Deadspin’s MLB Gambling Guide/Futures Bets to make for the 2021 season

Deadspin’s MLB Gambling Guide/Futures Bets to make for the 2021 season

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Franciso Lindor, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mike Trout
Illustration: Shutterstock (AP)

One year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic resided through its infant stages, the baseball world was looking on helplessly and having to wrestle with the thought that there might not be a season.

As it turned out, we would get the strangest campaign in history. A 60-game sprint (the league just loved to market that to help evade it from being called a sham) with all sorts of monumental changes like a universal designated hitter, seven-inning doubleheader bouts and that runner-starts-on-second-each-half-inning-in-extras nonsense. Sadly, the latter two predicaments will be back for 2021.

From a gambling perspective, it was an especially challenging ordeal. All those major new wrinkles, which coincided with other significant factors such as having no fans in ballparks (until late postseason) and the array of COVID-19-related postponements, ripened for additional variance. Players — who are considered the biggest creatures of habit in sports — had to make notable adjustments. Many apparently couldn’t effectively, however.

But if I may channel Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! While normalcy is not quite fully back just yet, this season marks our closest return to such since March 12, 2020, the date of the last pre-pandemic spring training games before everything got shelved.

That being said, let’s dig into the wider-than-ever assortment of futures bets and player props to explore what stands out.

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Team Futures: Best Over/Under Win Total

Team Futures: Best Over/Under Win Total

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Salvador Perez
Image: Getty Images

Kansas City Royals Over 73.5 Wins (-130)

Is the Royals’ rebuild reaching its renaissance? Well, they’re clearly moving in that direction, and hence, figure to at least be a competitive bunch all season.

Being in the relatively so-so AL Central, that would point to a final win tally in the mid-70’s, if not higher. Despite a fourth-place finish a year ago, KC really wasn’t as bad as their 26-34 record suggests.

About half of their losses came by two runs or fewer, and they also comfortably put together the lowest team ERA (4.30) of any non-playoff participant. The Royals actually sport an underrated pitching staff that can soon be carried by emerging youngsters Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. Meanwhile, strong relief work also remains after placing as one of the nine bullpens in all of baseball to register a sub-4.00 ERA.

Kansas City’s problem was they couldn’t score, generating more runs last season than only one other American League club (Rangers). However, much was done to address that, as the team added Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana and Hanser Alberto. Those three useful bats join a hit parade that already casts three All-Star talents in Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez, not to mention speed demon Adalberto Mondesi. Phenom shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. will be up at some time, too.

And hey, don’t look now but the Royals have been rolling through March, currently tied for first in the Cactus League. Make of that what you will, but remember, all we need for them to do is not lose 89 games.

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Team Futures: Best Yes/No Playoffs Future

Team Futures: Best Yes/No Playoffs Future

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Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Adrelton Simmons
Image: Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels to make playoffs (+170)

Don’t even argue it. The biggest travesty in professional sports today is the fact that Mike Trout has been to the playoffs a grand total of one time in his nine years in the big leagues. One time — which didn’t even produce a single postseason victory!

Traditionally in Trout’s career, the Angels have trotted out lousy starting pitching to offset their usually stout batting order. A perfect example of that came two years ago when the Halos registered a quality-start rate of just 14 percent, the lowest such mark by any team in a full season this century. Only one other rotation (2012 Rockies) churned out something even below 20 percent within that time frame.

Alas, LA has its deepest rotation in years (just like its NL counterpart). Perhaps the deepest it has ever been during Trout’s tenure. They have a couple of arms in Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney (more on him further below) flirting with ace status. Shohei Ohtani and Griffin Canning are back. And to ensure this project runs smoothly, the Angels nabbed Alex Cobb and Jose Quintana, two veterans that have crafted success under Joe Maddon.

Plus, this is the final season of Albert Pujols. Do you really think Trout and Co. let him go down without a whimper? No.

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Team Futures: Best Division Future

Team Futures: Best Division Future

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D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres
Image: Getty Images

AL East - New York Yankees (-195)

Typically, taking a futures bet with such juicy odds isn’t the wisest of choices. After all, anything can happen to a team over the course of this seven-month journey.

The Yankees have had plenty happen to them in recent years, whether it be a rash of significant injuries or even falling victim to an opponent’s cheating scandal. A lot of bad luck has plagued this storied franchise but can it possibly continue?

I’m perusing this bet with the belief that won’t be the case; that the Bronx Bombers will largely stay healthy (though they’ve already seen Luke Voit land on the IL). That means a really stacked team is taking their crack at a division featuring mostly rather uninspiring or declining foes, while having real World Series aspirations.

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Team Futures: Best World Series Future

Team Futures: Best World Series Future

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Francisco Lindor
Image: Getty Images

New York Mets +775

You know we live in a strange world when the Mets enter a season with the third-lowest title odds on the board, being more-respected than any other team but the Yankees (+400) and Dodgers (+220).

It is warranted, however. New owner (and lifelong diehard Mets fan) Steve Cohen took over and immediately bestowed his power when the organization made a blockbuster trade for Francisco Lindor and (the, of course, already-injured) Carlos Carrasco. They didn’t land any big-name free agents but that really wasn’t necessary, as the Mets still enjoyed an active and productive offseason in which they plugged in spots where they had to.

