Archived: Hank’s AL East Betting Preview
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Welcome to Hank’s MLB’s AL East division. In this preview, we’ll take a look at the win totals and futures odds for the teams in the American League (AL) West, which includes the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles.
With the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the 2020 MLB season, we’re working with incomplete information as it comes to some of the betting odds and lines. That said, we’re still able to preview each team, as even though the season is delayed indefinitely, the rosters are still in place so we can paint a picture of what to expect.
Last season, it was the Yankees topping the AL East with 103 wins and 59 losses. That was the second-best record in the American League, behind only the Houston Astros of the AL West. Speaking of those Astros, the Yankees went on to face them and lose in the AL Championship Series. Tampa Bay also made the postseason, first winning the AL Wild Card Game against the Oakland A’s, then losing to the Astros in the AL Division Series.
Entering the 2020 season, the Yankees are one of the favorites to win the World Series, just behind the Los Angeles Dodgers of the NL West.
*Odds from BetOnline: Bet it Here!
World Series odds for AL East teams
New York Yankees
It’s quite possible that no team will benefit more from a delayed start to the season than the New York Yankees because many of the team’s injured stars should be ready by Opening Day. The Yankees also added ace Gerrit Cole with a nine-year, $324 million deal. They did let Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius leave, but it’s World Series or bust for a team coming off a 103-win season.
Cole led the league in strikeout’s last season (326) and excelled in every major statistical category. The Yankees got lucky with Masahiro Tanaka after he took a line drive to the head off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton, resulting in a mild concussion. J.A. Happ looks to bounce back after he saw his ERA balloon to 5.22 and his K% drop from 9.78 to 7.81 from 2018 to 2019. James Paxton (herniated disc surgery) could be ready to pitch during the first week of games. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and ready to provide depth to the rotation. Luis Severino will sit this season after Tommy John surgery. New York’s bullpen is 10 arms deep, led by Aroldis Chapman (32 saves and 2.28 FIP in 2019), Zach Britton (77.2 ground ball percentage), and Adam Ottovino (11.4 K/9).
The Yankees led the American League with 943 runs scored last season and belted 306 home runs, one behind the Minnesota Twins for the league lead. They also had six players hit 21 home runs or more, and that was without Stanton for 144 games. Stanton (calf strain) has missed at least 43 games in three of the last five seasons. He hit 38 home runs in 2018 when he played 158 games in his first season with the Yankees. GM Brian Cashman said, “I think a DH role by Opening Day is a possibility.”
Aaron Judge (pectoral strain) could be ready for Opening Day. Aaron Hicks (Tommy John surgery) is expected to be at less than 100% but is also expected to be ready for Opening Day as the Yankees play the world champion Washington Nationals. This Yankees team is loaded and they are the favorite to win it all.
Tampa Bay Rays
I consider the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation to be the best in baseball this season. I also love their chances to win it all.
The Rays made big changes offensively as they lost Tommy Pham (21 HR in 2019) and Avisail Garcia (20 HR), but the club also acquired Hunter Renfroe and Jose Martinez to try to minimize the amount of power they lost.
The Rays rotation is spectacular. Charlie Morton was in the top five in the AL in FIP, K/9, and Fangraphs WAR (6.1/4th in AL). Blake Snell, the AL Cy Young award-winner in 2018, regressed in 2019, but his 3.32 FIP would have been tied for fifth in the American League. Tyler Glasnow was terrific in 12 starts last season (2.26 FIP). The Rays also use openers and feature bullpen games. Their bullpen is littered with short, medium, and long relievers. It has the best depth in the game and I’m a big fan of reliever/opener, Diego Castillo, and his 98-mph sinker.
Offensively, the Rays lost 51 home runs from Pham, Garcia, and other veterans departing. The offense finished seventh out of 15 AL teams with 769 runs scored last season and finished in the bottom half in home runs. The Rays feel that Austin Meadows will continue to improve after slugging 33 home runs and a .922 OPS in 2019. Newcomer Renfroe slammed 33 home runs with the San Diego Padres last season and lead-off man Brandon Lowe would have been a candidate to hit 25 homers if not for the shortened season. If the Rays can figure out how to be an even average offense, and I believe they will, they could win the World Series.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox made a big move this offseason. In a monster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston netted them RF Alex Verdugo and prospects and sent Mookie Betts and David Price to LA. The Red Sox also brought in pitcher Collin McHugh and outfielder Kevin Pillar. Other noticeable losses for Boston include Rick Porcello to the New York Mets and Brock Holt to the Milwaukee Brewers. Boston is retooling on the fly as they look to improve upon an 84-win season that resulted in a .533 win percentage.
