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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:54 PM

Future Bets - AL West

2020 MLB American League West Best Bets

No better place to start a discussion on the AL West then with the elephant in the room regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal and how teams/players will react when facing the Astros this year. But let's talk about that for a minute. Because not only does what they did affect their division and all of baseball, there is seemingly one new Astros rival from the AL East that everyone can't wait to see face Houston this year, and believes got the raw end of the deal and are righteous in all of this, but don't want to question their own recent methods.

New York Yankees fans, you may want to turn away now.

Don't get me wrong, what Houston did in the methods they used to cheat the game was disrespectful to the rest of the league, irresponsible, repulsive, and many other adjectives you want to throw in there. The Astros deserve every boo, every bean ball, every cleats up slide at 2nd, and every runner coming home plowing their catcher that they'll get this year, but what I don't get is how everyone is making the team they beat in 2017 and 2019 especially – the N.Y. Yankees - into complete victims here.

The Yankees went out and hired Carlos Beltran in December of 2018 – the acknowledged ring leader of Houston's 2017 cheating campaign – as a “special advisor” to New York for the 2019 season. The Yankees brass claims his role was minimal and all he was doing was dissecting video – of opposing team's pitchers no less - but what was Beltran's main tool of cheating in Houston again? Oh yeah, video.

You're telling me, a guy that was brought in to an organization to give “special advice” and analyzed video just sat on his thumbs in New York after getting away with what he did in Houston? We've even had guys come out and say they heard inklings about Houston's methods in 2017, and if that's the case, we can't just automatically assume no one on the Yankees had heard those inklings. They wanted their former player involved with them and their future success, and hired him in a video-related role for crying out loud. They wanted that same level of success in whatever way possible, and for one reason or another, fell just short again last year. How are we as baseball fans not questioning everything Beltran touched since 2017?

I mean, what about DJ LeMahieu, who is “disappointed” in what the Astros did. He spent seven years playing half his games at Coors Field, a well-known joke of a ballpark that is a hitter's paradise and a place where many a player has set career highs offensively just by wearing a Rockies uniform, and somehow, in LeMahieu's first season with the Yankees last year, he sets a career high in hits (197), HR's (26) and his career high in RBI's (102) was more than 50% higher than his previous career high (66). There is no way “special video advice” from Carlos Beltran could have had any involvement with that, right?

Yes, the Yankees were on the wrong end of things in 2017 and 2019, but to believe they don't have some dirt on their hands in all this is from being involved with Beltran in 2019 is just asinine. Any complaints from any of the players and/or coaching staff involved with the Yankees regarding what Houston did should carry absolutely zero weight, and quite frankly, other guys around the league should test the waters with some of those bean ball inquiries this season with the Yankees as well.

Maybe that's too cynical of an outlook for the game on the whole, but after all the discussion about whether or not the baseballs were juiced or not last year, this Houston Astros thing has really put the sport in shambles. It's just sad to see. Who knows, maybe that highly anticipated first series between Houston and New York will just end up with all 18 hitters getting beaned. One can only hope.

Anyways, that's enough discussion about the Yankees and the Astros as far as I'm concerned. It's why I didn't touch on any Yankees futures in the AL East piece, and why I'm not discussing any Astros futures either. Neither of them deserve the time, and I don't believe you can trust what we've seen from the Yankees in 2019 or the Astros since 2017 as legitimate, so why even acknowledge any of it.

So let's look at the futures market regarding the rest of the AL West.

American League West – Win Totals

Houston Astros 94.5
Los Angeles Angels 84.5
Oakland Athletics 88.5
Seattle Mariners 68.5
Texas Rangers 79.5

American League West – Odds to Make Playoffs

Houston Astros Yes (-300) No (+240)
Los Angeles Angels Yes (+210) No (-260)
Oakland Athletics Yes (+130) No (-150)
Seattle Mariners Yes (+2000) No (-10000)
Texas Rangers Yes (+600) No (-900)

Season Win Total Best Bet
Texas Rangers Over 79.5

The Texas Rangers get to open a brand new ballpark this year with Globe Life Field slated to be opened with the Rangers first home game of the year. Interestingly enough, the last two American League teams that opened new ball parks – Minnesota in 2010 and the NY Yankees in 2009 – saw their records spike by 7 and 14 wins respectively and win their respective divisions in their inaugural season in their new home. I can't go as far to say the Rangers will be AL West champs in 2020, but after Texas finished with a 78-84 SU record last year, they'd just need a minor spike of two wins in their new digs to surpass this year's win total mark. It's a number I expect them to hit.

