MLB Betting Preview, Futures Odds and Prediction: AL West

OSGA video analyst and writer Ross Benjamin provides us with an American League West preview while doing so from a betting viewpoint. Ross concludes this revealing article with his division winning prediction.

Questioning Overall Competitiveness

Will the American League West Division be more balanced in 2020 than it was last year? I’ll be looking at many factors throughout this article pertaining to that topic and will do so from a betting perspective. Let’s start with the current AL West Division futures odds displayed below which come courtesy of BetOnline.

2020 AL West Futures Betting Odds

1. Houston Astros (-190)
2. Oakland Athletics (+300)
3. Los Angeles Angels (+600)
4. Texas Rangers (+1600)
5. Seattle Mariners (+6600)

2019 Season Review

The AL West was a top-heavy division last season. Both Houston and Oakland made the 2019 MLB playoffs, but its other 3 teams all finished with losing records. Despite Oakland qualifying for the post season by securing the top American League wildcard berth, they still finished a distant 10.0 games behind the division winning Astros. While the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners had a cumulative record of 218-268 (.449).

The Tainted Astros

Houston won 107 games last season and proceeded to win the American League Crown. Unfortunately for them, their team was swept by Washington in the 2019 World Series.

However, that wasn't the only bad news for Houston's organization. Following a thorough MLB investigation, it was determined that that Houston was guilty of cheating. The Astros were using centerfield video cameras to steal signs which allowed them to know what types of pitches were being thrown by opposing pitchers. Although, it was concluded this illegal act occurred during the 2018 MLB campaign, that determination wasn't made until the 2019 season culminated.

As a result of this previously mentioned indignity, manager A.J. Hinch was fired. Additionally, 2018 Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who managed Boston in 2019, was also let go by the Red Sox organization. It didn't end there as 2018 Astros player Carlos Beltran was fired shortly after being named new manager of the New York Mets during this past offseason. The MLB investigative findings indicated that Cora and Beltran were instrumental in orchestrating Houston's cheating methods. Furthermore, Hinch was aware of what was taking place, and besides being fired was issued a 1-year suspension. As a result, the Astros will assuredly receive a good amount of razzing and backlash when playing in visiting ballparks this season.

Houston Astros (-190)

Houston is a prohibitive favorite to repeat at AL West Division champs and rightfully so. Their predicted opening day batting order consists of its core group who've been instrumental in the Astros success during recent years, or players that were key contributors to last season’s American League title run.

Houston Astros betting previewProjected 2020 Houston Astros Batting Order

1) George Springer, CF
2) Alex Bregman, 3B
3) José Altuve, 2B
4) Carlos Correa, SS
5) Yordan Alvarez, DH
6) Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7) Michael Brantley, LF
8) Josh Reddick, RF
9) Martín Maldonado, C

Starting Pitchers and Closer

Apart from losing 20-game winner Gerrit Cole who signed a huge free agent contract with the New York Yankees, Houston’s starting rotation remains elite. Their top two starters (Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke) are both former Cy Young Award winners who still have plenty left in the tank. Verlander was 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019 which was good enough to win him his second career Cy Young Award. Greinke went an impressive 18-5 with a 2.93 ERA and came close to being Houston’s third 20-game winner a year ago.

The Astros closer Roberto Osuna who was terrific in assuming that specific role in 2019. Osuna converted on 38 of 44 of his 2019 save opportunities while posting a very good 2.63 ERA. Additionally, he’s recorded 36 saves or more during 3 of his last 4 MLB seasons.

Projected 2020 Houston Astros Starting Pitching Rotation

1) Justin Verlander
2) Zack Greinke
3) Lance McCullers Jr.
4) Jose Urquidy
5) Brad Peacock

Closer: Roberto Osuna, RHP

Oakland Athletics (+300)

According to current MLB futures odds, The A's are currently the next best choice to win the AL West. Oakland won 97 games a season ago and has its fair share of returning players. Their top three in the batting order are expected to be Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olsen. That trio combined to hit 138 homers and drive in 274 runs last season. Oakland's Kris Davis is coming off a down year and the A's are hoping he returns to the form he displayed from 2016-2018. During that 3-year stretch, Davis hit 42 or more home runs and had 104 plus RBIs in each of those seasons.

