It’ll be a while until the 2021 MLB postseason rolls around. The regular season won’t start until over a month from now, and the playoffs will get underway in early October. Of course, it’s never too early for MLB betting sites to start taking bets on the upcoming season.
On Wednesday, those baseball betting sites have slapped odds on the chances of all 30 teams to qualify for postseason play this season. While the playoffs are a long way off, there is value to be had here. Before last season began, few expected teams like the Marlins, Reds, and Blue Jays to get in.
Of course, the 2020 season featured a shortened regular season schedule and an expanded playoff field. This season will feature neither of those things. So, we’ll go back to having a total of 10 playoff teams, five from each league. Obviously, that hurts everyone’s chances, but it makes betting on the potential postseason field a bit more interesting.
Houston Astros (-110 to Qualify)
It’s been a rough couple of years for the Houston Astros. Since losing Game 7 of the 2019 World Series to the Nationals, just about everything went wrong for this team. The sign-stealing scandal came to light. Their manager and general manager were both canned. Gerrit Cole left. Justin Verlander got hurt. Yordan Alvarez, too. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman endured less-than-stellar statistical seasons. The ‘Stros had to lean heavily on a pitching staff featuring an aging Zack Greinke and about 10 rookies.
…and they still managed to come to within a game of advancing to another World Series.
Of course, things will be different again in 2021. George Springer left for greener pastures, while Verlander will likely miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Houston has done almost nothing in free agency this winter, which means they’ll look to replace lost talent from within.
Leadoff candidate Myles Straw – https://t.co/vfKxTbPJ58
Steven Souza Jr. relishes an opportunity – https://t.co/UabJQwgHP2
Whitley, Leon absent – https://t.co/u6OlrueaUJ
Video – https://t.co/zpfT8JDQ1r
New kind of spring for Kyle Tucker – https://t.co/C1L91H0Eow
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 24, 2021
Fortunately for the Astros, they have more than enough talent to do so. Losing Springer certainly takes some power out of the lineup, but Alvarez is back. Michael Brantley re-signed, and Kyle Tucker came on strong last season. Between those three and Altuve, Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel, this offense still has plenty of firepower.
The pitching staff doesn’t look all that impressive on paper, but they do have some capable young arms. Framber Valdez looks like a sleeper Cy Young candidate, while Lance McCullers, Christian Javier, Jose Urquidy, and Enoli Paredes are all high-upside young arms.
You may not like the Astros, but there is still plenty to like about this team from a baseball point of view. Houston is in a tough division, but it would be a major surprise if they fell off that much. Bet on the Astros to make another postseason appearance in 2021.
Toronto Blue Jays (-110)
The Blue Jays were one of the big winners of the offseason. Adding Springer was one of the biggest moves any team made, and he’ll instantly provide a jolt and some veteran influence into Toronto’s young lineup. The Jays also signed one of baseball’s most underrated players in Marcus Semien, who should slot in nicely right at the top of the lineup while filling a hole at second base.
We know the Jays will be able to hit. There’s power one-through-nine in the order.
Nate Pearson is one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. The Jays swung trades for Tanner Roark and Robbie Ray last year, while Steven Matz was brought over from the Mets earlier this winter.
Preventing runs may be more difficult for Toronto than scoring them will be, but there is still some upside in this rotation. If Pearson takes the expected next step and a talented arm like Ray is able to figure things out, there is more than enough talent here.
Toronto made a playoff appearance, albeit a brief one, last year. Getting their feet wet in that regard was a necessary step. Winning the division won’t be easy considering the Yankees and Rays rule the AL East, but anything is possible over the course of 162 games. The Blue Jays look like more of a Wild Card threat than a divisional winner, but it still counts. I like the upside in Toronto at -109 to qualify for the postseason.
Los Angeles Angels (+160)
Every year, I talk myself into this being the year the Angels finally coalesce around Mike Trout and make a run. And, every year, they get off to a miserable start and instantly slump toward the bottom of the standings.
Could this year be different!? It’s possible. The Angels have not been bashful about trying to spend money in an attempt to build a winner around the best baseball player on the planet. While they have successfully made just one measly postseason appearance in the 10 years he’s been here, there is still reason for optimism with the ’21 Halos.
