Boston, Cleveland and Houston are the picks to win the three American League divisions, but there are other teams offering better value on the current MLB futures odds.
By this time next month, the 2017 MLB season will be underway and the long 162-game grind to reach the playoffs will begin in earnest. Only 10 teams will eventually make it to the postseason, five from each league with three of those being division winners.
If the MLB futures odds for the American League divisions mean anything, the Cleveland Indians are the best bet to play on after Oct. 1. A year after taking its first AL pennant in nearly 20 seasons, Cleveland is on the thickest chalk line to win a division in the Junior Circuit with returns in the -400 to -500 range for the Central Division.
With the roster Terry Francona is going to have to work with, it's easy to see why the Indians are the team to beat in the group. Led by Corey Kluber, the rotation is solid and backed by the bullpen duo of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, plus the offense got a boost in the offseason with the signing of Edwin Encarnacion, formerly of Toronto.
Detroit (+500) and Kansas City (+750) are the Tribe's closest competition after finishing 8 and 13 games, respectively, behind Cleveland in the AL Central a year ago. The Royals don't excite me at all, but the Tigers would seem to have some value to upset the Indians. The rotation could be tough if Jordan Zimmermann can bounce back from an injury-plagued 2016, and the bullpen is coming off a sneaky-good campaign. A powerful lineup fueled by Miguel Cabrera also makes Detroit a solid pick with a nice return.
Red Sox Lead Deep AL East
While Cleveland might be seen as the most likely division winner in the AL, Boston remains the favorite to win the pennant and return to the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 2013. The Red Sox are presently a +225 pick in the American League and lead the way in the AL East with a -150 to -200 price at many of SBR's top sportsbooks.
With one of the highest payrolls in the American League, the talent is definitely there, especially after adding Chris Sale to the rotation during the winter. But like every other contender, the Red Sox have to stay healthy and they've already had one scare with David Price's elbow, and it won't take much of a slip to lose control in a division that includes three strong contenders.
Toronto follows Boston on the MLB odds in the AL East, the Blue Jays running around +425. Just behind them are the New York Yankees (+550) and Baltimore Orioles (+750). All three of those teams have their shortcomings, but if a couple of starting pitchers can surprise us with good years, I do like the O's at that pay off.
Astros Tagged As Favorites In AL West
I will definitely be pulling for my Houston Astros, and the books say this will be their year to win the AL West as +150 chalk. The offense should be better with the additions of veterans Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to team with young rising stars like Carlos Correa and George Springer, plus manager AJ Hinch has a deep set of relievers. Still, I'm not sold on the starting pitching.
A lot of people are jumping on the Seattle Mariners, who are priced in the +250 to +300 range, but my free baseball pick in this division is Texas, generally going for around +250. The Rangers will have Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at the top of the rotation, and as long as Jeff Bannister can sort out his bullpen arrangement Texas should win 92-95 games to take the division.