With the 2021 season about to throw out the first pitch, the Cloudbet Blog is previewing the two conferences, the National League and the American League, before play starts.
Here we look at the three divisions in the American League, home to some of the largest, oldest and most popular franchises in major league baseball. You can also find our National League preview here.
As as a way to provide readers with a better understanding of the nuances of the game, and some of the finer points along the way, we've decided to focus out attention on the NL West's San Diego Padres this year - with the aim of then using that information to help scope out value in MLB bitcoin betting markets that Cloudbet has to offer.
Cloudbet’s leading crypto sportsbook has a wide range of outrights markets with enough scope to satisfy any fan looking to back their team. We’ll explore some of them as we go.
Of course, we’ll also have markets on every individual game, so be sure to use Cloudbet for all your bitcoin betting on the MLB. All odds quoted here are correct at the time of writing, but please check the live site for the latest numbers.
For readers who may be newer to the sport, the 2021 season is reverting to the traditional 162-game season, after which the post-season sees the winner of each division advance, while the next two best teams in each conference play-off to make up the final eight.
So, four teams on each side of the bracket that face off against each other in best-of-five divisional series before progressing to the best-of-seven conference series. The final, the World Series, also has the potential to go seven games.
But as the season starts, all that may seem a long way off.
Let's start at the beginning, with a pre-season look at each of the American League divisions.
It’s not going to be an easy year for Texas Rangers fans. While they’re now fully in rebuild mode, they’re not going to shift Rougie Odor’s contract - and their only real shining lights are Joey Gallo, Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson - who they’ll be hoping have good years simply so they can trade them away.
Welcome to the harsh realities of Major League Baseball.
The Mariners aren’t much better, if that’s any consolation. They do have a brighter future though, and the emergence of any one of their six potential stars from their farm system in 2021 should revitalise a city that thought they might be losing Russell Wilson earlier in the year.
They just don’t possess anything resembling a solid rotation and that’s hard to stomach, let alone compete with.
The Angels could have been in a position to win this division had they landed a starting pitcher in free agency - but incredibly, they failed to do so as their fellow Californian franchises in the Dodgers and Padres landed stud after stud.
Yes, they’ve got a tonne of talent in the batters’ box through Trout, Ohtani, Rendon and even David Fletcher – but from top to bottom, this feels like its missing consistent base hits and a true #1 pitcher.
Nobody likes the Houston Astros, and for good reason given the sign-stealing scandal, but sadly for those folks, there’s every chance the Astros top the West this year.
Of course losing George Springer from the lead-off spot is huge, but retaining Michael Brantley does offset some concern when it seemed like he’d be leaving Texas earlier in the off-season.
Greinke and Odorizzi are a great one-two punch atop the rotation, but for them to land the 90+ wins they’ll need to win the division, they’re going to finally need a sizeable workload from Lance McCullers – and we suspect they’ll fall short.
If you had told us in January that we’d be picking Oakland to win the AL West, we’d have laughed. Yet here we are - with the addition of Elvis Andrus at short, Trevor Rosenthal from San Diego being the experienced head in the pen, and Matt Chapman returning from surgery.
The A’s feel familiar - and that’s a good sign for them.
The AL West winner market currently suggests the race couldn't be tighter, and the odds are in line with our thinking here. The A's are favoured, by the smallest of margins ahead of the Astros, at odds of 2.24 versus 2.25. Yup - it's really that close. The Angels are back at 4.62, before the odds really lengthen out to the Mariners (34.5) and the Rangers (64.9).
Padres Six Shooter
Tying in with the Blog's focus on the Padres this year, every month Cloudbet will offer a special promotion linked to San Diego - and we start through April with the Padres Six Shooter, where we'll grade a pre-game money line bet a win if the Padres score 6 but still lose. Terms and conditions apply.
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Detroit may be an absolute cert to finish fifth in the AL Central, but with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning all taking to the mound at some point, 2021 should at least be an indication of just how good the future may look in Motor City.
AJ Hinch can return to the dugout in 2021, and his transformation process of his Tigers outfit will be a fascinating storyline.
