NL West – Odds to Win Division – MLB Betting

The NL West features the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks (Dbacks), Colorado Rockies, and San Francisco Giants.  The Dodgers are the favorite to win the division according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas and offshore.  The Dbacks, Giants, and Rockies are expected to cluster in the middle of the division, while the Padres should trail far behind.  Can anyone compete with the Dodgers?  We take a look in this years NL West Futures edition of MLB futures free picks.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-210)

2018 Odds to Win NL West (BOVADA)

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The 2017 Dodgers had a blazing hot start to their season, reaching 82 wins faster than any team since the 2001 Mariners.  While their pace slowed towards the end of the year, they still finished with 104 wins - best in baseball.

So why are they less likely to win their division in 2017 than the Nationals are in the East or the Cubs are in the Central (link to NL Central Lazybets article)?

First, reaching those heights again appears unlikely - in the last 10 years, five teams have reached the 100 win plateau, and none of them were able to repeat the feat in the following year.  The average win total in the following year for those teams was 90.2 (h/t If the Dodgers do end up in the low 90s in wins, that definitely makes them vulnerable to losing the division.


Many of the heroes that came out of the woodwork last year are likely to have worse years in 2018.   Had anyone heard of Chris Taylor before last year? He came out of nowhere to have a top-25 season in WAR, ahead of known commodities like Freddie Freeman and Buster Posey.  Cody Bellinger was Keith Law’s #6 overall prospect entering 2017, but could anyone have imagined that he would hit 39 homers in any season, let alone his rookie year?  Even before breaking his wrist in a spring training game, Justin Turner was likely set to produce less in his age 33 season as he did in his career year in 2017.  


Kenley Jansen may, you know, give up a run or two this year (2017 ERA: 1.32.  Not a typo.). Brandon McCarthy gave the club a solid 92.2 innings last year, and he is now with the Braves.

That’s not to say that everything went perfectly for the Dodgers last year.  Clayton Kershaw actually had his worst year since 2009 - amazing, considering he had 2.31 ERA over 175 innings in 2017.  Joc Pederson only had 11 homers in the regular season - I’d bet that he beats that number for several years to come, barring injury.  Adrian Gonzalez was horrendous over 252 ABs last year. It will help the Dodgers that he is now a New York Met.


Regardless, it seems clear that the Dodgers are set to slide back to earth in 2018.   I still think they are likely to win the division - I’d be all over this line if it were say, -150.  At -210 though, I think we can find better value elsewhere in the division.

Arizona Diamondbacks (+530)

2018 Odds to Win NL West (BOVADA)

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It was a great year in the desert last year, as the D’Backs went from 69 wins in 2016 to 93 wins in 2017, making the playoffs as a wild card.   They even got a bit unlucky to not win more in the regular season, as their pythagorean win total would have put them at 96 wins - tied with Washington for 5th best in the league.


The main reason that Vegas is bearish on the D’Backs - their over/under is set at 85 wins for 2017 - is that they lost a lot of production in free agency.  J.D. Martinez only played in 62 games for Arizona, but in those 62 games he hit an incredible 29 homers to go along with a .762(!) slugging percentage. Likewise, Chris Iannetta only played in 89 games, but was able to rebound from a couple down years to post a solid .254/.354/.511 line.  Those guys are gone now, in addition to solid performers Brandon Drury and ageless wonder Fernando Rodney.

However, the real studs will still be wearing Diamondbacks uniforms in 2017 - Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke.  Goldschmidt has finished in the top 3 of MVP voting 3 out of the last 5 years, and does not appear to be slowing down - could this be the year he breaks through and wins his first?  Greinke bounced back from a down year in 2016 to post vintage Greinke numbers in 2017 - a 3.20 ERA over 202.1 innings was good for 7th amongst all starting pitchers in WAR.


The rest of their starters - Godley, Ray, Corbin and Walker - are all 28 years old or younger with solid major league experience under their belts.  If one of these guys can have a true breakout year - Walker in particular has the pedigree - this staff could again finish amongst the best in the NL.  


Even if the Diamondbacks were to slide a couple games back from their pythagorean win total from 2017, they could still end up in the low 90s in wins - around where we projected the Dodgers above.   Their win total in Vegas is 85 - I’d hammer the over there, and I’m going to make them my best bet in the NL West at +530.

