MLB Free Futures Picks
Each Monday during the 2017 season, we will review free MLB Futures value picks. These picks will use consensus World Series, League and Division win odds compared to our projected probabilities from 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season for each team to find valuable plays. Futures picks have consistently represented some of our most valuable information. Check out all the picks below.
Where there is value:
For the second week in a row, just the Dodgers, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals have futures value for the World Series or League Pennant. We have discussed each in depth, but want to revisit the Dodgers. Despite playing in a high profile market and The Best Team Money Can Buy ($45 million more spent on payroll this year than any other team in the league), the Dodgers remain underrated.
East Coast bias? I know I used to throw Vin Scully games on the TV when heading to bed to wind down in the past. Maybe the fact that he is not involved and that most of their games are so late is driving attention away from the team. Los Angeles has also had its share of injuries, which seems to be more of the story than their success as well.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently the most likely team to win the World Series in our analysis at 16.6%. They have outscored opponents by more runs than any team in baseball and rank first in our MLB Power Rankings. At +900 on the World Series, however, the Dodgers rank behind the Cubs, Astros, Indians, Red Sox and Nationals and barely ahead of the Yankees (that group of teams wins it all between 8.7% and 16.6% of the time to account for 89.8% of all titles) as the sixth consensus favorite in sports books.
The Dodgers both lack weaknesses and have elite strengths. The team has our fifth ranked lineup and sixth ranked pitching staff overall. Offensively, Los Angeles ranks among the league's top ten in walk rate, average, on base percentage, slugging and wOBA. Defensively, they are well above average getting great seasons from catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Yasiel Puig, shortstop Corey Seager, 3B Justin Turner and what has been a ridiculously great fielding pitching staff.
Speaking of pitching, the adage in the NFL is that if you have two QBs (or more), you have zero. That does not seem to apply to a Dodgers' rotation that has cycled through seven starters this season. Five of those starters has an ERA under 3.50, including reclamation project Alex Wood, 20 year old prodigee Julio Urias and Brandon McCarthy, who is returning from an injury. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda are the only pitchers not pitching well thus far and they have career ERAs of 3.42 and 3.77 respectively (Maeda had an ERA of 3.48 in his first full season last year). The staff is so deep that Maeda has been placed on the DL largely due to the flexibility it gives the Dodgers to use more starting pitchers. That is a luxury few teams could ever consider.
A similar scenario occurred with the lineup. Joc Pederson goes down. In walks Cody Bellinger, who is basically the same player. Pederson comes back and Adrian Gonzalez goes down and Bellinger shifts to first. Chase Utley struggles and Chris Taylor (who is listed at the exact same height and weight as Utley) steps in. With payroll should come both depth and stars and the Dodgers have built a roster that can withstand individual slumps and injuries.
The Dodgers are currently 1.5 games back of the Colorado Rockies, yet we project Los Angeles to win the NL West 84.5% of the time (a great bet at just -200). As noted in late April, when the Rockies had a four game lead on the Dodgers, regression is coming for Colorado and LA is in a great position to benefit. Since that article, the Rockies are 11-9 and the Dodgers are 13-6 (including splitting a series in Colorado this weekend).
In addition to the Dodgers (+900), the Yankees (+1000), Nationals (+800) and Astros (+650) each have value. After the elite teams noted above, no other team tops having a three percent chance. That next team is interesting, however. Since last weeks' article, the Cardinals' sports book odds have been cut in half (from +2800 to win World Series to +1400). St. Louis went 5-1 last week with a 2-1 series win over the Cubs. Still, the Cardinals are just 3.0% likely to win the World Series and 6.7% likely to get there (meaning they would be underdogs in it if they made it). St. Louis is 69.3% likely to make the playoffs, though, despite being in the same division as the defending World Series champions.
Where there is not value:
The Minnesota Twins are in first place in the AL Central with a record of 19-15. Last season, it took them 29 more games to reach 19 wins. They are a young team and a great story. The Twin Cities would love to have a team in contention to root for heading into the fall. Even with the hot start, that's not likely to happen.
There are currently three division leaders we project to ultimately win the division (Houston, Washington and New York), meaning that Minnesota, Colorado and St. Louis are not expected to do so (we have already discussed the latter two). Minnesota, is not only a long shot to win the division, unlike the Rockies and Dodgers, the Twins are not even projected to finish in second place in the AL Central. And they do not have high hopes for making the postseason.
Minnesota is currently just 5.4% likely to win the division. Cleveland is 74.6% likely to do so and the Tigers are 18.0% likely to win it. In our projections, the Twins go on to win an average of 78.2 games and make the postseason either as a division winner or Wild Card 12.4% of the time. Their win total is more than ten games off the Indian's division-leading projection.
We liked Minnesota before the season and the Twins play in a division with two of the league's worst teams (Kansas City and Chicago) and have a full game lead more than six weeks into the season, why does everything look so bleak?
Well, there was a reason the Twins went 59-103 last year. A lot of it was bad luck and injuries, most of which has corrected itself early in the year, but this team also has few obvious strengths. We often talk about how teams can succeed in sports with few exploitable weaknesses, yet to compete with the best teams in the sport, it is still really important to be really good at a few aspects of the game. In our MLB Power Rankings, the Twins are 27th overall and have the 22nd ranked lineup and 20th ranked overall pitching staff.
Miguel Sano specifically has been very good, yet he is the only position player who ranks among the Top 85 players in Fangraphs' WAR calculation and just Ervin Santana (#35) ranks among the Top 65 in pitching WAR. Currently employing Santana, Phil Hughes, Hector Santiago and a couple weekly question marks, the rotation ranks 26th in the league. The bullpen is also 26th. Pitching-wise, the Twins rank in the bottom half of the league in strikeout rate, walk rate and home run rate.
