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Analyzing Some Second Half MLB Prop Bets

Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays - MLB Logo

The All-Star break is here and in terms of games played we are slightly over the halfway mark of the 2019 MLB season.

Thanks to the MLB betting sites, we can get into the futures game and take a look at some prop bets that will conclude at the end of the regular season.

Let’s have a look at some of these bets and see if we can notch some profits on some awards as well as some of the end-of-the-year individual stats!

*Odds courtesy of Bovada

American League Cy Young Award

  • Favorites: Justin Verlander (+165), Gerrit Cole (+400), Lucas Giolito (+600)

Pick: Charlie Morton (+650)

Given the current state of the odds, my top pick for the Cy Young Award is Charlie Morton.

Let’s compare Morton to Verlander, the odds-on favorite, for a quick second with AL Ranks among qualified pitchers in parentheses. Verlander enters the All-Star break sporting a 2.98 ERA (3rd), 4.19 FIP (17th), 3.67 xFIP (6th), 10.87 K/9 (6th), 10 wins (T-2nd) and 2.2 WAR (11th).

Now for Morton: 2.32 ERA (1st), 2.84 FIP (1st), 3.16 xFIP (4th), 11.34 K/9 (4th), 10 wins (T-2nd) and 3.4 WAR (T-2nd).

There you have it. By ERA and FIP, the most important stats for a pitcher, Morton has been the best pitcher in the American League this season. If we move over a few columns to the WAR section, it’s actually not even close as Morton has been more than a full win better than Verlander and equal to Cole. As a side note, Lance Lynn’s 4.0 mark leads the junior circuit.

His strikeouts are superior and he’s won as many games as the favorite Verlander.

There’s also the fact that Verlander has allowed a league-high 26 home runs this season and owns an ugly 1.85 HR/9 rate as a result.

Add it all up and it would appear that Morton should be the winner of the AL Cy Young at the halfway point and holds a ton of value to win it when it’s all said and done this year.

American League Rookie of the Year

  • Favorites: Brandon Lowe (+135), Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+300), John Mears (+500), Eloy Jimenez (+550)

Pick: Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+300)

Guerrero Jr. officially put himself on the map with a jaw-dropping display in the Home Run Derby on Monday night, but this guy has been an MLB superstar in the making for a long time despite being just 20 years of age.

At the moment, his numbers don’t stack up to Lowe, or even Jimenez.

Please Note:

Among AL rookies with at least 200 plate appearances this season, Guerrero Jr.’s .318 wOBA ranks fifth of 11 qualifiers. His .164 ISO ranks eighth, his 98 wRC+ fifth and his 0.1 WAR seventh.

It would appear there’s a long way to go for the youngster to catch up to his peers and less than a half-season’s worth of games to do it in. That said, he’s the type of talent that can do so, as we witnessed on Monday.

Minor league stats often don’t translate to the big leagues, especially at his age. However, it needs to be noted that Guerrero hit for a .978 OPS with a walk rate of 11.7% that was almost 4% higher than his tiny 7.8% strikeout rate across 30 games at Triple-A as a 19-year-old last season. That’s simply ridiculous.

He’s seen for everyday duties at third base for the rest of the year and his home park of the Rogers Centre in Toronto is of the hitter-friendly nature. All it would take to vault his name to the top of the list is a home run tear and he’s more than capable of doing so.

He has the most star power amongst this group and if he can turn it on in the second half Vladdy Jr. could very well deliver some value in the AL Rookie of the Year race.

American League MVP

  • Favorites: Mike Trout (-205), DJ LeMahieu (+450), Alex Bregman (+1100)

Pick: Mike Trout (-210)

At this point, it’s going to take a minor miracle or some sort of injury to Trout in order for someone to roar in and take the MVP from him.

Among qualified bats, Trout leads in the AL in home runs, RBI, wOBA, ISO, wRC+ – by a mile – and WAR with a massive 6.2 mark through just 87 games.

At the status quo, no one is close.

However, if an injury for one reason or another forces Trout to miss significant time in the second half, it could open the race in a big way.

Joey Gallo:

Gallo’s +1400 odds provide value. Gallo’s 3.5 WAR ranks fifth in the AL and he’s missed 29 games with injury so far. If we lower our threshold to 250 plate appearances, Gallo’s .367 ISO is the top mark in the AL and his 165 wRC+ is the only mark in the same universe as Trout’s 186-mark.

