Rosters expand next Monday as teams can call-up anybody on the 40-man roster for the rest of their regular season. Each team uses this luxury differently, as some teams activate Major League players from the disabled list that otherwise wouldn’t have had a spot on the 25-man roster, others call up bullpen reinforcements for blowouts, and others use it to take a look at some of their players of the future. A team’s position in the playoff race is certainly the biggest deciding factor on how the extra roster spots will play out and almost every team will only call up a handful of players.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, for example, sent down prized prospect Gregory Polanco for a week in order to get his confidence back after a 1-for-30 slump. It will be a short demotion as he will return next Monday, but it’s nice that the Pirates can give him a week to collect himself and then come back. The Chicago Cubs, who are not in any sort of postseason race, have announced that they will call up outfielder Jorge Soler and third baseman Kris Bryant and his 42 home runs should be on the roster next Monday.
Some teams, like the Cleveland Indians, will sacrifice the short-term for the long-term. With their Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, poised to make the International League playoffs as the West Division winners, prospects like Francisco Lindor, Giovany Urshela, and Jesus Aguilar will stay down in Triple-A to play in the postseason rather than appear in Cleveland to help the Indians with their slim playoff hopes. The Washington Nationals probably won’t make any big call-ups with their Triple-A team holding the best record in the IL. A team like the New York Mets is in a different position, as their Las Vegas 51s have the Pacific Coast League’s top mark, but they would like to get Noah Syndergaard a few starts at the Major League level.
Injuries sometimes dictate call-ups more than anything. Here’s your weekly update on the injury front: Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado had season-ending knee surgery and his status for Spring Training is in doubt. The Boston Red Sox have a myriad of concerns, including Joe Kelly’s shoulder, a concussion suffered by Xander Bogaerts, and nagging issues with David Ortiz. The slim playoff hopes for the Cleveland Indians took a hit with a concussion suffered by Yan Gomes. Michael Cuddyer’s season is likely over for the Colorado Rockies with a hamstring injury. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers is nursing an ankle injury that bettors should watch as the Tigers are just 1.5 games in back of Kansas City. The Oakland A’s took a major hit with an intercostal strain to closer Sean Doolittle. John Jaso is also out with a concussion. A bone spur in Shin-Soo Choo’s elbow has ended a disappointing season for the Texas Ranger.
One of the things that MLB bettors are going to find the rest of the way is that they’re going to pay a very inflated line on teams that are in “must-win” situations because they’re in the playoff chase when they’re playing bottom feeders. Bad teams at the end of the MLB season aren’t like bad teams in the NBA, where tanking for draft position is important. The MLB Draft is a crapshoot whether a team picks first or 15th, so there’s far less incentive to call it quits on the season.
There are some tips and tricks to use to your advantage when betting late season MLB. Look for bad teams that are very young. The Houston Astros are a bad team. They’re 22 games under .500. However, look closer at what they’ve done since the All-Star Break. Sure, they are 15-21, but their run differential is just -5. This is a team that plays very hard and teams that keep playing hard until their end are promising bets to make at big underdog prices. They lost two out of three to the Indians, but all three games were close in the late innings.
Nobody’s saying much about it, but the Cubs are 18-18 since the All-Star Break and will be infusing a lot of young talent into the ballclub over the next couple of weeks. It’s almost exclusively offensive help, so they may be a spot play against teams that struggle to score or subpar starting pitchers, but any time a team brings young kids looking to make an impression up to the Majors, that’s a team worth taking a look at, especially against three good teams in the NL Central and with some nice plus money prices.
The Texas Rangers have won 14 games since June 28. That’s almost two months of awful baseball. With very little help at the top levels of the farm system, this is a team to absolutely keep fading away. The Philadelphia Phillies have a lot of disgruntled veterans that will start really mailing it in during the month of September. They’re 17-19 since the Break, but -23 in run differential. That’s a team to avoid. On June 15, the Colorado Rockies were 34-35. Since then, they are 19-42. As the injuries keep mounting and the pitching staff keeps worsening, this is a team to keep fading. The Arizona Diamondbacks played .500 ball for a while, but that trend has gone by the wayside and they are just 7-15 in August with 74 runs scored. With sweeping changes possible under Tony La Russa’s guidance, Kirk Gibson may be on his way out and other players are on pins and needles waiting to see what happens. This is probably a fade team the rest of the way.
Most bettors are going to put baseball on the backburner with football season here and there’s nothing wrong with that. For those that do want to keep playing MLB games, be prepared to either lay a lot of chalk or play some ugly underdogs the rest of the way.