New York’s Flushing-based team is pretty well-rounded with a shot to go the distance. Lindor joins a potent lineup that already boasts a dangerous core of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto. There’s also a strong rotation led by the game’s best pitcher in Jacob deGrom, along with a talented and trusty bullpen.

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Player Futures: MVP

Player Futures: MVP

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Image: Getty Images

NL - Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres (+700)

Tatis was my pick for this award in 2020, and while he finished fourth, it’s tough not backing him once again entering his third major league season. The 22-year-old is already the most exciting player around.

What’s always an important factor for MVP is team success. Well, after beefing up an already-postseason-bound roster from last year, the Padres appear poised to do even more. So long as they remain a playoff team — which they will — Tatis will merit serious consideration, easily being the most important piece of their efforts.

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Player Futures: Cy Young

Player Futures: Cy Young

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Image: Getty Images

NL - Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres (+850)

Just like for MVP, I’m going with my exact pick from a year ago — one that ultimately wound up as the runner-up.

After a magnificent campaign, Darvish was dealt to the Padres, which can only boost his dominance even further being able to take half his turns at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. For those that question the validity of last season’s run within a two-month slate, feel free to stretch it back to the 2019 All-Star break. Since that point (across 25 starts), Darvish has amassed a whopping 211 K’s in just 157.2 innings (12.07 K/9) while holding batters around the Mendoza Line.

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Player Futures: Rookie of the Year

Player Futures: Rookie of the Year

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Image: Getty Images

AL - Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (+850)

The pool of rookie talent in the American League runs very deep. Perhaps even more so than any year in recent history, with guys like Wander Franco, Jarred Kelenic, Nate Pearson and Michael Kopech seemingly destined for greatness.

But the key when determining the Rookie of the Year is repetition. Will those aforementioned four players log enough game action? Maybe not. What is certain, though, is that Mountcastle will have a frequent presence around the middle of Baltimore’s batting order all year long. After his impressive 2020 stint, consider me sold on the former first-round pick.

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Player Futures: Most Home Runs

Player Futures: Most Home Runs

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Image: Getty Images

Matt Olson (+1750)

There’s excellent value here with the A’s ascending slugger. Olson slugged 14 dongs during the 60-game sprint despite hitting .195, a putrid mark I don’t think we’ll see him even come close to here.

The year before, Olson led all AL first basemen with 36 homers — and that was miraculously while missing 35 games. The 27-year-old is enjoying a nice spring and if he can just stay healthy, he’ll be capable of showcasing mammoth-like tendencies.

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Player Props: Wins

Player Props: Wins

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Image: Getty Images

Jameson Taillon Over 8 Wins (-120)

Wow, the disrespect on this man. Perhaps it’s more the oddsmakers forgetting how good Taillon really is. After all, he‘s missed quite a bit of time thanks to Tommy John.

Regardless, this is a delicious opportunity to profit on something so mistaken. It would be one thing if Taillon was still on the hapless Pirates. But he’s not. He plays for a team that will flirt with 100 wins — and Taillon, an ace-caliber pitcher, just has to be credited for eight of those?? Well then. This is my favorite prop bet.

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Player Props: Wins

Player Props: Wins

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Image: Getty Images

Andrew Heaney Over 9.5 Wins (-115)

As for my second favorite player proposition, that would be this intriguing offering. Does Heaney finally start recognizing his potential in a full season?

I think now that the Angels are (finally) getting it all together, so, too, will Heaney. He’s been knocking on the door of being an All Star for some time now and he only hasn’t been one yet through no fault of his own. Instead, Heandog is a frequent guest on the injured list, having reached 20 starts in a campaign only once in his seven-year career. One big reason I see an Angels uprising this year is directly related to Heaney staying healthy, meaning he should etch double-digit W’s.

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Player Props: Wins

Player Props: Wins

Illustration for article titled Deadspin’s MLB Gambling Guide/Futures Bets to make for the 2021 season
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James Paxton Over 8.5 Wins (-120)

Similar outline to the Heaney prop: Left-hander on AL West team that hasn’t reached the stardom they’re capable of yet due to always getting hurt. But when healthy, stardom is clearly on the horizon.

In the case of Paxton, he’s now back in Seattle after a pair of up-and-down seasons with the Yankees, including the most recent one that saw The Big Maple limited to five starts because of — what else — an injury. He looks to be back at full health now, though, based on a dominant spring that has seen him punch out 17 batters in only 8.1 innings. I’m fully on board with a vengeful Paxton return.

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Player Props: Home Runs

Player Props: Home Runs

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Image: Getty Images

Clint Frazier Over 22 Home Runs (-120)

Finally, we are about to see what Frazier can do over a full season. He hasn’t done much since arriving in New York a few years ago as a top prospect. But that can be attributed to a lack of playing time.

Frazier’s time will come now, and after an encouraging 2020 in which he slammed eight homers in 39 games. That projects to more than 30 long balls over a full season. Given that he now holds a comfy spot in the explosive Yankee lineup, it’s probably smart betting on this hungry youngster to supply a modest 22 taters.

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