Cactus League News on Padres, Angels, Cubs and Mariners

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 12:40 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 12:40 PM UTC

Baseball is back, and once again MLB veteran handicapper Doug Upstone is back to cover all the Cactus League action in Arizona. We will cover a lot of ground and hope you will enjoy.

In the last couple days, I have been to a pair of Cactus League games and will offer observations about the teams I saw along with game notes. In addition, I will provide MLB odds for you to look over and MLB picks from this early observational viewpoint.

San Diego Padres: Over/Under 71 Regular-Season Wins

With the other four teams projected to win 81 to 96 games in the NL West Division, that does not leave much room for success for San Diego, which continues to rebuild. The Padres' pitching staff prevented them from losing 100 games last year, and they will again likely be the case unless injuries creep in. The addition of Eric Hosmer will make the San Diego offense better, but moving Wil Myers back to the outfield will not improve the defense. The Friars are several years away from competing in their division but finally, are establishing a base to build on. I would lean UNDER for the win total, uncertain of the pitching.

Los Angeles Angels: O/U 84

For starters, the Angels could well have the defensive team in baseball. They have elite defenders at seven positions who can catch and get to almost any batted ball on the field of play. Offensively, the Halos have added Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler and rookie Shohei Ohtani to build around baseball's best player, Mike Trout. Where the rubber meets the road is the Angels' pitching. There is a great deal of talk about a six-man rotation for the Angels for a variety of reasons, including Ohtani and the recent health of the other starting pitchers. This team is capable of 88 wins, and I will support the OVER because of that -- but the Halos' starting staff is a house of cards.

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Seattle Mariners: O/U 81

Offensively, Seattle is a playoff team. On paper, 1-7 in the batting order not many teams have the diversity to score the way the Mariners can. Whether the M's can become a playoff team or are stuck as .500 club depends on pitching. Felix Hernandez and Mike Leake are on the backsides of their careers. Talented left-hander James Paxton has never stayed healthy enough to reach 25 starts in a season, and he's 29 in 2018. The oddsmakers' total of 81 appears spot on unless the pitching staff comes completely together.

Chicago Cubs: O/U 93

For long periods last season, the Cubs played like a tired team. Yes, they did get back to play for the NL pennant, but they were spent. Look for Chicago to have a different energy this season, wanting to add another World Series ring. The Cubs still have question marks, mostly surrounding starting pitching depth on the back end and if they really do have a closer, but the rest of the team is set. Manager Joe Maddon will still move guys around, but there is more of a core group, and if they perform to expectations the Cubs could return to the Fall Classic and should be a good OVER wager.

Cactus League Observations

In the Padres vs. Angels contest, almost none of the regulars saw action. The Halos' Garrett Richards pitched two innings and was free and loose with delivery, which would help his team immensely. Fernando Tatis Jr. is considered San Diego's top prospect. He looked very smooth in the field and has a Troy Tulowitzki-type body; he's projected to be a good MLB hitter with more experience. Tatis is not ready for the big leagues yet, though.

More regulars played in the Mariners-Cubs matchup that ended in 9-9 tie. The biggest news was Seattle's Hernandez being drilled by a batted ball in his right upper arm, and he left immediately in a lot of pain. Later reports said he just will have a bruise, but he will miss at least one spring start. Any number of players for both teams swung the bat well and a few pitchers were really knocked around, with the Cubs' Brian Duensing the most notable.

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