Oct 11, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias (7) throws in the first inning of game one of the NLDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dalton Brown’s 2023 MLB Futures: Win totals, make/miss playoffs bets, and more
With the 2023 MLB season getting started with a full slate of games on Thursday, it is time to get down on any futures bets before the action begins. Without further ado, here are some futures I’ve identified as having value heading into a new season of baseball.
Cleveland Guardians UNDER 87.5 wins (-110) at Caesars
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team more on schedule for negative regression than the Cleveland Guardians. Cleveland surprised the baseball world with a 92-win, AL Central-winning 2022 campaign that eventually flamed out in the ALDS versus the Yankees. The Guardians did not hit for power, benefitted from breakout seasons by several young players, and over-performed their Pythagorean record by four games (tied with Baltimore and Pittsburgh as the league’s biggest over-performers). Based on Pythagorean expectation alone – which is determined by a team’s run differential – the Guardians ought to regress in a negative direction in 2023, but there are other factors at play as well. More balanced MLB scheduling only hurts Cleveland, which will now have to play more games against teams from tougher divisions and fewer games against the weak AL Central. The Guardians will start the season without Triston McKenzie in the rotation, who played a huge part in the team’s outlier performance last year. If players like Andres Gimenez, Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, and Amed Rosario once again perform at the level they did last season, I might be in some trouble here – but I’m not expecting it. Cleveland should finish much closer to .500 this year and will likely cede the division title back to Minnesota.
Chicago White Sox UNDER 82.5 wins (-115) at DraftKings, White Sox to MISS the playoffs (-160) at DraftKings
Like Cleveland, Chicago will be hurt by MLB’s more balanced scheduling this season as it plays fewer games against the soft AL Central. But even before factoring in schedule changes, there are signs that the White Sox might struggle to play .500 ball this season. Chicago lacks organizational depth, with a farm system ranking 26th in the league per MLB.com. If the injury bug bites the White Sox in any fashion, their roster will stretch thin in a hurry, and the losses could pile up. Jose Abreu is gone, and Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert Jr. have both struggled to stay on the field in recent seasons. Yoan Moncada is entering the season dealing with back issues. Yasmani Grandal is 34, Tim Anderson is a free agent at season’s end, and Lance Lynn is 35. The White Sox are an aging team that can be easily derailed by injury issues and needs desperately to replenish their farm system. Don’t be surprised if Chicago is a seller by July and closer to fourth place in the AL Central than second.
Arizona Diamondbacks OVER 75.5 wins (-105) at DraftKings
The Diamondbacks have been patiently building an impressive young core while the Dodgers and Padres have owned the NL West, and I’m thinking 2023 is when that steadiness begins to deliver results at the big league level. Arizona will take on the Dodgers and Padres each less often in 2023, which certainly helps – but this bet is more a matter of the depth of talent the Diamondbacks have developed. Corbin Carroll is one of the favorites to win NL Rookie of the Year, and Zac Gallen is a candidate to win a Cy Young. Additions like Evan Longoria, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Gabriel Moreno, and Kyle Lewis all provide Arizona with more quality depth than it’s had in recent seasons, and the Diamondbacks are teeming with breakout candidates. Arizona might not be ready to compete for a World Series title yet, but it might be closer to an NL Wild Card spot than many fans expect.
Seattle Mariners UNDER 87 wins (-110) at Caesars, Mariners to miss the playoffs (+140) at Caesars
I’m down on Seattle this season for several reasons, some of which are hardly the Mariners’ fault. The AL West only got stronger this offseason, with Houston remaining a powerhouse while the Angels and Rangers each made clear investments to improve their rosters. Anaheim added players like Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury to lengthen a lineup that is far less “stars and scrubs” than in recent years, while Texas added ace Jacob deGrom to the roster additions it made heading into last season. Seattle went 11-5 in extra-inning games last season and 34-22 in one-run games, each of which are categories likely to regress toward .500 this season. I struggle to trust the Mariners’ rotation either – Robbie Ray has always struggled to string together multiple successful seasons in a row. At the same time, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby will be leaned on heavily for such young starters. Seattle needs Luis Castillo to stay healthy and pitch like an ace all season, and it’ll need its excellent 2022 bullpen to buck the idea that bullpens are generally subject to extreme variance from one season to the next. Winning close to 90 games feels like a best-case scenario for Seattle, not a median result.