Chris Sale needed Tommy John surgery. Now without an ace to eat innings and battle other front-line starters, the Red Sox rotation is in trouble. Boston will be without its current top starter, Eduardo Rodriguez (sixth in AL Cy Young voting last year), as the left-hander deals with COVID-19. Nathan Eovaldi and McHugh, who hasn’t made more than 12 starts in a season since 2016, can help them stay in games. Big arms in the Red Sox bullpen resulted in 10.5 K/9 last season, which was best in MLB, and the team’s 4.41 FIP was fourth-best in the AL. Brandon Workman is the closer after notching 16 saves with a 1.03 WHIP in 72.1 innings last season. There are eight or so other arms that could contribute. This bullpen is competent.
The Red Sox offense was fourth in runs scored in the AL with 901 last season, although they ranked near the bottom of the league in both hard-hit rate (25th). Boston did lose Betts but they have Xander Boegarts (33 HR/ .939 OPS), J.D. Martinez (36 HR/.939 OPS), and Rafael Devers (32 HR/ .916 OPS). The club is hoping Christian Vazquez builds upon his 2019 season and Andrew Benintendi realizes his full potential. New right fielder Verdugo is coming off a back fracture, but before the injury last year, he had 12 home runs with a .871 OPS in just 106 games.
Lacking a legitimate front-line starter will hurt this team enough to where I don’t see them playing in the postseason. No Sale, no Betts, no bueno.
Toronto Blue Jays
After losing 97 games last season, the Toronto Blue Jays completely revamped the starting pitching staff with the additions of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, and Chase Anderson (trade). They also lost first baseman Justin Smoak (averaged 28 HR over the past three seasons) and signed Travis Shaw (.551 OPS in 270 plate appearances in 2019).
The excitement surrounding the Blue Jays revolves around the young core of position players. The organization is banking on three players who debuted last season to continue their evolution: Vlad Guerrero Jr. (15 HR), Cavan Biggio (16 HR), and Bo Bichette (.951 OPS). Third-year outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has just 149 major league games under his belt and last season hit 20 HR in 343 plate appearances.
Toronto used 21 starting pitchers last year. Ryu will lead the staff as he comes off a season with the Los Angeles Dodgers that saw him post a 2.33 ERA and a 3.10 FIP. Contact-pitcher Roark slides in behind Ryu and ahead of Chase Anderson. This is a shallow rotation lacking talent. The bullpen features closer Ken Giles (23 saves/1.87 FIP in 2019) and Sam Gaviglio should be an important innings-eater this season after logging 95.2 last year. The rest of the bullpen is a mess. This is the fourth-best team in the five-team division.
Coming off a 108-loss season and 115 losses in 2018, the Baltimore Orioles are rebuilding and not trying to field a competitive team in 2020. The offseason was quiet, as Baltimore traded away Jonathan Villar and Dylan Bundy for prospects.
Baltimore finished 11th out of 15 AL teams with just 729 runs scored and they’ll play the short season without their best hitter, Trey Mancini, who hit 35 home runs and recorded a .899 OPS. Mancini is battling colon cancer and expects to play next season.
Baltimore’s win total is 20.5 at the FanDuel Sportsbook. Last year their win percentage was .333 and all they’ll have to do this season is win 21 games to improve upon that stat. They’ll be horrible but I’m fading both sides of that low total.
2020 AL East picks and predictions:
Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series (+1700)
Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East (+300)
I absolutely love the Rays. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, pitching depth in both the rotation and bullpen will be even more important with 60 games crammed into 66 days.
Morton, Snell, and Glasnow make the best starting trio outside of Washington. They have multiple openers and their bullpen is good enough to build upon a great 2019 which saw them tie with the Astros for the best reliever WHIP (1.20) and the second-best FIP (3.94) in MLB, trailing only the Twins in that category.
The offense is a concern for the Rays, but should be competent enough to be in the middle of the pack if Renfroe gets double-digit home runs, Meadows builds upon his stellar 2019, and Willy Adames and Lowe continue their ascent.
Getting 17-1 (+1700) odds on the team that I think is the best to succeed in a short-season is an easy bet. Getting 3-1 (+300) odds on Tampa Bay winning the division is risky, but I’ll take it over the Yankees, who are at -290.
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