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MLB Season Preview

March 30, 2013

The boys of summer get ready to take the field for another six months of baseball, vying for their chance to reach the playoffs, and ultimately the World Series. Their journey begins April 1st, and for at least the first few weeks, every team will feel like they have a chance to make it.

This year’s offseason was eventful as the Miami Marlins traded away many key players to the Toronto Blue Jays. Former 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton left the Texas Rangers and headed to the division rival Angels, signing a $125 million dollar five year deal with the Los Angeles. The leagues changed a bit, as well. The Houston Astros moved from the National League Central to the American League West.

mlb baseball 2013It’s time for me to get excited again, as this years baseball season is about to get underway. While I’ve done by best to pick some winners, the only sure fire prediction I can make about this season is that I will be manning the sofa for countless hours for the next 7 months!

MLB Futures and Season Win Totals

In this article, we’ll take a look at the favorites to win the World Series and some surprise teams that may make the playoffs. In addition, we’ll take a look at some of our favorite season win totals and offer some picks that will hopefully help bettors cash in this season.

Odds are provided by Bovada.lv, one of the top sportsbooks for US bettors. Deposit today to receive a 50% Bonus up to $250 in Free Bets.

AL Favorites

blue jays logoToronto Blue Jays +800: The Jays comes in with the most hype this season and are positively loaded in every position. After their offseason trades with the Marlins, the team is tied with perennial contenders the Detroit Tigers for favorites to win the World Series in the AL.

The lineup is loaded from top to bottom and projects to get a massive lift from shortstop Jose Reyes, who was acquired from the Marlins last season via trade. Reyes is among the best shortstops in the game; he is excellent defensively, has some pop and his bat and of course, has blazing speed. There is no better leadoff hitter in the AL, except perhaps the Angels’ Mike Trout.

The middle of the order features Jose Bautista, whose knee seems to be healed after a 2012 campaign in which he was hampered by regular injuries. Joey Bats looks to return to form this season; he hit 43 and 54 home runs in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Batting behind Batista is cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who crushed 42 homers last season to lead all of baseball.

The rotation has also been overhauled with Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle coming over from Miami and R.A. Dickey being traded with the New York Mets. Dickey is MLB’s only active knuckleballer and the reigning NL Cy Young Winner. His addition makes this staff a force to be reckoned with.

Their Chances: The Jays are well deserved AL favorites to win the World Series. This team is complete from top to bottom and seems to have no weaknesses heading into Opening Day. The AL East is a bit weaker this year, especially with the litany of Yankee injuries and the semi-rebuilding phase of the Red Sox. If their team performs as well as they look on paper, they should run away with the Division Championship.

detroit tigers logoDetroit Tigers +800: The Tigers seem to be in the conversation every year for a title, and this year is no exception. Detroit lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series last season making this team’s full focus will be winning a championship in 2013. Especially because many speculate this may be Jim Leyland’s final season at manager in Detroit before he retires.

Detroit’s powerful offense is led by none other than 2012’s AL MVP and last year’s Triple Crown Winner, Miguel Cabrera. Miggy gets it done every year and this year should no different. Notable additions include FA signing Torii Hunter to a two year deal and a fresh, healthy Victor Martinez after the catcher missed all of last season with an injury.

The rotation is led by CY Young Winner Justin Verlander, who is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. The rest of the rotation fills out nicely with three right handers in Anibal Sanchez, Max Schzerer and Doug Fister. Detroit’s starters were among the best in the league last season, combining to post a 3.76 ERA. The team does not currently have a closer and may go with a closer committee to start the season.

Their Chances: While the Tigers are clearly one of the most talented in the AL, they have not been able to get it done after several playoff and World Series appearances. While having a healthy V-Mart gives the Tigers an immediate upgrade at first, I’m not sure Torii Hunter is a significant upgrade over the departed Delmon Young. Hunter was terrific last year, but he is getting old, and we can’t see him thriving in the 2nd spot in the batting order.

Also, the Tigers rotation has been accomplished in the regular season, but when it comes to playoff time, they have underperformed. Schzerer is an enormous key to the Tigers success this year. If he breaks out as many experts predict, he could give Detroit two true aces and one of the best 1-2 starters in baseball.

Detroit is a formidable team, but we’re not if they have the complete roster needed to compete against some of the AL’s heavyweights.

In the Hunt

los angeles angels logoLos Angeles Angels +900: The Angels added free agent Josh Hamilton in the offseason, bolstering an already potent lineup that features young phenom Mike Trout and slugger Albert Pujols. The Hamilton signing proves the Angels are make a serious push for a championship within the next few years. If Trout can repeat his spectacular 2012 season, one in which he clubbed 30 homers and stole 49 bases while hitting .329, the Angels will be poised to make a run for the World Series.

