The Houston Astros are the favorites to win Major League Baseball’s AL West for the seventh consecutive season, and for the fifth time, the Astros are the odds-on choice at DraftKings, Westgate SuperBook, FanDuel, and BetMGM.
In four of the past six years, the Astros won their division, and also had a wild card berth during the shortened pandemic season. They won the pennant on three occasions, and infamously became World Series champions in 2017.
Oddsmakers think the Astros appear to be headed toward another dominant season. Especially when perennial contender Oakland has jettisoned much of its high-priced roster this spring.
Based on win expectancy, Houston figures to beat the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners by eight games. Texas and Oakland should bring up the rear.
But with the addition of a third wildcard this season, there is good value to be had with teams that can stay on Houston’s heels.
Last season, it was Seattle that gave long-shot bettors a nice run for their money, going off at 50-1 for the pennant and 100-1 for the World Series at many books. The Mariners weren’t eliminated in the wild-card race until the season’s last day. Let’s examine how the AL West will be won in 2022.
Here are the AL West division odds from DraftKings, current as of Monday afternoon.
|Team||DraftKings Odds To Win AL West|
Starting At The Top
The Astros weathered the free-agent departure of star slugger George Springer and the injury that sidelined star RHP Justin Verlander last year (Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2020), and still finished five games clear of their nearest rival. Verlander’s back now and enjoyed a strong spring with a 1.32 ERA in a team-high 13.2 innings of work.
The key departure this season is shortstop Carlos Correa, whose WAR of 7.2 was tops for any hitter last season. WAR stands for wins against replacement, and reflects how many more wins a team enjoys because of the player as opposed to a replacement player. But the team still has last year’s batting champ, Yuri Gurriel, and Michael Branley, who tied for second.
And in a quiet move of sorts, the Astros acquired ex-Phillies reliever Hector Neris to bolster the bullpen. He lost his closer’s job at midseason last year for MLB’s sixth-worst relief staff but flourished in a lesser role to finish with a 3.63 ERA. It would have been 2.95 if he didn’t suffer a meltdown in a ninth-inning, mop-up performance when he allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Houston likely will have Ryan Pressley (26 saves 2021) in the closer’s role this year.
Angels, Mariners Most Likely To Challenge Astros
The most likely candidates to make Houston sweat will be the Angels (16-1 pennant/35-1 World Series at DraftKings) and Mariners (18/40 at DraftKings, respectively).
In L.A., center fielder Mike Trout, a three-time league MVP, returns after missing all but 36 games last season. He’ll be teamed with last year’s MVP, Shohei Ohtani, who was a two-way starter in the All-Star Game. No further introduction needed.
Manager Joe Maddon, who guided the out-of-nowhere Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 pennant and the fully-loaded Chicago Cubs to the 2016 World Series championship, might just have a team that could make headlines again.
Seattle, meanwhile, is looking for its first postseason berth since its 116-win season in 2001 when it outscored the opposition by 300 runs. That’s the longest playoff drought in baseball.
Last season, the Mariners had an overachieving mark of 92-70 (.556) despite being outscored by 51 runs. In baseball history, there have been only 11 other teams that had a winning record and a minus differential that high, but none had a winning percentage above .525 (the 2009 Mariners at 85-77).
The addition of last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray, probably won’t be enough to help a team that was last in hitting last year (.226).
Bringing Up The Rear
Texas is coming off a season in which it batted only .231, ranking 29th in the league. And since the pitching staff had an ERA of 4.89, worst in the West, it would be a great leap for the Rangers to make headway this season.
After all, at last season’s trade deadline they unloaded slugger Joey Gallo (25 HRs before leaving), solid starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy. Plus this offseason, Texas’ leading hitter in 2021, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, is gone, too. Unless the odds on the Rangers at least double, stay away.
Texas did add ex-A’s and Blue Jays star Marcus Semien and also Kyle Seager (101 RBIs) from Seattle, but it won’t be enough.
Then there are the A’s, who are having a massive sell-off this spring and looking more like 1915 A’s of Connie Mack than a title contender. Just a few days ago, they traded RHP Sean Manaea, following the exit of Chris Bassitt (12-4 in 2021) and their top run-producers in veterans Matt Olson and Matt Chatman. Ugh. It looks like a 100-loss season before an empty stadium in Oakland this year.
The Best Value In The AL West
The Angels at +400 are the choice, provided their stars can stay healthy for 140-plus games, and that includes third baseman Anthony Rendon, who led the NL in RBIs only three years ago with Washington. And not to be ignored is the addition of former Mets starting pitcher, Noah Syndergaard.