This marks the sixth year major league baseball has had two wild cards in each league, which results in more season-long excitement when playing futures long shots.
Last season’s Cinderella was Baltimore, which entered the season as 30-1 to win the AL pennant and 60-1 to take the World Series. The O’s led the East in mid-August before grabbing the first wild card. In the Central the White Sox (also 30-1/60-1) took a six-game lead in early May before collapsing.
Past years have seen far bigger long shots come home, including Houston earning a wild card in 2015 after opening on the Westgate Las Vegas board at 100/200.
Below are “long shots” to consider, with the definition of long shot being at least 12-1 for the pennant. Odds are courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas.
Boston is the division choice at 5-8, 3-1 for the pennant and 7-1 World Series. There’s little value here. The other loop squads are defending champ Toronto (12-1 pennant/25-1 WS), New York (15/30), Baltimore (20/40) and Tampa Bay (40/80).
The Rays are tempting with a nice pitching staff, but there might not be a .270 hitter in the lineup. The Orioles have great power with Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, but they strike out a ton (509 times). Plus, there’s no speed on the bases.
The Yankees’ young guys aren’t worth the gamble. Thus, by default it’s the Blue Jays. They did lose Edwin Encarnacion (42 HRs) but picked up switch-hitting Kendrys Morales (30 HRs) from KC. He’ll be a boost to a lineup dominated by right-handed bats. This team, with a plethora of veteran sluggers, is overly hungry for a championship after being ousted in the ALCS the past two years.
The Indians are the AL favorites to return to the Series (5-1), so no interest here. The other options are Detroit (15/30), KC (40/80), Minnesota (50/100) and the White Sox (250/500). The Sox opened at 30/60 but have fallen out of favor at the windows thanks in large part to the unloading of LHP Chris Sale, who was 17-10 on a club that otherwise went 61-74. Hands off. And that goes for the Twins, too. They went into a free fall last year after missing a wild card by three games in 2015 despite opening at 100/200.
The Tigers were only two games back of Cleveland in midsummer in 2016 and have a nice team, but can’t be trusted with slugger Miguel Cabrera, he'll turn 34 on April 18, having a somewhat brittle back. The pick is KC, which like Toronto, has a championship pedigree and swell odds after opening at 15/30 and skyrocketing up to 50/100 before settling at their current number.
Houston is the favorite at 5-4 for the division and 9-2/10-1 for the pennant/Series. The other choices are Seattle (12/25), Texas (15/30), L.A. Angels (30/60) and Oakland (50/100).
The A’s would have been the choice, but with ace Sonny Gray nursing a late injury (he also was on the DL twice last year), forget it. The Angels are a curious team. They were the only one of nine clubs that opened at 100-1 WS to see their odds drop. But with slugger Albert Pujols feeling his age, Mike Trout can’t do it all.
Although Texas won the West by nine games in 2016, the Rangers outscored foes by only eight runs, whereas the other five division winners had a norm of +155. The Rangers likely won’t overachieve again.
That leaves Seattle and the one-two hitting punch of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz (82 combined HRs) plus the stout pitching of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
NEXT WEEK: The National League forecast