By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
Wow, what a glorious MLB season it was. Congrats to the Houston Astros for winning it all!
Now that your World Series-esque final exam is over and you’ve seen your grades, I hope you’re both satisfied with how well you did this season and excited to look ahead to the next semester. Whatever happens, thanks for reading my lessons over the season, and I hope I helped you learn something new.
But gambling and perks never stop, so I have a new lesson for you. As with any real task you’ve ever had, it’s best to start early. In other words, futures lines are more likely to be less efficient once they are published than when enough time has passed for other bettors to get them in shape.
This matters in baseball because FOX Bet has already released the World Series title odds for next season! If you want to get the most out of this class, it’s best to commit to a few now, even before free agents move on to new ball clubs and spring training.
As always, I’ve got you covered, so here are three teams I like as World Series champions next year, with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.
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New York Yankees (+800 on FOX Bet)
My first recommendation may be the only time I suggest it’s best to wait for news from Aaron Judge. If he doesn’t come back to the Bronx, it might be worth waiting for the odds to go up. There is a risk in the event that GM Brian Cashman & Co. wants to make a splash with, say, signing Justin Verlander, but the payout is more likely to go up than down.
It’s easy to look at the second half of the season and the ALCS and assume the Yankees are in freefall. But, when healthy, few pitchers could crack that batting order. From a Statcast perspective, Giancarlo Stanton had an average exit velocity of 95.0 mph, Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo had at least a 41% slugging rate, and Josh Donaldson had a 6% barrel average due to the appearance of plaque. In other words, the raw physical skills are there even without Aaron Judge.
The pitching is also one of the best in MLB. Gerrit Cole finished with 11+ strikeouts per nine innings, ranking third among ranked pitchers. Nester Cortes had a low 2.16 walks allowed per nine innings and, if he returns, Jameson Taillon had a 25 strikeout rate (16.3%). Also, given how often the Yankees have made the postseason recently, they’re going to have to break through at some point, and sometimes that’s all that can be asked for.
I know there are a lot of moving parts here, but I’d still spend a few bucks on the Yankees right now. And if the squad changes significantly, we can play them again close to the season.
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Tampa Bay Rays (+2000 on FOX Bet)
Arguably no contender has had to endure more injury news than the Rays. If you go to Spotrac’s list of the number of days players were on the injured list, the Rays ranked third, behind the Reds and Twins. Losing staples like Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe and even young standouts like Shane Baz were too much to overcome. Somehow, the Rays were still able to make the postseason, proving why virtually no roster can claim to have more depth. If Tampa Bay can combine that depth with injury luck, they’ll be formidable again.
Also, there’s an argument to be made that no ball club in the American League East has more stability when it comes to winning games and minimizing distractions. The short-term goal is to pick a team that can capture one of the top two seeds and earn a bye. If it can’t be the Yankees, it might as well be the Rays. I’d take those odds now.
Chicago White Sox (+2500 on FOX Bet)
Someone has to win the AL Central.
The Southsiders fell 11.5 wins shy of their preseason win total, tied for the AL’s second-largest margin of victory with the Angels. Yes, blaming injuries on players like Tim Anderson, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal is appropriate, but so is having a farm system ranked fourth by FanGraphs. Supplements couldn’t provide the power needed to replace some of the best sluggers in the sport. The top hitters have to be healthy for the White Sox to have any chance, and the injury luck has to turn the other way, right?
We also know how important an elite bullpen is to winning the World Series. Look no further than these past few weeks, when Astros relievers had a 0.83 ERA, lowest in postseason history.
They dominated the regular season, but the White Sox weren’t far behind. His independent pitching, which filters out defensive plays and focuses only on what a pitcher can control, ranks Chicago’s bullpen eighth overall (3.59). The White Sox may be top heavy, but if they spend wisely and take advantage of an easier division, they can make it to October. That’s all you can ask for in an early futures bet.
What you do now in terms of studying for next season and keeping up with free agency can help pay off later. Keep studying hard, watch the money roll in, and check back in this space soon for more MLB goodies.
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, sports betting analyst, data scientist, and assistant professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions have led him to become an aficionado of cold beer. Edward previously worked in local television, most notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas, covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. follow him Ttweet @EdWithSports.
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