BET ON = undervalued in the market, profitable investment
1) Oakland Athletics – The first of my three teams on this list is the shortest reach given their success the past two seasons but I still feel like Oakland gets overlooked when it comes to the elite teams in the American League. A big angle for me entering the uncertainty that is/was this shortened 2020 season was to look for teams that consistently do things right and play winning baseball and I really had to look no further than the Oakland A’s who have done it for the better part of the past decade.
Bob Melvin took over as the Oakland manager in 2011 and, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s one of the most underrated managers in baseball. I was sky high on Melvin and those Diamondbacks teams of the mid 2000’s and one of my best takes from early on in my handicapping career was calling out the success that 2007 Diamondbacks team would have. Melvin has quietly overachieved his entire time in Oakland and hasn’t always been blessed with the talent to do so and now that he has the players it not at all a coincidence the A’s have posted back to back 97-65 seasons. Think about that for a minute, there’s only two other teams that have won 97 or more games in each of the past two seasons and it’s the Yankees and the Astros who, on a day to day basis, offer little to no value in the betting market. Oakland was at home this entire weekend against an Angels team I consider to be inferior and were never priced higher than -140.
Matt Chapman is still the best player in the league that “no one knows about” and the A’s have an outstanding rotation with Mike Fiers and Sean Manaea who are somewhat proven at this point, a blossoming right hander in Frankie Montas and a young lefty in Jesus Luzardo that is on many short lists to win Rookie of the Year in the American League. Oakland is excellent defensively with a solid bullpen and they have enough starter depth where it wouldn’t shock me to see someone like Chris Bassitt moving to the ‘pen and becoming a valuable long reliever. I’m sure there have been teams in past years that fluked their way to a 97 win season once, that never happens twice so I think this A’s team is as legit as their record of the past two seasons says they are and you can bet on them with the confidence you would have backing a team like the Yankees or Astros but usually for half the price.
2) Arizona Diamondbacks – The next team I want to highlight is the Arizona Diamondbacks. I’ve been high on Arizona for a couple of seasons now and, once again, it starts with what I feel is another one of the most underrated coaches in the game of baseball today. Arizona hired manager Torey Lovullo ahead of the 2017 season, he’s a guy that played 10 years in the MLB but only appeared in 303 MLB games and was really a career minor leaguer so he definitely didn’t shoot up the coaching ranks due to name recognition.
Red Sox fans might remember him from 2015 when he was the interim manager when John Farrell had to leave the team with health issues but he was Arizona’s choice for a high profile (they had just spent all that money on Greinke) coaching vacancy and now it makes complete sense why. In 2017 he took a team that went 69-93 the year before and went 93-69, made the playoffs and won NL Manager of the Years. The following year he had to deal with a team with far less talent due to the mess Tony La Russa made in the front office and still turned in a winning season at 82-80. Last year he had to deal with more fallout from poor trades/front office moves including losing Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke in the same season yet went 85-77 and only missed the playoffs because they were in the same division as the Dodgers and the Nats and Brewers were abnormally good for “Wild Card” teams.
The revamped Arizona front office got everything right this past year, they made a number of moves I absolutely love and I think that puts Lovullo and the Diamondbacks in a tremendous spot to succeed this season. It’s unfathomable that there’s actually people out there that criticized Arizona signing Madison Bumgarner as it’s a very team friendly deal for a guy that has been a proven ace virtually his entire career. Since Arizona didn’t have to break to bank to sign an ace they were able to go out and get guys like OF’s Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun who have both been underrated for most of their respective careers. David Peralta is a home grown talent, he’s the third of the outfield trio and now that he can handle left handed pitching (he’s always mashed righties) he’s in position to break out as one of the better players in the National League. The outfield is solidified which allows one of the breakout players in the league last season, Ketel Marte, to move back to 2B and those guys now surround Eduardo Escobar in the lineup who hit 35 home runs last season and, at age 31, is still in the prime of his career. Christian Walker started to come on strong last year and should only get better and Carson Kelly is someone I think could break out at the catcher position so I see nothing but potential up and down this lineup. Finally, Arizona gets Jake Lamb back which feels like a free agent acquisition at this point since he hasn’t been fully healthy since 2017.
I also think the fact Arizona struggled the first couple nights of the season against the Padres is overrated since they had to face Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet who have some of the nastier stuff of any starters in the National League. I also think it’s possible that Padres team is pretty good so just because the Diamondbacks weren’t mashing the ball at PETCO doesn’t mean that will still be the case when they get back to the “hitters haven” that is Chase Field. If Arizona wasn’t in the same division as the Dodgers I think they would be one of the “hyped” division winner choices. Since the NL West was given to the Dodgers before the season started it’s going to allow Arizona to fly under the radar and it’s something I’ll be trying to exploit all season.
3) Toronto Blue Jays – The final team on my “BET ON” list right now is the Toronto Blue Jays and this probably would have always been the case but I think there’s even more value here now that sports media has blown the whole “no home field” thing way out of proportion. For starters this Blue Jays team is extremely young so this is a lot different than a team like the Astros getting displaced from their home where you have veterans and guys that get on the PJ when they want to go somewhere.
Most of the guys on this Blue Jays team that will be the key players for them this season weren’t even in the majors yet a year or two ago and all they have had to listen to their entire time with the organization is how they aren’t better than the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays so what I see here is a young team with a chip on their shoulders and something to prove and when you combine that with the talent on this roster I think it creates a very dangerous team.
The Blue Jays will probably go as far as their pitching allows this season but they did address that this past offseason by signing Hyun Jin Ryu. Last season I was perplexed as to how Ryu was virtually unhittable through the first half of the season but after watching literally all of his starts it makes complete sense why he’s so effective in today’s game. Hitters don’t “hit” anymore, it’s all about launch angle and basically either hitting a HR or striking out and Ryu takes full advantage of that with his precision control and command. I then went back and looked at Ryu’s career numbers and they are excellent, he’s been in the league since 2013 and has a 3.00 career ERA and a 1.17 WHIP so I think the Blue Jays did actually go out and get a legitimate ace here.
I think the Blue Jays #2 could end up being someone that started the season in the minors in Nate Pearson who is an outstanding prospect and was only left off the Opening Day roster so the Blue Jays don’t get hit with extra “service time”. Pearson was an absolute stud in the minors last season, he had a 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 30.7 strikeout rate in 25 starts and he’s slated to start on Wednesday and it would not surprise me if he breaks out in this 60 game sprint of a season.
The young talent up and down this Blue Jays lineup is unparalleled and it wouldn’t shock me if they had multiple guys go completely nuts offensively during this 60 game stretch. Bo Bichette is a phenom, he was called up last season and in 46 games he hit .311 with 11 home runs. Vladimir Guerrero Jr was the most highly touted prospect last season and both of these guys have overshadowed Cavan Biggio who would probably be getting all the attention as the “young stud” on most other teams.
The Blue Jays also drafted arguably the best player in the 2020 draft in Austin Martin who is in the player pool and it’s possible he could be in the mix this season so the potential on this team is really endless and I lean toward it panning out over these next couple months. Finally, I think playing home games in Buffalo will be an advantage to this team because it’s not going to take them long to get acclimated to their new home while visitors will be in a completely foreign space playing in a Minor League ballpark. The Blue Jays have been underdogs in every game so far this season so the value is clearly there, I think they can make the playoffs in this expanded format and I think they will make you money if you back them this season.
CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR MY 3 TEAMS TO “BET AGAINST”
FOLLOW ADAM ON TWITTER: @TOPFLIGHTSI