Will Cubs, Red Sox Clash in 2017 World Series?
The Chicago Cubs made MLB Baseball great again in 2016. More people tuned in than ever before to watch the Cubs break their century-long World Series curse. Will the North Siders go back-to-back in 2017? There’s one big hurdle in front of them: the Boston Red Sox. With spring training underway, the Cubs and Red Sox are +450 co-favorites on this year’s World Series futures market, leaving third-place Cleveland (+800) in the dust.
Chicago may have already peaked. They’re projected to win well over 90 games, but it will be difficult to match last year’s remarkable campaign (103-58, +2.99 betting units), especially now that CF Dexter Fowler (.840 OPS) has bolted for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are hell-bent on surpassing their 2016 performance (93-69, +2.46 units) after trading the farm for former Chicago White Sox standout Chris Sale (3.46 FIP). As long as they remain healthy, Boston should be the alpha dogs of the American League.
Cleveland Blew a 3-1 Lead
Nobody should forget about Cleveland, though. The Tribe (94-67 SU, +8.92 units) are working with the same Moneyball recipe that Theo Epstein used in Boston and Chicago, and they were one win away from breaking their own World Series curse last year. Cleveland has made some important changes to the batting order in the quest for their first title since 1948; most notably, Edwin Encarnacion (.886 OPS) will be their full-time DH after leaving the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency. Encarnacion hit 78 homeruns in his last two seasons with the Jays.
Back in the National League, Chicago’s toughest competition should come from the Los Angeles Dodgers. They went 91-71 (–6.37 units) last year and won the NL West, fueled by the biggest payroll in the majors, and the Dodgers will spend some more this year to get over the hump. Second base should be less problematic with Logan Forsythe (.778 OPS) coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays. Combine an improved batting order with some of the best pitching in baseball, and LA could be a steal at +1000 on the MLB odds board.
Outside, Looking In
There are three other teams with more than a reasonable shot of dethroning the Cubs for the NL pennant. The Washington Nationals (+1200), San Francisco Giants (+1200) and New York Mets (+1400) have become familiar names in recent years, competing for division titles – and winning the World Series three times, in San Francisco’s case. Health issues limited their production in 2016, but the talent is there for all three to compete with the Cubs this year.
Cleveland isn’t the only AL competition for the Red Sox, either. The Houston Astros (+1400) are poised to win the West after solidifying their rotation with Charlie Morton (4.19 FIP in 2015), who missed most of 2016 for the Pittsburgh Pirates with a torn hamstring. If Houston falters, the Seattle Mariners (+3300) have value after overhauling their roster in their second year under GM Jerry Dipoto. The common thread between these two clubs? Analytics. It’s just the right thing to do.
*Odds as of March 13, 2017