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MLB second-half betting preview roundtable

The Houston Astros received a ton of midseason accolades, which shows great promise for October honors as well. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star break is now behind us, and the second half of the MLB season has begun. We decided to get some of our betting experts together with our top fantasy analysts to discuss some of the more interesting storylines that lie ahead.

There are betting opportunities galore, from World Series winners to MVP and Cy Young races and more. We went through it all to find the best picks going forward.

All odds are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.


1. The New York Yankees (+400), Los Angeles Dodgers (+400) and Houston Astros (+450) have solidified themselves as favorites heading into the second half. Which one of these three teams (if any) are you backing to win the World Series?

I'm not sure how anyone can bet confidently against the Houston Astros. This franchise has competed in three of the past five World Series, and in those other two seasons it went to the American League Championship Series. Some of the names have changed but not many. Yordan Alvarez is awesome. Justin Verlander is awesome. The Astros don't need the No. 1 seed in the AL. Houston boasts impressive rotation depth, a bullpen it will likely build up before the trade deadline and a deep lineup. It really should have won all four games at Yankee Stadium back in June, winning two and leading late in the other two contests. Getting better odds on the Astros than the Yankees seems like quite a bargain. -- Eric Karabell

I don't feel passionate about any individual team at those odds, being that easy cases can be made for each to win it all. However, one factor that might sway me -- at least today -- is that the trade tendencies of these three teams at the deadline during the past half-decade indicate that the Los Angeles Dodgers tend to have the most all-in approach to supplementing their roster. (See: Yu Darvish, Brian Dozier, Manny Machado, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.) Being that they are top three in the odds already, that's enough to swing things in their direction for me. -- Tristan H. Cockcroft

The Dodgers project as the best team in baseball by a huge margin, but betting on favorites is generally not sharp. Everyone knows they're good, and the lines accurately reflect it. That being said, +400 is a decent enough price for LA. Same price as NY and almost the same as Houston? LA is better than both and has the weaker league competition, so if you're betting anyone, it would have to be them. -- Derek Carty

2. Which long shot can you see making a run in October?

It's the Milwaukee Brewers. It has always the Brewers (+1800), and it's because of their pitching. Defending Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes is having another incredible season, and while Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta are not, we still know what they are capable of doing. Milwaukee also has a dominant 1-2 bullpen punch in Devin Williams and Josh Hader, even though the lefty has struggled of late. The Brewers haven't had much playoff success in this five-year run, which started by losing Game 7 of the 2018 National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium, but aces carry major playoff weight, and Burnes is enough to take them seriously. -- Karabell

I'd love to pick the Brewers, but with the St. Louis Cardinals coming in at +3500, give me the latter at the longer odds, being that I think both teams are in position to make a deep postseason run. Sure, the starting pitching of the Cardinals lacks the elite status that stands out in a short series, but Adam Wainwright's tweaks in 2021-22 make him a legitimate ace (and one who can go deep in all his outings), and the bullpen is pretty solid. Plus, how about that offense? There's something to be said for the veteran leadership of guys like Wainwright, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in October. Considering the bottom three in the NL Central shapes up to be awfully weak, I think it's a virtual lock that the Cardinals will join the Brewers for October play. Beyond that, with the "right" injuries to Brewers pitchers at the wrong time, the NL Central just might belong to St. Louis. -- Cockcroft

The Cardinals, at +3500 to win the World Series and +1600 to win the NL definitely jump out. This is a 50-win club with a plus-65 run differential, which is more indicative of a 54-win team. That tells us the Cardinals have underperformed by four wins through the first half of the season. St. Louis is just a half-game back of Milwaukee at the moment, but more importantly, it has the easiest schedule in baseball the rest of the way, with opponents combining to produce a winning percentage of just .453. -- Joe Fortenbaugh

The Philadelphia Phillies at 35/1 to win the World Series or 17/1 to win the NLCS look really strong to me. This is a team that has been underrated all year from a talent perspective, with fans generally not giving them the credit they deserve and markets not treating them properly either (they've been the 6th-most profitable team against the spread this year, according to THE BAT X projection system). They also have one of the easiest schedules over the remainder of the season, with 3 inter-division series apiece against Washington and Miami, plus several strong non-division matchups, such as Pittsburgh twice, Cincinnati twice, plus the Cubs, and Arizona. With the eventual return of Bryce Harper, 35/1 to go deep are great odds for the team THE BAT X projects to have the third-best record in baseball over the rest of the season. -- Carty

3. Shohei Ohtani (-110) is the odds-on favorite for AL MVP, with Aaron Judge (+140) right behind him. Which one are you playing, or is there a dark horse emerging?

