MLB Spring Training Betting: Lessons we have Learned
by Trevor Whenham - 3/13/2015
It's very early in spring training still, so it would be ridiculous to read too much into what is happening now. It has been a long time since we have seen meaningful baseball, though, so I can't help but pay attention - and look for some things that could prove to be useful down the road. As spring rolls along we will know more, but at this point here are seven storylines that have stood out to me because they could be relevant in our search for value once the season starts.
The Jays are cursed: I was, yet again, reasonably optimistic about the Jays heading into this season. This is at least the fourth year in a row - and the last three haven't exactly gone well for me. Maybe I'm loyal to them as a Canadian. Anyway, one of the big reasons I was optimistic about this team was Marcus Stroman. The young mighty mite was very solid last year as a rookie, and I was looking for him to take a solid step forward this year. He was going to be a stud that drove this team. Well, so much for that. In a ridiculous fluke situation he was fielding a grounder on a practice field, got called off, and wound up with a torn ACL - his season came to an end. It's not a fatal blow for the team, but it does mean that one of their younger pitchers is likely going to have to be rushed into the rotation before he ideally would be. This team has had horrible luck on the mound for years, so this latest bad blow is almost to be expected.
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Taijuan Walker could be in for a nice year: Walker is young and very raw - the 2010 first-round pick for the Mariners has only eight career MLB starts over two seasons. He was spectacular in the minors in 2013, though, and showed flashes last year. If he could step up and fill a rotation spot for the Mariners this year then it could be big for their hopes of winning their division - which they are more than capable of doing. So far, Walker has been very good. His action has obviously been limited so far, but he is throwing very well, showing off freakish athleticism, and looking very much like a guy who is hungry to compete at the major league level. He's one I'm bullish on as a handicapper this year.
A-Rod may not be done yet: Alex Rodriguez has looked surprisingly decent so far, and he even has a home run. I actually don't care at all from a betting perspective - he or a replacement will be similarly useful for the team at this point. I just love it for the drama that is plaguing a team that sure deserves it. After the game in which he went deep, the Yankees official account tweeted that Beltran and Ellsbury had had RBIs in the game, but they totally ignored A-Rod's bomb. So ridiculous and juvenile. I love it. Couldn't happen to a better team.
Michael Pineda back?: On more positive Yankees news, the early indications are finally positive regarding Pineda. When he was a rookie with the Mariners it was almost too easy to call him the next Felix Hernandez. Injuries, a trade, and general disappointment have really shattered his expectations. So far this spring, though, he has looked good. He says he is healthier than he has been in a long while, and his attitude has reflected that. He has not pitched much, but he has looked very good doing it, and there is more reason to be optimistic now than there has been since his sophomore year. The Yankees could certainly use some good news in their rotation.
Reds have rotation depth: The Reds are not a team I am absolutely in love with this year, but they have a chance to be good. One thing that spring has shown us already is that they don't have to worry about rotation depth. There are six guys fighting for the five rotation spots out of camp. So far, all six have had a chance to show their stuff, and all have looked good. It's early, but pitching depth is never a bad thing.
Hard to read Matt Harvey so far: The Mets think they are a contender. I really don't. What could prove me wrong, I guess, is if Matt Harvey can return from Tommy John surgery and recapture his impressive form. He was an ace, and they need him to be one again. I'm not that optimistic, but I was hoping that camp would provide some clarity. Not so far. He looked really strong in his first outing, but it was short. The second outing was both shorter and less impressive. Quite a bit less impressive. We still have to wait and see what we have with him.
Cubs fans are even more unrealistically excited than ever: The Cubs are going to be overbet ridiculously early in the season. That's a given. Their fans are crazed, and they have more reasons for hope now than they have had in years. There will be value in betting against them several times regardless of how well they are playing because of the rabid betting on a hugely public team. Well, the early start to the spring will have done nothing to dim those hopes. Young sluggers Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant face massive expectations. They only amped those up on Tuesday against the Indians when they all hit home runs in consecutive at-bats. When you watch the highlights you see that Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer gets a lot of credit for the dingers because he was serving balls on tees, but that context won't slow the excitement of the Cubs faithful.
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