NL East – Odds to Win Division – MLB Betting

The NL East features the Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and the hopeless Miami Marlins.  Oddsmakers who set the NL East and MLB futures lines have the Nationals as the odds on favorite to win the division, with the Mets having an outside chance of making a run at it.  The Phillies, Braves, and Marlins are all expected to be headed towards rebuild years as they look forward to 2019 and beyond for their windows of success.  Will Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and the rest of the Nationals be able to take home the NL East division crown or will some other long shot come through to compete for the title? Our NL East Futures Odds preview takes a look.

Washington Nationals (-350)

2018 Odds to Win NL East (BOVADA)

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The Nationals should win this division. They return almost exactly the same team that won the division by 20 games last year.  2018’s second place finisher (Miami) is still smoldering after blowing up their roster. It's hard not to see the upside in the Nationals.  Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Adam Eaton should all play more games in 2018 than they did in 2017.

So why does Vegas believe that the Nats are in for a bit of a regression - currently sitting at an over/under of 94.5 wins, with the under getting most of the action - while other projection systems are even more pessimistic?

It’s because nearly all of their other regulars (besides those mentioned above) over-performed expectations last year.  They should likely come back to earth a bit this year.

Nationals Batting Order

Anthony Rendon was the 6th overall pick in 2011.  It wasn’t too surprising to see him have a year like he did last year.  He slashed .301/.403/.533 - elite numbers for a second baseman. Rendon's strikeout rate plummeted from 18.1% to 13.6%, and his walk rate increased from 10% to 13.9%, which helped tremendously during his breakout 2017 season.   Most projections have these numbers regressing back a few percentage points, which would in turn hurt his overall production.

It’s a similar story for some of their other regulars. Ryan Zimmerman has had a fantastic career for the Nationals.  He bounced back in a big way from disappointing seasons in 2015 and 2016 to put up possibly the best offensive season of his career in 2017.  Daniel Murphy continued to mash in a Nationals uniform, playing the best baseball of his career in his early 30s. Even Michael Taylor was able to contribute with the bat, slugging over 100 points higher than he ever had in a season prior. I’d expect each of these hitters to post worse seasons in 2018 than they did in 2017.

Nationals Pitching Staff

The pitching could slide back a bit in 2018 as well. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg both finished in the top 5 amongst starting pitchers in WAR in 2017. Even a slight injury or a minor slump could result in them having a worse year in 2018.  Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark are solid middle-rotation pieces, but neither is equipped to move to the front of the rotation if called upon to do so.

Nationals Bet - Final Thoughts

Like I said - the Nationals should win this division. However, with so many of their players overachieving in 2017, it feels like a sucker bet to lay the -350 and hope that nothing goes wrong in 2018.

New York Mets (+390)

2018 Odds to Win NL East (BOVADA)

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The Mets are headed in the right direction this year - Vegas and other projection systems have them winning about 81 games this year, an 11 game improvement from last year.

Mets Pitching Staff

Most of this improvement should come from the Mets pitching staff. Their ace, Noah “Thor” Syndergaard was only able to throw 30 innings last year, mostly due to a torn lat muscle in his throwing arm. If he’s able to return to throwing 180+ innings, he’ll likely be in the Cy Young race.

Some of the Mets' other arms couldn’t do much worse than they did in 2017. Zach Wheeler had a 5.21 ERA over 86.1 innings last year, while Matt Harvey had a putrid 6.70 ERA over 92.2 innings. Both of these guys were highly touted early in their careers, so one would hope that they could improve on the seasons they had in 2017 - even league average seasons from both would be a huge help, and would likely put the Mets in the top 10 in pitching with the help of Thor and fellow ace Jacob DeGrom.

Mets Batting Order

Tthe improvement in Mets pitching will likely be offset by a slide in offense. Michael Conforto was having a massive season in 2017, slashing .279/.384/.555 before going down to a shoulder injury in late August. Conforto is still recovering from the injury and is expected to return in early May, but even if he is fully recovered by then he can’t be expected to reproduce his 2017 numbers.

Even with free agent addition Todd Frazier providing some much-needed power, the expected regression from other aging regulars (Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes) and the loss of some solid lineup pieces (Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda) should lead to a mediocre season at best for the Mets’ offense.

Mets Bet - Final Thoughts

It’s because of this that I will pass on the +390 and invest elsewhere for the NL East crown.

