Cubs overwhelming favorite for 2017 World Series futures

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No team has won back-to-back World Series since the turn of the millennium, but the Chicago Cubs are favored to do so after ending their 108-year drought earlier this month.

The Cubs opened 2016 at the top of the board and delivered by winning three elimination games in a row to defeat the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs will return almost all of their nucleus except for free-agent closer Aroldis Chapman, so it is no surprise that Chicago is at the top of the 2017 World Series odds at +350 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With utilityman Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Addison Russell and LF Kyle Schwarber all in their peak years, Chicago is well set up to be postseason regulars for years on end.

Only the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have gone back-to-back during the 22-season postseason history of the wild-card era. The afterglow of the Cubs winning has probably inflated the prices for other contenders. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are each listed at +900.

The Red Sox will have five everyday players who will age 28 or younger next season and are rumored to be the landing spot for free-agent DH Edwin Encarnacion, who has turned down a qualifying offer from the rival Toronto Blue Jays.

The Dodgers won the NL West last season even though ace LHP Clayton Kershaw missed a third of the season, so clearly their ceiling could be even higher than last season’s 91 wins.

The Washington Nationals are listed at +1200, on the presumption that they might eventually have a bullpen to buttress the star power of RF Bryce Harper and RHP Max Scherzer.

Washington’s prospectus will change if they go against their emphasis on starting pitching and get in on the bidding war for one of the four prized free-agent closers – Chapman, Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.

Despite coming within one run of winning the World Series, Cleveland is listed at +1400 along with Toronto, the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants.

It seems strange to see the New York Yankees well down the board at +2500, but the Yankees are still in belt-tightening mode and are unlikely to add more payroll.

Value in 2018 MLB Pennant Odds Ranges Beyond Astros, Yankees, Dodgers

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Only three teams have won consecutive pennants in the last 16 Major League Baseball seasons, which should be a nudge to look beyond the teams about to unfurl flags celebrating 2017 success.

Three weeks out from Opening Day, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros and the New York Yankees are +275 co-favorites on the odds to win the 2018 American League pennant  and the Los Angeles Dodgers have the National League’s top prop at +225, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Astros have a strong chance to repeat as AL champions thanks to the prospect of having a full season of both Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the starting rotation, which should upgrade a pitching staff that had just the 11th-best earned-run average in MLB in 2017. The hype over the Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton show has pushed the Yankees’ price below 3-to-1, but a wait-and-see approach should be taken with New York, since both sluggers could regress.

The Cleveland Indians (+325) and Boston Red Sox (+600) round out the top of the AL board. The Minnesota Twins (+1800), who have quietly improved and play in a shallow AL Central division, could be a surprise.

Over in the National League, the Dodgers still look scary at bat and on the mound and could benefit from getting a push in the NL West, where the San Francisco Giants (+1000), Arizona Diamondbacks (+1200) and Colorado Rockies (+1800) have no time for tanking. Iron sharpens iron, after all.

The Washington Nationals (+350) and Chicago Cubs (+375) likely won’t face such a deep group of challengers in their respective divisions, the NL East and NL Central. Since the Nationals are in a now-or-never situation with one-time MVP Bryce Harper due to become a free agent, there is some appeal in putting a bet down just to tap into that urgency in Washington. The Cubs should field a playoff-calibre team, but whether they ever re-capture their 2016 postseason magic remains to be seen.

It’s probably best to fade the St. Louis Cardinals (+900) and the aforementioned Giants, whose prices on the 2018 National League pennant odds owe more to history or recent success than the outlook on the field in 2018. Bettors seeking a sleeper have a far greater return by taking, say, Colorado, which has an exciting lineup built around third baseman Nolan Arenado and made the 2017 playoffs with the second-youngest pitching staff in all of MLB.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Dodgers head into spring training as World Series betting favorite

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While trading for Giancarlo Stanton gives the New York Yankees a pair of 50-home run hitters in their lineup, the sharps still believe pitching and depth are the name of the game in World Series futures.

Coming off a seven-game loss in the 2017 Fall Classic, the Los Angeles Dodgers are +500 favorites on the 2018 World Series odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. As spring training gets underway in Arizona and Florida, there’s a big three at the top of the board, with the aforementioned Yankees (+550) and the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros (+550) offering a just slightly higher price than the Dodgers.

Major League Baseball has gone 17 consecutive seasons without a repeat champion and only three teams (2008-09 Philadelphia Phillies, 2010-11 Texas Rangers and 2014-15 Kansas City Royals) have made back-to-back World Series appearances. It’s possible the game is overdue for a change.

Both Houston and Los Angeles had more than 100 regular-season wins in 2017 despite the fact the best pitchers on either staff, the Astros’ Justin Verlander (late August trade) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (injury), weren’t around for the full season. However, both teams still have a young core.

Adding Stanton as a big bat to go with Aaron Judge means the Yankees’ price has dropped by half from an opening +1100, days after the World Series. However, with TV analyst-turned-skipper Aaron Boone as a rookie manager, the Yankees will be trying to become only the fifth team to win the World Series with a first-year manager. Only one of the previous four – the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks – has come since the wild-card era began.

The Washington Nationals (+800), Cleveland Indians (+850), Boston Red Sox (+1000) and Chicago Cubs (+1000) are the only other teams at 10/1 or less. Considering its success over the last two seasons, Cleveland could be undervalued. Wariness about Washington stemming from its failure to advance past the NLDS is understandable, but the Nationals are in a do-or-done scenario with superstar rightfielder Bryce Harper in his contract year.

Adding Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, a pitcher-outfielder, has brought the Los Angeles Angels’ price down to +2800, from an opening +5000. Expecting one player to have that much impact in his first season stateside seems like a tall order.

The deep sleeper might be the Colorado Rockies (+5000), who have one of MLB’s most productive infields with third baseman Nolan Arenado, second baseman DJ LeMahieu and shortstop Trevor Story. Colorado’s prospects are contingent on either wrestling the NL West title from the Dodgers or winning the “best of one” wild-card series.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.