MLB bets we’d make and long shots we’d take for the 2020 season


The start of baseball season means it’s time for predictions, but we asked our writers to take it a step further heading into Opening Day. The assignment was simple: Find two bets you would make for the 2020 MLB season, with one thing you are certain will happen and a long shot you think could pay off in a big way. Here’s what our baseball experts think will come true.

Feeling lucky? Jump to our long shot bets

Things you can bank on

Red Sox under 30.5 wins (-110)

A 31-win season in 2019 is equivalent to 84 wins in a regular year. The Red Sox won 84 games in 2019, when they had Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, David Price and a healthy Eduardo Rodriguez. They’re going to hit this season, but among their makeshift rotation, stiff competition in both East divisions and lost talent, better than .500 is a stretch. — Jeff Passan

Rays to win the World Series (+2000) and over 34 wins (-110)

I’m on the record picking the Rays to win it all, so I’d better back it up here. The trio of Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell is primed for a dominant run over the short schedule and postseason. — David Schoenfield

Dodgers to make the playoffs (-1600)

I have no idea how this is all going to play out and I have no idea who will miss extended time in a season that promises to be riddled with players going on the COVID-19 list. The one thing I have some level of confidence in is the Dodgers’ depth; I’d put their 60-player pool up against anybody’s, even with David Price opting out. In a season primed for the improbable, I’ll still bet on the Dodgers finding a way to get into the postseason somehow. — Alden Gonzalez

Twins to win the AL Central (-120)

I know everybody is hyping the young and talented White Sox team, but I still think they are a year or two away, and a few underlying metrics from last season point to regression. The Royals and Tigers are two of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, and the Indians project to be just slightly above average. That leaves a Twins club that is far and away the most complete team in the division. They already led the majors in home runs and RBIs in 2019 and improved with the addition of Josh Donaldson as well as Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill on the mound. At the price of -120, we need the Twins to win the AL Central only 54.5% of the time to break even on this proposition, and my projections see them winning it 58.9% of the time. — Preston Johnson

Indians over 32.5 wins (-120)

The Indians cannot match the Twins for home run prowess, but their rotation should be among the best in the sport. Take Cleveland to win at least 33 games, as well as the division, and since they have lesser World Series champion odds than the Phillies and Mets, and the same odds as the Reds and Red Sox, throw a few marbles that direction, too. — Eric Karabell

White Sox over 32 wins (-110)

Did you know only the Astros and Yankees had a higher difference in divisional win percentage and nondivisional win percentage than the White Sox? Michael Kopech opting out hurts, but this is a loaded lineup. If Reynaldo Lopez can discover some consistency (fantasy sleeper alert!), this is a play worth making — and 15-1 to win the American League is very much on the table. — Kyle Soppe

Orioles under 20.5 wins (-110)

The Orioles might not win 10 games. Beyond the general talentlessness, beyond the extreme difficulty the rejiggered geographical schedule presents, there’s just the simple matter of incentives. There are going to be about 26 teams still in the pennant race in the final 10 games of the season, which means the Orioles are going to face motivated opponents all the way to the end. They, meanwhile, won’t have even the shallower individual motivations of round-number statistical pursuits, since nobody is hitting 30 homers or saving 30 games (or reaching any other recognizable benchmarks of success) in this anomalous season. They won’t have even the steadying weight of normalcy to keep them in line this year. They’re really in danger of starting the season 1-12 and, whether officially or just psychologically, packing it in. — Sam Miller

Twins to make the playoffs (-200)

Based on 2019 win percentage, Minnesota has the easiest schedule in 2020. I also love what the Twins did in the offseason, adding Josh Donaldson to a lineup that set the single-season home run record. The Twins now have six guys who hit at least 30 dingers last year. Plus, the starting rotation is vastly improved, adding Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. The Indians and/or White Sox will challenge for the division, but I see Minnesota as the class of the AL Central. Even so, I will lay -200 just to protect myself in the event the Indians or White Sox completely outperform expectations. — Doug Kezirian

Dodgers to win the NL West (-500)

In the 60-game season, you can make the case for an underdog to win almost every other division, but not the NL West … and likely not the AL West. The Dodgers’ issue has been with winning it all, not with the division, which they have won seven consecutive years. Sure, David Price is sitting out, but with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler supporting the best lineup in baseball, they will be just fine. Adding Mookie Betts to Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Corey Seager, and with no other team in the division a serious contender, I don’t see how the Dodgers don’t win the West. — David Bearman

Astros to win the AL West (-130)

Coming off the storm in the early part of the year that was the sign-stealing scandal, Houston no longer faces the prospect of playing in front of aggrieved, hostile crowds in every stadium on the road. Throw in a division where the Astros clearly boast the most-talented-on-paper roster, and it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll be seeing Houston in the mix for the championship by the end of the season. — Joon Lee

Diamondbacks over 31.5 wins (-110)

I’d feel confident taking the over. Mike Hazen, head of baseball operations, has built a deep roster, topped off by the addition of Madison Bumgarner during the offseason. They won 85 games last year, and while Arizona likely won’t overtake the Dodgers, it should be plenty good enough to win more than 31 games. — Buster Olney

Long shots that could pay off

Bo Bichette to win AL MVP (100-1)

