At BangtheBook, we’ve already previewed every division one-by-one, but now we’ll take a look at teams that may provide some value early in the year. These are teams that I think will be even better than the oddsmakers expect. The best time of the season for values is April and May. Here are my top five underrated teams heading into 2013.
Top Five Underrated MLB Teams at Start of 2013 (Season Win Totals listed from 5Dimes)
1. Atlanta Braves - I love what the Braves did in the offseason. Bringing in Justin and B.J. Upton to join Jason Heyward in the outfield has the potential of being the best move of the offseason. Atlanta now has tons of pop in the outfield as well as a terrific defensive outfield. Freddie Freeman is a breakout candidate since his eye issues appear to be taken care of at this point. Brian McCann is a star, and if he stays healthy he’ll be an All-Star. The Braves bullpen was one of the best in the business last year, and they got a little better in the offseason. Don’t overlook the amazing run Kimbrel is on as a closer right now. The starting rotation is as deep as any in baseball. Atlanta’s fourth and fifth starters could be a number one or two on a lot of other teams. I like over 87.5 wins and I like a play on Braves +235 to win the NL East.
2. Oakland Athletics - Oakland stunned the baseball world by winning the highly competitive AL West last season. I don’t think they’ll win as many games as they did last year, but 5Dimes has set the over/under at a mediocre 84.5 games. Remember, this team is absolutely stacked with talent in the starting rotation. Brett Anderson was hurt much of last year, but he has the stuff to be one of the best pitchers in the American League. Jarrod Parker burst onto the scenes as a rookie last year, and A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily are both highly touted pitching prospects. This is a team that can win a lot of games without scoring very many runs. The additions of Jed Lowrie and Chris Young help the offense a bit. I like over 84.5 wins for Oakland.
3. Tampa Bay Rays - Tampa Bay has won 90 or more games for four straight seasons. The oddsmakers obviously don’t think they can do it again. 5Dimes lists the season win total for Tampa Bay at 86 games. Every year people seem to expect Joe Maddon’s team to hit the skids, but they just continue to find ways to win. Pitching depth and spectacular defense have been the keys to winning for them in the past, and they should be strong in those two areas again this year. David Price and Jeremy Hellickson have established themselves as stars, and this should be the year Matt Moore shows off his potential. If Evan Longoria stays healthy, this team is a very good value at +300 to win the AL East.
4. Cleveland Indians - The Cleveland Indians only won 68 games last year, but I think this year’s team is going to be quite a bit better. Combine that with the fact that they play in what is arguably the weakest division in all of baseball, and I think the Indians will have some solid value this year. Nick Swisher was the huge signing by the Tribe, but Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn were also nice value pickups. If nothing else, the Indians will certainly have a much improved outfield defense. Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn are good utility guys who could contribute to the team quite a bit. Terry Francona should infuse some new energy into the dugout as well. Don’t be surprised if the Indians finish second in the AL Central.
5. Los Angeles Angels - I know the Angels are highly rated this year, but I don’t think they are rated quite highly enough. Last year’s Halos team disappointed a lot of people, which has bettors a little bit nervous about this year’s team. It is important to remember that despite their horrible start last year, the Angels did finish with 89 wins. 5Dimes has set their over/under season total wins at 91.5 for this year. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton all in the same lineup is extremely scary for opposing pitchers. Tommy Hanson could benefit from a change in scenery, and I expect a better season from C.J. Wilson this year. The Angels should coast to an AL West title in 2013.