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Top 10 Major League Baseball future bets for the 2021 season

22 March 2021

Major League Baseball is back in full for the 2021 season, which means we return to betting on a complete 162-game season with adequate data points. That said, there may be several edges to find for those who either over or underweight 2020’s short-season results.

A little about me: I create player and team projections primarily for fantasy baseball purposes, but it’s easily translated to identifying value on the MLB futures betting board. While I could wax poetic about how Mike Trout is a baseball deity, no one learns much from discussing his likelihood of winning another American League MVP.

With that in mind, let’s look at my top 10 favorite MLB Futures bets for the 2021 season. Odds were gathered as of 18 March.

Play ball!

10. Trevor Bauer to lead the MLB in wins at 13-to-1
I may not agree with all of Bauer’s antics on (or off) the bump, but the man is capable of leading the league in innings pitched and that mileage gets maximized for this bet once he donned Dodger blue. His 73 frames in 2020 made him one of 10 arms to eclipse that mark and his 286 IP between 2019-20 results in the third-most work in that timeframe.

The Dodgers over-under mark for wins is orbiting at 102.5, with the Yankees sporting the next-highest total at 95.5. While LA is known for juggling pitcher depth with seemingly-planned IL stints for maintenance, that applies more to Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler, the team’s historically injured or young arms. Managing Julio Urias, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, as well as David Price, who returns after opting out of 2020, may force bettors to shy away from any bet relying on pitching volume.

But Bauer is a different animal. The 30-year-old made 11 starts last season and went at least five innings in all of them, able to qualify for the win with each outing. Beyond that, he went at least six frames in 10 of those starts. The only game he didn’t throw 100 pitches in was a seven-inning, complete-game shutout. This didn’t start in 2020 either. Endurance and a stellar supporting cast should give him ample opportunity to rack up 20-plus wins.

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9. Rockies Under 63.5 wins
We hit this under last season and I see no reason not to go back to the well. Experienced bettors and baseball fans know that Coors Field is an offensive haven thanks to the altitude. For the uninitiated, the lesser density of air molecules offers weaker resistance to a flying baseball, which means the ball goes further. It also alters how pitches break and can mess with pitchers who rely on secondary offerings. Colorado will also be missing their former superstar in Nolan Arenado, who was dealt to St. Louis for a light return that won’t help in 2021.

Arenado had posted WAR figures between 5.0 and 6.0 in each year from 2016-19, with last year’s injury-plagued season resulting in a mere 0.9 fWAR. The perennial Gold Glove winner leaving will hurt their pitchers and his bat cannot be replaced, though I do enjoy C.J. Cron’s power landing at Coors. That said, Cron is 31 years old and coming off of knee surgery, having eclipsed 500 plate appearances and 125 games played in a season just once. Mix in the likely midseason trade of Trevor Story and you’ve got a team that’s worse than the Giants.

I noted last year how their pitching remains troublesome and 2020’s league-worst 6.72 K/9 — the worst by over a full strikeout-per-nine with Miami in 29th at 8.05 — means more balls in play. More balls in play at hitter-friendly Coors Field is not what you want. The former Coloradan in me hates to say it, but I can’t see these Rox breaking 64 wins.

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8. Royals Over 73.5 wins
The Royals are easily overlooked thanks to the upstart White Sox, stalwart Twins and contending Cleveland over recent years. To most, that 2015 World Series championship might as well be the 1985 one. But they made several quiet acquisitions, such as Andrew Benintendi, Carlos Santana, and Mike Minor, to bolster a steady core of Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Jorge Soler, and Salvador Perez. Greg Holland is back to anchor the bullpen tasked with closing leads from KC’s young rotation.

Merrifield through Soler as an order’s 1-6 is reliable, but it’s the rotation that is truly underrated. Danny Duffy and Mike Minor are both veteran southpaws who should post 4.00 ERAs while Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, and Brady Singer blossom. KC’s 2018 first-round selection, Daniel Lynch, should be up around midseason to assist as well. And then there’s the 2019 first-round selection, Mr. No. 2 Overall Pick, Bobby Witt Jr., who Royals GM Dayton Moore said might break camp with the team.

