The Atlanta Braves are the slight favorites this season to win the NL East for the fourth straight year, having finished at least four games clear of the pack in each of the past three. But that’s not the team baseball futures bettors have been pounding at the online windows this offseason.
Last fall, when opening pennant numbers were posted, the Braves were 6-1 choices to reach the World Series, while their main East rivals – New York, Philadelphia, and Washington – were listed at 15-1. Since then, the Mets’ numbers have dropped while the Phillies’ and Nationals’ have risen.
Below is a chart of the current 2021 pennant/Series MLB odds (BetMGM doesn’t offer pennant info). And below that is an attempt to identify which long shot has the best chance of being a postseason threat and a chance at the World Series.
Check out our full Guide to World Series Betting Odds.
Another Heads Up For MLB Season 2021
With the regular season starting April 1, it’s become increasingly unlikely MLB will again expand the postseason. Instead, it will likely stick to plans for only the division winners and two wild cards in each league advancing.
Thus, teams with silly futures odds won’t be as attractive to baseball bettors this year as opposed to last year, when Miami reached the postseason despite opening odds of 500-1/1,000-1 for the pennant/Series.
The Mets and Braves, one-two in the majors in hitting last season (with Washington fourth), figure to run head-to-head in the division race this season, according to the odds.
Atlanta has last year’s NL MVP, Freddie Freeman, and league HR/RBI champ Marcell Ozuna bolstering a wickedly strong lineup. On the mound, the Braves added savvy RHP Charlie Morton (from Tampa Bay) and lefty Drew Smyly (San Francisco) to a rotation that’s headed by Max Fried, 7-0 last season.
If 2019 All-Star Mike Soroka recovers from August’s torn Achilles, that front four will be formidable. To our relief, it appears Will Smith will be elevated from “holder” to “saver.”
As for the Mets, they had better learn how to beat Atlanta or they’ll be in the league-wide scramble for the final wild-card berth. Since 2018, the Mets have gone 17-31 against their Southern enemy.
Two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, a starter with 100 mph stuff, spearheads the rotation. Offseason acquisition Taijuan Walker from Toronto and Marcus Stroman from the Mets (opt-out list) will join him. Who knows about Noah Syndergaard? He needed Tommy-John surgery and is expected back in June.
Pete Alonso leads the attack, having hit 69 homers the past two seasons. Gold Glove shortstop Lindor from Cleveland will join him. But team defense could hold this team back. All in all, the edge goes to Atlanta.
In The Rearview Mirror
The slow-starting Nationals, who were 19-31 in 2019 before charging the Series title, had to rally last year merely to finish in a tie for last in the East at 26-34.
If the pattern continues, by waiting until, say, mid-April to make a futures bet on the Nationals, the bet could have great value. After all, in their first three series, they’ll face the Mets, Braves, and WS champion Dodgers.
In addition to a nice top three in the rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and lefty Patrick Corbin, Washington added ex-Indians closer Brad Hand, Ohio’s former favorite fireman, who was 16-for-16 in save situations last season.
The offense, led by NL batting champ Juan Soto (.351) and star shortstop Trae Turner, is mighty good, too.
As for the Phillies, they did well in re-upping catcher J.T. Realmuto, who’s solid on offense and defense, to rejoin a lineup that includes Bryce Harper and the return from the injury of Andrew McCutchen.
But, don’t forget, that bullpen had a league-worst 7.06 ERA last year. Adding ex-Diamondback Archie Bradley won’t solve all their problems!
Bringing Up The Rear
The Marlins, coming off a 105-loss season in 2019, were the surprise overachievers of the NL last year in eking out a winning season (31-29). But they were probably only giving their cardboard cutout fans false hope for 2021, for they outscored Miami by 41 runs, the worst negative margin for any of the 16 playoffs teams.
Over the coming days, they’ll need to hope the playoffs get expanded again.
The Best Long Shot
Washington for the pennant. The winning pedigree is there. But shop around if you’re also wagering on the Series. The Nats’ odds are different at each sportsbook website.