Matt Chapman (Blue Jays): UNDER 29.5 home runs (-125) at DraftKings, UNDER 83.5 RBIs (-120) at DraftKings
It is almost always best to look exclusively at unders when evaluating season-long player props. Injuries can occur at any time to any player, but the risk associated with them can only benefit a bettor that targets unders on a player’s season-long statistics. I’m never rooting for a player to injure themselves, but the possibility exists – and Matt Chapman is a human being like anyone else. Even if Chapman stays healthy all season, these numbers do not pass the sniff test. Chapman has crossed 29.5 home runs and 83.5 RBIs just once in his career, both of which he accomplished in 2019 with Oakland. Chapman’s 162-game averages are 27 home runs and 83 RBIs, but he will undoubtedly need days off. When healthy, Chapman plays an average of 151.8 games per season – meaning his projected totals ought to be 25.3 home runs and 77.8 RBI. That’s a solid edge and doesn’t account for the possibility that he sustains an injury.
Rafael Devers (Red Sox): UNDER 165.5 hits (-120) at DraftKings
Rafael Devers has gone over 165.5 hits just once in his six-year MLB career, and the lineup around him has deteriorated precipitously in recent seasons. Without the protection of players like J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, or Mookie Betts around him, Devers has become public enemy No. 1 in Boston’s lineup. That means Devers will likely walk more often in 2023 and see fewer good pitches to hit. This bet wins more often than not if Devers is healthy all season, and becomes a slam dunk if he misses any time.
Kyle Schwarber (Phillies): UNDER 92.5 RBIs (-120) at DraftKings
Kyle Schwarber is one of the scariest hitters in baseball when he’s hot, and can go on extended cold streaks when he’s not. Schwarber has had more than 92.5 RBIs just once in his career, last season’s career-high total of 94 for Philadelphia while playing a career-high 155 games. Before last season, Schwarber played 139 games or fewer in four of five seasons. His 162-game average for RBIs is 88, and he’s extremely unlikely to play all 162 games for Philadelphia this season. Quietly, the lineup around him might also provide fewer opportunities for RBIs this season. Rhys Hoskins is out for the season with a torn ACL, while Bryce Harper is expected to miss about half of 2023. Schwarber is a high-variance player who could go off and make this bet look stupid, but that’s far from the most likely outcome here. If he misses any time at all, he’ll struggle to come near 90+ RBIs – but even if he remains on the field all season, I’d still make this number closer to 85.
Julio Urías (Dodgers): to win the NL Cy Young (+1800) at BetMGM
Julio Urías will be L.A.’s Opening Day starter, a title he’s earned with consistent excellence in recent seasons. He doesn’t get the attention pitchers like Corbin Burnes get atop the National League pitching scene, but he should. At 18/1, Urías has the 10th-shortest odds in the National League to win the Cy Young, which is preposterous. He’s finished top-seven in Cy Young voting each of the last two seasons while going 37-10 with ERA’s of 2.96 in 2022 and 2023’s 2.16. Urías pitches at Dodger Stadium, a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark than the home parks of most pitchers ahead of him in these odds. Last season, Urías finished third in Cy Young voting while leading the league in ERA and ERA+. Now 26, Urías is entering his eighth MLB season and is due for a huge payday when 2023 ends. I expect to see the Dodgers’ ace at his best this year, so +1800 is too good to pass up.
Other MLB futures previously detailed in Gallery Sports’ Daily Betting Picks:
Byron Buxton UNDER 30.5 home runs (-140) at DraftKings
Anthony Santander UNDER 89.5 RBIs (-125) at DraftKings
Aaron Judge to hit more home runs than Mike Trout (-120) at DraftKings
Minnesota Twins to win AL Central division (+180) at FanDuel