Witt’s ascent remains a longshot, but they do have a capable second baseman in Hanser Alberto, who hit .305 and .283 in each of the past two seasons with the Orioles. I believe the Nicky Lopez experiment has run its course and Alberto will fill out the bottom of the order. Mondesi may lead the league in stolen bases, Merrifield could lead the league in hits, and Soler may pace the AL in homers. By the way, all three of those things have happened in one of the last two seasons. Don’t be surprised when the Royals push for a .500 record.

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7. Shohei Ohtani to win American League Most Valuable Player at 33-to-1
The odds here make for a great “bet on his health” scenario for Ohtani, who offers two-way potential as an elite hitter and good pitcher. You’ll need the Angels to make the playoffs (as we all do because Mike Trout deserves to play in October) but just picture Ohtani racking up 18 starts with nearly 100 innings alongside 20 home runs, 10 steals, and a .275-.280 average across 350-400 plate appearances.

He’s already crushed four homers with only two strikeouts in 19 spring at-bats, with the bat inspiring fewer questions than his command on the hill. He allowed one run on three hits and two walks with a whopping five strikeouts accounting for all five outs recorded in his first pitching appearance on March 5. He then got hit for five runs on March 13, but I’m not micromanaging his potential as long as he stays healthy. If you doubt his ability on either side of the game then I’ll refer you to this fun nugget:

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6. Luke Voit to hit the most home runs at 30-to-1
Despite playing in the Bronx spotlight, Voit remains underrated due to his being a late bloomer and a handful of injuries that he tried to push through. I realize it can feel chalky to chase 2020’s HR leader, but there’s good reason with longer odds such as +3000. That is a figure that reflects “fluke” far more than “reliable slugger,” despite Voit’s 22 round-trippers beating second place by three. To illustrate my case, let’s go back to 2018.

At the age of 27, way beyond what most would consider a rookie, Voit was traded by the Cardinals to the Yankees in July 2018 alongside international signing bonus pool money in return for Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve after St. Louis only gave him three starts and five pinch-hit appearances in 2018. This inconsistent usage held true in 2017 as well, when Voit only started in about one-third of the games he appeared in. Averaging fewer than two at-bats per game played doesn’t let one find a groove. Then he goes to the Yankees, who let him start in 35-of-39 games played, and destroys the ball. Voit would hit .333/.405/.689 with 14 homers in 132 ABs, yielding a 162-game pace of 50-plus taters.

He then kicked off 2019 with an Opening Day homer and would hit 17 homers with 50 RBI and a .280/.393/.509 slash line over 78 games -- a slower power pace but clearly still above-average. But then he suffered a core injury in late June and though he returned from the injured list in mid-July, he was not the same. His final 40 games saw him hit a mere four homers while delivering a .228/.348/.368 line, with the hit to his seasonal line obfuscating how his first half was a continuation of 2018’s breakout.

Fully healthy in 2020, he then splashed 22 homers across hitter-friendly AL East parks to lead the MLB. He’s an elite hitter in an elite hitting environment, with a potent offense able to turn over the order and provide additional plate appearances for more opportunities to go deep. Give me the passed-over power bat on my fantasy team and on my betting slip.

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5. New York Mets to win the National League East
The Mets revamped their lineup by trading for Francisco Lindor and signing James McCann behind the dish, with Carlos Carrasco’s power arm coming over with Lindor to deepen the rotation. A rotation led by the best pitcher in baseball, Jacob deGrom, who is casually pumping 100-mph gas and mid-90s sliders this spring. While it would’ve been ideal for them to pull off a signing of Justin Turner or trade for Kris Bryant, we can make do with J.D. Davis platooning at third with Dominic Smith seeing time in left field.