My theory is that the MVP race will come down to rate stats more than counting stats, and to narrative more than the leaderboards, in this weird season. Bichette is a 22-year-old shortstop on a team that could easily be a surprise contender, and his particular production — high batting averages and a lot of doubles at a premium defensive position — means he gets to contribute in a visible way pretty much every day, not just the days he homers. He gets the same odds as Trey Mancini and Yuli Gurriel, despite playing at an 8-WAR pace during his 46-game call-up last year. — Miller

Trevor Story to win NL MVP (50-1)

Story’s teammate Nolan Arenado is just +1600, so this feels like great odds for a player who finished eighth and 12th in the past two MVP votes, respectively, and has been close to Arenado in value over the past two seasons (11.7 WAR to Arenado’s 12.6). Story also is in his age-27 season, the age players most often have their best season. — Schoenfield

Yoenis Cespedes to lead majors in home runs (75-1)

The universal designated hitter was the best thing that could have happened to Cespedes and the Mets. He now has an obvious path to getting regular at-bats after missing all of 2019 and playing in a combined 119 games in 2017 and 2018. Before that, Cespedes totaled 66 home runs through two seasons. He’s motivated to prove himself again, and he looks particularly spry so far. Who’s to say he can’t get really hot for two months and set the baseball world on fire? — Gonzalez

Joey Gallo to win AL MVP (60-1)

Fifty games into the 2019 season, Gallo was hitting .276/.421/.653, led the American League in home runs and was second in the league in wins above replacement. A strained oblique June 1 kept him out for nearly a month and a broken hamate bone ended his season July 23. People seem to have forgotten how good he is. If Aaron Judge is 8-1, Gallo at 60-1 is incredible value. — Passan

Jorge Soler to lead majors in home runs (30-1)

There wasn’t a bat hotter than Soler’s was down the stretch of the 2019 season — he hit 20 home runs the final two months (52 games). In a shortened 2020 season, the variance will increase, but seeing one of the league’s streakiest hitters at +3000 to perform similarly in a 60-game 2020 is certainly enticing. Last year Soler finished in the 98th percentile in barrel percentage, 97th percentile in hard-hit percentage and 96th percentile in exit velocity. The guy is an absolute crusher. Give me a Soler home run derby in the hitter-friendly summer months again at this price in a shortened season for the max, please. — Johnson

Franmil Reyes to lead majors in home runs (40-1)

I picked this one last season with 200-1 odds and it hardly looks ridiculous this year: Few hit baseballs farther and harder than Cleveland outfielder Reyes, so if he can just make a bit more contact, perhaps his Pete Alonso season awaits. When in doubt, invest in power. — Karabell

Brandon Woodruff to win NL Cy Young (50-1)

Upside. Look at the Brewers’ pitching staff — how do you not count on Woodruff for big innings to buy the bullpen some rest? A high innings tally would go a long way toward helping those counting numbers, and we know this kid can pitch. If we ignore June (cut him some slack, he had 12 career starts entering 2019), he posted a 1.88 ERA and struck out five batters for every walk issued last season. The schedule over the final month aids a potential strong finish and I’m all-in. — Soppe

Max Muncy to win NL MVP (50-1)

He’s probably the fourth-best hitter on his own team, but this is a justifiable long shot. First off, he has posted 35 homers in consecutive seasons and even drove in 98 runs last year. He’s more than capable of MVP-type production, especially with Mookie Betts now batting in front of him and having Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner as protection. Plus, he’s incredibly streaky and that suits him perfectly for this abbreviated season. In 2019, over one 61-game stretch, he batted .273 with 19 home runs and 42 RBIs. Additionally, he will likely play for a team that wins its division, which always helps MVP voting. I also think Muncy has enough credibility as a hitter that will prevent voters from dismissing him if he puts up the right numbers. This bet is at 100-1 at Westgate, so there’s even bigger payday potential there. — Kezirian

Phillies to win the World Series (33-1)

The Phillies are not the most talented team in the division, but the NL East race is more open than might meet the eye. The Braves have a few players sitting out (Nick Markakis, Felix Hernandez) and the Nationals lost Anthony Rendon and will be missing Ryan Zimmerman. With a lineup featuring Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorius and a decent rotation, the Phillies can make some noise in the division. With the Dodgers’ documented postseason struggles and no clear runaway in the NL Central, the Phillies have a shot. — Bearman

Josh Hader for NL Cy Young (60-1)

If we’re able to complete a season of baseball, it’s going to be chaos in one form or another and unlike any year we’ve seen before. That’s why I think Hader has a strong chance to be the first reliever to win the Cy Young since Eric Gagne in 2003, and why I think he’s a worthwhile long shot bet. The importance of multi-inning shutdown relievers will only be further magnified in a 60-game season, and given the lack of a traditional lockdown ace in the Brewers’ rotation, I expect Craig Counsell to be calling on Hader on a regular basis to the point where he might rack up more strikeouts and innings than some starters in baseball. And if it’s not Hader in the mix for the Cy Young, some other star reliever most likely will. — Lee

Cole (or Semien) for AL MVP (40-1)

The odds on Gerrit Cole and Marcus Semien are identical at 40-1, and that’s shockingly low. There naturally is a hyper-awareness of Cole among writers — the MVP voters — in the pitcher’s first year with the Yankees, and in the team’s workouts he has looked like he’s already in midseason form; his starts will be must-watch. Semien’s odds are a bargain because he’s a great player, and he already finished third in the AL MVP race last year. — Olney

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