He also has a massive 18.8% walk rate to help fend off his enormous 36.5% walk rate.

It would be tough to see anyone win an MVP with a K-rate pushing 40% these days, but Gallo’s been just that good in 2019.

That said, it’s impossible to see anyone else but Trout winning this award assuming near-full health so this might be a prop to avoid if you don’t want to lay that juice at -210.
 

National League Cy Young Award

  • Favorites: Max Scherzer (+125), Hyun-Jin Ryu (+155)

Pick: Max Scherzer (+125)

The NL Cy Young race, along with the MVP race, is a two-man race until something drastic happens.

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been absolutely remarkable with a 1.73 ERA that is hands down the best mark in all of baseball with the Reds’ Luis Castillo checking in at second. He also has a walk rate of just 0.83 BB/9, a rate that is also quite hard to fathom and also leads baseball by a notable margin. He’s gone 10-2 on a Dodgers team that projects to finish the regular season as the best team in baseball.

Such criteria make him a good bet to win the Cy Young, or does it?

I’m not about to bet against Mad Max.

Aside from being outright scary on the mound, Scherzer boasts some Cy Young-worthy credentials himself.

His 2.00 FIP and 2.80 xFIP both lead the National League, as does his 12.60 K/9 clip. Scherzer’s walking just 1.60 batters per nine innings and his 0.63 HR/9 clip – you guessed it – leads the NL.

However, the most impressive stat is the one we hear about all the time: WAR.

Scherzer’s 5.5 WAR mark is not only the best in the NL by almost 2.5 wins, it’s the best in baseball by a full 1.5 wins over Lynn and ranks third in all of baseball behind only Trout (6.2) and Cody Bellinger (5.7).

As a result, Scherzer not only deserves to win the NL Cy Young, the guy should be in the MVP conversation.

Oh, and he also spun a 1.00 ERA with a 13.60 K/9 across 45 innings in the month of June, going 6-0 for the month. He hurled seven innings of shutout ball with 11 strikeouts against just one walk while notching his seventh straight win to open up July.

Scherzer’s 2.00 FIP and 2.80 xFIP more or less agree with his 2.30 ERA, but Ryu’s 2.88 FIP and 3.09 xFIP tell us there’s regression on the horizon. When that regression hits, this thing is Scherzer’s to take.

National League Rookie of the Year

  • Favorites: Pete Alonso (-180), Fernando Tatis Jr. (+250), Austin Riley (+550), Mike Soroka (+550)

Pick: Pete Alonso (-180)

All due respect to the season Braves right-hander Mike Soroka is having and the hot start to Austin Riley’s big league tenure, but like the NL Cy Young and MVP races, this award is a two-man race.

Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso leads the way and for good reason. His 30 home runs is tied with Cody Bellinger for second-most not only in the NL but the entire big leagues and sits just one shy of the MLB lead held by Christian Yelich.

His .354 ISO ranks fourth in the senior circuit and his 3.6 WAR ranks fifth ahead of names such as Javy Baez, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado and Ronald Acuna Jr.

You have to give props to Tatis who by all accounts should have been an All-Star but has appeared in just 55 games into the All-Star break thanks to a hamstring strain suffered on the final day of April.

If we drop the plate appearance threshold to 230 to accommodate Tatis, his .293 ISO ranks 10th in the NL, his .416 wOBA third and his 13 steals are tied for fifth regardless of games played.

You almost want to give him a sprinkle in case Alonso goes cold in the second half or sustains an injury of his own. I would suggest just that as Tatis is one of the best overall players in baseball this season at the age of 20 and already has plenty of star power thank to plays like this.

National League MVP

  • Favorites: Cody Bellinger (-105), Christian Yelich (+160)

Pick: Cody Bellinger (-105)

The NL MVP conversations simply stops after these two names as this is one heck of a race brewing between the Dodgers’ Bellinger and the Brewers’ Yelich.

Bellinger is certainly the more surprising of the two, at least this season. After Yelich surprised his way to the NL MVP last season after exploding in just about every offense category, Bellinger is doing much of the same this season.

Bellinger burst onto the scene in 2017 when he hit 39 long balls despite not debuting until April 25th. He went on to post a .315 ISO while taking home NL Rookie of the Year honors that season.

