Major League Baseball is officially on the backend of its 2022 season, as there are about two months remaining until the new playoff format goes into effect. This year, 12 teams (six in each league) will make the playoffs, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds earning byes into the semifinals.
The primary effect of this playoff change is that teams have a longer “grace period” of staying in the postseason race. There are 20 teams (11 AL and 9 NL) still vying for a playoff berth as they are within 10 games of the final wild-card spot.
However, the actual number of title contenders has shrunk considerably following a whirlwind of moves by World Series hopefuls the past few days. I will look at the top teams to bet on following MLB’s trade deadline.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (+325-to+390)
The Dodgers opened as the favorite (+450) to win the World Series before the season. They certainly have been the best team on the senior circuit and appear bound to capture their ninth NL West pennant in 10 years. However, Los Angeles has only three World Series appearances and one title during this span.
It is hard to argue against Los Angeles at least returning to the World Series, if not winning it all this year. The Dodgers have the best pitching staff in the majors –including arguably the top starting rotation despite having several starters miss a lot of time due to injuries – and they rank among the top 3 hitting teams.
Granted, Max Muncy has struggled mightily all season long; however, other than him, Los Angeles doesn’t have a hole in their lineup. While the Dodgers didn’t make any significant deadline moves, they should be getting Dustin May, Walker Buehler, Chris Taylor, Danny Duffy, and Blake Treinen back from injuries soon.
2. New York Yankees (+330-to-+390)
The Yankees are destined to make the postseason for the sixth straight year, as they own the best record in the junior circuit and have gone “all in” to win their first World Series since 2009. Handicappers have missed their chance to get any value on a Yankees bet. New York began the season with +1200 odds to claim the title at the beginning of the season.
The Yanks bolstered their already strong pitching staff at the trade deadline with the addition of RH Frankie Montas along with relievers Lou Trevino and Scott Effross. The Yankees also added a solid lefthanded bat in outfielder Andrew Benintendi. On the negative side, Trevino has struggled all season long, and Benintendi is 1-for-13 through his first five games with the team.
3. Houston Astros (+450-to-+700)
Houston appears to be the only threat to New York reaching the World Series. The Astros have the best and deepest pitching staff in the junior circuit. At the plate, the Astros have one of the best mashing units, but they rank outside the top 10 in runs due to the fact they are batting a collective .239 on the season.
However, Houston tried to solidify those deficiencies by acquiring catcher Christian Vazquez and 1B/OF Trey Mancini. Vazquez is a major upgrade over Martin Maldanado offensively, and Mancini is a professional hitter. Plus, Michael Brantley should return from IL shortly, and they added bullpen depth by getting lefty Will Smith from the Braves.
4. New York Mets (+600-to-+700)
The Mets have been the second-best team in the NL this year, and they entered Tuesday’s game on a seven-game winning streak. While the Mets didn’t make any significant moves, they did bring in a few veteran hitters in 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf. Vogelbach, 6-for-18 in the first seven games with the Mets, and Ruf are expected to platoon at DH, with Ruf mainly playing against the left-handers.
The biggest news is Jacob deGrom made their debut against Nationals last night. The bullpen will also get an infusion when Tyler Megill and Trevor May return from the injured list.
5. Atlanta Braves (+700-to-+1,300)
Putting some money on the Braves to repeat as World Series could pay dividends depending on what site bettors use. Atlanta is 6-3 (heading into Tuesday) in the second half, and the Braves are within striking distance of the NL East-leading Mets.
The Braves added right-handed starter Jake Odorizzi along with a pair of veteran hitters for bench depth. Odorizzi gives them another starter in case Ian Anderson can’t right the ship or Kyle Wright and Spencer Stride slip in their first full major league seasons. They also replaced set-up man Will Smith, who was traded to Houston, with Angels closer Raisel Iglesias.
6. San Diego Padres (+900-to- +1,200)
The Padres made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, acquiring Juan Soto, Brandon Drury, and Josh Bell to drastically improve an offense that ranks in the middle of the pack with a slash line of .241/ .316/.378. San Diego also dealt for the most dominant closer in recent history in Josh Hader, to fix their ongoing end-of-game troubles.
Soto, Drury, Bell, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Manny Machado make for a more formidable lineup, but the Padres still have holes. While San Diego will not catch the Dodgers unless there is a complete collapse by Los Angeles, there is some value to put some money on the Padres, if you believe in their starting pitching.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (+3,500-to-+5,000)
This is a huge value play as St. Louis’ World Series odds began at +2,000 to start the season. The Cardinals are no sure bet to reach the postseason, but I do like them to eventually overtake the Brewers for the NL Central crown. The Cards have a top 10 offense and added much-needed starting pitching depth with Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (+1,200-to-+1,500)
There is some value in taking Toronto, but the Blue Jays didn’t do enough at the trade deadline to improve their pitching. However, the Blue Jays did add versatile Whit Merrifield to their dangerous offense, despite the fact that he is unvaccinated. They also added a couple of relievers to help a shaky bullpen.