The Dodgers reigned supreme in the National League last season. Cruelly falling just short of their first World Series since 1988 in Game Seven to the Astros, Dave Roberts’ side are unsurprisingly favourites to win the National League again.
The offseason has been a quiet one for the Dodgers, who had to make some inventive moves to get under the luxury tax. Matt Kemp – yes, really – could be on the Opening Day roster, while the rotation has lost Yu Darvish without an established replacement and the bullpen is missing postseason workhorse, Brandon Morrow.
The 13/5 price on Clayton Kershaw and co. to return to the Fall Classic is not a good one. Sure, that could change with mid-season trades, but this roster is not that good.
The loss of Justin Turner for the start of the season leaves a hole in the line-up already, while regression can be expected from Alex Wood leaving the rotation a little thin behind Kershaw.
The 2016 World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs, slot in as second favourites at 3/1. Joe Maddon’s side fell in the League Championship series to the Dodgers last season, after a disappointing 92-win campaign that saw them with only the fourth-best record in the National League.
The Cubs did still win the Central division, though. An active offseason has bolstered their rotation despite the loss of Jake Arrieta. Tyler Chatwood, Darvish and Jose Quintana have all arrived since the start of last season.
The line-up, however, has a lot of question marks outside of Anthony Rizzo and 2016 MVP, Kris Bryant. The price is still a little short given the uncertainties.
It’s not surprising that the Washington Nationals are sitting at 4/1 given their postseason woe. The team with the second-best record in the National League are still an interesting option in this market, however.
Their starting pitching staff is the deepest in the league and is led by a pair of aces in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Of the three favourites for the respective divisions, I would lean towards the Nationals as the value pick...
The line-up is deep – and welcomes back Adam Eaton – and their main weakness – the bullpen – could be reinforced with trades during the season as it was in 2017.
As we would expect with that trio being such clear picks to win their divisions, the odds lengthen to 10/1 for the St Louis Cardinals. Their trade to acquire Marcell Ozuna was huge, but the guarantees for their club are limited.
The Cards are dependent on performances from players like Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong, who could both regress significantly.
The Arizona Diamondbacks at 11/1 join the Cardinals with odds far too short for the strength of their rosters. The Dbacks were formidable last year – winning more games than the Cubs – but are unlikely to get the same stellar seasons from their pitching staff, and have lost power-hitting outfielder, JD Martinez.
The best bet on Arizona this season pops up in the National League MVP market. Paul Goldschmidt is a perennial contender and five-time All-Star. After finishing third in the voting with 5.8 WAR in 2017, 2018 could finally be his year. The 9/1 price is a steal.
Back to 888sport’s odds on making the 2018 World Series, the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants catch the eye. After poor years – winning 70 and 64 games respectively – these two have been active in free agency and both head into the season with far shorter injury lists than they suffered for much of last year.
The Mets’ rotation is healthy. Okay, that probably won’t last long, but it could be the best rotation in baseball if they all throw over 150 innings.
The Giants bolstered their outfield with Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson, while plugging their hole at third with Evan Longoria. The two front offices had strong offseasons and could be set for a rematch of the 2016 wildcard game.
At 16/1, I think these two represent the best value in the pack even if they are unlikely to win their divisions. There’s postseason experience in both rosters, too, which will prove invaluable should they progress to the Division Series.
The National League has greater strength in depth than the American League. It’s even harder to call as a result, but I like the pre-season odds on the Nationals to finally break their playoff hoodoo. Don’t forget the Mets and Giants, though, who could bounce back in a big way.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*