MLB spring training is here and we’re less than a week away from some actual baseball games, albeit of the Grapefruit and Cactus League variety.
Nonetheless, meaningful baseball is right around the corner and with that comes some MLB futures.
Now is simply a great time to cash in on some value.
I’ve unleashed my value picks to lead the big leagues in home runs in 2020, and I’ll also be tackling some division futures as well as some AL and NL pennant picks that carry some value. Hint: the Nationals backers made out like bandits last season.
For now, however, let’s dial in on the pitching side of things and take a look at the Cy Young odds in each league.
While last season didn’t end up offering a ton of value with Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander taking home the honors, pitchers such as Hyun -Jin Ryu, Shane Bieber and Charlie Morton certainly made things interesting.
The bottom line is you never know what can happen in this beautiful game, so let’s dial up some value picks, from various levels odds, and see if we can cash big on some pitching here in 2020.
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
AL Cy Young Value Picks
Mike Clevinger (+1400)
The Cleveland Indians have traded both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber over the last seven months and the residential ace on this Indians staff is now Clevinger, if he wasn’t already.
By that, I mean he was already the best pitcher on this staff even if he wasn’t labeled as the club’s ace in 2019.
In fact, Clevinger was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball last season and a big reason why the Indians managed to stay in the Wild Card race for much of the season despite a weak offense.
Clevinger turned in a 2.71 ERA and 2.49 FIP in 2019 to go along with a 12.07 K/9 clip and a 0.71 HR/9 rate.
His AL ranks in those categories respectively (minimum 120 innings)? 3rd, 1st, 4th and 2nd.
Clevinger missed time with a bad back last season, but when healthy he was a top 2-3 pitcher in the AL and he’s actually been close to that level for a few years now.
Since the 2017 season among AL pitchers who have pitched at least 400 innings, Clever ranks fourth with a 2.96 ERA, eighth with a 3.32 FIP, 10th with a 10.31 K/9 and third with a 0.88 HR/9.
Of course, at 29 years old and coming off a career-year, he could certainly just be hitting his stride.
As deGrom has shown during his back-to-back reign of NL Cy Young wins, you don’t have to make the playoffs to win this award, and that’s probably a positive for Clevinger and his Indians.
He’s already one of the very best in the junior circuit, but 2020 may very well be his best yet.
Lucas Giolito (+2200)
The White Sox were a poor club once again in 2019, but a busy and productive offseason has them trending as a sexy postseason pick this time around, and that could give Giolito some more attention in the national stage.
It’s not like his breakout 2019 campaign went unnoticed however while his transformation from 2018 to 2019 was quite remarkable.
Here’s a nice look at the turnaround that Giolito crafted from 2018 to 2019:
He did so while beginning the 2019 at just 24 years old, but White Sox fans had to be thrilled to see the 2012 16th overall pick make good as his prospect hype coming over from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade of December, 2016.
The K-rate jump is perhaps the most impressive of them all and while he might not reach the same level of 2019 he was consistently over a strikeout per inning in the minor leagues and ditching his sinker and using more of his fastball and changeup worked wonders last season.
Giolito’s 5.1 WAR from last season was sixth in the AL a season ago and he did so while pitching far fewer innings than the men above him.
2020 could be the season that Giolito gets close to or exceeds the 200-inning threshold and if he can take another step forward in his numbers in doing so, he could be delivering backers plenty of value come season’s end.
Eduardo Rodriguez (+5000)
The Red Sox have taken some wide-ranging heat this offseason from their dealing Mookie Betts to Alex Cora being let go for his Astros’ tenure transgressions to the club currently being investigated for their own potential technology-using sign-stealing scheme.
They’re being counted out in the AL East race just two years removed from winning the World Series after going wire-to-wire as the best team in baseball while a Chris Sale bounce back is being touted as their best chance to get back into the thick of things.
That said, there’s another lefty that I think can enjoy a career-year in 2020 and that’s Eduardo Rodriguez.
Beware of the young, former highly-touted pitcher that’s been “pretty good” for a couple of years as a breakout may just be on the horizon.
Indeed, Rodriguez posted almost identical ERA numbers from 2018 to 2019 with marks of 3.82 and 3.81, respectively, while his FIP figures back up his work with a 3.65 mark in 2018 and a 3.86 figure in 2019.
He’s got the strikeout stuff with a 9.43 K/9 clip last season after posting a figure north of 10 the year prior while he keeps the ball in the yard at a reasonable rate despite righties having the advantage of pulling the ball over the green monster at Fenway.
