In mere days, pitchers and catchers will report to MLB spring training. That means it’s probably a good time to examine baseball betting futures. We know who the major contenders are—the Phillies in the National League and the Red Sox in the American League—but who are the top sleepers and busts?
St. Louis Cardinals (World Series odds: 20 to 1)
The Cardinals relinquished the National League Central to the Cincinnati Reds last season, but we shouldn’t consider them down for the count just yet. Their one-two pitching punch of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter is still as good as any in the game, at least holding a candle to Halladay/Lee. Albert Pujols in a contract year is terrifying. He also has support from Matt Holliday and maybe Lance Berkman, who could squeeze out one more good season since opponents will pitch around the other two stars. Maybe the Cards can compete for a Wild-Card berth?
Detroit Tigers (World Series odds: 30 to 1)
The Tigers, Twins and White Sox have taken turns owning the American League Central over the last several years. Could the door be open for Detroit to return to glory? Justin Verlander is a great staff anchor and Max Scherzer could be just as good this season; he dominated in the second half of 2010. Miguel Cabrera should have better lineup support this year now that the Tigers have added Victor Martinez; Austin Jackson should score a ton of runs at the top of this lineup. Detroit isn’t the deepest team, however, so remember—this is still a sportsbook sleeper, not a favorite.
Milwaukee Brewers (World Series odds: 100 to 1)
What’s with the 100 to 1 odds? The Brewers could be a steal in that position. Offense has never been the problem in recent years. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder (contract year), Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks all have 30-homer ability. Pitching is what held the Brewers back in the winnable NL Central. Suddenly, they’ve added Zack Greinke and underrated Shaun Marcum to a rotation that already had Yovani Gallardo. Rand Wolf makes for a fine No. 4. This team could seriously make the playoffs.
New York Yankees (World Series odds: 5 to 1)
Yep, I said it. The Yankees will be a bust this season. Sure, their lineup is still dangerous with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and so on. But A-Rod, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada are getting long in the tooth. More importantly, pitching could be a major concern. C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes are nice to have but who knows what A.J. Burnett will do? Who will fill the Yanks’ last two rotation spots with Andy Pettitte retiring?
San Diego Padres (World Series odds: 75 to 1)
At least the books have already clued in and bumped the Padres’ odds down. San Diego were a win away from becoming the 2010 season’s biggest MLB betting surprise and making the playoffs. Sadly, I think that miracle run will just falsely inflate fans’ expectations this season. They’ll find a way to churn out good pitching with Mat Latos anchoring the staff, but how on Earth will the Padres score runs with Adrian Gonzalez gone? This could be the majors’ lowest-scoring team in 2011.