expected — closer to what they were supposed to be last year. If they had won all season at the rate they won in their last 100 games last year, they would have wound up with 84 wins, so they weren’t an awful team after their disastrous start. They only need to be somewhat better — and more consistent — to have a much better year this season. They had a good offseason to move in that direction. Adding David Freese stabilized third base significantly and added a winning attitude, and the loss of Mike Trumbo isn’t too painful. Tyler Skaggs is a nice addition to the roster, too, and I like Raul Ibanez as an option at DH. Beyond all that, they have the best young player in baseball in Mike Trout, and Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols both have the potential to be dramatically better than they were last year. They are certainly vulnerable to injuries because they are top-heavy, but if they get some luck the team has a chance to really blow past this total and qualify as a real surprise.
Toronto Blue Jays (Season win total 79.5): This is a real-life example of the story of the boy who cried wolf. Expectations were massive last year, and the public believed that a franchise that had long been varying shades of pathetic was going to light the league on fire. It clearly didn’t turn out that way, and now a bitter public has tuned this team out entirely. As bad as last year was, though, what you have to remember is that Toronto had a shocking number of injuries. Basically no one escaped, and the team just couldn’t recover. If they can stay healthy, though, then there is no shortage of talent here. The rotation has some nice pieces, though they could use some depth. Bautista and Encarnacion are massive bats. Lawrie is emerging, and Reyes and Izturis make up a pretty nice middle infield. Cabrera and Rasmus have potential. Basically, this is a big portion of the team that drew such high hopes last year, so they could have a big year ahead. They weren’t particularly active this offseason — in stark contrast to last year — but replacing the absolutely awful J.P. Arencibia with Dioner Navarro is a massive upgrade. With some luck — lots of it to make up for a total absence of it last year — this total to blow way past this win total and maybe even contend in a very uncertain AL East.
Chicago White Sox (Season win total 77): It wouldn’t take much for this team to be counted as a surprise because pretty much everyone has forgotten they even exist after their struggles the last couple of years. They won just 63 games last year, so even winning 77 to match the win total would be a big improvement. This team has a decent chance to flirt with .500 or better, though, because they had a very solid offseason. It was far from flashy, and that’s why the public isn’t giving them much credit. It was very competent, though, as they added needed pieces with good upside. Cuban Jose Dariel Abreu is very intriguing. Felipe Paulino was pitching great in 2012 before needing Tommy John surgery, and he has tons of potential. I like both Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson for this team. They really added effectively to the bullpen as well. This team will need some breaks, and they need to stay healthy, but their upside is quite a bit higher than a lot of people would guess.
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