Major League baseball’s Spring Training won’t start until next month with the first Spring Training game to be played on February 21, 2020. That game will be between the Royals and Rangers at the Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona and it will kick off the Cactus League. The Grapefruit League opens the following day with eight games and before we know it, the MLB’s 2020 season will have started.
When it comes to the 2020 World Series, it won’t be played until October but the betting lines have been drawn right after the 2019 edition was over. The losing finalist, Houston Astros opened as the favorite to win the World Series this year. Houston came within a game of clinching the title last year only to lose 2-6 to the Washington Nationals in Game 7. Houston lost a key player in free agency and the team whom they lost that key player to has now emerged as the odds on favorite to win the 2020 World Series.
Yankees Emerge as Early Favorites
Last season, the baseball world had to wait for February before blue-chip free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper finally signed their respective contracts. This year, the chips already fell before 2019 was over with perhaps the biggest chip of all going to New York.
Gerrit Cole signed a nine-year, $324 M deal with the New York Yankees, becoming the first MLB pitcher to sign a $300M contract. Cole emerged as one of baseball’s best starters over the past two years, posting an ERA of 2.68 with 13.1 K/9 innings. Cole’s final 22 starts last season was one of the most dominant stretches by any starting pitcher.
Cole went 16-0 with a 1.78 ERA and a WHIP of 0.81. Cole led the majors in strikeouts last season with 326, breaking the Houston Astros franchise record. Interestingly, Cole and the Astros beat the Yankees in the 2019 ALCS. He finished second to teammate Justin Verlander in the 2019 AL Cy Young voting.
Adding a pitcher like Cole to a team that won 103 games and had the third-best record in the majors is alarming for the rest of the league.
The Yankees had a mediocre pitching staff last season and Cole almost immediately makes them elite in that department. With the potential of their offense, 2020 could be the year for the Yankees to return to prominence.
New York also had the biggest signing of 2018 when they added hitter Giancarlo Stanton to their roster. However, injuries plagued Stanton as he played just 18 games last season. Offensive players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combined to miss a total of 96 games last season, causing the Yankees plenty of problems. If these players will return at 100% strength this season, imagine what the Yankees’ batting firepower will be like.
Other Early Favorites
The Houston Astros opened as the early betting favorite to win the 2020 World Series when the lines were first posted in October 2019. The Astros were a +600 on top of the odds board together with the Yankees. Houston lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games during the 2019 World Series in a matchup where the home team won every match. Houston lost Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees but they will still have Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke.
The Los Angeles Dodgers finished as back to back World Series runner up in 2017 and 2018. But Los Angeles was stunned in five games by the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS. the Dodgers lost starter Rich Hill to free agency as he chose to sign with the Twins while Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last December. They signed former All-Star Alex Wood to a one-year deal plus added Jimmy Nelson and reliever Blake Treinen to one-year deals.
The Yankees are the only team to win consecutive World Series. They won three in a row from 1998-2000. That makes you want to think twice about betting on the Washington Nationals. The defending World Series champions will return almost the same team as last season. The trio of Max Scherzer, 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin make this team dangerous. But the inability of Washington to re-sign Anthony Rendon this past summer has certainly hurt their odds. Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are the key faces that won’t be back and the Nationals will lean on Juan Soto for offense. If Soto is up to the task, then the Nationals could make another run at the World Series.
The New York Nets have a strong rotation led by two-time Cy Young winner Jacob de Grom. Their bullpen is solid too with the likes of Jeurys Familia, Brad Branch, and Edwin Diaz. On offense, the Mets have Rookie of the Year first baseman Pete Alonso. Alonso homered 53 times last season and had a total of 120 RBIs. If they can put the pieces together this season, the Mets could emerge as a dark horse pick to win the World Series.
Here are the latest early odds to win the 2020 World Series. Odds were taken from BetOnline as of 01/14/20:
No doubt, the New York Yankees are the solid early preseason favorites to win the 2020 World Series with the acquisition of Gerrit Cole. But don’t forget that the Yankees were also the biggest winners in free agency last season but we all knew how things went with Giancarlo Stanton.
When you take a look at the Yankees, they have the best team on paper. But getting everybody healthy this coming season will be a challenge for the team. If the Yankees can stay healthy and play together as a unit, then there is no question they will be the team to beat in Major League baseball this coming season. But the MLB season is a long one and with no guarantees in health, the Yankees may be a risky pick. When you measure the risk and the corresponding reward, I think I will have to go with the Houston Astros. Sure, they lost Gerrit Cole in free agency but remember that this team was one win away from winning it all in 2019. The Astros will be returning their core which includes the likes of Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman.