MLB Spring Training: Should you be betting on exhibition games?

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Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season is about a month way, as we’ll see all 30 teams in action on March 30th. For those that can’t wait until the first pitch is thrown, there are plenty of ways you can attack the futures market. Our world-class betting analysts are already loading up our Pro Picks page with some of their favorite futures. However, there’s also another option for some of our bolder bettors, and that would be to bet on spring training.

Should you be betting on MLB spring training?

There are some inherent risks that come with betting on games that are effectively meaningless. For starters, there’s no guarantee that the team you’re betting on will be comprised of MLB-level talent. This is the time of the year in which minor-league players are getting opportunities to go out and try to make teams, so lineups tend to be weaker than usual. And the same goes for pitching, with some guys getting chances despite being nowhere near ready to face some of the best hitters on the planet.  

This spring training also happens to be even more of a mixed bag than usual, as a lot of massive changes are going into place this season and the players are just getting a chance to test them out now. Some of the changes that have been made to MLB include the implementation of a pitch timer that prevents pitchers from taking too much time before beginning their motion, defensive shift limits to avoid having fielders bunched up in one specific part of the field and bigger bases for player safety — there should be less collisions with players having more room to operate, and potentially more stolen bases. These rule changes have already been quite controversial:

Advantages of betting on MLB spring training

While we’re only a few days into spring training right now, one thing that has stood out has been how high scoring the games have been. Through four days of action, 34 of the 50 games that were played saw at least 10 total runs scored. That means you might want to start hopping on some Overs before the oddsmakers start to adjust. It simply might not be a coincidence that these teams are scoring more runs, as we already mentioned that the pitching in spring training can be a little iffy. Also, some of the rules that were implemented by MLB are hitter-friendly, with the banned shift being one that comes to mind.

Think about how much damage somebody like Anthony Rizzo can do now that defenses are no longer able to load up on the right side of the infield. He had a batting average of at least .270 in seven of the first nine years of his career, but the shift was largely responsible for him not even hitting the .250 mark in each of the last three seasons — despite continuing to make good contact.

Also, while pitchers now have a little more control over when they can step up and throw, it does seem like the pitch timer will require more of an adjustment for them than the hitters. The reason this timer exists is because some pitchers took way too much time before getting into their motion, which significantly increased the time it took to play a game. Now, there are pitchers who are being sped up, which can really mess with the mental side of things. That’s bad news for the ones that used to take their sweet time, as so much of pitching well is psychological.

Another thing to consider is that underdogs have performed historically well on the run line in spring training in the past. So, if none of the previous angles interest you, there’s always that. Unlike during the MLB regular season, there is no true home-field advantage in spring training. That makes it less likely that a favorite will use the adrenaline provided by its fanbase to rack up hits and run away with games. Also, just because a team is supposed to be good in the regular season, that doesn’t mean you’re going to see their best lineups in spring training. That gives you a chance to make money betting against name brands like the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. 

If you do end up putting some money on these games, make sure you check out our VSiN MLB betting splits. These will be a great tool for you during the regular season, as you want to have a general idea of where the action is — and what the sharps are on. But this page is also live during spring training, so it could be a valuable resource. 

Why you should at least watch MLB spring training 

If you aren’t willing to dive in and bet your hard-earned money on games that don’t matter, we completely understand. This isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re planning to bet on baseball during the regular season, you should at least try and watch a little spring training. Whether you like it or not, these rule changes are in place, and they are going to alter the way the game is played — the average time it takes to complete an MLB game is supposed to be closer to two and a half hours now. That means you’re going to want to soak in some of the action and get a feel for how things are. That will prevent you from handing the sportsbooks money in the first few weeks of the season.