We’re well into MLB spring training at this point and on the verge of seeing some exhibition games start taking place on Sunday afternoon across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues!
As we approach the month of March, we’re just a little more than four weeks out from Opening Day on Apr. 1, but there’s still plenty that needs to take place before we get too far ahead of ourselves.
While there are plenty of roster decisions that lay ahead, we’re safe to start tacking some individual award futures as I’m fairly uncertain many of the names on the board will be Opening Day regulars.
BetOnline has provided us with MVP and Cy Young Award odds for each league, but also odds for who will lead baseball in home runs as well.
With that in mind, let’s dive in and select three individuals for each award covering various tiers of odds so we can cover varying levels of value!
AL MVP Award
Mike Trout, Angels (+225)
The AL MVP race is the most likeliest of awards to turn into a one-man show as the season moves along if Trout plays to his potential while staying healthy.
There’s a reason here’s the clear-cut favorite here over Alex Bregman (+1000), Aaron Judge (+1200) and Jose Ramirez (+1200) as Trout has banked three MVPs all before the age of 29.
Trout’s “down” 2020 season in which he slashed .281/.390/.603 with a .993 OPS, 162 wRC+, 17 homers and 46 RBIs across 53 games is easily a career year for the overwhelming majority of MLB players. It’s only considered a down season by his lofty standards given his .304/.418/.582 career clash line to go along with a 172 wRC+.
Trout should be able to rack up the counting stats in a big way again as part of a productive Angels lineup that tied for ninth with a 109 wRC+ last season while he’s protected by the likes of Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton while mostly hitting out of the two-hole.
Even as the favorite at +225, there is value in selecting the game’s best player to win his fourth career AL MVP Award.
Tim Anderson, White Sox (+3300)
Man there’s some great choices on the board, but the idea is to grab as much value as possible and we have plenty of potential here with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.
The flashy shortstop combines pure hitting ability, power and speed to stake a claim as one of the most exciting bats in baseball. He led the league with .335 batting average in 2019 before hitting .322 in 2020, good for second in the AL behind only DJ LeMahieu.
With 10 homers and a career-best .207 ISO, Anderson managed to post career-highs in wOBA (.376) and wRC+ (142) as well. Keep in mind Anderson is still just 27 years old, and very much into the prime of his big-league career at this point.
He’s not short on supporting cast either as the White Sox boast one of the game’s most feared lineups, one that includes not only the 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu but also Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert and perhaps even top prospect Andrew Vaughn who could rake his way to a roster spot in spring training.
He’s a good bet to lead the league in runs scored atop that dangerous lineup, but if he continues to hit for plus power and get his name into the stolen base leaders mix, perhaps voters would be more inclined to give him some more MVP love in addition to his pure-hitting ability.
Randy Arozarena, Rays (+5000)
There’s always reason to be cautious when backing an out-of-nowhere superstar looking to repeat his elite work from a small sample. There’s no doubt that’s the case here with Arozarena, but if he even approaches his work from 2020 in a much larger 2021 sample, he’s going to be in the mix.
Arozarena debuted for the Rays as late as August 30 in Miami, but would go on to smash seven homers in 23 games while producing a .359 ISO, 1.023 OPS, .422 wOBA and 176 wRC+ across 76 regular-season plate appearances.
And then came the playoffs. Arozarena mashed his way into the record books by clubbing 10 home runs in just 18 postseason contests, took home ALCS MVP honors despite actually production superior numbers in both the ALDS and World Series, clubbing three homers in six games in the Fall Classic with a 1.234 OPS to boot.
RANDY. AROZARENA. AGAIN.
Starts off Game 6 with his 10th home run of the postseason 🤯
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 28, 2020
Of course, it’s going to be might difficult, if not impossible, to repeat that work. It’s just an unsustainable pace in a 162-game season, but at just 25 years of age, it’s certainly entirely possible that the Cuban outfielder is the game’s latest superstar with a power/speed combination that could have him all over the offensive leaderboards in 2021.
If we miss, fine, but there seems to be plenty of value here at +5000 for a player that was the talk of baseball not too long ago.
NL MVP Award
Fernando Tatis Jr. (+800)
Given the monster 14-year, $340M contract extension he received this winter, plenty of eyes will be on Tatis and whether or not he’ll be able to live up to the increased expectations in 2021.
