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With spring training starting this week, Dalton Del Don and Scott Pianowski reveal their favorite bets in each National League division. All lines via BetMGM.
Scott Pianowski: This looks like a two-horse race between the Braves and Mets, but unfortunately it's priced as such; Atlanta is +130, the Mets +170. Not much value there.
Philadelphia's defense might be the worst in the league, and Washington's big-name pitching staff is hovering over the get-worried date. Heck, the most interesting ticket in this division is the frisky Marlins at +1600, fresh off a feel-good playoff berth; at least I can talk myself into some overlay. I wish the Marlins had one more bat, but after watching Miami trade proactively last summer, maybe we can dream again. There are plenty of power arms in that pitching staff.
Let's revisit the Marlins when the over/unders come out. As for the division, the Braves have the best offense, and that's generally the way to bet (in the occasional moments I start to see the Mets side of things, they go and sign an offensive piece that doesn't fit their roster shape). My official pick is Atlanta, but no tickets will be punched at +130. I'll have to find more creative ways to wager on Peachtree Street.
Pianow's Bet: Marlins for value, +1600
Dalton Del Don: As Pianow said, this looks like a two-team race between New York and Atlanta, and while I can see simply playing the better number here with the Mets (+170), it’s a franchise I don’t trust. New York improved by adding superstar Francisco Lindor (fantasy leaguers note the SS goes from one of the league’s better hitting parks to the league’s best pitching park), and it’s safe to expect a bounce back from Pete Alonso, but this team finished last and nine games behind Atlanta last season (and would be in huge trouble should Jacob deGrom go down). I’ll happily fade the public here.
The Braves, meanwhile, just recorded MLB’s third-best run differential and are a young team that's only getting better. Cristian Pache is one of baseball’s best prospects, joining a deep Atlanta lineup that brings Marcell Ozuna back (although he’d work better with the DH, which looks unlikely in the NL for 2021). Ronald Acuna’s wrist issues last year are (possibly?) a bit worrisome, but Austin Riley is going to approach 40 homers, and it’s a pretty big advantage to be well-stocked at catcher and shortstop. Atlanta’s bullpen lacks an obvious closer, but it’s in great shape if A.J. Minter projects as the team’s third- or fourth-best relief option.
It’s possible I’m overlooking the Nationals and Phillies (a team that no DH will really hurt), and I could certainly see Max Fried disappointing fantasy managers, but I’ll confidently be betting Atlanta to win the NL East.
DDD's Bet: Braves +130
Scott Pianowski: Here's where the fun is. No, the Pirates can't win this division, but any of the other four teams could.
Kudos to the Cardinals, who somehow hypnotized the Rockies into that nonsensical Nolan Arenado trade. St. Louis shipped a very modest package of players to Colorado, and it doesn't even have to pay the full Arenado salary. If that deal happened in a rotisserie league, an email flame war would start and friendships would end. If the Cardinals number rises before Opening Day, we can revisit, but +155 isn't long enough, not in a four-team race.
So let's settle on Milwaukee. I love how architect David Stearns has built this team, especially on the mound. Unfortunately, we also have to talk ourselves into most of the Milwaukee offense having a bounce-back year (a leap I can make; it was a two-month season, after all). At least Lorenzo Cain is the only regular in a dangerous age pocket. The Kolten Wong signing shows that Stearns creativity we all fell in love with.
The Reds have plenty of interesting players, but their core is also sneaky old. Here's hoping Cincinnati finally leaves Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel completely alone, allowing them to relax and spread their wings.
Pianow's Bet: Brewers +300
Dalton Del Don: This division looks like a disaster, with FanGraphs projecting each team to finish at least four games under .500 and with at least a -20 run differential. Aside from the Pirates, any team could take the NL Central, and I have the Brewers winning the division, so they look enticing getting +300, as both the Cardinals (+155) and Reds (+275) are favored more. Christian Yelich should rebound in a big way, while adding Kolten Wong will be a big help for the pitching staff. As is having Omar Narvaez, who’s the league’s best framing catcher right now. Josh Hader and Devin Williams form the best back-end of a bullpen, and I expect Corbin Burnes to pitch like a Cy Young candidate for 175 innings.
Given I have them winning the division (and would likely avoid SD/LAD in the first round of the playoffs), I’ll be throwing some money on Milwaukee to win the World Series at 30/1.
DDD's Bet: Brewers +300
Scott Pianowski: Not much to say here. The Dodgers are -300, and a foundational handicapping rule is to never risk a lot to win a little. The Padres could win the division, but +200 isn't exactly a longshot price. The other three teams are in rebuilding mode, which is why they're +4000 and longer. I'll probably view the Giants sympathetically when the over/unders come out; it was fun to see Oracle Park play as an offensive stadium last year. Here's hoping we get some transparency before the 2021 season starts.
Can boredom take down the Dodgers? Is a rash of injuries on the way? If the Padres get healthy seasons from Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack, this is probably the best 1-5 rotation in baseball. Eating chalk is not the answer. Petco is your ticket punch.
Pianow's Bet: Padres by default, +200
Dalton Del Don: The Dodgers look like overwhelming favorites on paper and have one of the best rosters you’ll ever see, but the Padres are absolutely loaded as well, with FanGraphs projecting just two fewer wins than LAD (who are -300). The Dodgers deserve to be the favorites here (I’m higher on Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler than the fantasy market), but they certainly have some injury risks (albeit also a ton of depth), and this is mostly about getting 2/1 odds on an SD pitching staff that looks better than some All-Star teams. Dinelson Lamet staying healthy may be a long shot, but San Diego has a strong farm system, and the team is run by smart people who identify underrated players like Austin Nola. I’d pick the Giants to win the NL Central pretty easily, but they are a distant third in their division.
DDD’s Bet: Padres +200