2020 Oakland A's Projected Batting Order

1) Marcus Semien, SS
2) Matt Chapman, 3B
3) Matt Olson, 1B
4) Khris Davis, DH
5) Ramón Laureano, CF
6) Mark Canha, LF
7) Stephen Piscotty, RF
8) Sean Murphy, C
9) Franklin Barreto, 2B

Starting Pitchers
The starting pitching rotation can be potentially an elite group depending on how a couple of their untested youngsters perform. Specifically speaking, 22-year-old Jesus Lazardo who made 6 relief appearance last year and had a sparkling 1.50 ERA. The other is 24-year-old A.J. Puk who was 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA during 10 relief appearances in 2019.

Oakland As MLB previewThe top three in the rotation should be solid with last year’s 15-game winner Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas. Manaea was able to make only 5 starts a season ago due to injury and went 4-0 with an excellent 1.21 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. Montas had his season cut short while serving an 80-game suspension. However, when he was available, Montas was extremely effective while going 9-2 in 16 starts with a shiny 2.63 ERA.

The A’s closer will most likely be veteran right-hander Liam Hendricks. He succeeded on 25 of 32 save opportunities in 2019 while gathering a very good 1.80 ERA.

Projected 2020 Oakland A's Starting Pitcher Rotation

1) Mike Fiers
2) Sean Manaea
3) Frankie Montas
4) Jesus Luzardo
5) A.J. Puk

Closer: Liam Hendriks, RHP

Los Angeles Angels (+600)

The Angels haven't made it to the postseason since 2014. Furthermore, Los Angeles hasn't won a postseason series since 2009.

You can't talk about the 2020 Angels without mentioning Mike Trout. The highly paid star centerfielder cracked 45 homers and had 104 RBIs despite missing 28 games last season. Trout remaining healthy will go a long way with regards to the Angels being a legitimate playoff contender. He's played in just 388 out of a possible 486 games during the past three seasons. Trout is a career .305 hitter and remains one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball.

LA Angles AL West predictionSpeaking of players that have struggled through injury issues. The Angels desperately need Japan native Shohei Ohtani to stay healthy. That's been an issue throughout his brief 2-year MLB career which has seen him appear in just 210 of the Angels 324 games. Ohtani has a .286 batting average while accounting for 40 home runs and 123 RBI’s during his first 2 big league seasons. So it's quite apparent, if Ohtani can avoid injury, he's capable of putting up sizable offensive numbers.

The Angels were able to make a huge offseason addition when they signed free agent Anthony Rendon. All Rendon did in 2019 was hit .319 with 34 homers and drove in 126 runs for the 2019 World Series winning Washington Nationals.

2020 Los Angeles Angels Projected Batting Order

1) David Fletcher, 2B
2) Mike Trout, CF
3) Shohei Ohtani, DH
4) Anthony Rendon, 3B
5) Justin Upton, LF
6) Tommy La Stella, 1B
7) Andrelton Simmons, SS
8) Jason Castro, C
9) Brian Goodwin, RF

Starting Pitchers and Closer

The Angels starting pitching is a big question mark heading into this upcoming season. Former Atlanta Braves veteran right-hander Julio Teheran was a nice offseason pickup. During his first 9 MLB seasons which were all spent with Atlanta, Teheran went 77-73 in 226 starts while recording a highly respectable 3.67 ERA.

Right-hander Dylan Bundy was also added during the offseason. However, Bundy went 15-30 in 61 starts while posting a lofty 5.13 ERA for Baltimore during the previous 2 seasons.

The Angels closer is slated to be Hansel Robles who had an outstanding 2.48 ERA in 69 relief appearances and 1 start last year. Robles also made good on 23 of his 27 chances to earn a save.