At just 21 years of age last season, Tatis made a bid for the award by posting a .937 OPS, .392 wOBA and 149 wRC+ across 59 games, slugging 17 long balls with 11 steals in that time. He tied for fourth in the entire big leagues in homers and ranked sixth in steals, but also finished fourth in all of baseball with a 2.9 fWAR when we factor his his elite glove work at shortstop as well.
This is a guy that also hit 22 homers with 16 steals across 84 games as a rookie in 2019 before an injury cost him the second half of the season. His .317/.379/.590, .398 wOBA and 150 wRC+ in 2019 actually slightly out-paced his performance from a season ago.
With Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. at the top of the NL MVP betting board, we’re not short on choices among the favorites. Given the attention he’ll now get consistently on a national basis, Tatis is likely to get more votes if he can keep up the elite work across the board.
Bryce Harper, Nationals (+1400)
It’s, of course, an extremely difficult task to win two MVP awards in this league, but it’s never a bad idea to back a superstar that already has one on his resume.
Harper has certainly seen some inconsistencies in his career, most notably falling all the way to a 111 wRC+ in 2016 after posting a 197 mark during his 2015 MVP season, but he’s certainly among the game’s best and coming off a strong season.
In the shortened 2020 campaign, Harper posted a .962 OPS, .400 wOBA and 151 wRC+ across 58 games, hitting 13 homers with eight steals in that time. He hasn’t hit above .268 over the last three seasons, but has hit .319 or better two in his career as well.
Harper’s perceived struggles since signing his megadeal with the Phillies in February of 2019 has more to do with his team’s failures than his personal ones. After all, he hit 35 homers in stole 15 bases with an .882 OPS and 125 wRC+ in 2019 before exceeding those numbers in 2020.
"SECOND DECK WALK-OFF HOME RUN. GRAND SLAM BRYCE HARPER."
What a moment.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 26, 2020
The Phillies offense tied for ninth with a 109 wRC+ last season and with slugger Rhys Hoskins and returning All-Star J.T. Realmuto offering lineup protection, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the still-28-year-old to get his name back into the MVP conversation.
Michael Conforto, Mets (+4000)
There’s likely to be some competition within his own lineup this season with the trade for star shortstop Francisco Lindor who sports shorter +1200 odds to win the 2021 NL MVP. Additionally slugging first baseman Pete Alonso sits at +3300. However, how unreasonable is it to suggest Conforto could be the best all-round player of that trio?
After all, His 2.0 fWAR from last season not only led the Mets, but also finished above Lindor’s 1.8 mark and tied for 20th in all of baseball.
The 27-year-old actually posted that mark despite a drop in power that saw him hit just nine homers with a .193 ISO in 54 games. He owns a 225 career ISO, but is also an on-base machine after posting a .412 OBP last season. He’s not the same elite defender that the likes of Tatis Jr. and Lindor are, but in terms of all-round value at the plate, Conforto is competitive in that group.
He he can find his power stroke and keep his elite on-base skills intact, don’t be surprised to see Conforto surprise his way into the conversation at valuable odds.
AL CY Young Award
Gerrit Cole, Yankees (+425)
Again, we have the favorite here with Cole sporting slightly shorter odds than Lucas Giolito (+450) and Shane Bieber (+500), but I’m going to go with the established right-hander that has now been among the game’s best for several seasons.
Obviously, both Bieber and Giolito have cases to be made and both are likely to be involved in the debate, but the fact Cole is still without a Cy Young despite his body of work over the last three seasons speaks volumes.
He finished second to then-teammate Justin Verlander in 2019, one of the toughest-luck runner-up finishes in history. Cole turned in a 2.50 ERA/2.64 FIP/2.48 xFIP with a monster 13.82 K/9 clip and 7.3 fWAR that season. He was worth one full win more than Verlander, according to FanGraphs, while out-dueling him in ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/9 and HR/9, but fell one win short of Verlander’s 21. That was was did him in, unfortunately.
He wasn’t quite as dominant in his first season with the Yankees in 2020, mostly due to home run issues. Cole’s 1.73 HR/9 last season was by far the worst number of his career, but he also fell to a 11.59 K/9, 2.84 ERA, 3.89 FIP and 3.38 xFIP. His 1.5 fWAR tied him for 10th in the AL alongside then-Indians Carlos Carrasco.
