Cubs top World Series futures, but early favorites seldom win

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Neither their price nor recent history makes the Chicago Cubs an enticing play on the latest 2017 World Series champion futures board.

As teams begin spring training in Arizona and Florida, the defending champion Cubs are the +450 favorite on the odds to win the World Series this fall, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Boston Red Sox are close behind at +500, which is also on the low side compared to the prices for other recent World Series-winning champions in mid-February.

It is true that the 2016 Cubs, with their 20-something core led by 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell, practically went wire-to-wire as the favorite. The only time they were not at the time was when they were a loss from elimination against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

The Cubs, however, were listed at +750 at the outset of spring training last season, and a price in that range would make the current version a much more worthwhile play.

All of the prior six champions had a price ranging from +1600 (the 2015 Kansas City Royals) to +3000 (2013 Boston Red Sox) in the middle of winter. The Cubs’ price is the lowest seen at this point since 2010, when the New York Yankees were at +300. Those Yankees lost in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers, who in turn were defeated by the San Francisco Giants — a one-time +2500 preseason underdog.

If that is any rule of thumb, then the value is in the middle of the board. Considering that they each pushed the Cubs during the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants (+1200) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400) are both underrated at this point.

A fast start from the Giants and their starting pitching trio of LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Jeff Samardzija would cause their odds to move due to their status as a three-time World Series-winning team. The Dodgers also stack up well, considering that they won 91 games last season even though franchise LHP Clayton Kershaw missed about 10 starts.

With their trade for LHP Chris Sale and the Killer B’s on the field — RF Mookie Betts, SS Xander Bogaerts and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. — the Red Sox deserve the preseason hype. Cleveland (+800) is the third AL champion in a row, after the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, to win a pennant on pitching and situational hitting, and that can have a shelf life.

One AL team that profiles similarly is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have spent years amassing young talent. With an excellent infield of 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman and SS Carlos Correa, the Astros’ have a fairly wide window to become the first Texas team to win it all.

No team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees three-peated. The MLB regular season begins on April 2.

MLB 2017 betting props roundup: Home run leader, Cy Young Award odds

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Some long-term trends, one individual and one historical, work against the favorites in two of the big Major League Baseball season props.

Miami Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton is established as the +750 favorite on the MLB home run leader odds for 2017 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. And on the Cy Young Award winner odds, Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox is the +200 favorite on the American League board while a fellow left-hander, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, is the +100 favorite on the National League board.

Stanton’s slugging prowess speaks for itself, but staying in the lineup has been an issue for him. The Marlins star has reached 500 at-bats only once in the past five seasons, so it is buyer beware when it comes to betting on Stanton to stay healthy enough to mash 40-some big flies.

The Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (+1250) is coming off consecutive 40-homer years in the high altitude of Denver. Reigning champ Mark Trumbo (+2000) is not the first Baltimore Orioles slugger you will find on the board, with corner infielders Chris Davis (+1500) and Manny Machado (+1500) each higher. Machado is entering his age-25 season and is nearing his peak years as a power hitter. He has already had two 35-homer seasons.

One player who might fill a need for deep value is Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (+5000), who hit 42 homers last season.

On the AL Cy Young odds board, the aforementioned Sale (+200) had some regression late last season that should give bettors pause. As well, no Red Sox left-hander has ever won the award, which might be a reason to strike David Price (+550). It’s doubtful that their teammate Rick Porcello (+3300) will win again after his controversial victory against the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander (+1000), who received more first-place votes.

The recent pattern with the AL Cy Young winners has been that it goes to a young star. That might make it worthwhile to throw a dart at the board with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez (+2000) or Cleveland Indians’ Danny Salazar (+4000).

The NL Cy Young odds board is top-heavy, with Kershaw (+100) joined by the reigning honoree, the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer (+300) and the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (+800). Kershaw’s odds may offer too small a payout to back him when he’s coming off a year when he made only 22 starts due to a back injury.

Scherzer has been indomitable for four seasons and his odds make him worth being a safe pick. But Syndergaard winning a Cy Young might just be a matter of when.

Farther down the board, the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks (+3300) is probably the pitcher to back from the defending World Series champions. Rotation mate Jake Arrieta (+1200) had some regression in 2016 after his 2015 Cy Young season, and voters sometimes tend to turn to a more recently established star.

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.