The Tigers have only dedicated $40 million to the payroll this year, so if we see pitching on an upward curve, then expect Detroit to be home to a few big-name free agents in 2022.
The Royals are waiting on Bobby Witt Jr. to come and have a Patrick Mahomes-like impact on Kansas City sport, but they’ll probably have to wait until at least July for that to happen.
Cleveland have finally dropped their ‘Indians’ moniker, much like we saw the Washington Football Team do in the NFL last year... a they went on to win an NFC East title. While that level of good karma probably won’t be seen in baseball world, they’re certainly better than the basement pairing.
Francisco Lindor is now in New York, and with someone in the organisation saying they expect big things from Josh Naylor - well, you might see just where they’re at in terms of competing this year. However, that’s too vague a statement and they do still have enough talent to ensure they’re competitive in little stretches throughout the season.
Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale are all capable hands and with a bullpen that is consistent, they might not need too many runs to win too many games. Now, who’s going to score the runs for them? Anyone?
The Minnesota Twins are, alas, the most boring preview of the entire MLB season - because they’re exactly what they were last year and the focus of the entire organisation seems to be to just win a playoff game for once. That’s all.
With that in mind, they’ll have to do it through a Wild Card matchup, as the White Sox not only boast the most controversial managerial appointment of the off-season, but also the best bullpen in all of baseball.
The White Sox can hit consistently, but anyone who can frequently turn this rotation deserves to be in World Series contention.
And that’s a very, very short list.
In the AL Central winner market, the White Sox are in front of the Twins, at odds of 1.81 versus 2.26. Cleveland sit back at 8.53, before lengthening out to Kansas City (48.6) and Detroit (53.1).
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Don't take our word for it - check out the comparisons against the competition on winner, run spread and total runs markets. To illustrate, here's just the winner market from the first game, the AL's own Toronto Blue Jays vs New York Yankees.
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We feel kinda bad for the Orioles because they’re in the middle of a rebuild, but they’re also in a division where a rebuild in progress still comes up against gun-slinging lineups every week.
But their focus can’t be on short-term results. For years, the Orioles lacked any credibility even in their farm system – now 5% of the Top 100 are Baltimore prospects and that’s saying something. Finally.
This comment may rile a few Red Sox fans, but right now, history and fandom aside, in reality they’re little more than a rebuild that still features some competent hitters from a golden age.
Yes, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and JD Martinez will score, but they’ll be scoring to try and keep the losing margin down because pitching does not exist in the city of Boston right now. That doesn’t just go for their rotation either - it’s very much a bullpen issue, too.
They’re nowhere near ready to compete, but the one thing they can do is sell hats.
The Toronto Blue Jays are third favourites for this division, but with the addition of two starting arms, they could have easily been the hipster pick to win the East.
George Springer and Marcus Semien are lovely pieces, meaning that the Jays can smack runs with the best of them, especially as their young crop don’t seem to have a cap on their potential - but having nothing to subsidise Hyun-Jin Ryu could cripple them, especially as Kirby Yates is down for a while, too.
While we’d love to tell you that the Rays will pip the easy-to-hate Yankees to the crown here, it doesn’t seem likely - no matter how good their pitching staff is.
Yes, that rotation and supporting bullpen is as good as it gets in terms of consistency, but winning games 1-0 isn’t a common occurrence in the major leagues for good reason.
If Austin Meadows can return to a better version of himself, they might have a chance, but when you have to try and leapfrog the Yankees, that’s easier said than done.
Let’s get one thing straight here, too. We know predictions are meant to be open-ended to stop the author from looking foolish, but the only thing to stop the Yankees from winning the division is injuries.
If they can avoid serious spells without Stanton, Judge, Kluber and Taillon, they’ll be very hard to stop.
In the AL East winner market, the Yankees are favoured at 1.51, the Blue Jays a way back at 4.35, with the Rays at 4.91. Boston are at 22.1, and the Orioles way back at 89.4.
Pre-season Winners market
At the time of writing, these are the current Cloudbet odds on the MLB World Series winners market. Be sure to check the site for the latest odds available.
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