The Washington Nationals led the National League in run differential during the regular season, which is one of the main reasons why their favored to advance to the 2014 World Series.
Washington Nationals (+170)
The Nationals will need to ramp up their intensity in the playoffs, as they haven’t played a meaningful game in quite some time after capturing the NL East division by 17 games over the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.
Washington enters the postseason with arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, which is important to consider when looking over the MLB futures odds, as the group compiled a 3.03 ERA.
MLB handicappers will also be interested in knowing that the club posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern history during the 2014 campaign, while also tallying a team record 51 home wins.
Los Angeles Dodgers (+178)
It’s a bit surprising that the Blue Crew are the second choice in wagering, considering Clayton Kershaw will likely win the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards, but there’s plenty of question marks in regards to the pitching staff.
Los Angeles came alive offensively in the month of September—pacing the Majors in scoring 156 runs and hitting .295 over the course of the month.
The Dodgers need to strike first versus their opponents in the postseason, as they went just 2-54 in games they trailed after six innings during the regular season.
St. Louis Cardinals (+405)
Adam Wainwright is the x-factor in likely matching up with Kershaw two times in the NLDS, but the Cardinals offense has been mediocre at best this season—hitting just .254 with runners in scoring position after leading baseball in that category in 2013 (.330).
St. Louis will also miss former postseason hero Carlos Beltran, who is now a member of the New York Yankees, while All-Star catcher Yadier Molina has lacked power at the plate since returning from the disabled list after having right thumb surgery in early July.
Pittsburgh Pirates (+654)
The Pirates are the surprise package in this group and worth a look at this price, as most of the roster received valuable postseason experience a year ago, including 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen.
Pittsburgh finished out the regular season with a 17-6 record, and also established a PNC Park record 51 wins.
Even with momentum on their side, I’d wait to see if the Buccos get past the Giants before getting involved in the marketplace, as they’ll face a red-hot pitcher in the Wild Card game.
San Francisco Giants (+719)
The Giants relied heavily on their starting rotation in winning a pair of World Series under manager Bruce Bochy, but that reliable group isn’t available this time around, as Matt Cain is lost for the year and Tim Lincecum is working out of the bullpen.
Madison Bumgarner is capable of sending San Francisco to the NLDS, but I don’t see this proud franchise going any further.
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Nationals as their MLB pick to capture the NL pennant, as I believe their flexibility in the bullpen will be the difference, while hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg will also be available in the playoffs this time around.
Free MLB Pick: Washington Nationals +170