The starting rotation is top heavy with Jered Weaver leading the bunch. C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton make up the rest of the rotation in the Angels’ overhauled pitching staff. Ernesto Frieri starts the season as closer while offseason acquisition Ryan Madson recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Their Chances: The AL West is a tough division as the Angels will have to beat both the Rangers and the A’s in their quest to win the division. Last year, they failed to make the playoffs despite a strong offensive season. Their pitching still looks somewhat questionable behind Weaver, who has thrown a ton of innings in recent years and may be overworked. However, this team is built to score runs, so if they can get even a small improvement out of their pitching staff and bullpen, the Angels could be headed to the postseason.

texas rangers logoTexas Rangers +1600: The Rangers turn the page after getting bounced in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs in 2012. Gone are Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young.

Texas has added Lance Berkman to the middle of their lineup in an attempt to replace the prolific Hamilton. Berkman missed all of 2012 with injury but had one of his best seasons ever two years earlier with the Cardinals. A.J. Pierzynski was signed as a free agent to catch for the Rangers.

Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish are the one-two punch on top of the Rangers rotation. The rest of it fills out with Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, and Nicholas Tepesch. The bullpen is anchored by the reliable Joe Nathan, who is just two saves away from 300.

Their Chances: The Rangers have been regular season warriors the past few years, winning the AL West two out of the last three seasons. That success has translated into two World Series appearances – both loses to St. Louis and San Francisco.

The team appears to have gotten worse in the offseason with the loss of Hamilton, but that may not be the case. If their young pitchers take another step forward, especially Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish – Texas will challenge for the AL West title and have an excellent rotation for a playoff run.

NL Favorites

washington nationals logoWashington Nationals +700: The Nationals are the odds on favorite to win the World Series by most online sportsbooks. Washington made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1981 (as the Montreal Expos) and look to build on their performance last year with another trip to playoffs.

The Nationals biggest acquisition in the offseason came in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. Denard Span, a prototypical leadoff hitter and an elite defender now mans center field for the Nationals. This fills one of the key needs for Nats.

The rest of the order is one of the best in NL. 20 year old Bryce Harper brings speed, defense and unlimited potential to the lineup after a productive 2012. The Nationals have also resigned Adam LaRoche, their offensive MVP last season. Jayson Werth is finally healthy and looks to regain his power stroke. Finally, the Nationals have one of the best third baseman in the game in Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals’ starting rotation projects to be the best in the National League. Steven Strasburg is now free of his team imposed innings limit, and will be free to wreck havoc on NL hitters for as many innings as he can handle. Gio Gonzalez led the majors in wins last season with 21 and projects to be a top pitcher again if he can dodge a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Dan Haren will join the reliable Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler as he tries to resurrect his career.

The Bullpen is also one of the best in baseball. While Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen were mostly effective in the closer role for the Nats, they fell apart during the playoffs. The Nationals brought in free agent Rafael Soriano to take the closer’s role signing to a two year 28 million dollar deal.

Their Chances: The Nationals are rightfully baseball’s favorite to win the World Series. They seemingly have no holes, especially after addressing their bullpen needs after last year’s playoff collapse. The team has some injury prone players, such as Werth and possibly Strasburg, but that isn’t a real concern at this point. At least to open the season, the Nationals look to be baseball’s most complete team.

la dodgers logoLos Angeles Dodgers +900: The Dodger start the season looking to build on last year’s team that just barely missed out on the playoffs. LA made a splash in free agency during the offseason, signing Zach Greinke to a five year $147 million dollar contract.

The Dodgers were a part of the blockbuster trade of the offseason trading James Loney and four prospects for then Red Sox players, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. They also acquired shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins in an earlier deal. This extra firepower will be added to the lineup that already features All-Star Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

Zach Greinke will anchor a rotation that features some of the NL’s best pitchers. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Chris Capauno fill out the rest of starting pitching staff. The Dodgers brought in closer Brandon League in the offseason and have an impressive setup man in Kenley Jansen if he should struggle.

Their Chances: The pitching staff is excellent and while the lineup looks excellent on paper – things did not seem to click the Dodgers last season. Maybe they lack team chemistry, but that seems less relevant in baseball where batter versus pitcher matchups make players accountable for their own performance. Can Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp stay healthy? Can Crawford produce like he did for Tampa Bay? Will Adrian Gonzalez find his power stroke again? Is Josh Beckett a liability in the rotation? The Dodgers have a lot of questions marks all over the diamond. Their pitching staff will keep them in games, but we’re not sure of their lineup can score runs like many of the NL’s best.

In the Hunt

cincinatti reds logoCincinnati Reds +1600: The Reds are out to avenge their NLDS loss from last season and certainly have the team to do it. Cincinnati acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians in the offseason, giving them one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters to add to an already potent lineup that features former MVP Joey Votto.

Johnny Cueto anchors a dynamic starting rotation with talented right handers Homer Bailey and Mat Latos perhaps headed for break out seasons. The bullpen is anchored by the hardest thrower in baseball Aroldis Chapman. The Cuban defector has clocked pitches at over 100 MPH and is the game preeminent closer.

The Reds already have the offense needed to win the World Series. They have a bullpen good enough to win a World Series, as well. That leaves the starting rotation as the only question mark. If the Reds’ starters can improve this season, Cincinnati could be the best team in baseball.

sf giants logoSan Francisco Giants +1200: The Giants celebrated another World Series victory last season, the second one in four seasons. The club acquired Hunter Pence from Philadelphia late last season as they made their playoff push. Pence disappointed at the plate and will be an enormous factor in how the Giants perform this season.