Still, over the last three seasons, Cole ranks first among AL pitchers with a 14.7 fWAR, second with a 2.71 ERA, second with a 2.85 FIP and second with a 12.90 K/9. Keep in mind that the two pitchers he finished second to in these departments — Verlander and Chris Sale — have both undergone Tommy John surgery with Verlander out for the 2021 season and Sale out for more than half of it.
He’s due to get his CY Young and I believe 2021 is the year.
Jose Berrios, Twins (+1600)
After showing immense promise early in his MLB career, Berrios has stagnated some while posting a career-worst 4.00 ERA/4.06 FIP in the 2020 season. However, let’s keep in mind we have a 26-year-old pitcher on our hands, one that has largely learned on the fly at the MLB level.
There’a also some signs that 2021 could be his best one yet. Berrios’ 9.71 K/9 from 2020 was the best mark of his career, but yet an unsurprising one considering he gained velocity, posting a career-high 94.9 mph clip on his four-seam fastball and a 94.3 mark on his sinker, gaining almost 2 mph of velocity on the sinker.
He’s going to need to keep the ball on the ground more if he wants to improve on his career 1.17 HR/9 clip and he’ll look to bounce back from some command issues that saw him post a career-worst 3.71 BB/9 in 2020.
However, Berrios should be able to rack up wins on a competitive Twins team and has been extremely durable over his last three seasons with his 455.2 innings pitchers since the start of 2018 ranks second in the AL next to Cole’s 485.2.
In a top-heavy race, give some thought into a breakout season where Berrios truly cements himself as a top-tier pitching option in the junior circuit.
Jesus Luzardo, Athletics (+2500)
I’m not going to throwing darts at extreme long-shots in this race as the Cy Young Awards typically involve the same arms on an annual basis, but I will see if I can scoop some value with the talented young Luzardo.
The 23-year-old top prospect was quite good in 2020, hurling 59 innings of 4.12 ERA/4.19 FIP/3.88 ball while posting a 9.90 K/9 against a 2.59 BB/9 clip. This came after he debuted with 12 innings of 1.60 ERA/2.63 FIP ball in six outings out of the bullpen in 2019.
One thing that might hold him back this season is workload. Plenty of pitchers are going to be monitored closely as teams look to find the safest way to navigate a 162-game season coming off a shortened 60-game campaign. Luzardo threw a healthy 59 innings last season, but also just 55 across four levels in 2019. His 114 innings over the last two seasons doesn’t suggest he’ll be aiming for a full-time, 180-inning season in 2021, and the A’s are going to be cautious with their prized lefty.
Luzardo posted some middling advanced metrics, but also some impressive ones as he ranked in the 82nd percentile with a 96.2 mph average fastball velocity, 79th percentile in fastball spin rate and 71st percentile in whiff rate. His 6.9 BB% also pegged him in the league’s 72nd percentile, as per Statcast. Not too shabby for a 22-year-old rookie season.
Jesús Luzardo, back to back Disgusting Changeups ✝️🦎🤮
[Even more disgusting than this awful camera angle. 😉] pic.twitter.com/Qb7nsEBux4
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 1, 2020
Let’s five the youngster an opportunity to shock his way into the Cy Young race this season.
NL Cy Young Award
Jack Flaherty, Cardinals (+1200)
It’s pretty much blasphemy to fade Jacob deGrom in this race as he’s the clear-cut favorite at +375. However, with so many tasty option in the National League at longer odds, I think we can explore some additional value as opposed to the AL where things should be a lot more predictable.
Flaherty entered the 2020 season with Cy Young expectations after turning in a 0.91 second-half ERA in 2019. However, as it turned out, Flaherty struggled through an up-and-down season that saw him finish with a 4.91 ERA, and while his 4.11 FIP and 3.42 xFIP suggest he was the victim of some bad luck, those still were not Cy Young-caliber numbers. That said, he also posted a healthy 33.3% hard-hit rate.
