With just a few days remaining until the MLB season kicks off, it’s time to place your bets for which team will win each division.
While most of the divisions around the league have one or two clear favorites, we’re not here to discuss them. Instead, we’re going to take a look at some sleeper teams that could give you the most bang for your buck if they do end up surprising some people.
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays (+350)
Putting the reigning American League champions as a sleeper to win their division seems odd, but it’s true in this instance. They shipped their best player, pitcher Blake Snell, off to San Deigo and got rid of a few other players from the 2020 season.
Still, the Rays have always been a team that finds a way to do more with less and superstars always seem to emerge from a roster of unknowns. They still do have some star power though, with Kevin Kiermaier in the outfield. Tampa will also be hopeful that Chris Archer’s return to the sunshine state will provide a renaissance and that shortstop Willy Adames can take the next step in his development.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians (+700)
Though they no longer have one of the best players in baseball after losing Francisco Lindor, they still have enough quality arms to pull off a surprising season. They bring back AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and accompany him with Zach Plesac, who could be one of the better young starters in baseball and top prospect Triston McKenzie, who had a solid first taste of MLB action last year, has clinched a spot in the starting rotation.
AL West: Oakland Athletics (+175)
The American League West is tough to pick a sleeper for because the Houston Astros are favored, the A’s follow close behind, and then it falls off a cliff after that.
Oakland might have a chance to once again overtake the Astros this season, though. Former Astros outfielder George Springer signed with the Blue Jays this offseason and Houston SS Carlos Correa has been the topic of trade talks. Mix in what Houston lost and what the A’s bring back in their pitching staff, and that could be enough to get them a second straight division crown.
NL East: Washington Nationals (+600)
The Atlanta Braves are an absolute wrecking ball of a team and are favored in this division for good reason. Still, there’s excitement over the other four teams in the division as well, but the Nationals provide the best value from a betting perspective.
The Nats struggled quite a bit during the condensed 2020 season, but this rotation still features two of the best pitchers in baseball, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, who each helped them win the World Series in 2019. Plus, the Nationals added Jon Lester in the offseason to the rotation. Offensively, Washington added Pittsburgh slugger Josh Bell and another former player from the NL Central in Kyle Schwarber. They bring back dominant performers like Juan Soto as well.
NL Central: Cincinnati Reds (+330)
It’ll be an uphill climb for any team to challenge the St. Louis Cardinals, but if anybody can do it, it’s the Reds. Sure, they lose one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball as Trevor Bauer signed with the LA Dodgers, but they still have some solid pieces in place.
Sonny Gray is still one of the better pitchers in the league and starter Luis Castillo seems to have gotten better and better in each of his four years in the bigs. They also bring back Eugenio Suárez and Nick Castellanos, who could provide a big impact in the lineup.
NL West: San Diego Padres (+200)
This division is really a two-horse race between the two California teams. The LA Dodgers are the reigning World Series champions, but San Deigo added a ton of pieces to compete this offseason.
On top of the young talent, they already have in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr, the Padres added a ton of pitching depth and some star players. The Friars got Snell in a deal with the Rays and added Yu Darvish as well. They also signed Ha-Seong Kim to an MLB deal from the KBO. He has been one of the best players in the Korean league in recent years and was a highly sought after player.
It won’t be easy, but the Padres have made the right moves this offseason to potentially take down the Dodgers.
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