Some say it is hard predicting the future, but I say, have you ever read this from wikiHow? It’s pretty simple actually. Read some Greek mythology, keep a dream journal, get some Tarot cards, gaze into that crystal ball, and the future is crystal clear. Seriously. It is that easy. Here are the absolute-stone-cold-can’t-miss-locks of the year that will definitely not miss because I am an oracle now thanks to wikiHow. Keep in mind that the division, award, and World Series odds will fluctuate over the course of the 162 games. Now is a great time to look for the best value on the board before the season kicks off. All lines and odds are from Bovada.
Milwaukee Brewers over 89.5 wins 2u, World Series +1800 .25u
The NL Central is one of the weakest divisions in the show with the Reds joining the Cubs and Pirates in their white flag waving parade. Playing these three teams for roughly 35% of their schedule will undoubtedly help, but this team can go toe-to-toe with the best in the game behind their three-headed monster of a pitching staff. The fact that this team won 95 games last year without Christian Yelich contributing to his fullest potential says enough. Take the over with the Brew-Crew, and add a little on them to find some success in October.
Oakland Athletics under 71.5 wins 1u
The A’s are a fascinating franchise who are in the midst of yet another rebuild. In lieu of the Matt Olson and Matt Chapman trades, their best offensive player is Ramón Laureano, who is still under suspension for another 27 games. The bullpen is incredibly thin, and their rotation won’t be any better with the trade of Sean Manaea to San Diego. Many feel it is inevitable that Frankie Montas will be traded, too. Under 71 wins might seem like a low number to take, but PECOTA projections have them finishing with 65 wins. This ship has a lot more sinking in store.
AL Central winner: Chicago White Sox -200 2u
It’s typically not the best idea betting on such heavy favorites, but sometimes the juice is worth drinking especially considering the depth and talent the South Side Sox boasts. There simply aren’t any holes to poke into this roster, while the rest of the division is littered with inexperience and question marks. The White Sox have retained the vast majority of their 2021 roster, and are coming off a season in which they finished 3rd in both wRC+ and xFIP among all MLB teams. Despite missing a combined 270 games between Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, and Yasmani Grandal, the Sox steamrolled the rest of the division and won by 13 games over the second-place Guardians last year with a 93-69 record. Expect a repeat of last year, and if the -200 is too steep for your taste, pair them with the Dodgers to win the NL West at -230 to make a +115 parlay.
Seattle Mariners over 84.5 wins -115 1u
One of the most popular dark-horse contenders this year lies in the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners have stuck out to the masses largely in part to the wheeling and dealing of General Manager Jerry Dipoto. The big splash was signing reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, but the acquisitions of Adam Frazier, Eugenio Suárez, and Jesse Winker also stand out. Ranked with the 2nd best farm system, the tantalizing young guns they possess in Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, and Matt Brash at the big league level also cause reasons for optimism. Clearly, the Mariners are in win-now mode, so don’t be surprised to see them in the thick of every trade rumor with Dipoto at the helm.
NL Rookie of the Year: Seiya Suzuki +450 1u
The Cubs’ 27-year-old, “rookie” already has 9 years of professional ball under his belt from his time spent in Japan. Unlike the majority of the NL ROY candidates, Suzuki will start the season with the big-league club as the starting right-fielder. No service manipulation or minor league seasoning is needed here. Coming off a 38 HR, 1.073 OPS 2021 season for the Hiroshima Carp, the 5 projection systems on FanGraphs agree that his talent will translate state-side. Steamer particularly loves Suzuki, having projected him to have 142 wRC+ on 3.9 WAR for 2022. If he plays anywhere near this level, he will likely be the 5th Japanese ROY in MLB history.
AL MVP: Byron Buxton +5000 .25u
The former top prospect was finally living up to the lofty expectations, and then the injury bug struck once again. Despite playing just 61 games last year, Buxton finished 19th in WAR in the American League at 4.2. Always elite with his glove, he showcased his propensity to hit and hit for power last season, finishing with a 169 wRC+. Ultimately this all comes down to his health, but the same could be said about every other player’s future. If he finds a way to stay healthy for 130+ games he should be in the conversation for AL MVP which makes this 50/1 wager tremendously valuable.
NL MVP: Mookie Betts +1200 .25u
Going on year 3 in Dodger blue, Mookie is due for a big rebound following his sub-par 2021 season. Dealing with a right hip injury throughout last year, Betts played only 122 games last year en route to his lowest WAR (3.9) and wRC+ (131) since 2017. He proclaims the hip injury is a thing of the past, and at 12/1 I will gladly take the discount considering he was the MVP co-favorite with Juan Soto going into last season. This year Soto is the favorite at an outrageous +350 price before a game has even been played. Yes, he is arguably the best hitter in the game, but he doesn’t come close to what Mookie can do on defense or on the base paths. Steer clear of that +350 for a more palatable +1200 with Mookie as he looks to become just the second player to win the award in both the American and National League.
