Cactus League Observations: MLB Predictions for Giants, Padres, Reds and Diamondbacks
For the last 15 years, I have surveyed the Cactus League in Arizona and gotten a look at all 15 teams. With baseball shut down and not expected until mid-May, at the earliest, we don't know what the season will look like going ahead.
However, this doesn't change my perspective of what I saw, read or believe at this point. On the videos I did (Doug Upstone Free Sports Picks and Predictions at YouTube), I gave out MLB picks on season win totals, which are now irrelevant and they will not be included in these series of four articles.
San Francisco Giants (5th in NL West, 13th-best NL odds)
With Bruce Boche riding off into the sunset, the remnants from three World Series titles are Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford for San Francisco. The Giants somehow won 77 games last year. And with no Madison Bumgarner, the expectations are considerably lower. All three of the players mentioned are in their 30's, with their best days behind them, and we'll have to see if the new dimensions of Oracle Park add to their offense and those of their teammates. Of course, that also means the opposing hitters will have the chance to improve their hitting. The Giants were 13th in the NL in starting pitching ERA, and that was with Mad Bum. Subtract him, and you have Jeff Samardjiza and Johnny Cueto at the top of the San Fran staff… yikes. The polarizing hire of Gabe Kapler doesn't bode well for a bullpen that was 3rd in NL ERA a year ago. After years of watching Boche masterfully find answers out of the pen, Kapler will be quite an adjustment for Giants fans. Bottom line on Frisco, take "Under" or pass when we see the MLB odds.
Doug's Doc's Picks - Potential Under Play
San Diego Padres (3rd in NL West, 11th-best NL odds)
General Manager A.J. Preller had managed to make a splash each off-season until this year. Unfortunately, headlines, have not turned into victories on the field, and executive chairman Ron Fowler has put the word out. During Preller's term, no team in the NL West has a worse record, with three last-place finishes and two others ending one step higher. Oddsmakers are calling for improvement and a possibly a notch above a .500 season, thanks to improved starting pitching with Chris Paddock the acknowledged ace, backed by imports Garrett Richards and Zach Davies, who have to stay healthy. If Drew Pomeranz and Kirby Yates work out in the back of the bullpen, that will be a huge plus. The front part of the batting order has potential with Fernando Tatis Jr., Tommy Pham, Manny Machado, and Eric Hosmer. After that, too many three-and-out innings for the Padres. Improvement seems possible coming off a 70-92 campaign, but I'll say the Friars top out close to .500 with a new manager, Jayce Tingler. I'm not overly impressed with the overall pitching, lineup and bad actors like Machado and will lean Under.
Doug's Doc's Picks - Potential Under Play
Cincinnati Reds (3rd in NL Central, 7th-best in NL odds and T14th-best for World Series)
After four straight years of being in the NL Central basement, Cincinnati climbed to fourth place, and there are indications the Reds will move up at least one spot and possibly, just possibly, could be a playoff team if everything breaks right. Cincinnati has not had a winning season or made the postseason since 2013. After four years of having the worst rotation in the NL, the Reds biggest weakness turned into a strength, finishing 5th last season and was 4th overall in ERA. Luis Castillo could be breakout star; Sonny Gray has his confidence back, and Trevor Bauer should regain the form he had in Cleveland. The Cincy bullpen is loaded with arms. With Joey Votto in decline, the signing of Mike Moustakas and Nicholas Castellanos from division rivals was brilliant, and they will fit nicely around slugger Eugenio Suarez. Playing at Great American Ballpark will naturally help the Reds offense. If you are looking for an Over play and NL Central dark horse, Cincinnati has the right look.
Doug's Doc's Picks - Potential Over Play and medium-sized bet to win NL Central
Arizona Diamondbacks (2nd in NL West, 10th-best NL odds)
The Arizona Diamondbacks made a late push for the playoffs a year ago and ended up with 85 wins. By adding Madison Bumgarner, in a shocking move (he wanted to play in Arizona for less money), the D-Backs feel they are primed for a push. The Snakes were 6th in runs scored in the senior circuit. And even if Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar have modest regression from career years, this is still a potent lineup that is not always consistent yet one that can get hot for weeks at a time. You know what to expect from Mad Bum, Robbie Ray and Mike Leake. The key to Arizona's starting pitching is Luke Walker throwing effectively after missing four months in 2019 and the continued growth of Zac Gallen, who was the second pitcher in NL history to concede three or fewer runs in his first 15 starts as a rookie. The signing of Junior Guerra was smart for the D-Backs bullpen, but I'm skittish on Archie Bradley as a closer, as he's either masterful or a disaster. Let's go with a lean on the Over with Arizona, generally liking this team and being high on manager Torey Lovullo.
Doug's Doc's Picks - Potential Over Play
Doug Upstone brought to Doc's Sports 21 documented No. 1 titles and finished in the Top Ten 80+ other times in a distinguished career. Doug as a professional handicapper/writer, has written for various well-known sports betting websites and several of the football newsletters you have read before.
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