MLB futures betting: finding value on long shots
We are now one month into the new MLB season and the futures betting odds have shifted to reflect each team’s recent results. The Blue Jays are now the favorites to win the AL after making a blistering start to the year, while the odds on the Brewers have also dipped in the NL. Meanwhile, the odds on teams such as the Astros and the Rays have drifted following a few underwhelming performances.
This presents bettors with interesting opportunities to unlock value by wagering on unloved teams. We also have a month’s worth of data to back up some long-term plays, so let’s take a look at some interesting statistical trends and line movements, which will allow us to identify some long-shots that could upset the odds.
Houston Astros to Win the American League
The best price available on the Houston Astros to win the American League at the start of the season was just +475. That was understandable. After all, they have won the AL in three of the past five years, they were too strong for their rivals last season and they managed to re-sign star pitcher Justin Verlander.
You can now find +600 on them at some sportsbooks, which looks very interesting. The Astros have made a strong start to the season, winning 17 of their 28 games so far, and they are 8-2 in their last 10. They are playing with confidence, and they should get the better of the Angels and clinch the AL West.
The odds on the Astros winning the American League have only drifted because a couple of their rivals have been so impressive. The Yankees went on an 11-game winning streak, which catapulted them to the top of the AL East. They rank in the top three in all of baseball for team ERA and offense. The Blue Jays have also looked strong, pulling off several victories over the Astros in the opening month.
Yet a season in the majors is a marathon, not a sprint. The Astros undoubtedly dropped some games they should have won in the opening, including blown leads against Toronto. However, there is nothing unusual there. They also started slowly in 2020 and 2021, but went on to flourish at the business end of the season. The ’Stros typically improve as a season wears on – and their recent six-game winning streak was highly encouraging – whereas their rivals may run out of stream, so odds of +600 on Houston look great.
Atlanta Braves to Win the NL East
The leading online sportsbooks set the Atlanta Braves a regular season wins target of 90 at the start of the year, with -110 on over and -110 on under. The Mets were given a regular season total wins line of 89.5, suggesting the reigning world champions were expected to prevail in a tight battle for the NL East. The data analysts at FanGraphs were even more bullish on the Braves, projecting 91.9 wins, compared to 88.8 for the Mets. Only two teams in the entire league – the Dodgers and the Blue Jays – were assigned a higher win projection.
However, one month into the season, the landscape has changed dramatically. FanGraphs now expects the Mets to secure three more wins than Atlanta and wrap up the division with ease. They have certainly made a flying start, with a .679 win percentage in their opening 28 games and a terrific record on the road, having benefited from Steve Cohen’s extravagant spending spree. By contrast, the Braves have made a sluggish start to proceedings, and they already trail the Mets by six wins.
Betting on the Mets to win the NL East has become so popular that they are now best priced at just -175 with PlaySugarHouse. Caesars Sportsbook will only go to -200 on them. That does not look particularly appealing. A contrarian play on the Braves at +320 with Caesars and FanDuel is tempting instead. After all, they have already faced the Dodgers, the Padres and the Mets in the first month of the season. They have not displayed a great deal of intensity yet, but they should soon find their groove. Their Expected Batting Average is in the top-10 in the league, but their actual batting average is in the bottom 10. They should soon start taking their chances.
Six wins is already a big deficit to make up, but it is not implausible. There are still question marks over the Mets’ defense, and they may struggle to maintain their current levels of consistency over the full season, giving Atlanta an opportunity. You can now find +1500 on the Braves to win the World Series with FanDuel and various others, and that also looks intriguing.
Trea Turner to Win the National League MVP Award
The battle to win the NL MVP award looks intense. Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado are +650 joint favorites, while Juan Soto is also near the top of the betting. You can easily make a case for an elite player such as Bruce Harper, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor too.
Trea Turner faces fierce competition, not just in the NL but also on his team. Freddie Freeman and Betts are clear contenders for individual glory, so it will be challenging for Turner to shine. Yet odds of +2000 just look too generous on such a talented player. He is the reigning NL batting champion, and he could easily lead the league again.
In fact, it would not require a great leap of faith to imagine Turner leading the NL in batting average, runs and steals. If he hits 25 to 30 home runs, the award could be heading his way, so +2000 looks attractive. Even if he is only in the top three for batting average, runs and steals, he would still probably be a finalist, at which point you could hedge your bets and wager on his two rivals for the award.
Philadelphia Phillies to Win the World Series
This is undoubtedly a leftfield choice for the World Series. The Phillies are priced at +3000 with Caesars Sportsbook, which makes them considerable outsiders. However, there is a lot to like about this team in the opening weeks of the season.
They already rank third in Expected Batting Average. The offense has been full of menace, with Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber nicely supplementing the talents of reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. It will be difficult for the offense to maintain such high standards throughout the season, but a pitching staff led by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola will ensure they remain contenders.
The Phillies are already eight wins behind the Mets in a stacked NL East, and FanGraphs gives them just a 33.5% chance of making the playoffs and a 1.6% chance of winning the World Series. They are unlikely to win a division featuring the Mets and the Braves, but they have enough quality and depth to clinch a wild card, and they would be dangerous in the postseason. Most sportsbooks are only offering +2500 on the Phillies, so +3000 is a generous price if you are looking for a long-shot to root for over the course of the year.