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Before we get started, I’ll fill you in on something — the Astros are my pick to win the 2017 World Series.

Now then, let’s get started.

Lots of Major League Baseball franchises could learn a thing or two about how to properly rebuild from the Houston Astros. After a stretch of uncompetitive and pathetic seasons from 2011 to 2013, they now boast one of baseball’s most talented lineups. Thanks to smart drafting (Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregmen) and a little bit of luck — the Astros signed Jose Altuve as an undrafted free agent after originally cutting him — Houston is primed to contend now and well into the future.

Perhaps in an attempt to replicate the success of the Chicago Cubs, the Astros took to the free-agent market this offseason to add some veteran talent to their group of upstarts and MVP candidates. The new additions include Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. Aside from the flashy names occupying their depth chart, something flying under the radar is that they have one of the top bullpens in the league. In 2016 their bullpen posted a league-best 7.9 WAR to go along with a 3.56 ERA.

With the ’Stros trending toward elite-level status, here’s my analysis of their futures odds entering the season:

World Series +1400

Houston enters the season behind six other teams on the World Series futures oddsboard and sits behind just Boston and Cleveland among American League teams. At 14-to-1, they offer good value and bettors shouldn’t hesitate to take them at this price if they like their chances this season. Another consideration would be to wait and see how April goes. Last season, April was by far their worst month of the season, and a repeat of this in 2017 could lead to a nice boost in their value.

Back in February, I laid out some criteria for getting the best value with your World Series futures bets and the Astros fell into the group of teams that met it. What stuck out most is that less than 50 percent of World Series winners since 1995 made the playoffs the year prior to winning it, and that the average win total of World Series winners the year before winning it since 2000 is 86.47. The Astros, of course, didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season and finished with 84 wins. Combining these factors with the makeup of their roster makes them an excellent candidate to win the World Series.

American League Pennant +650

Getting out of the American League and advancing to the World Series would be a major accomplishment in its own right for Houston as other AL contenders, namely the Red Sox and Indians, also upgraded their rosters in the offseason. A major concern is that Houston’s starting rotation doesn’t stack up with those clubs, especially with the drop-off of Dallas Keuchel last season. The Astros “ace” saw his ERA balloon to 4.55 after posting a 2.48 ERA in his Cy Young-winning campaign in 2015. With all that said, I fully anticipate that Houston will be in the mix for a hired gun for the rotation at the trade deadline.

In terms of value, I feel the same here as I do with their World Series odds. +650 is a fair price for a team with this much talent and potential. Bet away.

AL West +120

It’s entirely possible that the AL West will be baseball’s top division after everything is said and done at the end of the regular season. For that reason, I think +120 is a ripoff and would avoid betting it. Houston is favored to win the division, but it should be tightly contested and both the Mariners and Rangers are being offered at more than double the odds at +275. Based on my prediction for Houston to win the World Series, I also expect them to win the division, but it’s also possible that they sneak into the playoffs as a wild card.

Win Total - 89.5

This bet is all about whether you think the Astros will win the AL West, as 11 of the last 12 division winners finished with 90 or more wins. During that span, it’s only happened twice that the second-place team also had 90 wins or more. So with that in mind, if you like the OVER, their division futures bet seems like the smarter and more profitable wager to make.

If you need extra ammunition to bet the UNDER, take a look at results from the 2015 season where the Rangers, Astros and Angels were all in the mix to win the division and make the playoffs. Texas ended up winning the division with just 88 wins, Houston grabbed a wild-card berth with 86 wins and the Angels were on the outside looking in with 85 wins. Replace the Angels with the Mariners this season, and perhaps the three replicate that 2015 season, beating up on each other enough to keep win totals below 90 but still remaining in the playoff mix.

Carlos Correa for AL MVP +1600

Correa fits nicely into the recent theme of young players winning an MVP award with Mike Trout winning the award at 25 and 23, Bryce Harper winning at 23 and Kris Bryant at 25. Expect the ascension of 2012’s first overall draft pick to continue this season with Correa likely to hit cleanup in an explosive lineup.

Correa is most often compared to another first overall draft pick, Alex Rodriguez, who’s currently in the news for being in a relationship with J-Lo. Although neither party has officially declared that they’re dating, I can confirm that it is officially a rumor. Anyways, Correa’s career could be well on its way to mirroring that of A-Rod, who really took off in his third full season in the bigs, which was the beginning of a stretch that saw him hit 41 or more home runs in six straight seasons. Entering his third season and surrounded by lots of talent, expect to see Correa continue to fulfil his immense potential and be in the MVP conversation come season’s end.

2017 Houston Astros Futures Odds
Market Odds
World Series +1400
American League Pennant +650
American League West +120
Win Totals  89.5

Odds as of March 20 at Bovada