Despite the outfield’s lesser defensive range at spacious Citi Field, the signings of Albert Almora Jr. and Kevin Pillar provide tremendous depth and offer late-game substitutes once a lead has been established. Said lead will be in the hands of a deep bullpen that no longer has to rely on Dellin Betances or Jeurys Familia to walk the seventh or eighth innings to Edwin Díaz. The signing of Trevor May isn’t as flashy as their other acquisitions, but he offers a stable arm to bridge the eighth and offers a reliable fallback should Díaz lose his command. However, a career-best 45.5% strikeout rate with a 1.75 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 25 ? IP last season tells me Díaz is on the right track.

Then there are the reinforcements coming from a missed 2020, with Marcus Stroman returning after opting out and Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery last March and has plenty of time to ramp up for the summer. When the playoffs roll around, the back of their rotation (and more robust second half of the batting order) should provide an edge over Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington.

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4. Randy Arozarena to win American League Rookie of the Year at 4-to-1
Arozarena became a household name thanks to his torrid tear in the playoffs, but most may forget he didn’t play often throughout the regular season. The man is still rookie-eligible and his opportunity to deliver, let alone the track record, is leaps and bounds ahead of the field. Seattle’s Jarred Kelenic has a case but a knee strain and Seattle’s desire to retain control should shorten his window to produce. Ditto Arozarena’s future teammate, Wander Franco. The biggest threat is Baltimore’s Ryan Mountcastle (+1600), but Tampa Bay is far more likely to clinch a playoff spot and sadly, that matters a lot when determining value.

Perhaps the holes in Arozarena’s swing get adjusted to and he falters, but the AL RoY field is soft enough where the hype is worth chasing. The biggest takeaway for me regarding the perception of Arozarena is to highlight that his postseason run was incredible, but not completely out of left field. Like Voit before him, Arozarena is another hitter who simply needed out of St. Louis.

He hit 15 homers with 17 steals and a .344/.431/.571 slash line in 92 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2019. He came up to the majors for 23 plate appearances and hit .300 with a homer and two steals. The phenom’s 23-game regular season last year yielded seven homers and four steals in just 23 games, nearly a 50HR/30SB pace. And then he goes and cracks 10 postseason home runs in 20 games. Anyone who can blast 17 homers in just 43 games against peak competition has a head start in the race, don’t you think?

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3. Juan Soto to win National League Most Valuable Player at +850
Do I want an excuse to talk about the greatness of Soto? Maybe. But I need some action on Childish Bambino, who enters his fourth MLB season as a mere 22-year-old who reportedly worked on increasing agility with the goal of stealing more bases. Because the man whose 1.185 OPS and wild 201 wRC+ led the MLB last season demands respect.

Headlines and sound clips calling Juan Soto the Ted Williams of this era are flying around, and with good reason. Through their age-21 seasons, it’s Soto and Teddy Ballgame that you’ll find at the top of the leaderboard for walk rates and power. That wRC+ figure adjusts for both ballpark and era, and quibbles about exact math for that formula aside, Williams (157) and Soto (152) are right there next to each other.

Regardless, here and now we have Soto on a Nationals team that should push for a Wild Card slot with the Mets favored for the division. If his agility has improved then he not only improves on the basepaths but the defensive metrics as well. He isn’t a huge liability out there, but a career -10 in Defensive Runs Saved is no feather in the cap. The overall point is that he’s putting up MVP-worthy numbers at an age where most are learning to hit major-league pitching in the spring. His growth trajectory suggests bigger things remain on the horizon and I want some action on the way.

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2. Yordan Álvarez to hit over 33.5 home runs
The market is up on Álvarez compared to the fantasy community, but his being tied for the 11th-lowest odds in the field is still disrespecting the bat. I understand his knee woes are baked into the price but his power metrics outpace many of those ahead of him. Aaron Judge (+1500) and Giancarlo Stanton (+2000) are also understood as injury risks with big power, but their medical ledger runs longer than Álvarez’s. Yordan was notably not part of the cheating Houston squads, coming up in 2019 with barrel rates, exit velocities, and even a walk rate all within the top 6% of the league. He did that as a rookie!

