The Houston Astros ended up winning the American League pennant in 2021 without banging any trash cans by way of toppling the White and Red Sox in the ALDS and ALCS respectively. The franchise has now won three of the last five AL titles, and is currently favored at SugarHouse Sportsbook to win it a second straight time. With most of the pieces from last year’s squad back on the roster, sans Carlos Correa, it’s understandable as to why. That being said, the top half of the league is chockfull with a number of teams that made drastic improvements to their respective rosters. Others are just simply growing into the title challenging bodies. Health, per usual, will play a key role in any of these teams ultimately representing the American League in the Fall Classic. The following are my favorite, underdog, and longshot selections to cash in on the AL pennant odds with health being the outlier that allows the first two suggestions to do so.
AL Pennant Odds at SugarHouse Sportsbook
New York +550
Tampa Bay +600
Los Angeles +1700
Kansas City +6000
Favorite to Bet: New York Yankees +550
New York has punched a ticket to the playoffs each of the last five seasons. Only once did they do so as AL East champs. Last year, Aaron Boone’s squad qualified for the play-in game with the winner going on a date with the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston would ultimately win that game and send Aaron Judge and company home for the winter. It’s been 12 years since the franchise last won The Commissioner’s Trophy. I’m thinking lucky No. 13 could be the one! Provided the roster is able to avoid the injury bug unlike it has over the last handful of seasons, the Yankees have a roster filled with young and veteran talent capable of winning it all. Ultimately, it will depend on the bats of Judge and Giancarlo Stanton routinely being in the lineup, and the starting rotation evolving behind staff ace Gerrit Cole. Aroldis Chapman returning to his dominant self is also a must; though NY has some nice pieces in Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green should last season’s end of season struggles remain. Either way, the Bronx Bombers are the toast of the AL East in my opinion. Yes, I say that while looking at you Toronto – prove me wrong!
Underdog to Bet: Los Angeles Angels +1700
Joe Maddon has done absolutely nothing to change the trajectory of this franchise since taking over the reins in 2020. Under his watch, the team went 26-34 in the COVID shortened season, and then followed it up with a less than impressive 77-85 record the following year. Both records saw them finish in fourth place within the AL West making it four straight fourth place finishes for the team. So why am I bullish on this squad in 2022? Well for starters, Shohei Ohtani is the best player in the game right now. Fresh off an MVP winning campaign, I expect him to once again be a force. Hopefully this time around, Mike Trout can lend a helping hand and finally see a regular season to Game No. 162; healthy! Along with those two, the Halos got some nice talent up and down the roster with players like Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon and the soon to be household name Jo Adell. The starting staff is riddled with question marks, but look out if it all clicks. Patrick Sandoval comes highly underrated, and the move to make Michael Lorenzen a starter certainly piques my interest. LA is the second best team in the division in my book. They could compete with Houston for top honors if the roster can take that next step and remain healthy.
Longshot to Bet: Kansas City Royals +6000
I get the love for the Seattle Mariners. The team came from out of nowhere to win 90 games last year with a no-name pitching staff. Insert Robbie Ray and a bevy of veteran arms in the bullpen. I get it. However, there’s simply no line value to invest in them right now. That number’s been steamed and won’t find me getting involved unless the team gets out to a horrific start or goes on a mid-season extended losing streak. So why not take a shot with another team that possesses a nice mixture of veteran/young batting talent with an up-and-coming pitching staff backing it all up? The Royals went 74-88 a season ago with Salvador Perez pacing the offense with his MLB-high 48 home runs. Whit Merrifield was his annual stud self, while Andrew Benintendi reintroduced himself to fantasy baseballers. The addition of Zach Greinke to mentor a very young but extremely talented pitching staff will pay off in spades. Look for breakthrough seasons to be put forth by Brad Keller, Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernandez, and Daniel Lynch. Then there’s the call up of Bobby Witt Jr. that’s got Royals fans bursting with excitement! This dart throw is more about possibilities than it is me truly believing KC can win the AL. They’re likely still many moons away from doing so, but they won’t be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.