Philadelphia Phillies (+1416)

2018 Odds to Win NL East (BOVADA)

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Not much attention was paid to the 2017 Phillies, and rightly so - they finished 30 games out of first place and had basically zero household names among their everyday roster. However, some positive things happened for the Phils - namely, they found cornerstone players for their rebuild, one on offense and one on the pitching staff.

Phillies Pitching Staff

Aaron Nola was the 7th pick in the 2014 draft, and his season in 2017 proved that he was a worthy selection at that spot. Nola struck out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings over 168 innings pitched, finishing with a 3.86 ERA that was higher than his peripheral numbers suggested it should be. Nola appears primed to build on his 2017 season and should produce front-line starter numbers in 2018.

The Phillies also made some moves in free agency.  While Jake Arrieta will never again match his dominant 2015 Cy Young season (1.77 ERA with 236 strikeouts over 229 innings), if he can provide the Phillies with something similar to his other seasons with the Cubs - something like 180 IP with an ERA in the low 3s - he should provide a huge boost from what the Phillies got last year from their non-Nola starters.

Phillies Batting Order

Rhys Hoskins is not yet a household name, but if his first 50 games in the big leagues are any indication, he will be in the near future. Hoskins debuted in early August with 3 straight hitless games. Shortly after he proceeded to homer in 16 of 30 games, finishing with a ridiculous .259/.396/.618 slash line. Hoskins won’t be quite as productive on a per-AB basis, but with an entire season of games to work with, Hoskins should be able to provide a lot more value to the Phillies in 2018.

Carlos Santana has been a source of reliable offense for several years, posting at least 18 homers and a .350 OBP since his second season in the majors in 2011. He should enjoy hitting in Philadelphia, which is the most homer friendly park in the majors.

Does anyone remember Maikel Franco? Franco’s impressive half-season in 2015 as a 22 year-old third baseman seemed to predict future success, but a disappointingly average 2016 tempered expectations a bit. But nobody saw 2017 coming - a horrific .230/.281/.409 batting line over 623 plate appearances basically sunk the offense and any optimism in Philadelphia that Franco could one day lead the offense. However, what we’re looking for here is improvement - and even a league average season out of Franco would be a major improvement.

Phillies Bet - Final Thoughts

Philly only won 66 games last year, but their run differential was that of a 72 win team. Predicting a jump of 20+ wins that they would need to contend in the NL East is still extremely risky, but they don’t call it gambling for nothing.

Hopefully the good vibes from the Eagles and Sixers make their way over to Citizens Bank Park - I’m putting my money on the Phillies at +1416 to win the NL East.

Atlanta Braves (+1760)

2018 Odds to Win NL East (BOVADA)

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There’s not a whole lot of reasons for optimism in Atlanta this season - Vegas pegs them at 75 wins, which would be a three game improvement, but still nowhere near relevancy.

Braves Free Agency

Free agency didn’t bring much help - Brandon McCarthy should provide some stability to the rotation, but he’s not going to change the fortunes of the franchise. Freddie Freeman should continue to hit. Ender Inciarte is a nice defensive center fielder. Outside of that… it’s a team that lacks the talent to compete with a team like the Nationals.

Atlanta Braves Top Prospects

The future does look bright for the Braves. Overall #1 in 2015 Dansby Swanson had a terrible year in 2017, but he’s only 24 and was recently considered one of the top prospects in baseball. Luiz Gohara showed flashes of his high strikeout potential in 29.1 big league innings last year, and should be interesting to follow this year as he tries to put it together for a full season.

The farm system is very strong - rated #1 by Keith Law in his rankings put out in January - boasting #1 overall prospect Ronald Acuna and several high level pitching prospects.

Braves Bet - Final Thoughts

However, strong farm systems usually take a couple years to produce big league success. This year will be about finding the pieces necessary to compete in years to come - not about competing for the NL East in 2018.

Miami Marlins (+8544)

2018 Odds to Win NL East (BOVADA)

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The Marlins are going to be terrible. They were 20 games back of the Nationals last year, and they traded arguably their best 4 players. They are 11-1 to break the all time record of 120 losses - betting this prop might be the only way to enjoy watching their games this season.

Marlins Bet - Final Thoughts

I won’t be wasting any of my money wagering on them to win the NL East.

For Marlins "fans" (heaven help you)  look for young outfielder Lewis Brinson to develop with a longer leash and J.T. Realmuto to continue as one of the more consistent hitting catchers in baseball. Other than that, there's not much to get excited about.

We can't wait for the brown bag giveaway Derek Jeter!  Maybe they'll come in Yankee colors for a Yankee game.  Wouldn't that be something?

Best Bet: Phillies +1416

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