MLB

MLB Spring Training: Preseason Division Previews and Best Bets

A look at each division, along with some player props and award selections as we get into Spring Training.

February 21, 2024

The MLB season is quickly approaching as each team has reported to their respective spring training facility. With that comes renewed hope for most clubs, though if we’re being honest, not all. With the negativity out of the way, let’s get excited for the start of baseball season by identifying some best bets for division winners, teams to reach the postseason, win totals, and player props.

AL East

Four of the five teams boast a legitimate chance at not only winning the division but also the World Series. The Baltimore Orioles (+215 to win the division) are in a good spot to repeat their East title. They have one of the deepest lineups in the league with several top prospects still waiting to contribute. The late offseason addition of Corbin Burnes also gives the team a bona fide ace to pair with Grayson Rodriguez, though the depth of the rotation could be a major question after recent injuries to both Kyle Bradish (elbow) and John Means (elbow).

The pitching questions in Baltimore will open the door for the Tampa Bay Rays (+700). They don’t have the same star power as the Orioles, Blue Jays or Yankees, but they have depth at every position and know how to mix and match the lineup to get the most out of every player. They also have better depth in the rotation, as they have five solid starters currently in the mix with Shane Baz and Jeffrey Springs likely to contribute across the second half of the season.

We have to mention the Yankees given their offseason the was highlighted by acquiring Juan Soto, but their odds to win the division (+150) are short considering the competition. If they add Blake Snell in free agency – a rumor that has been floating around in recent weeks – they’re a legitimate World Series contender (+950), so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to lock in some value now.

Best Bet(s): Tampa Bay Rays (+700 to win division, -107 over 84.5 wins)

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AL Central

We have a rude awakening by going from one of the best divisions in the league to almost certainly the worst. The Minnesota Twins (-122 to win the division) are rightfully the favorites to repeat, in large part due to their rotation that is led by Pablo Lopez and followed by Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Sonny Gray has departed (more on that soon), so a combination of Louie Varland, Chris Paddack, and Simeon Woods-Richardson will need to step up to fill in the back end of the starting five. That will be important, because the lineup is subpar for the expected quality of a projected division champion.

The Cleveland Guardians (+360) have one of the deepest stables of starting pitchers in the league, most of whom are young and promising. Gavin Williams has the most pedigree, but Tanner Bibee was excellent in his debut in 2023. Shane Bieber doesn’t have the same ceiling he once did, but he’s a steady veteran. If Triston McKenzie can prove healthy after an injury-challenged 2023 season, the staff will carry this team to wins.

Like the Twins, the question is how many runs the team can muster, but they have some star power in Jose Ramirez to go along with solid complementary pieces like Josh Naylor, Steven Kwan, and Andres Gimenez. Kyle Manzardo should make his big-league debut — potentially even breaking camp with the team — and if he can provide some added pop, this Guardians team is good enough to win a watered-down division.

Best Bet: Cleveland Guardians (+360 to win division, +220 to make playoffs, over 78.5 wins)

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AL West

The AL West offers a blend of the first two divisions we discussed as it looks to be a competitive race on paper. The Texas Rangers (+190 to win the division) have the right to feel a bit disrespected as defending World Series champs, but only with the second-best odds to win the division.

However, there are significant issues with the roster, namely a pitching staff that will be without Max Scherzer (back), Jacob deGrom (elbow), and Tyler Mahle (elbow) for the first several months of the season. Their lineup is arguably the best in the league, and it will be key for the bats to keep the team in the hunt until the pitching staff gets healthier.

The Houston Astros (+110) offer a more well-rounded roster. Perhaps they lack the top-end pitching of true World Series contenders, but that shouldn’t stand in the way of them being the favorites to win the division.

The Seattle Mariners (+285) offer nice value. Their pitching staff is one of the best in the league, and it’s hard to imagine them surrendering many leads. The issue could be getting those leads, as the lineup is reminiscent of both the Twins and Guardians. There is one star, Julio Rodriguez, with a bunch of mediocre-to-subpar hitters around him.

Best Bets: Astros to win division (+110); Rangers under 89.5 wins (-114)

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NL East

The Atlanta Braves are coming off a league best 104-win season in 2023 and somehow upgraded their lineup with the addition of Jarred Kelenic this offseason. They’re the runaway favorites to take the division crown (-270) and are one of the teams for which it makes sense to look at pennant (+295) and even World Series (+550) odds. Baseball can’t be played on paper, but all indications are that the Dodgers and Braves are in a two-horse race to represent the National League in the World Series.

Don’t sleep on the Phillies. There isn’t great value on their props to make the playoffs (-230) or their win total (90.5), but they’ve made deep playoff runs the last two seasons and have largely carried over the same roster from those teams. If they start slow, keep an eye on their win total or odds to make the playoffs in season.

Best Bet: Braves to win the NL Pennant (+295) or win the World Series (+550)
Bonus Best Bet: Mets under 82.5 wins (-122)

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NL Central

The self-proclaimed “Best Fans in Baseball” had to suffer through a rare down season from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2023, but the team beefed up their rotation with the additions of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson. While none have the highest upside, they’re reliable to chew up innings effectively, something that was missing from last year’s roster.

With a very solid lineup in place that has a nice blend of veterans (Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Willson Contreras) and promising young prospects (Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn) this team has the chops to retake the NL Central (+155).