Shohei Ohtani is reportedly fully healthy and “a full go” when it comes to both pitching and hitting. I’ll throw last year’s two-start sample out the window and call it an anomaly. It was a weird, pandemic-shortened season, and Ohtani was fresh off of Tommy John. I’m expecting him to look a lot more like the stud we saw in 2018 than the shell of Ohtani we’ve seen in the two years since.
@MikeTrout continues his reign as the No. 1 player of the #Top100RightNow. pic.twitter.com/DuVOaC3Ap6
— MLB (@MLB) February 19, 2021
Trout is Trout. Anthony Rendon is here. We know what Ohtani is capable of doing. Justin Upton showed some signs of coming around last season. Jo Adell, David Fletcher, and Jared Walsh add some beef to what is shaping up to be a solid lineup once again.
As is the case with the Blue Jays, the Angels’ playoff chances likely hinge on their pitching. Dylan Bundy was outstanding in his first year in Anaheim. Ohtani is a wild card, of course. Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning are a couple of promising young pitchers. We’ll see what new addition Jose Quintana has left in the tank. The Angels bolstered the bullpen by nabbing star closer Raisel Iglesias from the Reds, which should help cure what was one of their biggest maladies in 2020.
Can they finally play up to their talent level this season? Possibly. Will it all go horribly awry again? Probably. The odds favor the Angels missing out on postseason play, but I’m once again willing to take a shot on the dream of seeing Trout playing into October. I will take the bait and bite on the Angels at +160 to get in.
Oakland Athletics (-120)
The Athletics have opened as slight favorites over the Astros and Angels to win the AL West. Oakland has undergone a few changes this winter, with key cogs like Semien, Tommy La Stella, and Liam Hendriks having skipped town, but this is still largely the same team we saw a season ago.
A lot will depend on the development of the A’s young arms. Jesus Luzardo (2021 AL Cy Young Sleeper) and AJ Puk entered the big leagues back in 2019 with all sorts of hype, but Oakland is still waiting on both lefties to establish themselves. Puk has unfortunately dealt with a rash of injuries that have stalled his growth, while Luzardo was up-and-down last year after opening the year on the pandemic list. Frankie Montas was hit-or-miss in his first season following his PED suspension, as well.
The team added a couple of former Rangers in Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland to the lineup, while Tony Kemp will get a shot at replacing La Stella as the full-time second baseman. One of last year’s better comeback stories, Trevor Rosenthal, was added to replace Hendriks at the back end of the bullpen, as well.
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson will be the driving forces in the A’s offense. I’m not sure Oakland should be this heavily-favored over Houston to win the division, but there isn’t much reason to expect the A’s to see much of a drop-off in performance from 2020 to 2021. As such, you can still get good value on Oakland at -120 to sneak into the postseason for the fourth straight year.
Cleveland Indians (+290)
The Indians have almost completely dismantled the roster that nearly won the World Series back in 2016. Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Santana are all gone. Sadly, the only players left from that team are Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez.
The Tribe seem to be headed for a rebuild, but let’s not forget that they did just make the postseason. If they get back again in 2021, it’ll be as a result of their stellar pitching. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber is leading a rotation jam-packed with impressive young arms. Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Triston McKenzie have all shown quite a bit of upside in brief stints at the big-league level.
Cleveland ace Shane Bieber reports to camp after COVID-19 bout.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) February 20, 2021
Cleveland has had no issue developing young pitching talent in recent years, which could be enough to keep this team relevant. On the flip side, scoring runs could be problematic. The loss of Lindor takes arguably the best offensive shortstop in the game out of this lineup. Ramirez was an MVP frontrunner a season ago, but there isn’t much else to like in this lineup.
Cleveland is leaning on the likes of Franmil Reyes, Oscar Mercado, and Eddie Rosario to pick up the slack. Between the pitching prowess and the impotent offense, we could see the Indians involved in quite a few low-scoring games this season.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, as long as they find themselves on the right side of those low-scoring affairs often enough. Minnesota and Chicago are clearly the cream of the crop in the AL Central, but don’t be surprised if the Tribe are relevant in the Wild Card chase by the time September rolls around.
At +290, Cleveland is good enough to be worth a cheap flier to get back into the playoffs this fall.
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