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Red Sox favorites despite early scare
The David Price injury scare for Boston at the beginning of spring training had the other teams in the American League East salivating at their potential chances to steal the division. However, Price pulled off the virtually impossible by returning from an appointment with Dr. James Andrews without an appointment for surgery. The Red Sox are definitely the class of the A.L. East if their starting rotation holds up.
Baltimore Orioles (2016: 89-73, +1,611 units, 67-91-4 O/U)
Division odds: +800
Season win total: 78.5
Why bet the Orioles: Baltimore continues to play above average baseball despite having, what many say, is a below average pitching rotation on paper. That is why having a great manager is essential. Buck Showalter pushes the right buttons and certainly having one of the best bullpens in the game does not hurt either. Offensively, the team is stacked again as last season, the Orioles led the majors with 253 homers in 2016 and were third with a .443 slugging percentage.
Why not bet the Orioles: The aforementioned starting rotation did not get an upgrade in the offseason which can be problematic considering their 4.72 ERA was very ugly. They did get rid of Yovani Gallardo, which is a plus, but there is very little depth to make up for any loss. The loss of catcher Matt Wieters could affect the starters as well. The Bullpen arguably hit its peak last season so a regression is more than possible. The offense has to find a way to produce runs instead of leaning too heavily on the long ball.
Season win total pick: Over 78.5
Boston Red Sox (2016: 93-69, +246 units, 77-78-7 O/U)
Division odds: -155
Season win total: 87
Why bet the Red Sox: The acquisition of David Price and the monster season for Rick Porcello pushed the Red Sox over the top in the American League East and now they have added another horse in Chris Sale. Boston now possesses the best rotation in the American League and should carry it to another A.L. East title. Offensively, the Red Sox led the majors in runs and have plenty of superstars in the making with Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi (on the way).
Why not bet the Red Sox: The recent David Price scare is a concern. Even though surgery will not be required on his elbow this could be a lingering issue going forward. This has to be a concern although leaning on Sale is a huge asset to have. The loss of David Ortiz cannot be overstated – his numbers were once again outstanding but his presence in the clubhouse will be equally missed. The weak spot of the team is in the bullpen despite having a big name in Craig Kimbrel as the closer.
Season win total pick: Under 87
New York Yankees (2016: 84-78, +354 units, 72-80-10 O/U)
Division odds: +550
Season win total: 85
Why bet the Yankees: Expectations are not very high for the Yankees this season so they could be a sleeper team to contend for a playoff spot. The offense was average at best in 2016 as it ranked No. 20 in average and No. 22 in runs scored – the addition of Matt Holliday should help in that department. The Yankees were able to get closer Aroldis Chapman back and along with setup man Dellin Betances, they will be tough for opposing offenses to break through in the eighth and ninth innings.
Why not bet the Yankees: Holliday is on the decline so he may not be the answer to fully fix the offense that is going to rely on a lot of youngsters – Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are coming off very poor seasons. If the offense does not show much improvement, it could be a very long season based on a very average starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is a stud at the top but C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Luis Severino are tough to depend on after that.
Season win total pick: Under 85
Tampa Bay Rays (2016: 68-94, -3,012 units, 78-75-9 O/U)
Division odds: +2150
Season win total: 82.5
Why bet the Rays: The starting rotation is very solid and can carry the Rays as long as it stays together. Chris Archer leads the way and with four very serviceable arms to round it out, they can help turn this team around. Like the Orioles, Tampa Bay relies on the long ball as it finished No. 6 in baseball in home runs last season and it will be looking for more consistency. The additions of Colby Rasmus and Wilson Ramos should help and while the bullpen is not outstanding, it should be serviceable.
Why not bet the Rays: The Rays won just 68 games last season, their fewest since 2007 when they won 66. They made no big improvements so it is hard to envision any sort of major move to try and contend in the division. While they were near the top in home runs, they were near the bottom in runs scored while finished No. 27 in strikeouts. While the bullpen is getting the benefit of the doubt, the Rays ERA of 4.09 from the relievers was fifth worst in the American League.
Season win total pick: Under 82.5
Toronto Blue Jays (2016: 89-73, -919 units, 63-93-6 O/U)
Division odds: +425
Season win total: 86.5
Why bet the Blue Jays: Toronto has made the playoffs each of the last two seasons, after an over two-decade drought, and should contend in the American League East once again. The offense remains potent with Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista leading the charge and the defense is pretty solid as well. The starting rotation is young and talented and the departure of R.A. Dickey is a big positive as his four years in Toronto were a major bust.
Why not bet the Blue Jays: The bullpen is a major concern, outside of closer Roberto Osuna, as the loss of Brett Cecil will hurt the middle inning relief. While the offense still has potent options, Edwin Encarnacion not being in the lineup will be felt. Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ went a combined 35-6 last season and there is plenty of reason to believe those numbers will not be matched in 2017. Platoons at first base and left field are not good signs for stability throughout the season.
Season win total pick: Over 86.5