At MLB Midseason, Tigers’ Futures Bets Not Quite Dead While Future Stars Take The Field

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In this year’s abbreviated, 60-game MLB season, two weeks can spell the difference between cashing in on longshot futures wagers and tossing your bet slips into the fireplace.

Heading into the second leg of a three-game homestand against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 11, the Detroit Tigers and any Detroit Tigers optimists among the betting public appeared to be sitting pretty. After a four-game winning streak, the Tigers, pegged by preseason analysts to be one of the worst teams in baseball, had jumped out to a 9-5 record and second place in the American League Central Division.

All of a sudden, the +8000 preseason odds offered by online and retail sportsbooks for Detroit to win the AL Central seemed within reach. If you squinted hard enough, you might even be able to keep a flicker of hope alive that the Tigers could pay out +17500 to win the AL Pennant or +50000 to become World Series Champions.

Legal online sports gambling is not yet available in Michigan (the state legislature approved it in December 2019 and regulators are expected to open the state for mobile bets later this year or in early 2021), but bettors who visited one of the state’s tribal casinos with retail sportsbooks or any of Detroit’s three commercial casinos, which reopened the first week of August, may have allowed a sliver of hope to creep into their minds after the Tigers’ early success.

That would have been a mistake. Detroit is 3-11 since Aug. 11, a slide that began with a nine-game losing streak that included consecutive sweeps by division rivals the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. Roughly halfway through the season and five days before the Aug. 31 trade deadline, the Tigers sit at fourth place in the AL Central with a record of 13-16.

Detroit hasn’t been numerically eliminated from contending for the division title yet, but with 31 games left to play, good luck finding anyone who believes the Tigers can make up a 5.5 game deficit to catch the division-leading Minnesota Twins. Even with eight teams from each league making the postseason under this season’s expanded MLB  playoff format, the Tigers find themselves trailing the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles in the race for the final wildcard berth.

The Tigers’ season outlook may be grim, but the franchise is still outperforming expectations (such are the minor joys of being pegged as the worst team in baseball heading into the season). Detroit is on pace to end the season with 26 wins, which means preseason bettors who took the Tigers to beat the 20.5-win over/under line are eight victories away from a W of their own.

Why not roll the dice on prospect call-ups

The silver lining of Detroit’s five-year (going on six) postseason drought has been the franchise’s opportunity to stockpile young talent in the fifth-best farm system in baseball, according to MLB.com.

After the Tigers’ nine-game swoon put the franchise’s 2020 ambitions nearly out of commission, the club called up three of its top prospects from the Tigers’ AAA affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens — starting pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal and third baseman Isaac Paredes.

While Detroit bettors watch their preseason futures wagers wither away, why not look for player props on this trio representing the Tigers’ future?

MLB.com ranked right-hander Mize as the seventh-best prospect in the sport prior to the season. The 23-year-old is winless in his first two starts, but he struck out seven batters in his first appearance and throws a splitter that The Athletic‘s Keith Law called a “wipeout pitch” that makes Mize a potential ace of the Tigers’ rotation. A conservative wager on Mize to beat the over on strikeouts in his next start could give Detroit fans more reason to root for the young pitcher — and it might even pay off.

Paredes, 21, is the youngest player on the Tigers’ roster, but his teammates and coaches have marveled at his maturity in the batter’s box. Heading into Wednesday’s 7-6 win over the Cubs, Paredes had faced an average of 4.59 pitches per at-bat, higher than anyone else on the roster. He also batted .318 over his first seven games and cracked the grand slam that propelled Detroit to snap its 20-game losing streak against the Indians last Friday.

Paredes isn’t known for his power, but FanDuel, which operates the casino at MotorCity Casino Hotel, has been offering +1100 odds on game props for the prospect to hit a home run. That’s a wager that’ll turn a casual bettor into a Paredes fan for life — if it hits.

Detroit fans looking for a psychological hedge might take the opposite approach and bet against Mize, Skubal, and Paredes. That way, even if the Tiger cubs fall short on the field, you can find solace in a growing bankroll.

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Rafe Bartholomew

Rafe has worked as an editor and writer at Harper's Magazine, Grantland, Eater, and The Athletic. He is a co-author of the New York Times Bestselling book Basketball: A Love Story and the author of two other books, Pacific Rims and Two and Two.

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