His sophomore season didn’t come close as Bellinger fell to 25 home runs and his ISO dropped more than 100 points to .210. He posted strong offensive numbers, but nothing close to his inaugural campaign.

Now he’s the man to beat. Bellinger is tied with Alonso for second in home runs in all of baseball with 30 and his .355 ISO is a 145-point improvement from last season. As noted above, his 5.7 WAR is the second-best mark in baseball, and it has a lot to do with his defense as well.

Bellinger’s 18 defensive runs saved as per FanGraphs is the second-best mark in the National League behind Austin Hedges’ 19. His eight outfield assists this season ranks him first among outfielders, two ahead of… Christian Yelich.

Yelich’s offense numbers are actually better – for the most part – than Bellinger. He’s hit more home runs and his ISO and wOBA are both superior to Bellinger. He’s also swiped 19 bases compared to eight by Bellinger.

However, the back ailment that held Yelich out of the Home Run Derby gives Bellinger an extra edge here. It seems to be an issue Yelich is going to have to manage throughout the season and it may require him to take some extra days off.

Bellinger, on the other hand, appears fully healthy. If both players were to repeat their first-half performance in the second half, I believe it’s still Bellinger’s award, but boy is this going to be one heck of a race.

Player With the Highest Batting Average in the Regular Season

  • Favorites: Jeff McNeil (+160), Cody Bellinger (+200), DJ LeMahieu (+300)

Pick: DJ LeMahieu (+300)

One of the quietest success stories from this season has been the Mets’ Jeff McNeil.

Through 76 games, McNeil has logged a league-leading .349 batting average while forming a big-time duo with Pete Alonso atop that Mets lineup.

What’s more, is the fact that McNeil had all of 63 games of MLB experience under his belt prior to this year. He hit .329 with the Mets in those 63 contests in 2018 after hitting .368 across 31 games in Triple-A prior to his call up.

He certainly put in his dues before getting his call to the big leagues. McNeil is already 27 years old, so he’s by no means a prospect. He spent six seasons in the Mets’ system and largely posted batting averages in the .320 range.

In 139 big league games to his name – almost a full season’s worth of work – McNeil owns a .340 batting average and the guy has only struck out in 11% of his at-bats so far.

However, I’m going to go with experience – and a higher payout – in LeMahieu.

LeMahieu has gone from undercover free agent pickup to AL MVP candidate and a big reason why the Yankees fought off several injuries to star players in the first half.

On top of his versatility, LeMahieu has hit .336 in 81 games to tie him with Bellinger for second in the big leagues.

He’s a .301 career hitter, so we knew the guy could hit despite playing all but 37 of his big league games as a member of the Colorado Rockies – and getting Coors Field as his home ball park – prior to this season.

LeMahieu has hit .348 in a single season before, that number coming in the 2016 season with Colorado. Will he need to top that mark to win the MLB batting title this season? I’m thinking not likely.

McNeil’s .385 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is the third-highest in baseball at .385. LeMahieu is also up there with his .369 mark ranking eighth, but that mark isn’t too far above his career .346 BABIP. He finished with a 3.88 mark in the 2016 season and a .362 mark in 2015, so we have every reason to believe such batted-ball luck will continue moving forward with the veteran infielder.

As a result, I’ll take the former Rockie and current Yankee to take down the batting title this year.

Player With the Most Home Runs in the Regular Season

  • Favorites: Christian Yelich (+220), Cody Bellinger (+220), Pete Alonso (+350), Mike Trout (+400)

Pick: Mike Trout (+400)

It’s hard to bet against Yelich here, if we assume full health, considering his home venue of Miller Park in Milwaukee is one of the top hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Albeit not to the same extent, right field plays well at Dodger Stadium where the lefty-swinging Bellinger has hit 20 of his 30 home runs this season.

Still, I don’t want to bet against Trout.

As it stands at the break, Trout is just three homers behind Yelich for a share of the league lead. His .344 ISO falls under the trio of Yelich, Bellinger, and Alonso as well.

Still, we’re getting the best player in baseball here at the fourth-best odds to win the home run crown. If there is any slowing by any of the three men ahead of him in the race, we are looking excellent here for Trout to not only obliterate his career-high 41 home runs from the 2015 season but also some big-time value in winning baseball’s home run crown.

PLACE YOUR BETS NOW!

Brenton Kemp / author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.

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