March Madness seems to get better every year, and the 2022 version has not disappointed. Some favorites have dominated, while others have been dumped out much sooner than expected. Every tournament needs a Cinderella, and Saint Peter’s is one of the most heartwarming underdogs in recent memory. This tournament has shown that anything can happen, and US bettors have had a great time trying to predict these games and sometimes making great profits.
MLB – Top Teams From Each Division 2021
American League East – Boston Red Sox
Though nearly every baseball pundit has the New York Yankees taking the division, the Jays or Rays are the most likely to play upset. New York still faces various question marks, most notably with their starting pitchers as Masahiro Tanaka is now back in Japan and Luis Severino’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
This leaves just Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Domingo German, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery as the one-through-five to start the season. New York seems to be relying on either savvy veteran play from Kluber and Taillon or rapid youth development in Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt, who await their chance in the big leagues.
While they still carry immense talent and hitting power, do not be surprised to see another team with tremendous hitting power but questionable pitching put up a fight. The Red Sox have Xander Boegarts, one of the best hitters in the league, and homerun artists like J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, and newcomer Hunter Renfroe.
While it still feels unlikely to see Boston take the division, don’t be shocked if this group pulls out 90+ wins in 2021. Enough to thrust them into a Wild Card spot and make them a team worth betting on.
American League Central – Kansas City Royals
Like the AL East, in the Central Division, many experts have the division far above the rest. Many assume it to be a two-horse race between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox to take the division, with the Cleveland Indians sure to lock up that 3rd spot (and potentially even a Wild Card spot).
However, one team that nobody is talking about is the Kansas City Royals led by their monster hitters in Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier. The Royals put on an absolute show in the spring, leading the entire league in total home runs and slugging percentage. This doesn’t even include the recent addition of heavy-hitting prospect Bobby Witt Jr. or other exciting youngsters like Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar.
Cleveland will fight to stay relevant without Francisco Lindor, and this may open the door just enough for Kansas City to get hot and steal that 3rd spot in the division (and potentially a Wild Card spot).
American League West – Seattle Mariners
The AL West is another tough one to predict, but many MLB analysts have the Oakland A’s to repeat as division winners, with the Huston Astros playing second fiddle. Although the A’s had a lot of upheaval in the offseason, and Houston has struggled severely with big-time players walking in free agency or falling victim to injuries.
Gerrit Cole left for free agency. The 2019 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander had Tommy John surgery after just one start. The 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez was lost to double knee surgery after two games. All of which led to a 29-31 finish last season.
On the other hand, the LA Angels are led by perennial MVP Mike Trout and have one of the most exciting prospects in recent memory with Shohei Ohtani. But they haven’t played October baseball in years.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners are another team that nobody is talking about, yet they pose a genuine threat to any of these supposed “favorites.” Seattle boasts the reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, spring star Ty France, and high-potential players like Evan White and Dylan Moore.
The Mariners have a solid core in their lineup, and once wunderkind outfielder Jarred Kelenic gets the call, he will surely be an AL Rookie of the Year contender. The Angels will, without a doubt, be exciting, and the Astros may just bounce back to relevancy. But do not hesitate to wager on the Mariners. They have enough young talent and veteran experience to make a serious run in 2021.
National League East – Philadelphia Phillies
The NL East is probably the most competitive in the league, so there really is no “sleeper” pick. The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets are easily the two most discussed teams in the division. But any team could string together enough wins to make a run.
However, if there was a team that feels to be slept on more than others, it’s the Philadelphia Phillies for sure. Both the Angels and the Phillies are waiting on their superstars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper to lead them back to October baseball. And after four seasons now with the Phillies, it might finally be Harper’s time to shine.
Philadelphia was an extraordinary hitting club in 2020 (even with Harper’s down year), with star rookie Alec Bohm putting up impressive stats in just 44 games played last season. The bullpen for the Phillies is the primary concern, as they posted the worst ERA in the league with 7.06.
However, they have brought in newcomers Matt Moore and Chase Anderson, who have been playing tremendous spring ball, and still have an exciting prospect in Spencer Howard waiting his turn. If the Phillies can get even mildly competent relief pitching, they should be right there in the mix with the Braves and Mets in the NL East.
National League Central – Chicago Cubs
We go from debatably the most competitive division in baseball with the NL East to what is likely to be the least competitive division in baseball with the NL Central.
This division lacks the star power to predict an outright winner between the bottom-dwelling Pittsburgh Pirates or the mediocre Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee Brewers. Probably, the St. Louis Cardinals have the greatest odds to win the division after their resilient run in 2020 and the addition of All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado.
This division can go a variety of ways, and the Cubs could be a very sneaky pick going into 2021 to take home the division. Before you call me crazy, consider this. Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams have done excellent work this spring, and Craig Kimbrel was on fire towards the end of last season with 13 whiffs and 0 walks in 8 appearances.
I find it hard to believe that the Cubs will be as bad as they were a year ago, and even though they may not be better than a 90 win team, that could be all they need. If their newcomer Joc Pederson continues his dominant run from spring ball, and their trio of Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, and Ian Happ keep their form. This Cubs team could shock everyone and take control of the NL Central.
National League West – San Francisco Giants
It’s going to be hard to bet against the LA Dodgers, as the defending champs somehow got even better by adding the reigning Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. And their entire bench could likely start for nearly every other team.
Plus, the San Diego Padres also boast a tremendously talented club, led by MLB superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. However, the one team that has gotten 0 recognition is the San Francisco Giants.
They had the league’s best run-scoring offense last year with a 116 OPS+ (best in franchise history) and added in heavy-hitting newcomers Tommy La Stella and Buster Posey. Combine these two with the star-caliber talent of Mike Yastrzemski, and you may just have yourself a competitive Wild Card team.
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