May 5, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Jose Abreu (79), right fielder Kyle Tucker (30), third baseman Alex Bregman (2), left fielder Corey Julks (9) and second baseman Mauricio Dubon (14) exchange high fives following a 6-4 victory against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Bonus MLB Futures Bet: Now is the time – back the Astros to do the obvious
Futures Bet: Houston Astros to win the AL West (-105) currently at DraftKings
The time is now to buy low on the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. Houston has been underwhelming so far at just 20-18 entering Saturday, but it also has not been healthy, which will change over time.
José Abreu has underperformed expectations (although his expected batting average is .242, 26 points higher than his actual batting average), Jose Altuve hasn’t played yet, and key rotation cog Lance McCullers Jr. hasn’t pitched. Alex Bregman has been ice cold, although he is striking out less often than 97% of big-league hitters, walking more often than 92% of big-league hitters, and swinging and missing less often than 90% of hitters. Bregman is putting together solid at-bats and making plenty of contact, so it stands to reason that he’ll square the ball up more often with time.
The Astros’ pitching health is a problem, with Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy both injured. Still, a rotation of Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, (eventually) McCullers, Hunter Brown, and one of J.P. France or Brandon Bielak is the division’s best for my money.
Despite a mountain of bad injury luck and players due for positive regression, Houston is just 3.5 games back of Texas and a half-game behind the Angels in the AL West. The Rangers are due for negative regression, as they’re currently batting an unsustainable .328 with runners in scoring position – and unlike Houston, Texas has already played half its matchups with the lowly Oakland A’s this season.
As far as the Angels – haven’t we seen this movie before? Anaheim’s roster remains incredibly top-heavy, with Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout highlighting an otherwise well-below-average team. Anaheim’s bullpen is not built to hold leads, and its rotation is an injury or two away from being one of the league’s worst.
Seattle could also factor in but give me the Astros every day of the week and twice on Sunday over a Mariners team that has fallen to a plus-180 underdog to make the postseason at DraftKings.
Houston is the only team with all of its free spaces against Oakland left, a factor that alone ought to make up its current divisional deficit. The Astros will only improve as the season goes along and will likely make improvements at the trade deadline. A quick look at each team in the division’s odds to make the postseason per DraftKings telegraphs what most fans already know is true – Houston is the surest bet in the AL West and has 120-ish games to play with.
To make the postseason, per DraftKings:
… Astros -270
The Astros are the class of the AL West, even if they haven’t looked like it yet. The Astros have won the division in five of the last six seasons, reached the ALCS in six straight seasons, and made the World Series four of the previous six seasons. This team isn’t built for April or May. It is built to contend as the calendar approaches October and has the steady hand of Dusty Baker and a team full of veterans are worth trusting. Don’t overthink this – Houston will heat up, and this price won’t be available for long.