Baseball: it's like cricket, only much better.
Most of our readers would be happy to debate the merits of that statement. We're not here to argue about which sports are superior to others, though. We're here to share tips from Jonathan Moreland - our resident yank and go-to source for expert MLB picks - ahead of Opening Day.
The Dodgers have won seven straight NL West titles, appeared in two of the last three World Series, and last year were one of the best teams in baseball across every measurable statistic. So what'd they do this offseason? They went out and acquired 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts to lead off.
This team is a lock to win their eighth consecutive division crown and, barring an unprecedented rash of injuries, won't have any glaring weaknesses when entering the playoffs. In fact, any chinks in the armor that might exist -- A solid but not elite bullpen wearing down as the season goes on? A shallow rotation made shallower due to innings limits for Julio Urias and Dustin May? -- are alleviated by the shortened season.
It's not always wise to bet the favorite to win a Championship pre-season. But in this case, it's the best bet.
- Washington Nationals (+1800)
- Tampa Bay Rays (+1800)
The Twins added Josh Donaldson to one of the best lineups in baseball. What their pitching staff lacks in star power, it makes up for with depth. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill will both benefit from the shortened season and the bullpen is one of the most underappreciated in baseball. The Chicago White Sox are the trendy pick here, but Minnesota is the right one. The 101-game winners went 50-26 vs. division opponents in 2019 and should have just as easy of a time winning the AL Central in 2020.
Conventional logic would say that the Nationals will be too tired from their 2019 postseason run and miss Anthony Rendon's presence in the heart of the order to muster much of an effort in 2020. This season is anything but conventional, though. The delayed start to the season has given the club extended rest. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin are an elite trio, and, if Austin Voth breaks out or Anibal Sanchez maintains his late-career revival, the team will have a ferocious foursome stymying NL East hitters. This will be an extremely competitive division, but I think the Nationals' arms make the difference.
Alex Bregman is an All-Universe-caliber hitter. If the Astros successfully navigate the gauntlet of bloodthirsty teams seeking retribution for their sign-stealing shenanigans and win the AL West, it will largely be due to another monster season from Bregman. Helping matters is that Mike Trout - the odds-on favorite to win AL MVP - is expecting his first child mid-season. That looming absence is enough reason for me to look for value elsewhere, and Bregman is poised to deliver it.
No other rookie is generating as much buzz as Luis Robert - and rightfully so. The five-tool center fielder is going to be a cog in the White Sox lineup for years to come. He posted a .297/.341/.634 line with 16 HRs and 7 SBs in just 47 games at AAA last year. Experts and projections alike expect him to hit the ground running in his major league debut. I think he shines on an upstart South Side squad.
Odds Coming Soon
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