Pitchers and catchers awoke from their winter slumber to head down to those sunny southern states, signaling the start of something big: Grapefruit and Cactus League action!
Wait, why didn’t you just jump for joy? Ok, maybe not everyone is thrilled to watch Spring Training games that rarely feature a lineup that will be seen during the 162-game regular season. But stick with me, April is just around the corner.
To prepare you meaningful baseball, I have set the odds for the entire 2017 season: what are the chances the Chicago Cubs repeat as World Series champs? Who are the early MVP and Cy Young faves? Which manager is going to be relieved of his duties first? Get the numbers on all that, plus a real early look at the favorites for the 2018 Hall of Fame class.
If you actually did jump for joy over the start of Spring League, I commend you for your passion and award you with one prize to be named later.
Odds to win the 2017 World Series
Chicago Cubs: 7/1
Boston Red Sox: 8/1
Cleveland Indians: 17/2
Los Angeles Dodgers: 10/1
Washington Nationals: 11/1
New York Mets: 16/1
San Francisco Giants: 16/1
Houston Astros: 18/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 25/1
Texas Rangers: 30/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 33/1
New York Yankees: 35/1
Baltimore Orioles: 40/1
Detroit Tigers: 50/1
Seattle Mariners: 50/1
Colorado Rockies: 66/1
Kansas City Royals: 66/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 66/1
Los Angeles Angels: 75/1
Chicago White Sox: 100/1
Miami Marlins: 100/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 125/1
Atlanta Braves: 125/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 125/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 200/1
Cincinnati Reds: 250/1
Oakland Athletics: 400/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 500/1
Minnesota Twins: 500/1
San Diego Padres: 500/1
Neither Dexter Fowler nor Aroldis Chapman, two key cogs to Chicago’s World Series victory, will be Cubs in 2017. But their top-four starting pitchers return, and the team brought in Wade Davis and Jon Jay to fill the voids left by the two departures. The Cubs are a complete team with an elite pitching staff. Barring some major injuries, or a huge dip from the rotation, Chicago is poised to make another run.
The Red Sox come in with the best odds to spoil the Cubs’ back-to-back party. In spite of already possessing David Price, Rick Porcello (2016 Cy Young winner), and Steven Wright, Boston chose to add arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball, Chris Sale, via trade with those other-colored Sox. This is the kind of move that certainly eases the pain of losing David Ortiz to retirement.
The Indians, Dodgers, and Nationals round-out the top-five contenders. Cleveland made a huge splash by signing slugger Edwin Encarnacion and will make the AL pennant race very interesting. The Dodgers’ most noteworthy moves involved re-signing Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner. They gave Chicago a good run last year in the NLCS, taking them to six games, and should provide the champs with their toughest test in the National League again this year. Meanwhile, the Nationals’ odds rely on Stephen Strasburg staying healthy. If he does, the front-end of Washington’s rotation can compete with the best.
Most likely 2017 World Series matchups
Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox: 17/1
Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians: 18/1
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox: 24/1
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cleveland Indians: 51/2
Washington Nationals vs. Boston Red Sox: 51/2
Odds to win 2017 AL MVP
Mike Trout, Angels: 4/1
Jose Altuve, Astros: 13/3
Mookie Betts, Red Sox: 9/2
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 7/1
Manny Machado, Orioles: 8/1
Trout proved at least two things last year: (1) he is the best player in the American League and (2) team success is not a pre-req to winning MVP. There isn’t a more complete player in either league, he comes in as the favorite to win his third MVP in the last four seasons.
Altuve led the AL with a .338 batting average last season and added a lot of power to his stat-line, going yard 24 times and driving in 96 runs. Yet, he still only finished third in MVP voting. If he can get closer to 30 home runs in 2017, don’t expect him to be snubbed again.
Without David Ortiz around, Mookie Betts is going to receive even more opportunities to drive in runs for the league’s best offense. It’s going to be a very tight race.
