The American League West has been tormented by a wave of injuries that seems rather remarkable for just a very brief span of time in one Spring Training month. The epidemic of surgeries and other procedures needed for important high-end players will shape the balance of the baseball betting season.
1. Texas Rangers
World Series Odds: +1700
The Rangers were expecting Jurickson Profar to be a high-impact second baseman in 2014, but he has torn a muscle and will miss the first three months of the season. The Rangers have injury concerns to deal with elsewhere: Starter Derek Holland is probably going to be out of the rotation until the All-Star break, which is really going to limit the Rangers’ options going forward. Third starter Matt Harrison is immersed in a rehabilitation assignment at the moment, but it turns out that he is struggling with the process of recovering, and that puts another crimp into what the Rangers have been intending to establish with their rotation this season. It’s also known at this point that there’s a strong possibility that Neftali Feliz could start the season in the minors due to ineffectiveness, as he’s looked like a shadow of his former dominant self. The Rangers will begin the season with a definite patchwork rotation, so it remains to be seen how well this team can handle all of its limitations.
2. Oakland Athletics
Odds To Win The World Series: +2000
The Athletics are looking at the Rangers’ injury concerns with a bit of relief, since Oakland is buried in its own problems related to the disabled list. The A’s have won the division each of the past two years and have established something of a mental advantage over and against Texas, but they might have been hit even harder than the Rangers as far as injuries are concerned.
Oakland will begin the year with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin on the shelf, marking two-fifths of their expected rotation. Parker will almost certainly miss all of the 2014 season as he deals with his Tommy John procedure, while the time window for Griffin’s return should be something in the area of two to three months. There is a worry in the Oakland camp that Griffin might have to choose season-ending surgery, but the A’s and Griffin are not at that point yet. A third starter, Scott Kazmir, who was so much better than expected last season with the Cleveland Indians, was scratched from a recent Spring Training start and, due to his older body, probably needs to err on the side of caution as he tries to bounce back. American League Division Series standout Sonny Gray, who outdueled Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers last October, is healthy at least.
3. Los Angeles Angels
Odds To Win The World Series: +2200
The Angels could be able to do things with a batting order that will have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton swinging a mean set of sticks. The Angels will probably have to win a lot of 8-6 games in the early part of the season, though, because if their starting rotation is anything less than great, their bullpen remains a huge and raging concern. The Halos watched their bullpen implode time and again last season, and that’s why the team crumbled in the middle of summer, losing a chance to make something of its long odyssey. The Angels’ pen didn’t just allow the one winning run in the bottom of the ninth to lose. This was a bullpen that lost two-run leads and three-run leads, especially to the Texas Rangers and other teams the Angels had to be able to beat in order to be a competitive team. If The Angels don’t get a maximum level of production from their bullpen, they’re going to be in trouble later in the season. Even if Oakland and Texas remain injured, can the Angels take advantage? It’s not likely, though certainly possible.
4. Seattle Mariners
Odds To Win The World Series: +3700
The Mariners just can’t catch a break. The most luckless team in the division. Hisashi Iwakuma was supposed to have tag-teamed with ace Felix Hernandez to give the M’s an above-average chance of winning two out of every five games they played this season. A couple of young up-and-coming arms, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, were supposed to lend ballast to the Mariners’ rotation and make it a real force. Iwakuma, though, is likely to be out of commission until mid-May, and Walker’s situation is uncertain at the moment. He will begin the season on the shelf, but beyond that, his larger prognosis is unknown.
5. Houston Astros
Odds To Win The World Series: +50000
The Astros are at the bottom of the MLB betting odds for a reason. Can you name even one high-profile position player on this team? The Astros have been going the cheap route in recent years, collecting lots of young players that they hope can blossom into stars in 2017 or 2018. There is a sense in some quarters of the baseball world that the Astros, through their process of patient building for the long term, are doing things the right way and that their time will come, but right now, it is hard to see that endpoint and the fulfillment of this team’s goals. Houston acquired Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies while also adding veteran pitcher Scott Feldman to work with a very young staff. Those are nice additions, but they’re not going to compensate for all the weaknesses on this roster.