AL East – Odds to Win Division – MLB Betting

The AL East features the the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Baltimore Orioles.  It is one of the more competitive divisions in baseball heading into the 2018 season with both the Yankees and Red Sox expected to compete for a World Series Title.  The Yankees come in as slight favorites with the Red Sox trailing narrowly in terms of MLB futures odds.  The Jays, Orioles, and Rays are all headed towards rebuilding years and may be looking to trade assets such as Chris Archer as the trade deadline looms.  Will anyone in the AL East compete besides the Red Sox and Yankees?    Our AL East Futures Odds preview takes a look in our MLB futures free pick series.

New York Yankees (-113)

2018 Odds to Win AL East (BOVADA)

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The 2017 Yankees were a case study in a very important concept: luck.

On one hand, they were very unlucky.  In fact, by run differential, they were they unluckiest team in baseball - their pythagorean record was 9 games better than their actual record.  If they had won the number of games they should have with an average amount of luck (100), they would’ve won the AL East by a significant margin and could have avoided the wild card play-in game.  


In that respect, the Yankees probably don’t get credit for just how good they were last year - they finished 2nd in offense, led by Rookie of the Year and near-MVP Aaron Judge.  More surprisingly though, they finished 4th in pitching (by xFIP).  A big reason why was the breakout of Luis Severino, who came into 2017 with an ERA of 4.46 over 133 big league innings - not very spectacular.  Last year, Severino posted a 2.98 ERA over 193.1 innings, good for 4th in WAR amongst starting pitchers, behind only Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Max Scherzer - pretty good company.

These massive, breakout seasons from Judge and Severino are just the tip of the iceberg of why I actually believe the Yankees, while finishing 9 games behind their expected win/loss, actually got very lucky in 2017.


Brett Gardner, who most thought was trending in the wrong direction as he headed into his mid 30s, had his best all-around season since 2011.  Unheralded shortstop Didi Gregorius had the best offensive and defensive season of his career simultaneously. Former first-rounder Aaron Hicks finally delivered on his talent, posting a solid .266/.372/.475 line in 88 games after being practically useless through his first four big league seasons.

Several Yankees hurlers (besides Severino) had unexpectedly great seasons as well.  Jordan Montgomery wasn’t on many people’s radar coming into 2017 (and frankly, still isn’t), but he posted a solid rookie season with a 3.88 ERA over 29 starts.  Chad Green was an experimental starter for the Yanks in 2016, but that experiment failed. However, Green was lights out in the bullpen in 2017, posting a sub-two ERA over 69 innings.


All of the players I listed above, including Judge and Severino, project to have a worse 2018 than they did in 2017.   Judge in particular should have a season much closer to his second-half numbers from last year (.228/.391/.548). Still very good, but not as monstrous as his first-half numbers (.329/.448/.691) that inflated his year long totals.  Severino should still be a very quality starter, but projecting him in the top 5 again would be risky.  All-in-all, the Yankees project to lose a ton of production from their returning players in 2018.

Now, there’s one huge (6’6”, 245 lb) caveat to this Yankees doom and gloom: Giancarlo Stanton.  Unquestionably the best offseason acquisition, Stanton should absolutely mash this year in the homer-friendly confines of Yankee stadium.  Anything short of 50 homers would be a disappointment.

The Yankees should get more out of first baseman Greg Bird and starter Sonny Gray as well, which will help with all of that lost production.  I believe when all is said and done, the 2018 Yankees will finish about where they did in 2017 - around 90 wins. Unless luck has anything to say about it, of course.


In other divisions, 90 wins might be able to get it done.  In this division though, there’s another clear contender - one the Yankees know well, and one with more attractive odds than the Yankees have at -113.

Boston Red Sox (+150)

2018 Odds to Win AL East (BOVADA)

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Unlike the Yankees, the Sox won exactly as many games as their run differential said they should have - 93.  They project to be back in the same neighborhood of wins this year, but possibly for very different reasons.


The pitching staff kept the Red Sox afloat last year, finishing 6th by the xFIP stat mentioned earlier.  A historically great year from trade acquisition Chris Sale led the way - Sale led all major league starters with 7.7 WAR last year, nearly striking out 13 batters per 9 innings over 214.1 innings pitched.  Just absurdly good, and exactly what you dream of when trading a few top-flight prospects for one player. The Sox also had the best reliever in the AL last year in Craig Kimbrel, who bounced back from a shaky 2017 to post possibly the best season of his career.   Those two, plus Drew Pomeranz, who posted a solid season in his own right, should be thanked for carrying the 2017 Red Sox to the playoffs.


