While hope springs eternal, the majority of that optimism for baseball bettors in Illinois can be found on the South Side of Chicago where the White Sox have been tipped to be contenders for the AL Central and possibly beyond.
Some of that excitement was tempered during spring training when slugger Eloy Jimenez tore a pectoral muscle, an injury that could sideline him for the entire season. Still, Chicago does return reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu along with Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada in a potent lineup for manager Tony La Russa.
La Russa is beginning his second stint with the White Sox, with the 76-year-old having won the AL West in 1983 during an eight-year run from 1979-86 when the junior circuit had only two divisions and 14 teams. He substantially burnished his resume after leaving Chicago, winning three World Series and six pennants with Oakland and St. Louis. He returns to the Windy City with 2,728 victories — 36 shy of passing John McGraw for second on the all-time list ahead of his first game since 2011.
In a departure from much of the past decade, the White Sox are likely to garner more of the headlines and attention in Chicago than the Cubs under skipper David Ross. The North Siders are looking to rebuild their rotation around Kyle Hendricks but also could wind up with a bigger teardown if things go sideways — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javy Baez are all eligible for free agency following the season.
Oddsmakers at DraftKings appear convinced La Russa will make a difference for the White Sox, offering +450 for him to be AL Manager of the Year. Ross is a more pedestrian +1500 to claim such honors in the NL.
South Side action aplenty on the White Sox
All but one of the state’s six mobile sportsbooks see the South Siders as favorites to win the AL Central. As a betting favorite, PointsBet is offering the best odds at -110, with FanDuel close behind at -115 and the Kambi platform of DraftKings, BetRivers, and Barstool all at -121. William Hill does not have the White Sox as a division favorite, listing them at +115 and behind the Minnesota Twins in the pecking order.
William Hill also deviates from the pack when it comes to an over/under for wins, offering the standard -110 in either direction for 89.5 victories with a minimum of 150 games played. The Kambi platform is offering even money for over 90.5 wins compared to -121 for under, based on 160 games. For those bullish on the White Sox, PointsBet is the place to go with a +115 offering at that win total.
DraftKings and Barstool are offering a head-to-head wager for the White Sox to win more games than the Twins, favoring them at a -120/-105 split. William Hill has a less traditional offering, a head-to-head first-to-30 wins against both the Atlanta Braves (+105/-125) and San Diego Padres (+130/-150).
Giolito, Abreu among top options for player props
After following up his breakout 2019 season with a solid effort last year not necessarily reflected in his 4-3 record, big things are expected of White Sox staff ace Lucas Giolito. Both PointsBet and the Kambi trio have him as a +450 option to win the AL Cy Young Award, with FanDuel a +500 offering. At FanDuel, Giolito is a +950 selection to lead the league in strikeouts and a +1800 option for most wins.
Offseason acquisition Lance Lynn is more a dark horse pick, ranging from +1600 at FanDuel to +1800 at PointsBet while DraftKings, Barstool, and BetRivers are hitting the middle at +1700. Dallas Keuchel is also among the back-end candidates, offered anywhere from +2200 at Kambi to +4000 at FanDuel.
FanDuel appeared to be the only book offering closer Liam Hendriks as a Cy Young candidate at +8000, but PointsBet has him as the favorite to lead the majors in saves at +700.
Jimenez’s absence will put more weight on Abreu to carry the team offensively, but it also means there could be value picking him to repeat as American League MVP. He is listed at +2500 at all six books, with the three Kambi books also giving Anderson and Moncada similar odds. Anderson and Moncada can be grabbed as high as +3500 on FanDuel, and Anderson is a +1500 option to be atop the leader board for hits at season’s end.
Over at PointsBet, Anderson is the favorite for most hits at +1000.
DraftKings also has Abreu’s home run over/under set at 33.5 with a -105/-125 split, and FanDuel offers him at +4000 to lead the majors in homers. At FanDuel, he is a +2000 option to lead the league in RBIs.
Two intriguing options for ChiSox fans can also be found for AL Rookie of the Year. After missing all of 2020 following Tommy John surgery, Michael Kopech (+2500) is expected to start the season in the bullpen and possibly join the rotation by midseason. Infielder Nick Madrigal has been rated higher by most books, with PointsBet offering +1400 and ranging out to +2000 at DraftKings and Kambi’s other two books.
Meanwhile, on the north side of the city
After an offseason teardown that saw the departures of team President Theo Epstein and staff ace Yu Darvish, the Cubs face low expectations for the first time since Epstein came on board in 2011. It is still somewhat jarring to see a team now entering its fifth season removed from winning a World Series title entering a rebuild, but Ross — the catcher on the 2016 Cubs that ended the “Curse of the Billy Goat” — does have some players to build around.
Chicago’s division rivals, however, look to have more pieces in place. The Cubs are a fourth option to win the NL Central, ranging from +430 at PointsBet to +440 across the Kambi platform to +450 at FanDuel, while William Hill has them a +700 pick. The odds get longer in terms of winning the pennant, with the trio of Kambi-powered books at +2200, followed by FanDuel (+2500) and William Hill (+3000).
For those with unshakable optimism for October baseball in the Windy City, a Cubs title would pay out +6000 at William Hill, while PointsBet and the Kambi operators are offering +4000 and FanDuel +3500.
There is uniformity in the over/under for victories, which was established across the board at 78.5 victories, but the books vary for number of games played. William Hill is offering the standard -110 while Kambi has a -112 listing at its three books based on a minimum of 150 games. FanDuel has a -122/+100 split for 159 games, while PointsBet has a -125/+105 split.
For those looking to maximize value for a yes/no playoff pick, FanDuel is offering +340 on the Cubs reaching the postseason compared to +325 on the Kambi platform. Kambi is also offering Chicago at +100/-124 to have more wins than the Boston Red Sox.
William Hill has the Cubs matched up with three teams in a first to 30 wins race, offering +105/-125 splits versus the Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies and +110/-130 against the Cincinnati Reds.
Power trio leads way for player props
Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo can be had in nearly every player prop category, though they are in the middle of the pack in most of them. Bryant and Rizzo are +3000 picks for NL MVP, while Baez lurks at +3300 on the Kambi platform.
Newcomer Joc Pederson checks in at +4000, and DraftKings lists his over/under of 28.5 homers at -112 in each direction. FanDuel has him a +6500 option to lead the league in dingers — appropriate odds since a Cubs player has not led MLB in homers since Sammy Sosa hit 50 in 2000. Pederson is a +6000 option in that category at PointsBet while Rizzo and Bryant are offered at +8000.
Baez gets more love as the top Cubs option at FanDuel at +4000, with Bryant +4500 and Rizzo +5000. Baez and Bryant are both +3300 picks at PointsBet, with Rizzo +4000 and Pederson +6600.
Hendricks is the top Cubs option for the NL Cy Young Award but also rates as a deep sleeper, considering FanDuel’s +5500 listing is the shortest odds among the books.