The 2021 MLB season is well underway, and we have a better grasp of what teams could contend for division crowns. Some teams labeled as contenders have fallen to the wayside, while a few teams have surprised thus far. Before the season, plenty of people placed MLB futures bets on who they believe will emerge victorious in each respective division in baseball.
With the regular season two months in, the people who may have placed a wager on a team at the bottom of their division can correct their mistakes. Given what we’ve seen from teams so far this season, along with how teams could look in the future, these are a few teams that could be worth placing a bet on to win their division.
Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
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MLB Futures: Best Bets for Division Winners
Atlanta Braves to win NL East (+325)
Entering the season, the NL East was a tough division to decipher after the New York Mets acquired Francisco Lindor, and the Philadelphia Phillies were expecting to get a better version of Aaron Nola on the mound. Despite their drastically improved pitching — mainly from their bullpen — Lindor has struggled for the Mets in his debut season, but they sit atop the NL East.
As for the Phillies, Bryce Harper is on the injured list, and Philadelphia has lost six out of their last 10 games. New York currently leads the NL East by 3.5 games over the Atlanta Braves, who have decent value in winning the division. The Braves boast a disappointing 26-29 record, and their pitching has been woeful all season, producing the ninth-worst ERA in the MLB. Atlanta’s pitching staff has also surrendered the sixth-most home runs and the ninth-highest batting average allowed (.247).
So why do I believe the Braves will get things figured out in time to win the NL East? Atlanta features a scary group of hitters that can get hot at any moment — even after the loss of Marcell Ozuna — with Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Ronald Acuña Jr. Plus, the Braves are likely going to be major buyers ahead of the trade deadline, where they could add much-needed help, especially in the pitching department.
Chicago Cubs to win NL Central (+350)
When looking at the teams that are currently winning their divisions, one team’s MLB futures odds stand out among the rest. The Chicago Cubs currently hold the lead in the NL Central with a modest 32-25 record. Right behind the Cubs are the Milwaukee Brewers, who sport a 31-26 record, placing them just one game behind Chicago in the division.
While both teams are close in record, the Cubs have a +30 run differential compared to a below-average run differential of -8 by the Brewers. What has helped Chicago secure an early lead in the NL Central is their pitching staff. As an entire team, the Cubs own a 3.76 ERA (tied for 10th best in the MLB). But most of their success in pitching can be attributed to the lights-out performance from their bullpen thus far.
Through the team’s first 57 games, the relievers for the Cubs have the second-best ERA (2.73), a league-best K/9 (11.23), and the fifth-best HR/9 allowed (0.76) among bullpens. For Chicago’s batters, they are currently slashing .239/.319/.411, which are all top 10 in the league. If the Cubs can continue to pitch as well as they have so far this season, and their hitting stays slightly above league average, then there’s no reason Chicago can’t win the NL Central for the fourth time in the last six years.
Boston Red Sox to win AL East (+450)
One division that could come down to the wire due to the number of teams with a winning record is the AL East. At this current moment, the Tampa Bay Rays own the lead in the division with an impressive 36-23 record. While the Baltimore Orioles are doing whatever they are doing, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Toronto Blue Jays all sport records above .500.
The Red Sox are just one game behind the Rays for the division lead. Boston has been mostly carried by their batters, who have the third-best average (.256), the 10th best on-base percentage (.316), and the second-best slugging percentage (.437) in the MLB. The trio of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers has been phenomenal for the Red Sox, contributing 37 of the team’s 71 home runs. The lineup has also gotten valuable contributions from guys like Hunter Renfroe, Alex Verdugo, Christian Vazquez, Enrique Hernandez, and Bobby Dalbec.
The pitching unit for Boston has been decent so far, notching a 3.85 ERA as a team (12th in the MLB). At the same time, they’ve given up the eighth-highest batting average in the MLB (.248) in their first 57 contests. With the Yankees and Blue Jays somewhat close on their tail, the Red Sox could be another team that are buyers at the trade deadline, with pitching being a priority. The good news for Boston is that New York can’t seem to avoid the injury bug, which could cause them to sputter down the stretch. The Red Sox are a solid MLB futures bet.
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Skyler Carlin is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Skyler, check out his archive and follow him @skyler_carlin.
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