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.
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