LAS VEGAS — It’s routine to tout Mike Trout as the best player in baseball, a title the Angels outfielder has carried for most of his 10 seasons in the major leagues. He’s in his prime at 29, so it’s possible this could be the best year of his career.
While there are no holes in his game, there is a gaping one on his résumé. The Angels have squandered Trout’s talent by failing to win a playoff game in the last decade and missing the postseason for six straight years.
The Angels are not even the most interesting team in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are the reigning World Series champions and the favorites to win it all again in 2021.
Still, the Angels are uniquely intriguing due to Trout, two-way starter Shohei Ohtani and manager Joe Maddon, who solved the Chicago Cubs’ World Series curse in 2016. Is that combination of star power enough to help the Angels ascend over their modest regular-season win total of 83.5 posted at BetMGM?
“It looks like the Angels could be a threat to win the AL West,” Westgate SuperBook baseball oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “That division looks so weak on the surface. You could sell me either way on the Angels. I like Maddon, but the Angels always seem to underachieve.”
The Angels, who went 26-34 in last year’s abbreviated 60-game schedule, averaged 76.5 wins from 2016 to 2019 and have not posted a winning record since finishing 85-77 in 2015. A pedestrian pitching staff makes it difficult to put faith in the Angels this season.
Ohtani is a pivotal player. The Japanese phenom has been a hitting star in spring training and hopes to be a winning pitcher in the Angels’ rotation. Ohtani has the potential to be baseball’s best two-way player since Babe Ruth a century ago.
“I really like Ohtani as a pitcher,” Salmons said. “If he wins 15 games and hits 20 homers, that is so unique. Trout is always the MVP favorite and always gets a ton of money bet on him.”
Ohtani and Trout are MVP candidates in the AL, with the odds on Ohtani 30/1 at BetMGM after opening as high as 50/1 this spring. Trout has won MVP three times and finished second in the voting four times.
The Angels’ underachieving trend makes Trout’s individual success a better bet. In his last 162 games, Trout has hit 56 home runs. Bet on Trout to win MVP (2/1) and maybe the MLB home run title (11/1).
Other best bets for the baseball season, with odds from BetMGM:
Mookie Betts to win NL MVP (15/2)
With the Dodgers projected to win more than 100 games, there’s a good shot the MVP will come from their lineup. It also could be Cody Bellinger or Corey Seager, but Betts remains the best bet after finishing second in the voting last season, when he hit 16 homers in 55 games. Betts was the AL MVP for the Red Sox in 2018.
Also watch Nationals outfielder Juan Soto (15/2). Soto, 22, could be the NL’s version of Trout, at least from an offensive perspective. In his last 162 games, Soto has hit .309 with 41 homers.
Braves to win NL East (+130)
Atlanta has a stronger pitching staff than the Mets, who are not expected to get ace Noah Syndergaard back from Tommy John surgery until June. The Braves have won the division three years in a row and boast two of the top hitters in baseball in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, last year’s MVP.
There’s always a popular long shot in Las Vegas, and this year it’s the Royals (40/1) in the AL Central.
Cubs Under 78.5 wins
Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta lead a shaky rotation that will miss Yu Darvish, who was traded to San Diego. There’s speculation that third baseman Kris Bryant could be dealt during the season. On the odds board, the Cubs are the fourth choice in the NL Central behind the Cardinals, Brewers and Reds.
“I’m not seeing any upgrades, and Darvish is hard to replace,” The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall said. “An injury or two in the rotation and there’s big problems. Maybe if the Cubs go 17-2 against the Pirates they have a chance to clear .500, but I doubt it.”
Rangers Under 67.5 wins
Power-hitter Joey Gallo is Texas’ lone star, and he could be traded this summer. The Rangers are completely rebuilding after finishing 22-38 with the worst run differential (-88) in the majors.
“I think Texas is really bad and might be the worst team in baseball,” Las Vegas handicapper Dave Cokin said. “The Rangers can’t hit, and Kyle Gibson is their best starter. This is the worst win total I’ve seen in a long time. I made the number 61 and thought that was generous.”
Rays Over 86.5 wins
Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone from the AL champions’ pitching staff, but never write off the Rays.
“Underestimated again,” Marshall said. “This is the second-best team in the AL East, and Tampa Bay could beat the Yankees in another playoff series.”