Baseball Futures Strategy – How to Bet on MLB Futures

Man Holding Cash on Right With the MLB Logo Over A Glove Baseball and Cash on Left

What team do you think will win the World Series next year? What players will win the big player awards? Will the reigning league champions repeat? You can place bets on these questions through your favorite sportsbook. Wagers based on these questions are called futures.

A future bet is a wager on an outcome that takes place later in time than the current day or week of play. Betting on MLB futures are a big part of the hobby, available at all the major sportsbooks and other venues for placing sports wagers.

Baseball futures bets are available year-round, with odds updated on about a weekly basis. That means you can make futures bets on the preseason, regular season, and postseason, and watch how the betting lines and odds change throughout the year due to sports news and roster changes.

This post is all about how to place baseball futures, with examples for support.

MLB Futures Basics

The most common futures to place are bets on the winners of the big league championships – the AL championship, the NL championship, and the World Series.

While futures bets are available in any number of categories, from players awards to numbers of wins for pitchers or batting averages for hitters, bets on the eventual World Series champion are by far the most popular and most talked-about baseball futures.

Reading futures odds is easy. Below is an example I made up, imagining what futures odds at the start of the 2021 MLB season may have looked like:

  • Arizona 60/1
  • Colorado 100/1
  • Houston 20/1
  • Dodgers 4/1
  • Pittsburgh 400/1
  • San Diego 9/1

I’ve listed a few teams along with their odds of winning the World Series at the start of the season.

A bet on Arizona to win the World Series would pay off 60 to 1, meaning for every $1 you bet, you’d win $60, should the Diamondbacks shoot the moon and win it all.

A bet on the Dodgers to win it all in October would payoff at 4 to 1, while a successful bet on the lowly Pirates would pay off at 400 to 1.

There’s likely to be a lot more variation between MLB futures lines at the start of the season. That 4/1 line for the Dodgers at Bovada may be more like 13/4 at BetOnline or 9/2 at another book. That makes line shopping a significant part of MLB futures strategy. I’ll discuss this in more detail in the strategy section below.

Defensive Shifts

Aside from the World Series and the two league pennant races, MLB futures bettors tend to target things like the AL and NL Cy Young award winners, the Rookie of the Year race, and all of the positional awards, such as futures bets on Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and even Manager of the Year.

MLB Futures Betting Strategy

Below are three tips to help you form your own MLB futures strategy.

Get Familiar with Prospects

Futures bettors who get serious about this type of bet will quickly realize that they need to expand their knowledge base to include AAA prospects. If you look at the World Series winners since 2010, it’s clear that the best teams are the ones who fill roster needs with players they’ve been developing for years.

See the 2015 Royals and 2017 Astros for the most obvious examples of how highly-touted prospects can make a big difference in baseball.

Knowing the names and skillsets of the best AAA players gives you a big leg up against the betting public.

Futures Bets’ Effect on Bankroll Management

Controlling your bankroll is even more important when making lots of futures bets than when you’re betting on a regular slate of games.

That’s because these bets don’t pay off for quite some time – if you make a futures bet on the World Series winner during the preseason, you may be waiting as much as six months for your bet to resolve. That ties up a chunk of your cash for the entire season.

You may need to sacrifice a few regular season plays to stay within your budget.

Futures Bets Are Harder to Research

In most cases, when you bet baseball futures, you don’t have a lot of contemporary information to work from. If you’re looking to place a World Series bet in April, you’ve barely had time to see any preseason play. Betting on the best lines means betting with less information.

Your best option is to look at team and player performance from the previous year and extrapolate. You’ll need to support this with any news about teams, players, managers, or other staff, and use your experience with the game to work out how this news impacts your bets.

Inside a Casino Sportsbook

Take all that previous performance with a huge grain of salt – repeat champions, even at the divisional level, are rare in baseball, and small changes in rosters can lead to big changes in team dynamics.

Examples of Famous MLB Futures Bets

Here are two examples of big-time futures bets on MLB baseball.

Vegas Dave’s $140K Bet on Kansas City

Dave Oancea is a self-styled sports betting guru who goes by the name “Vegas Dave.” He’s essentially a tout with a big social media presence, and he’s something of a pariah in the sports betting community.

He made a huge futures bet on the Royals that’s worth mentioning in this post.

In 2015, Vegas Dave needed just one week of regular-season play to plunk down $140,000 on the Royals to win the World series. He sprinkled his bets around a dozen different books, negotiating his way to 30-1 odds at each of the books.

If you remember the 2015 season, you remember what happened next – the Royals won 88 more games on their way to a World Series championship, easily won in just five games.

Vegas Dave won a cool $2.5 million.

How did he get so lucky? Okay, so the Royals started out 2015 on a 7-0 winning streak – that’s not unheard of in baseball, and it shouldn’t have been enough to make him so confident in the team.

I suppose it didn’t hurt that the Royals were defending American League champs. The winning streak was, for Dave, all he needed to see to convince him to back a strong team that very nearly beat the Giants for the 2014 World Series, collapsing in game seven, after winning their first 8 playoff games in a row.

When you consider the context of the 2015 Royals, Dave’s bet makes a lot more sense. Risking $140,000 to win $2.5 million on a team that got within a few innings of the World Series the year prior is a lot less insane than making the same bet on a dark horse with no playoff expectations.

Mattress Mack vs. Vegas

Houston-based businessman and local personality “Mattress Mack” (real name Jim McIngvale) has become notorious for placing huge futures bets on successful Houston sports teams. Thanks to the 5-year dominance of the American League by his Houston Astros, Mattress Mack has placed a lot of big-money baseball futures bets in the past few years.

Here’s how he does it.

In 2021, as the Astros were win-streaking their way toward another bombastic October performance, Mack quietly placed three large-scale bets on the Astros to win the World Series.

First, Mack dropped $2 million at 10-1 with Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill in Indiana. Should the Astros win it all, his payoff would be $20 million, making it one of the biggest sports betting victories in American history.

MLB Houston Astros Celebrating

At the same time, he put $1 million on the Astros at 10-1 through Fan Duel, also in Indiana.

He bet another $250,000 on the ‘stros to win it all at 10-1 on DraftKings, and another $100,000 through The Score sportsbook in Colorado, where he got 16-1 odds.

All told, Mack has $3.35 million riding on the outcome of the Series, a risk he mitigates through giveaway specials at his furniture stores. This year’s promotion? Customers who spend $3,000 or more by the end of the Series will get 100% of their money back should the Astros win it all.

Mack drives up traffic and sales at his stores – and if he should have to give all that money back, he’s got $35.6 million in potential winnings headed his way. Giving away a little furniture won’t hurt a bit.

The lesson here? Big bets require mitigation. Mack leverages his popular furniture stores. Not every bettor has that kind of opportunity. But you can still follow the basic outline of what Mattress Mack does and think about mitigating your outlay in a creative or unusual way.

In Summary

The safest bets in baseball are straight-up money line bets. They offer the least risk and they’re the easiest to handicap.

Futures bets are among the riskiest in any category, and that’s true for baseball. The longer the term of your bet, the riskier it is. A team that looks amazing early in the season can tank and miss the playoffs entirely – I’m looking at you 2021 Padres.

If you want to incorporate futures betting into your MLB gambling routine, be sure to consider your bankroll and do the kind of homework that supports MLB future odds betting.