The offense on the other hand was a disappointment - they plummeted from 1st overall in offense in 2016 all the way to 22nd, according to wRC+. Many of the young players that appeared to be on the upswing took steps back last year - Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi amongst them.  Dustin Pedroia had his worst offensive season since his rookie year of 2006, only slugging a meager .392. Hanley Ramirez had a disastrous season, posting a negative WAR over 553 plate appearances.

One bright spot was rookie Rafael Devers, who made a significant offensive impact in 2017 in only 240 plate appearances, hitting .284/.338/.482.  The Sox would be happy to see him post similar numbers over 500+ PAs this season. The offense had a bright spot this offseason as well, adding right handed slugger J.D. Martinez, a free-agent acquisition who should see more than a few balls fly over the Green Monster in 2018.


With so many young players underachieving in 2017, a bounceback year from the Red Sox offense seems to be in order.   The pitching may regress a bit - Sale and Kimbrel would have to be nearly perfect to replicate what they did in 2017. However, a return to the top 5 in offense should keep the Red Sox in the mid-90s in wins.

Although it seems to be a pretty even race - a mid-season trade may end up being the deciding factor - I would have expected the Sox to be the favorites, with the Yankees close behind, rather than the other way around.  Because of this, the Red Sox will be my best bet in the AL East at +150.

Toronto Blue Jays (+925)

2018 Odds to Win AL East (BOVADA)

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Since I already spoiled things a bit by calling this a two-team race above, we’ll quickly cover the rest of the AL East - I don’t believe any of them have a real shot of finishing above .500.


The Blue Jays had a disappointing 2017 after making the ALCS in the previous year.  After making six straight all-star games from 2010 to 2015, Jose Bautista began to decline in 2016, then fell off a cliff in 2017.  He may just retire rather than return in 2018. Troy Tulowitzki was useless last year in 260 PAs, and at age 33 now, he may never have another productive season again.

Justin Smoak was one of the lone success stories for the Jays, finally posting the kind of productive season the Rangers envisioned when taking him 11th overall in 2008.  Unfortunately, because that season was so outside the norm for Smoak, nearly all projection systems have him sliding back in 2018.


The pitching was pretty average last year, and should be about the same this year.  Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ should be a solid but unspectacular 1-2 at the top of the rotation again in 2018.  Aaron Sanchez’s return from an injury plagued season should help, but not in a way that alters the NL East race.


All-in-all, I see the Blue Jays as a team that is in the mid-to-low 70s in wins - nowhere close to the two titans in the AL East.  In fact, it’s not even close to their over/under, set at 81.5 wins - I’ll be playing the under there.

Tampa Bay Rays (+1789)

2018 Odds to Win AL East (BOVADA)

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The Rays tried their hardest to one-up the Marlins in terms of having the biggest sell-off this past offseason.  In terms of sheer volume, they may have done it.


Here’s the damage: Steven Souza Jr. (3.7 WAR in 2017), Logan Morrison (3.3 WAR), Corey Dickerson (2.6 WAR), Evan Longoria (2.5 WAR), , Tim Beckham (1.6 WAR), Colby Rasmus (1.1 WAR), .  All of these guys contributed to the 2017 Rays, and none of them will be there in 2018.


Alex Cobb (2.4 WAR) and Tommy Hunter (1.2 WAR) are gone too.


The result will be a bad season for the Rays.  Their over/under is 73.5, but surprisingly the over is getting most of the action. Similar to the Jays, I don’t see them reaching that number.

Baltimore Orioles (+3364)

2018 Odds to Win AL East (BOVADA)

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This will likely be a sad season for Orioles fans in multiple ways, as they may be headed towards last place in the AL East and their star player, Manny Machado, is all but guaranteed to be moved.


If it makes them feel any better, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo can’t be much worse than last year, can they?   If those two regain their form, I actually think the Orioles could finish third in the division. But not definitely not in first.

AL East Conclusion:  

Best Bet: Red Sox +150

Everyone knows this is a two-horse race between the Yankees and the Red Sox.  While the Yankees had the highest profile acquisition in Stanton, the rest of their offense is trending down.  I see the Red Sox as the favorites to win the division.

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