It’s time to start thinking about MLB futures … and there’s already one prop bet that’s a STEAL!

On Friday, I will have a column about three excellent value bets to win the World Series.

The mere mention of such a thing should tell you it’s time to start doing your MLB futures shopping.

I have already begun. But before I tell you about the big play I’ve already made, let me first tell you that when it comes to any kind of totals betting, my natural inclination is to ALWAYS LEAN UNDER.

If I find myself making more than five OVER plays in a year on anything, be it a game total or a futures total or a prop bet total, then I know I’m off my game.

When you play UNDER, you force “things” to happen in order to beat you. When you play OVER, you “NEED THINGS” to happen in order to win. No bueno.

“Make them beat you” … that’s my motto when it comes to OVER/UNDER betting.

In that spirit, I have uncovered what I feel is an excellent opportunity in the MLB futures market. Hopefully, your book has this bet available to you. Most of them should.

The bet is ….

UNDER 61 1/2 STOLEN BASES by a player this season. The juice on this is -115.

I absolutely love this bet. Last year, Michael Bourn led the league in steals with 61. So it stands to reason the books would put out a number of 61 1/2 on this bet. Take the high-water mark from last year, add a hook to it and let the bettors bet.

This is a horrible mistake on their part … and they don’t make many. The next-highest steals total last year was 49 apiece by Coco Crisp and Brett Gardner. That’s a pretty big gap between the steals leader (Bourn) at 61 and second place at 49.

This should tell you that probably Bourn and maybe one or two others (presumably Gardner and somebody else) are the only ones with a realistic chance to cross 50 in 2012.

But basically, this bet centers around Bourn. Of this year’s group of speedsters, he’s the clear front runner to again lead the league in steals. But problems abound; Bourn isn’t a great hitter (he’s yet to hit .300 or better in four full MLB seasons). Nor is he a great OBP guy. And worst of all, Bourn is going from the hitter-friendly, pitching-void NL Central to the NL East. That means he will now see plenty of ABs this season against the Phillies’ strong rotation … and that means his numbers are heading south.

You can forget about Bourn hitting .294 with an OBP of .349 again this season. His numbers are very likely to dip now that he gets exposure against the likes of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Josh Johnson, Johan Santana and Strasburg.

The other thing about speedsters is that they’re fragile. If a stolen base guy has any kind of injury, mild or serious, to his legs, you can forget about him running free. Any type of injury to their hands, arms or shoulders are also detrimental because these guys are typically not strong enough hitters overcome discomfort with strength. It just doesn’t happen.

Speedsters, by nature, are among the most fragile guys in the game. And while we don’t wish injury on anybody, we also realize this is a type of player that tends to get little tweaks more than others.

Setting the line at 61 1/2 has left the books little margin for error. There aren’t as many pure speed guys in the league as there were even two years ago. And the main one, Bourn, has now gone from the hitter-friendly division to 18 games against the league’s best staff. Numbers don’t tend to rise under those conditions.

Beside Gardner, we’re having a hard time to find another threat to steal over 50 bags. Gardner could push for 60 if everything goes right for him. So could Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury, if he reverts to ’09 form. But we don’t see that happening because the presence of a secondary speedster (Carl Crawford) in the Red Sox line up actually slows Ellsbury down.

It’s been my observation that an abundance of speed in a lineup actually spreads the wealth instead of keeping it one place.

Given this year’s field of speedsters, this number seems a bit high and a bit focused around one player — Bourn. I’ll take my chances his numbers fall this summer and after him, there just isn’t anything there that I feel can beat me.

(As always, we don’t share the delight your profits, nor do we feel the pain of your losses, so PLEASE do your own due diligence before making a bet.)

Follow me on Twitter @ChemicalAT

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