Well folks, after watching Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union butt heads over a whack of issues – almost entirely financially-related – it appears we could have MLB baseball on the horizon, after all.
And you know what that means.
With a season now looking more likelier than ever, sportsbooks have released plenty of players futures, and I want to tackle some stat leader predictions throughout this week to get us in the baseball spirit.
Over at BetOnline there’s a wealth of stat leader odds and long lists of players to consider.
With my picks, I’m going to provide three players worthy of a wager, but the three selections will come from escalating tiers of odds for value purposes.
With that in mind, let’s see who can knock the Royals’ Whit Merrifield – who’s paced the AL in hits in each of the last two seasons – off his perch as the AL’s hits king!
3 Players Worth Backing to Lead the AL in Hits
Francisco Lindor, Indians (+700)
Of the favorites that have odds in the triple digits, Lindor is my pick of the litter.
While Jose Altuve (+600), Merrifield (+600), Rafael Devers (+650) and D.J. LeMahieu (+700) are all right in his odds vicinity, there’s plenty of reasons to back the Indians’ superstar shortstop.
You might recall this winter – which now feels like an eternity ago – there were a handful of superstar names swirling in trade rumors.
Mookie Betts was the only one who indeed moved, but Lindor’s name along with the likes of Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado also continuously appeared in MLB headlines.
The foremost reason why Lindor saw his name so prominent in rumors was his impending free agency after the 2020 season.
In other words, this is a contract year for the 26-year-old and despite likely suppressed free agent dollar figures next winter, it’s nonetheless the biggest season of the young man’s career.
Lindor’s injury history isn’t lengthy, but his history of producing is.
He’s never hit less than .273 in a season, but he’s eclipsed the .300 plateau twice in five years.
His highest hit total in his career is 182 from the 2016 season – his first full season in the bigs – which was good for ninth in the AL.
His BABIP has fallen under the .300 mark in each of the last three seasons, however it interesting sits at .300 even for his career to this point after a .291 mark a season ago.
Lindor’s production at the plate will be integral to a questionable Indians offense, but personally it’s a huge season for a player capable of leading the league in hits for the first time in his career.
Mike Trout, Angels (+2000)
Honestly, getting the best baseball player on the planet at these odds seems like highway robbery.
Trouts’s all-round is what consistently has him at or near the top in WAR and MVP rankings, however there’s every reason to believe he can get to the apex of the AL hits leaderboard.
For one, the guy is a career .305 hitter with a .348 career BABIP.
Since 2012, Trout’s .351 BABIP ranks fourth in the AL behind only Yoan Moncada (.369), Aaron Judge (.357) and J.D. Martinez (.357). In other words, only three players in the AL get more hits when the ball is put into play. That’s important.
Injuries have send Trout plummeting down the hits list in recent seasons, however.
He hasn’t logged more than 140 games in each of the last three seasons and played just 134 in 2019.
That said, a shorter season could help with the wear-and-tear of a full, 162-game calendar and keep Trout healthy for the duration of the regular season.
Combine that with the protection of Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton all likely to stack up behind him in the Angels’ lineup and Trout – along with his high-average, high-BABIP ways – is certainly worth a look at these odds.
Jose Ramirez, Indians (+3300)
I don’t anticipate the Indians’ offense to be among the game’s best, but they interestingly have a pair of candidates worth backing on this list.
Ramirez’s shockingly stagnant start to the 2019 season cost his season-ending numbers dearly, but if second-half Jose Ramirez shows up 2020, we could get big-time value out of him.
Heck, even of 2017 or 2018 Jose Ramirez shows up we’re in good shape.
Let’s take a quick look at his monthly batting averages in 2019.
He missed exactly one month from August 24th to September 24th with an injury, but Ramirez went on an absolute tear after a slow start and showed the baseball world that, once again, he’s a force at the plate.
It’s not even that his second-half surge was BABIP-driven as he posted a .302 mark after the All-Star break, but it was certainly an improvement on the poor luck he endured during a .234 BABIP first half.
The best hits-related season of Ramirez career came during his breakout 2017 campaign in which he tallied 186 base raps as part of a .318 batting average, the former of which ranked fifth in the AL.
He also played the fewest amount of games among the top five (or the top nine for that matter) while on pace for 198 hits in a 162-game season that would have placed him second behind only Jose Altuve’s 204 hits.
Clearly, this is a guy with the potential to rack up a ton of hits, despite a couple concerns.
One issue could be walks in exchange for hits, similar to what has hampered Trout in this department in his career, until now.
Ramirez could suffer from a lack of protection, depending where he hits in the lineup. If he moves as far down as the cleanup spot, teams may choose to face the likes of Franmil Reyes and certainly someone like Domingo Santana in a run-producing situation with a base open.
Cleveland is likely to use Lindor as their leadoff man followed by either Carlos Santana or Oscar Mercado ahead of Ramirez. Santana’s high-OBP ways makes sense in front of Ramirez while Mercado hit in the Indians’ two-hole for much of his tenure a season ago.
Nonetheless, the odds have such scenarios factored in, and we have to still consider that we are getting an elite bat capable of generating plenty of hits at big-time odds.
Also, keep in mind the two-time reigning defending champion Merrifield didn’t exactly have a ton of protection behind him in a brutal Royals offense in recent seasons.
Add it up and Ramirez is worth backing as one of BetOnline’s longest shots to pace the American League in hits.