Wins Leader: Dylan Cease +4500 .25u
By now we all know the win is an outdated stat that bears close to no weight in a pitcher’s true performance. Chris Flexen and Steven Matz had 14 wins apiece last year, good for 6th most. Sure, it’s an outdated stat, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make some cold-hard-cash on it!!! Considering the volatility this stat is tied to with both offense and bullpens, take a look at the lower end of the odds board for this bet. Cease caught my eye at 45/1 based on the strength of his offense, quality of divisional opponents, improved skills from last season (3rd in whiffs on pitches in the zone), and the back-end of the White Sox bullpen. He has rightfully grabbed the attention of bettors for the AL Cy Young, and his odds for the award have imploded. Initially listed at +3000, he now sits at +1200. The projection systems have Cease finishing with around 12 wins this year, while the favorite Gerrit Cole (+650) is projected to have 15. With a little luck here and there who is not to say Cease ends up with the most wins in the league.
Strikeout Leader: Freddy Peralta +1800 .25u
Peralta burst out on the scene last year as an All-Star and finished in the top 5% of all pitchers in K%, xERA, and xwOBA. He was 4th in K% among all starting pitchers, his 4-seamer rated 3rd best in the game according to StatCast, and ZIPS has him projected to lead MLB with a 12.46K/9 for 2022. There are 12 NL pitchers with better odds than him for this wager … how? As stated earlier, the Brewers and Peralta face the anemic lineups of the Pirates, Reds, and Cubs nearly 35% of the time. If he can string together an additional 30 innings or so this year, he will be in the thick of the K leaders come October. He might be worth a flier to win the NL Cy Young at 40/1.
Hits Leader: Luis Robert +2500 .25u
Yes, he only played 68 games last year, but Robert led the league in hits per game (1.37) last season en route to a .338 batting average. Across his first 124 career games, he owns a 12.6% barrel rate, which would have ranked 2nd best last year. La Pantera walked in just 4.7% of his plate appearances, yet he has just the 21st lowest odds. Too much upside and value to pass up here.
I swear I am not a White Sox fan, I just like their odds. Eloy sustained a freak injury last year when he ruptured his left pectoral tendon, and finished with only 10 HRs in 55 games, hence the discount given here. Still only 25 years old, Eloy’s elite power to all parts of the field makes him worthy of a sprinkle to lead the league in homers. He was 4th in barrel% back in 2020.
Alvarez is another behemoth more than capable of being the home run king. Yordan blisters the ball as hard as anyone in the league and was top 10 in both barrel% and average exit velocity in 2021. ZIPS projections have him finishing with the 4th most dingers, and at 24 years old there is still room to grow for Alvarez.
All of these wagers have a unit on them.
Joey Votto over 25.5 home runs -125: Votto’s approach has altered from earlier in his career when he was trying to be the perfect hitter. As he said late last season he aims to, “hit the ball hard and far,” and he did just that last year with 36 dingers. The projections at FanGraphs have a much rosier outlook for Joey.
Giovanny Gallegos under 28.5 saves -140: New skipper Oliver Marmol has proclaimed that the Cardinals will not have a traditional closer with Alex Reyes out for the foreseeable future. While Gallegos is likely to receive the bulk of closing duties, projections have him coming in closer to 20 saves.
Robbie Ray under 245.5 strikeouts -135: That’s a lot of strikeouts. That’s the analysis. He barely surpassed this in his Cy Young campaign last year. Lean towards taking the under (yeah, and I have 3 overs in this list, so what? Sue me.) for season-long props with the potential for injuries across the long season.
Alex Bregman over 23.5 home runs -115: … unless there’s a discounted line like this. With his pull-heavy power approach, Bregman lives in the Crawford Boxes which sits just 315 feet to left field at Minute Maid Park. His power was sapped last year due to a wrist injury, but he had 31 HRs in ’18 and 41 HRs in ’19. I’m expecting a bounce-back year for Bregman, and kind of like his AL MVP price at 40/1.
Patrick Corbin under 11.5 wins -125: Pitching on a team projected for roughly 71 wins doesn’t bode well for the over here. Corbin finished in the bottom 8 percentile in xERA and xwOBA last year. Pitchers with the same over/under include Nathan Eovaldi, Kevin Gausman, and Adam Wainwright.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)