The sports books say the AL West will belong to Houston this year. But we think the MLB futures odds are set a little too ambitious for the Astros in 2017.
Last season: 50-48 (+4.75)
As my friend Tony up in New York might say, "I smell fish." MLB futures odds for the American League West Division simply don't add up to me, not that I mind seeing my beloved Houston Astros favored.
Current numbers suggest the AL West is Houston's to lose, the Astros carrying around a +120 price in the division with Texas and Seattle close together on the second rung in the low-to-mid +200's. Bookmaker has Houston on a 91½ win total, meaning the Astros have to improve by 8+ wins ahead of last year's pace to cash the 'over.'
What doesn't add up is Houston being favored over the two-time defending AL West champion Rangers. It's not like Texas lost a lot of talent off last year's 95-win team, in fact, I believe the Rangers are even better which is why I'm picking them 'over' 85½ dubyas. Plus, Texas has beaten the snot out of Houston over the years, and the past two seasons specifically with a 28-10 record in the Lone Star rivalry. So, just what do the books and pundits see in Houston this time around?
Veteran Additions Should Help Young, Rising Stars
One thing in Houston's favor is a decent offseason haul, adding Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick via free agency and trading for catcher Brian McCann. The Astros did not part company with any of their top prospects, and the presence of veterans like Beltran and McCann -- two players with plenty of postseason experience -- in the clubhouse to mentor some of the youth was sorely needed.
Beltran has spent most of his time this spring with one of those young studs, Carlos Correa, playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Those two will be joined at the top of Houston's lineup by George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. It's a group with plenty of power and speed, meaning they should improve on that 4.47 RPG mark from 2016.
Keuchel Must Rebound To Anchor Rotation
McCann has been working with his new pitching staff, and if early returns are any indication, the veteran backstop has hit it off with Dallas Keuchel. It's imperative that Keuchel gets back to his 2015 form when he won the AL Cy Young, and lead a rotation that manager AJ Hinch has tough decisions ahead for the top 5. Charlie Morton and Joe Musgrove have enjoyed fine springs, with both Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh also figuring into the mix. Hinch has three quality arms for late innings down in his bullpen and could mix-&-match the trio of Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, and Ken Giles.
Houston will spend seven of the first 10 days of the campaign battling the Mariners, so we could see early if one of those teams is going to mount the biggest challenge to dethrone the Rangers. The Astros don't face Texas until early-May, and they have to close the schedule on the road in Arlington and Boston for the final seven games. The bulk of their interleague slate comes against the NL East, and the good news is the Astros will be at home for three against both the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
A notorious slow-starter dating back to the Biggio-Bagwell glory days, Houston has to come out of the gate strong to take control of the division. I'll be cheering for 'em, but my free baseball pick is on the Astros falling short of the win total.Free MLB Pick: Astros Under 91½ Wins Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker