Catching the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees will be mighty chores this season.

Oddsmakers are pegging the Astros and Yankees as favorites to win the American League pennant at +275. That’s slightly higher than Cleveland at +325.

Other than Boston, bettors aren’t considering any other teams as viable threats to win the pennant.

Who’s the real favorite?

I’m not passing on Houston, no matter how little of a return the defending World Series champs provide. The offense isn’t going away. The lineup is loaded and they not only hit for average, but they can register big-time power numbers.

Even scarier may be the rotation. When Charlie Morton is your fifth starter, that creates major problems for the opposition. The bullpen is a little suspect, but this squad has enough weapons that it shouldn’t be any trouble to get into the postseason.

And once the Astros head into the postseason, that rotation has enough arms that it can utilize some of their starters as bullpen options.

Don’t waste your time

Of the four favorites, Houston and New York at +275; Cleveland at +325; and Boston at +600, I’m passing on the Red Sox.

Offensively, Boston doesn’t compare to the top three options. Even with J.D. Martinez, there’s not enough consistency in that lineup that warrants expectations for an AL pennant. For argument’s sake, let’s say the offense is better than I anticipate. I still don’t believe in that starting rotation.

Chris Sale is a beast, but David Price can’t be trusted. From there, your guess is as good as mine with Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello. The Red Sox have potential, but there is just too much that has to go right for Boston to be a real contender.

What about the Twins?

Oftentimes, I get confused as to why certain teams don’t have the hype that I believe they deserve. For 2018 in the American League, that team resides in Minnesota, with +1800 odds to win the AL pennant.

The AL Central could be the worst division in baseball this season, with Detroit and Kansas City entering rebuilding mode and the Chicago White Sox still at least one year away from making their mark. That leaves the Twins as easily the second-best team in the division, and despite the love for the Indians, I don’t expect Minnesota to be too far off from the Tribe.

Offensively, the Twins return their core from a season ago when they were fourth in the American League in runs. And Minnesota bolstered its bullpen in the offseason to patch up one of its shortcomings during a playoff run in 2017.

The Twins are young and should still continue to develop. As long as the pitching can make some gains, Minnesota is a nice sleeper pick.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk

Scott Levine can be reached at or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH

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