- Rebuilding? Contending? Spring training is all about setting—and managing—expectations. And not every team is worth believing in.
As it turns out, Vegas knows what it is doing. Last year, more than half of major league teams—16 of them—finished within five wins of the predicted total the town's bookies made for them six months earlier. Just five outperformed (Cubs, Rangers) or underperformed (Diamondbacks, Rays, Twins) their projections by 10 wins or more.
Now, there's an old Yugoslavian saying—allegedly—that "nine gamblers could not feed a single rooster." But spring training is up and running, and sports books, as monitored by OddsShark.com, have concurrently released this season's set of over/under win totals. You can't win half a baseball game (unless you are a 2002 All-Star), so you must choose a side. And we did, for all 30 teams. Our picks and rationales are below. Of course, you probably shouldn't act on any of them—particularly if you're an owner of peckish poultry.
2016 wins: 69 | 2017 O/U: 78.5
The only good part of a nightmare season like the one the D-Backs had in '16? You have to wake up eventually. Morning could arrive in the form of a healthy A.J. Pollock and a rebounding Zack Greinke, superstars as recently as 2015 who could account for 10 extra wins.
2016 wins: 68 | 2017 O/U: 71.5
The rebuilding Braves acquired several short-term veterans (Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Phillips) to help them avoid outright putridity in their new ballpark. The real reason they'll do it is a lineup that rapidly improved last season, from 30th—dead last—in runs before the All-Star Game to sixth after it.
2016 wins: 89 | 2017 O/U: 84.5
Maybe Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman can become co-aces, but the Orioles still have a rotation that will include Wade Miley (5.37 ERA in '16) and Ubaldo Jimenez (5.44). They'll hit a ton of homers, but it's hard to win 85 games with a staff like that.
2016 wins: 93 | 2017 O/U: 91.5
David Ortiz is gone, but let's not overreact. This is a club that had an AL-best +184 run differential and added possibly the best starter in the league, Chris Sale. The Sox also get a full season from the game's No. 1 prospect, Andrew Benintendi. Doesn't sound as if they'll win less.
2016 wins: 103 | 2017 O/U: 96.5
Winning 97 games is hard. Over the past decade, just 1.7 clubs per year have done it. The champs are a lock to run away with the NL Central, but they'll rely on three starters in their 30s (Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Jon Lester), any or all of whom could begin to regress.
2016 wins: 78 | 2017 O/U: 71.5
Adam Eaton and Chris Sale have already been traded from the rebuilding South Siders. Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana and David Robertson could soon join them. The future's bright, but for now things will get worse as the Sox wait for their newly acquired prospects to mature.
2016 wins: 68 | 2017 O/U: 73.5
There is little reason to expect much improvement here. Joey Votto can't get better—his league-dominating second-half OPS last season was 1.158—but he can't win by himself, and a bullpen that gave up a record-smashing 103 homers added only Drew Storen.
2016 wins: 94 | 2017 O/U: 93.5
They won the second-most games in the AL last season despite losing their best hitter (Michael Brantley) for nearly all of it and two of their best pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar) by its end. Can they win as many with those three healthy and a new slugger in Edwin Encarnacion? Seems likely.
2016 wins: 75 | 2017 O/U: 80.5
The Rockies haven't surpassed 80 wins since 2010. The offense is as potent as ever, but it's a newly promising rotation fronted by Jon Gray—and supported by a deep bullpen that added Greg Holland and Mike Dunn—that could have them flirting with .500.
2016 wins: 86 | 2017 O/U: 84.5
The Tigers look like contenders, with a power-packed lineup and a rotation led by a rejuvenated Justin Verlander and Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer. But they have just one top-100 prospect. It's tough to predict that nothing will go wrong for an aging club, making the under the safe pick.
2016 wins: 84 | 2017 O/U: 87.5
The offense should be in the top five, but the front office's ability to add a top-end starter is what could push the club into the mid-90s. If it's not a trade for someone like Chris Archer, Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana, it'll be the promotion of fireballing prospect Francis Martes.
2016 wins: 81 | 2017 O/U: 81.5
The unthinkable death of Yordano Ventura in a January car accident deprived a thin rotation of its ace. A slow start could snowball and force GM Dayton Moore to trade away key players before their free agency, including Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
2016 wins: 74 | 2017 O/U: 76.5
Mike Trout, with his annual 10 WAR, will never let the Angels be terrible. But two starters (Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano) lost to torn UCLs and a No. 1—Garrett Richards—trying to come back from one will mean an eighth straight season without a playoff win.
2016 wins: 91 | 2017 O/U: 92.5
There's a reason Baseball Prospectus' and Fan Graphs' projection models have L.A. at, respectively, 98 and 94 wins. Despite having no starter top 176 innings in 2016 and losing Clayton Kershaw for more than two months, they still comfortably took the NL West crown. The Dodgers are loaded.
2016 wins: 79 | 2017 O/U: 76.5
The September boating death of Jose Fernandez was devastating in so many ways, the least of which is to the Marlins' on-field fortunes. They still have one of the NL's best outfields, but a rotation topped by Wei-Yin Chen and Edinson Volquez won't be enough.
2016 wins: 73 | 2017 O/U: 71.5
As owner Mark Attanasio told MLB.com in January, "It is essential that we do this rebuild correctly, and I think if we get too hung up on wins and losses, we're maybe not doing it [right]." In other words, while Milwaukee's farm system is excellent, its major league roster is lacking.
2016 wins: 59 | 2017 O/U: 70.5
They dropped 24 wins from 2015 to '16, so they only have to pick up half of those to hit the over. There's simply too much young talent in Minnesota—including Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano—for them to continue to be this bad.