It’s hard to believe, but we are already almost a quarter of the way through the 2021 MLB season. At this point and time, we still don’t really know exactly what teams are going to be. Some teams like the Detroit Tigers are fitting nicely where we thought they would be, but others have surprised us with their poor early play like the Atlanta Braves. When a team that is supposed to be good falls flat out of the gate, people start to get down on them and buy into other teams in their division. This is where you can come in and take advantage of the better number you’ll get when stuff hits the fan for some of these teams.
The Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, and Chicago White Sox are just three examples of teams that haven’t played up to their potential quite yet for various reasons but give you the opportunity to buy into them now that their price is low and get ahead of the crowd.
The Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and Kansas City Royals are all leading their divisions respectively, but there is a good chance that this is just not sustainable, and it’s easy to see when you look at the numbers. The Braves, Yankees, and White Sox are all much better than their record indicates, and all of them have favorable odds right now to win their division. Let’s take a look.
Atlanta Braves +190 To Win NL East
One of the main reasons the Braves have struggled out of the gate is because their bats have been ice cold as a team to start the year. Ozzie Albies is hitting .233 with a .783 OPS, while Marcell Ozuna has gone to Antarctica with his .205 AVG, .609 OPS, and -0.3 WAR. Last year’s NL MVP Freddie Freeman has been abysmal with a .202 AVG and .758 OPS. The shining light at the beginning of this season for them has been Ronald Acuna Jr., who is just killing baseballs early this season with 10 HRs already and a .327 AVG.
This cold start for some of their best players won’t last. As the season progresses, look for these guys to break out of their slump and start mashing the ball. Philadelphia is leading the division, but they have been inconsistent at best. The New York Mets can’t score runs either, but the problems stem deeper for them.
At plus money, this is a good bet to make.
New York Yankees -130 To Win AL East
The Yankees are in the same boat here as the Braves, where the offense has not been its usual self to start the year. They are hitting a very poor .226 as a team, signaling some serious struggles by some of their best bats. When Giancarlo Stanton is leading the team in batting average, you know there is a problem.
Even with the struggles, the Yankees are eighth in baseball win weighted runs created +. wRC+ tells you how good you are at creating runs and eliminating external factors. Basically, the Yankees have been very unfortunate to start the season. It is only a matter of time before this unlucky streak ends, and guys like D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres start to get going.
With Stanton playing as well as he is, and Aaron Judge still bashing the ball, this offense is poised to light up scoreboards as we move along through the season. The pitching staff has been pretty good after a rocky start, with Gerrit Cole leading the charge. Aroldis Chapman out of the pen is still a dominant force, and if Corey Kluber can rediscover his former Cy Young abilities, this team will be extremely dangerous. Take the discount with the poor start and bet them at a low -130.
Chicago White Sox -140 To Win AL Central
It has been a brutal start to the season for White Sox fans. Two of their biggest young stars in Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez are out for the foreseeable future with injuries, the bullpen hasn’t been as lock-down as we thought, and Tony La Russa has been just as bad as everyone knew he was going to be. Despite all of that, the Sox are still tied atop the AL Central with the Royals. The Royals have been a great story so far, but that’s all they are, a story. They are one of the worst teams in WAR both offensively and defensivly, but what is really concerning is how poor their relief pitching has been.
The Indians are also tied atop the AL Central with the two teams. Their pitching has been top-10 to start the year, but their offense is still just as terrible as it was with the star players they traded away this offseason. They have the fourth-lowest on-base percentage in the majors. Their pitching is likely to regress, with them being bottom-10 in fielding independent pitching or FIP. Basically, they have extremely lucky to start the season to have the numbers they do.
The Twins are the only other team that is really a threat to the White Sox because the Tigers are absolutely horrendous with a -66 run differential. The Twins, however, have dug themselves into a big hole to start the year sitting 5 games back of the lead already. Minnesota has the best chance to ruin this one, but with how they have played and how poorly the bullpen has been, I don’t see it.
The Sox are currently 16-13 with a +36 run differential, signaling that they are much better than their record. Even with Robert and Jimenez out, this is still one of the most potent lineups in baseball. Defending AL MVP Jose Abreu hasn’t been great to start the year with a .214 AVG, but he has six homers and is ready to start hitting for a higher average. The Sox are sixth in walk rate and tied for the best wRC+ in MLB.
With Lucas Giolito being their worst pitcher so far with a 4.99 ERA, there is so much room for improvement. Carlos Rodon has been great, and Dylan Cease seems to have found something. Combine all of this with the fact that they have a winning record and a great run differential, and you have a team that should win its division with ease. Take the Sox at -140.