Ohtani winning another MVP award this season, while playing for a sub-.500 team, seems unlikely. The Angels are bad. Judge should have the best shot at MVP if he challenges for 60 home runs, but don't be surprised if Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez (+10,000) becomes the hot name. Yes, he could pull off a Fred Lynn or Ichiro Suzuki and win both top rookie and MVP honors in the same season if the Mariners keep winning and break their 21-season streak of missing the playoffs. Rodriguez struggled in April, but since then he has been terrific. He is currently baseball's best shot for a 30-30 season. One would think that kind of success appeals to the voters, too. -- Karabell

I'm a Yordan Alvarez (+1400) guy, and this is a good time to get on board with the pick, being that he concluded the first half of the season on the injured list because of a hand injury that casts at least a hint of doubt about how he'll fare to begin the season's second half. This guy is amazing and deserves to be mentioned for his hitting exploits alongside both Ohtani and Judge. After all, Alvarez is by far the major league leader in wRC+ (197), wOBA (.442) and slugging percentage (.653). Plus, he's batting .306 to boot. -- Cockcroft

4. Shane McClanahan (+220) and Verlander (+260) are currently neck and neck in the AL Cy Young race. Do you like either of them, or is someone else, like Ohtani (+600) or Gerrit Cole (+800), worth betting?

Throw a betting dart on Toronto Blue Jays RHP Alek Manoah (+2000), too. After all, Manoah was one of the All-Star Game stars, impressively striking out three hitters in his scoreless inning and narrating for the TV microphones along the way, perhaps reminding voters that his numbers are nearly on par with both McClanahan and Verlander. Wins shouldn't matter, but Manoah is already in double figures in that category. Manoah might throw more innings. He might win more games. Who knows? It just seems like Manoah at least has a shot. -- Karabell

I like the Manoah pick quite a bit for the price, but give me Gerrit Cole, in large part because he has a noticeable advantage the others don't -- the Yankees are going to attempt to squeeze 33 starts and 200-plus innings out of him. That's something that resonates with the voters. That was a big factor in last year's balloting, and I expect it will be again this year, especially if he winds up with 25 more frames than the next-best candidates with final totals of 16-18 wins, 250-plus strikeouts and an ERA near 3.00. -- Cockcroft

5. Is there anything else you're monitoring in the betting world as we begin the second half of the season?

Three division races intrigue me: the NL Central, AL Central and NL East. I think at least two of the teams leading those divisions will fall out of first place by the time the season is done. The Cardinals are just a half-game behind the Brewers, have dealt with numerous injuries during the first half and have been consistently linked to Juan Soto as a potential deadline-deal addition. Whether they land Soto or not, they have the resources to bring in difference-making talent for the September push. I like St. Louis (+150) to win the NL Central. That price is way too enticing. -- Tyler Fulghum

I'm taking a flyer on Soto (+6000) to win NL MVP. There's a massive amount of risk involved here if he's traded to the AL, but if he stays in the NL, look out. That Home Run Derby performance proved he's finally healthy, and should he land on a contender like the Padres and help them finish strong, he's going to grab plenty of headlines. The current odds imply a 1.64% chance. Why not? -- Fortenbaugh

The saves leader prop is a more interesting one to me this year than in seasons past, if only because of the struggles of the current leader/favorite (Hader), as well as the presence of completely unexpected names in the top 12 (Daniel Bard, Gregory Soto, Jorge Lopez and Clay Holmes). So, here's a thought: Will Smith of the Atlanta Braves had a major-league-leading 19 saves after the All-Star break last season, and I expect the Braves to be plenty competitive in the second half yet again. Kenley Jansen (+900) is only five saves behind the lead and ready to get a ton of saves for Atlanta the rest of the way. -- Cockcroft

It will fall on the deaf ears of many (the public just never learns), but don't be afraid to bet on underdogs. Everyone knows who the good teams are, and sportsbooks know that people don't want to bet on bad teams. So in order to bet on the good teams, you have to pay a premium... which means you get a discount on the bad ones. Three of the four most profitable teams against the spread this year have been teams generally considered "bad": the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, and Arizona Diamondbacks. This isn't to say you should bet on teams like this every single time, but when the matchup and odds dictate it (a good projection helps a ton with picking these spots), don't be afraid to bet on "bad" teams. -- Carty