Keep in mind that Rodriguez is still just 26 years old and has already made at least 20 starts in five big league seasons.
In 2019, he recorded a career-high 34 starts and 203.1 innings.
It would appear that he’s on the verge of a breakout, and without many talking about it.
At +5000, I’m willing to find out.
NL Cy Young Value Picks
Noah Syndergaard (+2000)
Jacob deGrom is favored to win his third straight NL Cy Young at +300, but one of his teammates provides some real nice value potential here.
Syndergaard, he of a 4.28 ERA last season, had a down year by his standards, but he also pitched 197.2 innings in 2019, otherwise known as a career-high for the 27-year-old.
Of course, I want to see at least something that tells me he has the ability to pitch among the game’s elite, and we don’t have to look too far back for such evidence.
In 2016, Syndergaard took the ball for 30 starts, accumulated 183.2 innings and pitched his way to a 2.60 ERA, 2.29 FIP and a 10.68 K/9 clip.
The following year, he dealt with injuries that cost him all of seven starts, but the fire-baller worked to a 2.97 ERA and an eye-popping 1.31 FIP and a 0.89 BB/9 rate that season.
2018 rolled around and he hurled a 3.03 ERA, 2.80 FIP and a minuscule 0.52 HR/9 across 25 starts and 154.1 innings.
So yes, last year was certainly a down year by his previous standards, but the truth is this guy has a history of dominating at the big league level, when healthy.
Many could predict a rebound for the hulking right-hander in 2020, but what some may not realize is that a rebound combined with a fully healthy season would likely put him among the NL’s elite.
At +2000 I’m seeing a ton of value in a guy that has shown me he has the ability to dominate big league hitters.
Chris Paddack (+2800)
At just 24 years of age, Paddack will be entering his second MLB season in 2020 and also just his second above Double-A ball after skipping the Triple-A level en route to the big leagues in 2019.
In fact, Paddack pitched all of 37.2 innings above High-A ball before making his big league debut in 2019 and just 132.1 innings above Rookie Ball before appearing at the game’s highest level.
I mean, that’s some pretty crazy stuff to digest, but the bulldog right-hander did not disappoint in his rookie season, hurling 140.2 innings of 3.33 ERA ball to go along with a 3.95 FIP, 9.79 K/9 and just 1.98 BB/9.
He had an elevated home run rate of 1.47 HR/9 for a pitcher that makes his home at the picher-friendly confines of Petco Park in San Diego, but nonetheless he certainly impressed despite his lack of minor league seasoning.
Now, there were some signs of concern including a 7.50 ERA in August as his season wound down and an unsustainably low .237 BABIP, but to me these aren’t giant red flags.
All pitchers need confidence to succeed in the big leagues and this guy certainly isn’t short on that.
“When I’m in the stretch, you’re looking right at the lion,” Chris Paddack said of his new ink. pic.twitter.com/rd133oD1H1
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) February 13, 2020
In fact, he appears more confident than ever heading into the 2020 season on what should be a competitive Padres club.
He’s got the stuff, he’s got the numbers and he’s got the mojo, but can he get a Cy Young in just his second big league season?
At +2800, I’m rolling the dice on this success story to grow this season.
Trevor Bauer (+4000)
Some may seem to be forgetting that Bauer was fully in the 2018 AL Cy Young race before a comebacker broke his shin in August.
Bauer pitched just 9.1 innings after suffering the injury in an August 11th game against the Red Sox – and allowed just two earned runs in that time – but the 6 weeks that is cost him certainly cost him at least a chance at the Cy Young, although Blake Snell and his silly 1.89 ERA probably had it on lockdown anyway.
The point is that as recently as 2018, Bauer was a full-blown Cy Young candidate thanks to the 2.21 ERA, 2.44 FIP, 11.34 K/9 and 0.46 HR/9 he posted in that season.
He endured a setback last season when he took a little bit of a step back with the Indians before getting blasted for a 6.39 ERA after a trade deadline deal to the Reds.
Pitching at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati half the time isn’t a great recipe for success, but I’m not willing to give up on a guy that was among the game’s elite just two years ago.
Bauer still posted similar strikeout stuff last season when he posted a 10.69 K/9 clip but an increased walk and home run rate led to his demise.
As part of a Reds ball club that made several win-now moves this offseason – along with two rotation teammates that have odds at BetOnline – my guess is the outspoken Bauer will be rejuvenated enough to get back to his dominant ways.
The dude has nasty stuff and the NL Central looks to be weaker this season, so as the Reds look to make a push for a division crown I’ll look for Bauer to make a push for the Cy Young at valuable +4000 odds.