A recent article at ESPN by Jayson Stark ranked the six MLB divisions using a myriad of criteria that included odds from Las Vegas.
It was not surprising to see the AL East finish at the top of the list. Updated odds at Bovada have the five clubs among that group ranked among the top nine teams to win the American League, and we mentioned last week when previewing the AL East it was baseball's toughest quintet.
Second in Stark's rankings was the AL West, which also should come as no surprise. The division scored two of the five American League postseason slots a year ago, and has a legitimate shot to hog three this October, a feat that would certainly end the argument about which division is best in baseball.
One thing mentioned several times this offseason is realignment that brought the Houston Astros to the AL West. Another 100-loss season is in store for the Astros to begin their AL existence, and it should be a boon in the win column for the four veteran outfits of the division.
It's the Los Angeles Angels who will be the favorites to win the division. The Halos share 9/2 odds to win the American League along with the Detroit Tigers, both teams just behind the Toronto Blue Jays (7/2) on the MLB odds boards. The Angels were also favored to win the AL West last season before a poor start doomed those expectations. Still, they only finished four games out of the second AL wild card in 2012 with 89 wins. and there's every reason to expect an improvement to the 95+ plateau in that column in 2013.
Mike Scioscia will be managing a lineup that has three genuine entries into the American League MVP race after the club snared the winter's top offensive prize for a second winter. Former MVP Josh Hamilton jumped ship from LA's division rivals in Texas to join a batting order that already has Albert Pujols, a three-time NL MVP winner, and Mike Trout, last year's AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up to in the MVP race. Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are among the support troops.
Scioscia also has a Cy Young contender leading his rotation in Jered Weaver. CJ Wilson follows Weaver, and the Angels revamped the back end of the rotation by bringing in Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas. Ryan Madson was signed to be the closer after missing 2012 with Tommy John surgery. He won't be ready when the bell rings in April, leaving Ernesto Frieri to begin the season finishing games.
Rangers, A's Look To Spoil Halos' Postseason Plans
A second straight offseason losing a star player to their rivals in Anaheim hasn't hurt the Rangers as much as you might think. Texas, previewed earlier this offseason in greater detail, is tied at Bovada with the Yankees at 13/2 to win the AL, and remains a solid 14/1 choice to win it all.
Oakland surprised everyone in 2012 by claiming the division title thanks to a 20-win improvement from 2011 when the Athletics won 74 games. The A's are priced at 16/1 to win the AL flag this season, and their two biggest offseason acquisitions were OF Chris Young in a trade from Arizona and SS Hiroyuki Nakajima from Japan.
Pitching will once again be the strength of Bob Melvin's club, and key to Oakland returning to the postseason. The rotation includes four young arms in their mid-20s -- Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and AJ Griffin -- and a bullpen that ranked second in the AL with a 2.94 ERA, but could start the season without closer Grant Balfour because of a knee injury.
Mariners Improved, Astros Even Worse Than Before
The Seattle Mariners were the best last-place team in the majors last season, and should be even better in 2013. Sitting at 40/1 to win the American League title, the M's just this week locked up ace Felix Hernandez to a mega-contract, and King Felix should be followed in the rotation by Hisashi Iwakuma, Joe Saunders and Blake Bevan.
Seattle boosted the offense by bringing back Raul Ibañez for his third stint with the club, plus adding Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales. Manager Eric Wedge also has catcher Jesus Montero entering his second full season, plus a talented middle-infield tandem in SS Kyle Seager and 2B Dustin Ackley.
If the Mariners finish last in the division again, it will be an even bigger shock than if they win the AL West. The Houston Astros are doomed to the basement and it is laughable to see them listed at 100/1 to win the American League. The roster has been completely gutted from just two years ago with 2B Jose Altuve and catcher Jason Castro the only regulars who seem to be guaranteed starting jobs entering 2013.
The good news is there are some very talented youngsters who should begin to make their way to the bigs as early as the second half of this season, but 2015 is the soonest this team will have much relevance in the division standings. Keep that in mind while making your MLB picks.
Find out which sportsbooks are offering the best MLB Futures odds for your picks this year?