NL Future Best Bets
March 31, 2017
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While I touched on the very high win total the Chicago Cubs have this year in my American League piece, a number like 96.5 wins on the prohibitive World Series favorite is better left alone.
Chicago is loaded with talent and youth that should make them a contender every year for the foreseeable future, and while a lean to the 'under' on that play is the better betting option, Chicago has a solid chance of hitting triple digit wins as well. Sometimes it's the numbers in these win total bets that dictate where you as a bettor should focus your energy and it's two teams that aren't expected to be playoff contenders where there appears to be much more value.
NL Best Bet #1: Atlanta Braves Over 74.5 wins (-140)
Admittedly the juice is a touch steep here, but the Braves, a NL East doormat for the past few years should be a much improved squad. They were a team loaded without youth the past few seasons and management went out and complimented all that youth with some veteran leadership on and off the field this year with the additions of guys like Bartolo Colon, R.A Dickey, Kurt Suzuki, and Brandon Phillips.
Veteran leadership like that should help a young phenom like Dansby Swanson thrive in his first full season, and with a veteran outfield that's still able to produce in Ender Inciarte, Matt Kemp, and Nick Markakis, the Braves should surprise a few teams this year by becoming a .500 team.
We also can't discount the fact about the renewed energy surrounding this team because of those moves they've made and that they'll be playing in a brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium this year. The Braves took a lot of flak for how they went about getting the finances for SunTrust Park the past few years (and rightfully so), but this team can't afford to put out a sub-par team in the first year at their new digs and the moves they made signify that.
They've got enough established talent offensively to make plenty of noise in the NL East, and while many believe their pitching staff to be a huge question mark, Dickey and Colon are innings-eaters that will relieve plenty of stress off a young bullpen, and if Jaime Garcia and Julio Teheran can revert back to anywhere near the form they've had during highly successful seasons in recent memory.
This win total of 74.5 is more of a projection of the “old” Atlanta Braves of 2015 and 2016, and not nearly the glowing reflection of all the moves they've made that should help them in 2017. When that's the case, 'over' is the only way to go.
NL Best Bet #2: Pittsburgh Pirates Under 82.5 wins (-115)
On the flip side of that ledger you've got the Pirates who dealt with more off-season drama they they ever needed too, moving former MVP Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield spot, opting for the Starling Marte era up the middle to begin. This is also basically the same roster – in fact it's not hard to argue it's worse – that the Pirates had in 2016 and there they only won 78 games. With underlying issues between a guy like McCutchen and management already simmering, if this team doesn't perform well out of the gates the first few months, we could see some drastic changes and the Pirates shifting to fully embrace a youth movement again.
Secondly, their starting rotation brings too many questions to seriously consider they'll be better than .500 this year as Gerrit Cole is now the “ace” and he's still a little too inconsistent for that role.
Behind him they've got a young talent in Jameson Taillon who will still likely go through some growing pains, Ivan Nova, who everyone knows is a middle-to-bottom of the rotation guy in his career, Chad Kuhl who is in his second year, and Drew Hutchinson who is trying to make his way back to the majors on a consistent basis.
That five-man rotation will have multiple stretches where they all get hit hard – especially playing in a division with the Cubs and Cardinals – and the Pirates don't have a great bullpen either to back them up.
By the time the middle of summer hits, Pittsburgh stands out as a great candidate to be major sellers at the trade deadline, blowing up this roster as much as they can and regrouping for the years to come. McCutchen may not be a Pirate the entire season and knowing that the Cardinals are always strong, and the Cubs are a powerhouse these days, it may be in Pittsburgh's best long-term interests to tank away 2017 if it doesn't start well.
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