Of course, the Giants do it with pitching. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are two of the NL’s top starters along with a Ryan Vogelong, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. Lincecum struggled last season and was not a part of the playoff rotation, but looks to regain his ace status this season.

The Giants always seem to be counted out each season because of their bats or struggles at midseason, but like clockwork as the weather starts to get chilly, they come alive. They always seem to be playing their best baseball heading into the playoffs.

atlanta braves logoAtlanta Braves +1600: The Braves are a totally different team after signing free agent B.J. Upton last offseason and then trading for his brother Justin Upton in a trade with Arizona. In Jason Heyward and both Upton brothers, Atlanta has three five-tool players. First baseman Freddie Freeman could also be poised for a breakout season, giving Atlanta lots of options to drive in runs on offense.

The rotation is subpar compared to some around the league. Kris Medlen dominated last season when he came up from the minor leagues. Julio Tehran is a young pitcher still learning his craft. Veterans Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson have lost something with their stuff but can still challenge hitters and throw strikes. Reliever Craig Kimbrel leads a talented, young hard throwing bullpen. Kimbrel was one of the NL leaders in saves last year with 42.

The Braves may not challenge for a World Series just yet, but they look to have the makings of a young dynasty. Many teams would build around Heyward, the Upton’s and possibly Freddie Freeman, and Atlanta has all three of them. The pitching staff may not be good enough for the Braves to contend – but if it is – the rest of the National League should be on notice.

Season Win Totals

We’ll take a look at some of the most attractive OverUnders Team Props offered by the oddsmakers. Again, all of our listed odds are provided by Bovada Sportsbook, one of the world’s top online sportsbooks.

houston astrosHouston Astros Over 59.5: The Astros have been dubbed as one of the worst teams in the Majors this year, and while that may be the case, this team should be able to win 60 games with their current talent.

Their lineup projects to be poor, but is full of young talent with even more in the minors. Jose Altuve was the Stros’ only All-Star last season posting a .303 batting average and 33 stolen bases. The team has also brought in Carlos Pena who certainly does not hit for average (he hit .192 last season) but is a perennial power threat who has averaged 32 home runs per season in his career. Chris Carter has been acquired to play first base and could be positioned for a breakout in 2013. He is not quite put together at the major league level but hit 182 home runs in eight minor league seasons.

The pitching staff is the real key to Houston’s mediocrity this season. Remember, they only have to win 60 games for us to win our bet. Lucas Harrell is projected to be the Astros’ “ace” after he finished the season with a 3.76 ERA in 193 innings and had an impressive second half. Bud Norris and Erik Bedard add a veteran presence to the young rotation that also features Jordan Lyles, a top prospect who has struggled so far the major league level, but still has dominant stuff. Add in Phillip Humber and you have a rotation that looks poor but with some luck here and there and maturation of young talent could be around the league average.

This team does not look like the 100 loss team that many experts are predicting. They played great in small stretches last season and could actually improve this season despite losing several key players from a season ago.

Baltimore-Orioles logoBaltimore Orioles Under 78.5: We’ll make this one short and sweet. The Orioles won 93 games last season in what was a compete aberration. Baltimore had a +7 run differential, which was the lowest among any teams that made the playoffs.

Many non playoff teams had +40 or above run differentials and were held to worse records. This team played way above expectations last season and got lucky to get blown out in their losses and win close low scoring contests. That will not happen again this year. Many players are due for regression on their roster, and the Orioles will take another step back before they take another step forward in 2013.

pittsburgh pirates logoPittsburgh Pirates Over 77.5: The Buccos are perennial losers but after a season of playing above .500 for four months of the season – Pittsburgh looks to take the next step in 2013. The Pirates have one of the most exciting players in the game in Andrew McCutchen. The young center fielder was an MVP candidate last season as he led the Pirate’s offense. He clubbed 31 homers while hitting .327 and stealing 20 bases.

Much of how the season goes in Pittsburgh will depend on the development of Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte. Alvarez looks to take the next step in his career after hitting 31 home runs last season. Marte is a legitimate 20 homer-20 steal threat as he looks forward to his first full season in the big leagues. His excellent defense and exceptional speed, add much needed speed and power to the Pirates’ offense.

The rotation is perhaps the Pirates’ weak spot, but veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez will both be healthy to start the season as Rodriguez looks forward to his first full season in Pittsburgh. James McDonald could regain his early 2012 form in which he held an ERA just over 2.00 for the first half of the season. Pittsburgh also have one of baseball’s top prospects in Gerrit Cole, a right hander whom everyone in the majors agrees will be a star. Cole should taste the majors around June.

We’re going out on a limb in saying this is the year Pirates finally break free of their 20 straight losing season and reach .500.

Check back at Sports Betting Online for more MLB betting coverage throughout the season, as we’ll be providing weekly tips and picks right up til the World Series.

About the author

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts

Sports Journalist

Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.