Division is Nationals’ to lose

Once again in 2017, we have a clear pair of front-runners in the Nationals and Mets with the Braves, Phillies and Marlins trying to close the gap. New York has the better pitching staff, but their health over a 162 game span is a concern. Washington has more depth and should be able to claim first place once again.

Atlanta Braves (2016: 68-93, +3.88 units, 82-69-10 O/U)

Division odds: +3500
Season win total: 74

Why bet the Braves: They will have one of the best prospects in Dansby Swanson for 162 games. Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia and R.A. Dickey come over to make this rotation tougher especially if Julio Teheran takes the next step. Freddie Freeman hit over .300 last season and has decent protection in Matt Kemp and Brandon Phillips who came over from Cincinnati.

Why not bet the Braves: It is hard to trust Jim Johnson as a closer although the 33-year old is likely to be dealt around the trade deadline. Depth is also an issue so injuries to Freeman, Swanson or any of the members of the regular lineup would be a problem. This team is still a few years away from being a true contender.
Season win total pick: Over 74 wins

Miami Marlins (2016: 79-82, -6.11 units, 80-75-6 O/U)

Division odds: +1500
Season win total: 77.5

Why bet the Marlins: The lineup is stacked with solid hitters starting with Dee Gordon and Martin Prado at the top, and all the way down to Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto. The team was 2nd in the National League in batting average behind Colorado last year. Brad Zeigler is an underrated addition to a bullpen that has the potential to be very good.
Why not bet the Marlins: Who is the ace? They have a bunch of 2’s and 3’s in Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley and Jeff Locke. The unfortunate passing of Jose Fernandez means this rotation just doesn’t have a lockdown starter. Giancarlo Stanton missed a chunk of the season last year so his lack of durability comes into play again.

Season win total pick: Under 77.5 wins

New York Mets (2016: 87-75, -7.55 units, 74-85-3 O/U)

Division odds: +170
Season win total: 88.5

Why bet the Mets: The rotation gets Zack Wheeler back and now from top to bottom these starters match up with anyone in baseball. Noah Syndergaard threw the fastest fastball for all starting pitchers, while Jacob deGrom continues to be stellar. Yoenis Cespedes is returning and New York played nearly .600 ball with him in the lineup. Jeurys Familia locks games down in the 9th and had only five blown saves in 2016.

Why not bet the Mets: Matt Harvey regressed last season and posted a weak 4.86 ERA. Injuries can also derail this rotation with several starters missing time last season. David Wright’s is already banged up, while Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto aren’t exactly entering 2017 with a ton of momentum after struggling in 2016.

Season win total pick: Under 88.5 wins

Philadelphia Phillies (2016: 71-91, -2.01 units, 78-76-8 O/U)

Division odds: +2500
Season win total: 73

Why bet the Phillies: Sneaky offseason pickups of Howie Kendrick, Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek add some credibility to this team. Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola all had stretches of good pitching and they are now more experienced. Odubel Herrera hit 15 home runs and he led baseball with a 14.6% infield hit rate.

Why not bet the Phillies: The additions are not enough to fix an offense that scored only 610 runs last year which was by far the fewest in the entire league. They hit .230 at home which was the worst in the team’s history. Velasquez is coming off an injury and new addition Clay Buchholz had a 4.78 ERA for Boston in 21 starts last season. This team may sell a few more veterans around the trading deadline if they aren’t contending.

Season win total pick: Under 73 wins

Washington Nationals (2016: 95-67, +0.27 units, 76-78-8 O/U)

Division odds: -150
Season win total: 91

Why bet the Nationals: An extremely deep starting rotation with Gio Gonzalez a very talented 4th starter. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg went 35-11 in 2016 and Joe Ross was a very pleasant surprise. The lineup scored almost 800 runs last year and may get close to that again in 2017 with Adam Eaton setting the table for the likes of Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon.

Why not bet the Nationals: Who is going to close games?  Right now the talk is Shawn Kelley or potentially Koda Glover. Kelley is a veteran who had seven saves last year for the team, but can he shut down good opposing lineups in August and September? Scherzer is dealing with an ailment already in spring training, while Strasburg is an injury waiting to happen. Picking up Eaton in the offseason cost the Nationals some of their starting pitching depth in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez.

Season win total pick: Over 91 wins


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