Here’s our analysis of 2021 AL West Futures Bets, including Juan Carlos Blanco’s Best Pick & Sleeper Division Champion. Odds used for 2021 AL West Bets and Predictions for the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers are provided courtesy of BetMGM, current as of Sunday, Feb. 13.
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2021 AL West Futures Bets: Best Pick & Sleepers
2021 AL West Title Odds
- Oakland Athletics (+120)
- Houston Astros (+150)
- Los Angeles Angels (+400)
- Seattle Mariners (+2000)
- Texas Rangers (+4000)
Surprisingly, not only did Oakland do little to add talent this offseason, it also let both closer Liam Hendriks (combined 39 saves, sub-2.00 ERAs last two seasons) and franchise stalwart Marcus Semien walk to the White Sox and Blue Jays, respectively. They then acquired Semien’s replacement, Elvis Andrus, via trade from the Rangers in early February in a move that saw them send one-time prominent slugger Khris Davis and promising catcher Jonah Heim to division-rival Texas.
Fortunately for the Athletics, the rest of the division didn’t make any landscape-changing moves this offseason, keeping them as relatively slim favorites to repeat as champs. Nevertheless, one particular rival may have done some particularly prudent shopping that could pay dividends, as we’ll explore shortly.
A Rangers squad that finished in the cellar at 22-38 a year ago may benefit to an extent from the addition of Davis and NPB import Kohei Arihara, but they also jettisoned their best pitcher in Lance Lynn. The Mariners showed more promise than expected in what was framed as a rebuilding year in 2020, but it remains to be seen how much of a year-to-year leap they can take.
That leaves the Astros and Angels as the biggest potential threats on paper.
The Angels’ 1-to-9 talent arguably exceeds that of the A’s. Additionally, Los Angeles may have made the highest-quality offseason acquisitions in the division in the form of Jose Iglesias — who broke out with a .373/.400/.556 line last season for the Orioles and could be an upgrade over the departed Andrelton Simmons – and Raisel Iglesias, who saved 100 games (114 chances) over the last four campaigns in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, the Astros still have multiple hitters with above-average-to-elite upside in the likes of Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. Nevertheless, the departure of George Springer is going to hurt, especially since projected replacement Myles Straw has no power to speak of.
2021 AL West Title: Smart Money Prediction
Houston Astros (+150)
The 2020 season brought a confluence of unfavorable circumstances for the Astros, which seemed to take them precisely 60 games to work out of their system. In addition to an offseason besieged by the sign-stealing scandal and the resulting last-minute hiring of Dusty Baker to replace the fired A.J. Hinch, the Astros, like every other club, had to navigate the many challenges presented by COVID-19 over the ensuing months.
As mentioned earlier, Houston finally saw its elite bats come alive in the postseason, when they gave the league champion Rays everything they could handle in a classic ALCS.
The Astros now truly have an opportunity for a clean slate, even if that also involves going to battle without Springer’s prodigious power. Altuve, Bregman and Correa all underperformed at the plate in last year’s shortened campaign, but that can likely be dismissed as an outlier.
The trio enters spring training at full health and will once again be joined by Michael Brantley, who returned to Houston after reportedly coming close to joining Springer in Toronto. Kyle Tucker also continued to display solid promise with a .268 average and .512 slugging percentage last season across 58 games.
Perennial ace Justin Verlander will miss the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the Astros’ still-fearsome lineup will be complemented by a formidable rotation. Houston returns the talented quintet of Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy, with promising right-hander Luis Garcia around as a sixth option.
In the bullpen, Ryan Pressly will have first crack at closing duties, while offseason signing Pedro Baez and Blake Taylor should help spreadhead the bullpen’s later-inning options.
Given that Houston’s bats seemingly have too much talent not to improve on last season’s performances and the rotation has the potential to be as good or better than that of the Athletics, I see the Astros as headed for a strong resurgence that could lead to the AL West crown, at minimum, making them a solid 2021 AL West pick.
2021 AL West Winner: Sleeper Bet
Los Angeles Angels (+400)
With names like Trout, Rendon and Ohtani in their lineup, the Angels may not truly deserve a 2021 AL West pick designation of “sleeper." However, Los Angeles finished 2019 with a 26-34 mark and 10 games out of first place in the West, and they currently carry the division’s third-longest odds as a result. Pitching figures to be the pivotal piece for this club, as the team’s bats should be more than enough if they remain healthy and perform to norm.
Offseason acquisitions Iglesias and Dexter Fowler give this lineup depth it didn’t enjoy a season ago if they come to play. It will likely be too much to ask for Iglesias to come close to last season’s line, but the defensively proficient shortstop had been trending up at the plate, albeit in a more modest fashion, over the two seasons prior to his 2020 breakout. Then, Fowler’s bat may never quite return to its pre-2018 form, but he did slug 44 extra-base hits (24 doubles, one triple, 19 home runs) as recently as two seasons ago.
The projected starting rotation of Dylan Bundy, Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Jose Quintana is an interesting cocktail of talent and uncertainty. Bundy is coming off a career-best season in which he finally started delivering on the promise that made him a 2011 first-round pick of the Orioles, but Ohtani’s fitness for consistently getting runners out stateside is still highly in question.
However, the Angels are always seemingly prepared to shuttle Ohtani back to full-time hitting if necessary and have experienced depth in Jaime Barria and Alex Cobb, along with a promising young veteran in Aaron Siegers.
Finally, the addition of Iglesias gives L.A. a legitimate ninth-inning option, while Mike Mayers, Felix Pena and Alex Claudio could be a particularly effective middle-relief/eighth-inning trio.
Given the upside of certain bats in the lineup, the Angels could make a push for the division crown if Bundy proves capable of sustaining last year’s success over a full season and the remaining starters at least cull together solid seasons while backed up by what could be a good bullpen.
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