Project 2020 Atlanta Braves Starting Pitcher Rotation

1) Julio Teheran
2) Andrew Heaney
3) Dylan Bundy
4) Griffin Canning
5) Matt Andriese

Closer: Hansel Robles

Texas Rangers (+1600)

The Rangers were 78-84 last season and finished 29.0 games behind the division winning Houston Astros. They also ended a distant 18.0 games behind Tampa Bay for the final American league wildcard spot. Notwithstanding, after scanning this year’s Texas roster I see little improvement if any transpiring in 2020.

Texas does have a bona fide power hitter in Joey Gallo. He was limited to just 70 games last season due to injury but still managed to sock 22 homers and knock in 49 runs. During the 2017 and 2018 seasons Gallo hit 41 and 40 home runs respectively. On a negative note, the big slugger has struck out at an alarming rate since being called up to the big leagues.

Texas Rangers MLB betting adviceThe rest of the Rangers predicted opening day batting order has a nice blend of experience and youth. Although, based on those players offensive statistics in recent years it doesn't lend itself to a high degree of optimism.

2020 Texas Rangers Projected Batting Order

1) Shin-Soo Choo, DH
2) Elvis Andrus, SS
3) Danny Santana, CF
4) Joey Gallo, RF
5) Todd Frazier, 3B
6) Willie Calhoun, LF
7) Rougned Odor, 2B
8) Ronald Guzmán, 1B
9) Robinson Chirinos, C

Starting Pitchers and Closer

I do like the Rangers top three in their starting rotation in lefty Mike Minor, plus veteran right-handers Lance Lynn and Corey Kluber. Minor went 14-10 with a solid 3.59 ERA during 32 starts for Texas in 2019. Lance Lynn enjoyed a fine 16-11 year for the Rangers last year. Texas was also able to sign former 2-time American League Cy Young Award winner and longtime Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber. The 33-year-old Kluber is just 2 years removed from a season in which he went a superb 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA. Those 20 wins recorded by Kluber was the highest of his 9-year MLB career. Nonetheless, he finished 2nd in the 2018 Cy Young Award voting to the winner Blake Snell of Tampa Bay.

The Rangers closer will be 26-year-old Jose Leclerc. Throughout the past two seasons, Leclerc has made good on 26 of 34 save opportunities and struck out a notable 185 batters in 126 1/3 inning pitched.

2020 Texas Rangers Projected Starting Pitching Rotation

1) Mike Minor
2) Lance Lynn
3) Corey Kluber
4) Kyle Gibson
5) Jordan Lyles

Closer: Jose Leclerc

Seattle Mariners (+6600)

Seattle began the 2019 season by winning 13 of its first 15 games. Regrettably, after that great start they went an abysmal 55-92 to close the year. Seattle will be a very young team who’s anticipated opening day roster averages 25.9 years of age. There will be a lot of growing pains in store and that equates to another long season in the "Great Northwest".

Starting Pitchers and Closer

Seattle's ace will be Marco Gonzales who’s gone 29-22 in 63 starts while registering a 3.99 ERA over the past 2 seasons. Beyond Gonzalez, the Mariners starters are either unproven or have lousy track records.

The probable Seattle closer will be 30-year-old Matt Magill. He made 50 relief appearances last season for Minnesota and Seattle. Magill went 5-2 with a 4.09 ERA and converted on 5 of his 7 chances to earn a save.

Seattle Mariners MLB previewProjected 2020 Seattle Mariners Starting Rotation and Closer

1) Marco Gonzales
2) Yusei Kikuchi
3) Justus Sheffield
4) Kendall Graveman
5) Taijuan Walker

Closer: Matt Magill

Final Thoughts and Prediction

I'm eliminating both Texas and Seattle from having any realistic chances of winning the division. Subsequently, it then becomes a 3-horse race. Like I alluded to in my AL Central futures article, you'll never catch me betting on sports team with futures odds requiring a higher investment than a possible rate of return, and especially so before a season begins. Based on that personal wagering rule, I'm passing on the Houston Astros at odds of -190. That leaves me with a choice between the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A's. I’ll take Oakland at +300 to win the American League West Division.

Ross Benjamin is a top sports analyst and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Follow him on Twitter: @RossBenjamin1 or visit his website at

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