NL Championship: Buy or Sell Biggest Contenders


Aug 7, 2023

August baseball is underway, with MLB rosters set and the playoff chase on. The NL is pretty wide open after the Braves and Dodgers, with plenty of talented teams vying for the third spot in the NL hierarchy. The oddsmakers all but assume the NL championship will see the Braves and Dodgers square off with the World Series on the line, but as we saw with the Phillies and Padres last season, don’t write off anyone. Here are our buy-or-sell verdicts on the NL Championship field.Atlanta Braves (+140)

The Braves have been the best team in baseball all season and are being treated as such in the odds, favored to win both the NL and World Series. This team is legit and has a star-studded lineup led by presumptive NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. and a rotation featuring the NL Cy Young favorite Spencer Strider and improving health. Winning 35 of their last 50 games, the Braves have been on a meteoric run and are only getting better as the season progresses. No one will want to play the Braves when the postseason rolls around, making them an understandable play in all futures markets despite their juiced value as the frontrunner.

Verdict: Buy

Los Angeles Dodgers (+185)

The Dodgers are priced too close to the Braves for my liking. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman can go toe to toe with the top talent of the Braves on any given night, but the team doesn’t have the same depth. After Betts and Freeman, the slugging of JD Martinez and Max Muncy is needed, but the only other reliable hitter is Will Smith, with the bottom of the order not great. Pitching-wise, they indeed have regressed as a group compared to last year. I expected more than grabbing Lance Lynn at the trade deadline to improve their pitching, but none of it will matter if Clayton Kershaw doesn’t return an ace and Urias and Gonsolin don’t improve. At +185, the value increase isn’t enough to warrant backing them over the Braves.

Verdict: Sell

Philadelphia Phillies (+1200)

The Philadelphia Phillies are the reigning NL champs but sit at a distant third in the pecking order. Sporting the second-best record in baseball since June 1, their offense has a ton of untapped potential. Some of their best hitters aren’t even their stars, as Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, and Bryson Stott all rank in the top eleven in NL batting average. Bryce Harper has been hitting well for contact since returning from injury, with Nick Castellanos providing strong production. Much has been made about Trea Turner‘s struggles, but after an incredible weekend, look out if he turns it around fully. On the mound, the rotation is six deep with the addition of Michael Lorenzen at the trade deadline with a bullpen that’s been solid. As we saw with last year’s Phillies team, anything can happen in October, so at 12-1 odds, they’re worth buying to repeat as NL champs.

Verdict: Buy

San Francisco Giants (+1200)

I keep dismissing the Giants, but they keep on winning. I don’t know what it is, but I still refuse to believe in San Francisco. The starting rotation is nothing special after Alex Cobb and Logan Webb. However, their bullpen is outstanding, as Gabe Kapler seems to be pressing all the right buttons. Offensively, I can’t see how this lineup hangs with the rest of the pack. Wilmer Flores is the only player on the team who consistently plays that hits above .270, the only one! Too much has seemed to go right for this team that is outmatched talent-wise against the rest of the NL, and I don’t see that continuing in October.

Verdict: Sell

Dark Horses: Brewers (+1600), Padres (+1600), Cubs (+2400)

Milwaukee has a pitching staff that can hang with anybody, but their offense isn’t outstanding. As the Reds and Cubs are on their tails in the NL Central, not only would a lot need to go right to make a playoff run, but also just to make the postseason. 

I still question why the Padres didn’t sell at the trade deadline, but as the Marlins and Diamondbacks have regressed, they now find themselves three games back of the final Wild Card spot. Still, a lot needs to be done for the Padres to make the postseason, but if they get in, they have the talent to compete. Of all the long shots, the Padres are the best option.

Over their last 20 games, the Cubs have been the best team in baseball. Going 15-5, the Cubs went from presumed trade deadline sellers to buyers and found themselves holding the final NL Wild Card spot. At +2400, they could be a fun play to make if you’re bullish on the run they’ve made. Still, they don’t have the pitching depth to be a real contender come October.

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Thumbnail photo via David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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