With spring training in the air, sports handicappers have another subject to add to their plate, the 2015 MLB season. With the impending March Madness, this is not easy, but least there's ample preparation time.
The same is also true for those who will be making MLB picks at the sportsbooks of their choice. The off-season was one of the wildest in years and it altered teams positively and negatively coming into this season.
For now, we will focus on the positive and look at who could be ‘Play On’ teams against the MLB odds this upcoming season.
The Bold and the Beautiful
The San Diego Padres were 77-85 last season and averaged 3.3 runs per game. Rookie A.J. Preller had perhaps the best offseason of any rookie GM in baseball history and has added power bats, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers. When you consider the power arms the Padres already possess, San Diego almost certainly will be improved. Just keep in mind the opening betting odds for win total for the Friars was 85.5, which makes them a playoff team in the National League, but the defense will not help the pitching staff.
With the Cubs creating a great deal of excitement on the North Side and Chicago in general, owner Jerry Reinsdorf did not sit idly by and committed to Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. This changes the White Sox from a last place and 4th place team the past two seasons, into a division contender, assuring every game in the AL Central will have real meaning other then when Minnesota is involved.
After years of failing miserably and acquiring draft choices, Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are ready to start placing a respectable product on the field. The wise additions of Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero and David Ross help fill voids offensively and defensively and the home run signings of manager Joe Maddon and Jon Lester adds instant street cred. The off-season enthusiasm has been a little too much and the sportsbooks sending out a Cubs win total of 82.5 for 2015 adds real perspective.
The Boston Red Sox have gotten an awful lot accomplished Red Sox in a short time and are the projected favorite to win the AL East by oddsmakers and those devising sports picks. The addition of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez arguably gives Boston one the best 1-9 lineup card in the American League. The three new starting pitchers (Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson) give the Red Sox depth, hurlers known for working 6+ innings per start and one of them could be used as trade bait to hook Cole Hamels, which would really raise Boston’s stock.
Before Washington acquired Max Scherzer they already had the best starting staff in the bigs. While many will argue the Nationals will rue the day for signing such a contract with the right-hander, if Washington would win two World Series over the next four years, I’m sure they can live with the consequences. Casey Janssen is good replacement as a setup man for Tyler Clippard.
Miami is a legit Wild Card contender by redoing infield which added Dee Gordon and Martin Prado. Adding Mat Latos brings veteran leadership to what is still a young staff and if Jose Fernandez can be effective when he returns in the final two months, the Marlins are worth watching. Toronto brought in the best free agent catcher available in Russell Martin, the finest all-around third baseman in Josh Donaldson and they want to believe outfielder Michael Saunders could blossom north of the border. The Blue Jays and Boston should be the class of the AL East. Seattle has a stellar middle of the lineup with Nelson Cruz’s big bat to mesh with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. The Mariners added depth as several positions and if they do not have all the bad luck they incurred from their pitchers from a year ago, they could hang with the Halos.