San Francisco Giants (+630)

2018 Odds to Win NL West (BOVADA)

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The Giants had a dismal 2017, finishing dead last in the NL with 64 wins.  So why are they listed here - ahead of the Rockies, who won 87 games last year?


Unlike the Diamondbacks, the Giants had a great offseason, adding two players that were franchise players for their previous clubs - Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.  These two have combined for 8 All-Star appearances, 5 Silver Slugger awards, 4 Gold Gloves, and 1 MVP award (McCutchen, 2013).  The Giants finished dead last in offense last year, 30th in baseball.  It seems unlikely that will happen again as long as McCutchen and Longoria stay healthy.


They also expect better seasons out of two of their starters - Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.  Bumgarner only threw 111 innings last year, his first time under 200 since 2010. Cueto had one of the worst seasons of his productive career, finishing with a 4.52 ERA over 147.1 innings last year.  A return to form for both of them would represent a huge amount of production that was desperately needed in 2017.

However, can these guys really combine to improve the Giants by 25-30 wins?  McCutchen and Longoria are still solid players, but they are both past 30 years old now, and the award winning seasons may just be behind them.  The same goes for Cueto. Bumgarner will likely return to form, but any pitcher coming off a shoulder injury to their throwing arm isn’t a sure bet.  Buster Posey is still a Giant, but he was still a Giant last year, and it didn’t seem to matter.


Their over/under win total for this year is 83, which would represent a 19 game improvement from last year.  I don’t see that happening - I’ll be wagering on the under. Needless to say, I’m not betting on them to win the West.

Colorado Rockies +860

2018 Odds to Win NL West (BOVADA)

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The Rockies, similar to the Diamondbacks, made a big leap last year, going from 75 wins in 2016 to the playoffs in 2017.   Given that they are 4th on this list means Vegas doesn’t expect them back in the postseason though - their win total is set at 81.5.  Why is that?


It’s probably reductive to say their unexpected success in 2017 was all driven by one player, but did you see what kind of year Charlie Blackmon put up last year?  Blackmon followed up a breakout 2016 season where he finished in the top 50 in WAR amongst position players with an absolutely monstrous 2017, finishing in the top 10 in WAR and leading the league in total bases.

A big part of the Rockies regression will likely be Blackmon’s regression - projection systems like Steamer predict Blackmon levels off quite a bit this year.   He should still be a productive player, but expecting MVP-level production again may be foolish.


I also rarely focus on bullpens, given the variance from season to season, but the Rockies bullpen was very solid last year, finishing 6th in Fangraphs’ rankings.  They lost two of their better relievers in free agency - Greg Holland (note: still unsigned) and Pat Neshek - so one would expect them to finish closer to league average, hurting their overall production.


Nolan Arenado is still one of the best two-way players in baseball.  Jon Gray, the 3rd pick from 2013, seems to be finding his footing, and it wouldn’t be surprising for him to post career bests this year.

However, given the likely regression from Blackmon and the bullpen, coupled with the fact that nobody of note was added in free agency, I’ll stay away from the +860 for them to win the West - although I certainly considered it.  The over would be the play here instead.

San Diego Padres +3000

2018 Odds to Win NL West (BOVADA)

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If I had asked you who the luckiest team in baseball was in 2017, your answer would probably not have been the 71-win San Diego Padres, but indeed they were - they overachieved by 12 games last year based on their run differential.  It might have been nice for them to have gotten a little more unlucky, since their expected record of 59-103 would have netted them the #1 pick in this year’s draft.

So is there any chance that they make the leap from 59 (expected) wins into the low 90s?  No.


They should be improved - Eric Hosmer, added in free agency, should provide consistency in the middle of the lineup.  Wil Myers should improve upon a down year in 2017.


Hopefully one of the young starters emerges as a reliable asset going forward - Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo seem to be candidates.  Not having Jered Weaver on the team will help.


Keith Law says they have a Manny Machado-type talent in their farm system in Fernando Tatis Jr. - it's possible that he makes his debut this year.


Despite all of that, it would take a miracle for this team to have a chance in the NL West.  Wager at your own risk.

NL West Conclusion:

Best Bet: Diamondbacks +530

The Dodgers were spectacular last year, but the public may be underrating how good the Diamondbacks were too.  WIth some regression coming from the Dodgers offense, I like the Diamondbacks to stay in contention and give us good value at over 5-1 odds.

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