Even if pitchers ease him off the fastballs, which he demolished with a .329 batting average and .652 slugging percentage in 2019, he handled breaking and offspeed pitches better than you’d think. He clobbered 13 home runs off 874 fastballs in ‘19, with another 13 via 599 breaking or offspeed pitches. Even the injury-shortened 2020 where he had seven batted-ball events across a mere nine plate appearances still saw him post a max exit velocity of 113.1 mph. That was tied with Aaron Judge, Randy Arozarena, and Corey Seager for 46th-highest out of all 567 hitters with at least one batted-ball event. He barely played and still scorched the ball with top-50 pop, harkening back to his top-10 max exit velo from 2019.

With 27 home runs in just 87 games as a rookie, it was no surprise to see him crowned AL Rookie of the Year in 2019. To deliver that kind of power without selling out one’s batting average (he hit .313) as a 22-year-old slugger is special. Did I mention he’d clobbered 23 home runs in just 56 Triple-A games prior to his promotion? Yes, that means he hit 50 homers in just 143 games across ‘19. If you want to take him as the overall HR champ in ‘21 as well then be my guest.

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1. Chicago White Sox to win the World Series at 10-to-1
The White Sox have made some aggressive free-agent buys to bolster their pitching as their next generation of hitters continue to develop. This has caught many bettors’ eyes but most of my conversations fail to mention what I feel is the biggest key to their success.

Most are swept up by AL MVP José Abreu, the young phenom Luis Robert, lefty-mashing Tim Anderson, and three stout hitters in their mid-20s with Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada and Nick Madrigal. Moncada was notably hampered by COVID-19 in ‘20 but hit 25 home runs, stole 10 bases and hit .315 in a healthy 2019. There’s even a Rookie of the Year candidate in Andrew Vaughn, though playing time may limit his powerful bat.

That has most seeing stars, which is great! And then you mix in one of the biggest workhorse starting pitchers in the league with Lance Lynn, whose propensity for dotting fastballs will gel handsomely with Yasmani Grandal’s elite pitch-framing skills. But we have to talk about this bullpen.

Liam Hendriks is the best stopper in the game right now, and he’s also pitched 110 innings between 2019-20 with a track record of durability. The 32-year-old limits homers, rarely walks a batter, and has a top-10 swinging-strike rate (17.8%) in the past two years. Between 2019-20, no other reliever with a minimum of 30 IP recorded a strikeout rate of 35% or higher while posting a walk rate below 6%. Hendriks shortens a game to eight innings. I also like his value at +800 for the Saves Leader wager.

The ChiSox also have two lefties in Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet, the former owns a groundball rate of around 70% in the past two seasons while the latter is a 21-year-old flamethrower who regularly sits at 100 mph with plus command. Crochet tossed six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks as a rookie in 2020. Mix in Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Matt Foster, each of whom had ERAs below 2.60 between 2019-20 with the sabermetric profile to support it, as well as Michael Kopech as a swingman, and you’ve got a firefighter brigade in the ‘pen. When postseason games turn into bullpen battles then these are men I’ll go to war with.

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Top 10 Major League Baseball future bets for the 2021 season is republished from
Nick Mariano

Nick serves as a Senior Editor at Casino City and is also an integral part of the Online Casino City content team. He has written about fantasy sports, sports betting and iGaming for five years. Alongside working at Casino City, he is currently a lead fantasy sports columnist for RotoBaller, having written for FantasyPros and as well.

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Nick was rated the most accurate fantasy baseball expert of 2018 via FantasyPros Accuracy Competition. He also scored top 12 finishes in football for both 2017 and 2018.

Follow Nick on Twitter at @NMariano53
Nick Mariano
Nick serves as a Senior Editor at Casino City and is also an integral part of the Online Casino City content team. He has written about fantasy sports, sports betting and iGaming for five years. Alongside working at Casino City, he is currently a lead fantasy sports columnist for RotoBaller, having written for FantasyPros and as well.

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Nick was rated the most accurate fantasy baseball expert of 2018 via FantasyPros Accuracy Competition. He also scored top 12 finishes in football for both 2017 and 2018.

Follow Nick on Twitter at @NMariano53