AL division best bets: Why boring values could pay off in 2021

Dalton Del Don and Scott Pianowski
·5-min read

With spring training starting this week, Dalton Del Don and Scott Pianowski reveal their favorite bets in each American League division. All lines via BetMGM.

[National League Best Bets: Our favorite plays for each division]

AL East

The Yankees are the rightful heavy favorites, but I’d consider both the Rays and Jays at +350. I’m a believer in the Jays’ offense (like everyone), and Tampa Bay just finished with the second-most wins in MLB during last year’s shortened season. The Rays obviously lost some important players (Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, etc.) but countered with sneaky cheap additions (Chris Archer, Rich Hill, Luis Patino) to go along with a legit Cy Young contender in Tyler Glasnow and a loaded bullpen (and top prospect Wander Franco waiting in the wings). — Dalton Del Don

DDD's Bet: Rays +350

The value is seldom going to be in the favorites; the Yankees will be everyone's reasonable pick to win here, but you can't ride them at -175. Toronto is the fun play at +350; if the young talent on the offense spikes at the same time, they'll become must-watch television. But backing the Rays is like eating your vegetables; this organization does so many little things well, and consistently beats its win total, too. I hope the Rays can solve the ballpark mess in Tampa someday. The less said about Boston and Baltimore, the better. — Scott Pianowski

Pianow's Bet: Rays +350

Tampa Bay Rays' Mike Zunino celebrates with Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Meadows after hitting a solo home run against Houston Astros' Lance McCullers Jr. during the seventh inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
The Tampa Bay Rays lost some key pieces in the offseason, but always find a way to retool and push beyond expecations. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

AL Central

I have the White Sox finishing first in the division right now, but it’s extremely close, so I’ll bet the number here. With Minnesota’s price (+140) so much better, give me the team Fangraphs projects as the favorites to win the AL Central. The White Sox have an intriguing young roster — and Cleveland is a live dog — but I’m a believer in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, and Minnesota’s defense should be absolutely incredible up the middle (Andrelton Simmons, Buxton, Ryan Jeffers) if they can stay healthy. Kenta Maeda’s durability is a concern, but Michael Pineda is underrated, while Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach are young bats who should be ready to contribute in 2021. And again, they are underdogs here. — Dalton Del Don

DDD's Bet: Twins +140

I could sign off on the White Sox as a co-favorite, but to say they're -110 and the Twins are +140, that's off to me. I don't see much difference between the rosters, though from a roto standpoint, I suppose the White Sox have more fun picks. I would be thrilled to consider Cleveland at +600 if the organization showed that it truly cared about maximizing its competitive chances. Even if this team is on the cusp midsummer, I doubt Cleveland pushes the chips in. We'll have a ball streaming against the Royals and Tigers again. — Scott Pianowski

Pianow's Bet: Twins +140

AL West

I have L.A. winning the division, so this qualifies as my favorite divisional bet with them at +400. The Astros remain a strong team (and surprisingly less favored than Oakland here), but they finished under .500 last season and have gone from crazy loaded at starting pitcher to now having an ace who’s 37 years old and averaged 87.1 mph with his fastball last season. A once formidable staff suddenly has big question marks surrounding Justin Verlander, Josh James and Forrest Whitley, although you better believe I’ll be betting on Lance McCullers as a long shot to win the Cy Young.

The A’s perennially perform better than expectations and easily led the division in run differential last year, but I’m not betting on them as the favorites. The Angels have a deceptively deep rotation, strong defense up the middle with Jose Iglesias, David Fletcher and Max Stassi, and I treat Dylan Bundy as closer to an ace than most. Replacing Albert Pujols with Jared Walsh will be like adding a star, while I expect a truly special season from Shohei Ohtani (there’s a reason his MVP odds are not long). And since I’m on them to win the division, and baseball is so wide open in tournament play (at least before the Dodgers), I’m also on the Angels at 40/1 to win the World Series. — Dalton Del Don

DDD's Bet: Angels +400

Dalton's ticket is the value play, and when I finally get to the window, maybe the Angels will be my punch. But seeing the Astros priced after the Athletics looks wrong to me; I can't say there's a ton of overlay at +150, but there's enough. The A's took a major step back at shortstop (Marcus Semien left, Elvis Andrus arrives) and although I see the case for the pitchers in the rotation, none of them qualify as a sure thing. And about half of the Oakland lineup is downright depressing. Please don't take those guys at +120.

Alex Bregman is the poster child for Astros fatigue. Two years ago, he was basically a coin-flip in the MVP vote, narrowly losing to Mike Trout. Last year was a mess. But Bregman's plate discipline remains in an elite area, and he steps into an age-27 season. Shrug off the scarlet letter, go back to Houston. — Scott Pianowski

Pianow's Bet: Astros +150

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