On the field, the Rangers still have a batting lineup that has guys from 1-through-9 that can hit, and when they get going, they'll put a lot of crooked numbers up on guys. Adding 3B Todd Frazier to the fold this winter only lengthens an already potent lineup even more, and with a very nice blend of speed and power in their order, playing a lot of Rangers games 'over' the total may end up being quite profitable as well.

That leads into the Rangers pitching rotation, and despite bringing in Corey Kluber to be the #1 guy in that rotation, there still have to be some concerns about how good this Rangers staff will be. But we aren't needing them to be world beaters at this number, just simply be a .500 team. With Kluber, Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson projected as the guys at the top of the rotation, you can't discount their veteran experience in this league, and while they all do possess somewhat of 'journeymen' characteristics, you can't hang around in MLB as a journeyman without some level of sustained success.

Finally, the way this year's Texas team gets that 2+ win boost (outside of the new stadium boost) to cash this ticket is being just a shade better within the division – 33-43 SU last year vs AL West foes – but more importantly, be much better against the teams that are equal or worse then them outside of the division. Outside of having winning records against the Mariners and Angels within the division last year, of the 16 non-division teams Texas faced last year, they only finished with a winning (6)or break-even record (3) against nine of them, and three of those 'winners' were NL teams where Texas was lucky enough to win a single series 2-1. The other three came against who you'd expect them to be; Baltimore, Detroit and Kansas City.

If the Rangers can say win just one more series against an AL Central or AL East foe, they'll improve enough within the division – finished 6-13 SU against Houston and Oakland last year – to get those necessary wins to grab at least 80 this season. Yes, Texas did benefit from some luck last year (+3) to get to 78 wins, but they are a more talented team overall this season and should end up with at least a .500 mark.

Team Future Best Bet
Oakland A's to win the Division: (7/2)

Not sure there is a team poised to take more advantage of a likely step back from Houston this year then the Oakland A's are. Oakland continues to be that team with the moneyball mentality that continues to win year after year, and are likely desperate to make sure that they avoid the Wildcard game this year and actually get involved in a postseason series.

The A's overall roster is relatively unchanged from the 97-65 team they were a season ago, and as much as everyone loves to talk trades and free agency signings in today's sports world, there is something to be said for continuity. Oakland has the latter in spades this year, and their 97-65 SU record was no fluke; they were not helped or harm by any Pythagorean luck a season ago.

Even with the Astros still listed as the favorite in this division, Houston's win total is just 98.5 and if forced to make a play there it would be on the 'under.' That suggests that all things being equal for Oakland this year, the 97-win Oakland team from a year ago can get there as is, and who knows, maybe they take a big step up in their head-to-head meetings with Houston with no sign stealing going on. Oakland was 8-11 SU vs Houston a season ago and you'd have to rightfully assume they were on the wrong end of some shadiness in those 19 games.

The A's could take a step back within the division but their 44-32 SU record against division foes is nothing extremely out of the ordinary. What was for the Athletics was a 0-6 SU record vs Toronto and 1-3 SU record against the Giants. The Blue Jays are likely an improved bunch in 2020, but they aren't going to be sweeping the A's in the season series again, and the cross-town rivalry with the Giants in 2020 is likely to have different results as well.

If you do really want to capitalize on the anger/hatred coming Houston's way this season, backing Oakland at this futures price to win the division is probably the best way to go.

Player Prop Best Bet
Anthony Rendon Under 26.5 Home Runs

Rendon was the big signing for the L.A. Angels this year, but I'm still not convinced he'll put the Angels over the top in being anything more than a team that finishes somewhere around the .500 mark give or take a few games. You can't blame Rendon for going out and getting his massive contract after the 2019 season he had and what he did in helping Washington win the World Series, but you see it time and time again with these big dollar deals, guys just simply can't live up to the expectations all that money puts on them.

Furthermore, how much intrinsic motivation can Rendon actually have in 2020? He got paid, got to go to a team/city he wanted to, and got a World Series ring last year as well. It's not going to be hard for complacency to set in for Rendon this year, and his career year last year was the only time he's ever hit more than 25 HR's in a campaign. It's not like he didn't have ample protection in the batting order around him in Washington like he'll get in L.A. with Trout, Otani, Upton etc, and 2019 was basically a career year across the board for Rendon.

Just don't see him duplicating it a year later while he gets comfortable in new surroundings and a new league.

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