Odds to win 2017 NL MVP
Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 5/1
Kris Bryant, Cubs: 6/1
Corey Seager, Dodgers: 7/1
Yoenis Cespedes, Mets: 7/1
Daniel Murphy, Nationals: 9/1
In my opinion, Nolan Arenado should have been the NL MVP last season. The Rockies’ third-baseman topped Kris Bryant (the 2016 NL MVP) in batting average, home runs, RBIs, and even fielding-percentage. But Bryant was the best offensive player on the best team in the league. If Arenado hits another 40 dingers this year, and Colorado can add a couple more wins, he will be crowned MVP.
If not for Daniel Murphy, the Nationals likely would not have won the NL East. Bryce Harper had a terrible (by Harper’s standards) season at the plate, but Murphy picked-up the slack, driving in 104 runs and finishing second in the NL in batting average. Looking at his previous seven years in the bigs, I just don’t believe he can do it again.
The FIELD carries some heavier odds here, as the elite tier of players goes a little deeper in the NL.
Odds to win 2017 AL Cy Young
Chris Sale, Red Sox: 3/1
Justin Verlander, Tigers: 11/2
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays: 6/1
Corey Kluber, Indians: 7/1
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: 7/1
Despite five years as a dominant starter, Chris Sale has never won a Cy Young. Now, with a great team around him, Sale should have no problem breaking 20 wins for the first time in his career. Add the wins to his already impressive ERA and WHIP numbers, and you’ve got yourself a strong candidate for the Cy Young.
Verlander, the 2011 winner, proved in the latter-half of 2016 that he can still be dominant. Youngster Aaron Sanchez showcased his talent last year when he led all qualified pitchers in the AL in ERA.
Odds to win 2017 NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 4/1
Jon Lester, Cubs: 11/2
Max Scherzer, Nationals: 6/1
Noah Syndergaard, Mets: 8/1
Madison Bumgarner, Giants: 8/1
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. Anyone disagree? Didn’t think so. The dude doesn’t miss a beat when he’s on the mound, and would have won his fourth Cy Young in 2016 had he not missed more than two months due to injury.
Due to the likes of Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, and even Jake Arrieta, the FIELD option carries some slightly shorter odds than in the AL.
Odds to be the first manager fired in 2017
Bryan Price, Reds: 5/1
Bob Melvin, Athletics: 6/1
Paul Molitor, Twins: 6/1
Brad Ausmus, Tigers: 7/1
John Gibbons, Blue Jays: 9/1
Fredi Gonzalez (Braves) was the only manager fired during the 2016 season. Three more became unemployed when the season ended. Entering 2017, there are a handful who are walking on eggshells.
Even Bryan Price has to be surprised he’s still managing the Reds. In three seasons under his rule, Cincinnati has a pitiful 42.8 winning-percentage. If Price doesn’t have the Reds playing respectable ball through the first 20 games, he’ll be sent packing.
Paul Molitor returning to his home-state to manage the team he retired with was a dream scenario. His Twins winning 59 games was a nightmare. The Hall of Famer may not have a roster loaded with talent, but it wouldn’t be the first time a manager was scapegoated.
Odds another trade occurs before the regular season begins: 1/25
We’re still more than a month away! Of course there will be another trade. Whether the swap is meaningful is another story. The White Sox fire-sale may not be complete, though. Both David Robertson and Jose Quintana are still being rumored in trade-talks.
O/U players suspended for PEDs in 2017: 5.5
There were seven players suspended during the 2016 season for PED use, and two more prior to opening day. You can at least count on Jenrry Mejia avoiding suspension in 2017.
Odds to be a member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class
Trevor Hoffman: 1/90
Chipper Jones: 1/85
Vladimir Guerrero: 1/75
Barry Bonds: 3/2
Roger Clemens: 3/2
Edgar Martinez: 2/1
Mike Mussina: 7/1
Curt Schilling: 7/1
Hoffman and Guerrero each missed out on the 2017 class by only a few votes, receiving 73.9 and 71.7-percent support, respectively. When you come that close, you are a virtual lock the following year. There is also little doubt about Chipper Jones being inducted on his first appearance on the ballot.
Bonds and Clemens are two players whose career statistics suggest they’d be no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famers. However, their PED history has stalled their enshrinement. The voters are beginning to ease up, awarding each a little over 50-percent of the votes for 2017. It’s becoming clear that the two will eventually make it in, but the wait will likely continue at least another year.
For a more in-depth breakdown, read our MLB Hall of Fame 2018 picks article.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].