The Cincinnati Reds (+360) also have some buzz. They are led by the electric Elly de la Cruz and have an exciting young roster from top to bottom with the likes of Spencer Steer, Matt McLain, Noelvi Marte, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand all projected to be key contributors. There’s potential for a lot of boom, but with so little experience on the roster, there’s also a chance the team underperforms.

That wide range of outcomes is only further enforced by the state of the pitching staff that similarly lacks many proven arms. Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene were projected to lead the rotation but struggled with injury and performance, respectively, last season. If things come together, they have the potential to easily boast the best roster in the division, but there are safer bets to make.

Best Bets: Cardinals to win division (+155); Reds over 82.5 wins (-102) and to make playoffs (+150)

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NL West

The Dodgers are universally acknowledged to have the best roster in the league and they added to it by acquiring Tyler Glasnow, Shohei Ohtani, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto this winter. That doesn’t always translate to pennants or World Series titles, but there’s not much value turning anywhere else. Even betting them to win the National League (+180) isn’t going out on a limb, so it’s World Series (+360) or bust from a betting perspective.

The Diamondbacks won’t challenge for the division crown, but coming off a World Series appearance, they are undervalued. From a roster perspective, they’re a similar version of the Reds with one to two years of additional experience. That lowers their ceiling a bit, but also offers a higher floor. In addition to keeping most of the talent on their roster from 2023, they added Eugenio Suarez to play third base – a major weakness last season – and added Eduardo Rodriguez to complement Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in the rotation.

Best Bets: Diamondbacks to make playoffs (+107), over 83.5 wins (-122)

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Player Props

In addition to tons of team props, Tipico is also offering a wide range of player props that include MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of The Year. Stat leader props are also available, with good value available in all cases. We’ll take a brief look at some of our favorite picks and identify some of the best available odds.

MVP

There are the usual suspects atop the odds in both leagues, but particularly in the American League there is interesting value betting on this award. Two young superstars in Julio Rodriguez (+1200) and Bobby Witt (+2000) jump out. Per THE BAT X projections, Witt has the ninth-best WAR projection for this season (5.5) and Rodriguez is 11th (5.3). Both have the potential to become the face of the next generation of baseball, with 2024 being their true coming out party.

I’d be more willing to go chalk in the National League, with both Ronald Acuna (+480) and Mookie Betts (+600) looking to be good options as the top players on the top teams.

Cy Young

Once again, the AL Cy Young race appears to be wide open entering the season. In the middle range of odds, Luis Castillo (+1200) and Pablo Lopez (+1100) stick out. Using Steamer projections, Lopez is projected for the second-highest WAR in the AL but has only the fifth-shortest odds at the moment. Meanwhile, Castillo is about as steady as it comes for the position. If favorites such as Gerrit Cole (+490) and Kevin Gausman (+670) falter, Castillo would be a good bet to swoop in for the win.

The NL options are all about risk tolerance. Spencer Strider (+520) has the best odds and the best WAR projections, so things align nicely. However, reality is rarely that smooth.

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Zac Gallen (+1200) is roughly the equivalent of Castillo for the National League, as he’s steady but doesn’t have the ceiling of a pitcher like Strider. For those willing to take a big swing, Kodai Senga (+1500) and Jesus Luzardo (+3000) are intriguing. They’re both darkhorses to lead the league in strikeouts, as Senga had an excellent rookie season and now has a year of experience under his belt. Luzardo stayed healthy for a full season in 2023 and is among the best in the league at generating whiffs. The Marlins could also be good enough to support a high win total for Luzardo — an important factor for voters.

Rookie of the Year

In the American League, Wyatt Langford (+570) is the choice. He has a chance to break camp with the Rangers and has all the hype and momentum surrounding him as teams report to spring training. A darkhorse could be Colt Keith (+850) in Detroit. He signed a long-term extension with the Tigers this offseason, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t break camp with the team. He doesn’t have the same hype as Langford and Jackson Holliday, but he has a clear path to plate appearances and has the power to wow voters.

The easy choice in the NL is Yoshinobu Yamamoto (+150), as he earned the biggest contract in league history for a pitcher – without ever throwing a pitch in MLB. With the Dodgers offense behind him, he has a great chance to reach 15 wins while posting solid numbers in every other stat category. Jackson Chourio (+670) also offers nice value for the same reasons as Keith. He signed a long-term deal with the Brewers and has a well-rounded profile. He should hit for a decent average and could end up with a 20 HR/30 SB season under his belt, all while playing solid defense.

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Player Props

Aaron Judge (+350) has the shortest odds to win the homer crown, but that’s backed up by any statistical metric. He led the league by a wide margin in barrel%, average exit velocity on flyballs, and percentage of flyballs hit over 100 mph. If he stays healthy, this one could be pretty straightforward.

The stolen base leader is a bit more interesting. Ronald Acuna (+155) is the obvious choice, but if we look past him, I like Witt (+950) and Elly de la Cruz (+850). Neither is likely to be on base nearly as much as Acuna, but they have elite speed and could prove to be difference makers on the basepaths for their respective teams.

A few other quick bets to look into include:

Spencer Strider to lead the league in strikeouts (+185)

Matt Olson to the lead the league in RBI (+850)

Dale Weber
Dale began working at RotoWire in 2017 writing MLB game wraps. He now covers primarily MLB, NFL and racing, but also has experience writing in a wide range of sports, including MMA, golf and soccer.
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