The overall lineup is 11th (not terrible, but not great). The Twins do lead MLB in walk rate, and yet still rank outside the top ten in on base percentage. In fact, walk rate is the only offensive category for which the Twins currently even rank in the top ten overall. Seven of the team's regulars are 27 years old or younger, so there is absolutely promise for growth and improvement, but that will likely impact future seasons far more than this. The numbers just are not there to expect an above .500 record to be sustainable.
Clearly the team stats are not great. There are other reasons to expect regression as the team likely cools off soon. They have been outscored on the season and likely will see that continue. Minnesota has the third lowest batting average on balls in play allowed by its pitching staff, suggesting the overall pitching numbers should/are about to get worse. The Twins are 14-5 against teams with losing records, including being 11-3 against the Royals and White Sox (only 22 games remain versus those teams). They are doing what they need to be doing, but the competiion will improve (and the young lineup could fade down the stretch). Even at enticing values like +3300 to win the World Series and +1200 to win the AL Central, there is no value in Minnesota.
At the bottom of the spectrum, the list of teams with less than a two percent chance to even make the playoffs includes the San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
Win Total Update:
Comparing PredictionMachine.com's season over/under win total picks (54-19 on "normal" or better plays all-time) to updated full season projections through games on May 14, has the Predictalator going 8-1 on its nine opinions with greater than 57% confidence ("normal" or better). At this point, the Giants UNDER (87.5), Seattle Mariners UNDER (84.5), Pittsburgh PIrates UNDER (82.5), Milwaukee Brewers OVER (69.5), Cincinnati Reds OVER (70.5) and Twins OVER (74.5) each look likely to win by more than three games. The top play that is not projected to win - the Miami Marlins OVER 76.5 - is off by just 1.2 projected wins in the rest of season simulations. The Marlins are just 14-22, yet they have the talent to overtake the banged up Mets and over performing Phillies behind the Nationals in the NL East.
The Play Value below assumes a "normal" $50 play. This allows us (and you) to better account for the significant "juice" or "vig" that can be applied by books to consensus lines. If you are getting different odds and/or have a different normal play value, please click on "Calc" to review the play in the Play Value Calculator. Odds are displayed in their +/- format. For instance, +600 is the same as 6/1 odds.
|Team||Projected %||% Needed||Odds||$||Calc|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||16.6||10.0||900|
|New York Yankees||15.1||9.1||1000|
|Boston Red Sox||9.2||11.8||750|
|St. Louis Cardinals||3.0||6.7||1400|
|New York Mets||0.3||3.8||2500|
|Los Angeles Angels||0.3||1.3||7500|
|Chicago White Sox||0.1||1.0||10000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||0.1||1.0||10000|
|Kansas City Royals||0.0||1.3||7500|
|San Francisco Giants||0.0||1.5||6600|
|San Diego Padres||0.0||1.0||10000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||0.0||2.9||3300|
Win League Futures Picks (Based on Games Played 50,000 times - Print Table):
|Team||Conference||Projected %||% Needed||Odds||$||Calc|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||National||31.3||18.2||450|
|New York Yankees||American||27.8||16.7||500|
|Boston Red Sox||American||16.5||21.1||375|
|St. Louis Cardinals||National||6.7||12.5||700|
|Los Angeles Angels||American||0.8||2.4||4000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||American||0.6||2.4||4000|
|New York Mets||National||0.5||9.1||1000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||American||0.2||4.3||2200|
|Chicago White Sox||American||0.2||1.0||10000|
|Kansas City Royals||American||0.0||2.0||5000|
|San Francisco Giants||National||0.0||2.9||3300|
|San Diego Padres||National||0.0||1.0||10000|
Win Division Futures Picks (Based on Games Played 50,000 times - Print Table):
|Team||Division||Projected %||% Needed||Odds||$||Calc|
|Houston Astros||American West||98.5||93.8||-1500|
|Washington Nationals||National East||98.5||95.2||-2000|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||National West||84.5||66.7||-200|
|New York Yankees||American East||67.2||38.5||160|
|St. Louis Cardinals||National Central||30.5||25.0||300|
|Detroit Tigers||American Central||18.0||15.4||550|
|Milwaukee Brewers||National Central||3.9||2.4||4000|
|Cleveland Indians||American Central||74.6||85.7||-600|
|Chicago Cubs||National Central||64.7||77.8||-350|
|Boston Red Sox||American East||23.8||45.5||120|
|Colorado Rockies||National West||11.7||30.8||225|
|Baltimore Orioles||American East||7.8||25.0||300|
|Minnesota Twins||American Central||5.4||7.7||1200|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||National West||3.6||14.3||600|
|Chicago White Sox||American Central||1.3||2.9||3300|
|Tampa Bay Rays||American East||0.9||2.9||3300|
|New York Mets||National East||0.8||14.3||600|
|Kansas City Royals||American Central||0.7||2.9||3300|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||National Central||0.5||3.8||2500|
|Oakland Athletics||American West||0.5||2.9||3300|
|Los Angeles Angels||American West||0.4||5.9||1600|
|Cincinnati Reds||National Central||0.4||6.7||1400|
|Texas Rangers||American West||0.3||4.8||2000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||American East||0.3||2.9||3300|
|Miami Marlins||National East||0.3||2.4||4000|
|Seattle Mariners||American West||0.3||9.1||1000|
|Atlanta Braves||National East||0.2||1.3||7500|
|Philadelphia Phillies||National East||0.2||2.4||4000|
|San Francisco Giants||National West||0.2||2.9||3300|
|San Diego Padres||National West||0.0||1.0||10000|