Still just 25 years of age, Flaherty enters the 2021 season sporting a career 3.37 ERA/3.77 FIP with a 10.61 K/9. He just wasn’t very good for much of last season, but we’ve seen flashes of superstar potential with the big right-hander, and it would be awfully surprising to see him struggle in back-to-back seasons.
The Cards are projected with an 87.5 win total — by far the most in the NL Central while their +105 odds make them the heavy divisional favorites. He should be able to rack up the wins with what appears to be a very good offense, which still seems to be important to voters these days, but also look for more of the 2019 Flaherty than the 2020 version in 2021.
Brandon Woodruff, Brewers (+2200)
Woodruff and Corbin Burnes (+4000) teamed up to form a dominant duo atop the Brewers’ rotation in 2020, and while Burnes certainly has value at longer odds, Woodruff is the more established arm with a lengthier track record of success.
In fact, he’s probably one of the more underrated starters in the bigs. Woodruff owns a career 3.66 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.55 xFIP to go along with a 10.04 K/9 while displaying excellent command in the form of a 2.44 BB/9.
He took his game to a new level in 2020, however, working to a 3.05 ERA/3.20 FIP to go along with an 11.12 K/9 and 2.20 BB/9 in 13 starts. Here’s how he ranked among NL starting pitchers last season:
- Inning Pitched: 4th
- ERA: 9th
- FIP: 7th
- xFIP: 6th
- K/BB: 5th
- SIERA: 6th
- fWAR: 7th
Sure, maybe not a top-three NL starter, but there are also 13 names with shorter odds to win the 2021 NL Cy Young Award than this man.
For good measure, let’s check out the Statcast percentile rankings. Keep in mind this is for the entire league, not just the NL.
- Fastball velocity: 91st
- Fastball spin: 79th
- Exit Velocity: 79th
- BB%: 80th
- K%: 84th
- xERA: 88th
- xBA: 84th
- xwOBA: 88th
Again, very, very good.
Not sure about you, but with the track record and a career-year in 2020, Woodruff seems to be providing plenty of value potential at this price.
Marcus Stroman, Mets (+5000)
I can complete understand if you’re against this pick given the inter-rotation competition he faces. In fact, Stroman is one of four Mets starters with odds at BetOnline alongside the aforementioned deGrom, but also Carlos Carrasco (+4000) and Noah Syndergaard (+5000). With Syndergaard set to likely miss at least the first half of the season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, we can safely write him off.
The first point I’ll make is that a Mets offense that ranked third with a .347 wOBA last season should be able to provide plenty of run support for their rotation this season, especially with the Lindor upgrade at short. We’ve seen deGrom have run-support issues in the past, but this is undeniably one of the best offenses in the league. Wins matter for voters in 2021.
While deGrom is going to strikeout far more batters than Stroman, it’s no lock that he wins the ERA battle. The 29-year-old Stroman has pitched to a 3.22 ERA or better in two of the last three seasons and he actually posted that 3.22 mark last season despite his ground-ball rate plummeting from 62.1% in each of the previous two seasons to 53.7% last season.
One issue could be workload here as well. Stroman actually didn’t pitch at all in 2020 after opting out of the season, but has twice his 200 innings in his career and pitched 184.1 in 2019. There’s little doubt the hard-working right-hander has built up enough stamina to compete here during his time off.
It’s a long shot to be sure and I’m not arguing Stroman is a superior pitcher to deGrom, but what if Stroman posts more wins and a superior ERA? That might be all it takes to best his teammate, but if his ERA is low enough, he could win the whole thing.
Home Run Leader
Before we get started, I’ll note that I am going for pure long-shot value here. There are so many quality candidates that it makes sense to expand our horizons and see if we can hit some monster power bats at big-time odds.
Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (+2200)
Yes, I realize injuries will play a factor in this prop. Stanton has played 41 of a possible 222 regular-season games over the last two seasons, hitting seven homers in that time. However, he reminded us in the postseason what peak Stanton looks like.
Stanton clobbered a home run in each of the first five games of the Yankees’ 2020 postseason, hitting six total in that time. He also posted a monstrous 51% hard-hit rate, according to Statcast while we know he’s been a Statcast machine since they began to track data.
Stanton's home run (the first of 2020) went 459 feet according to MLB Statcast 😮😮
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 23, 2020
At the end of the day, here’s a guy that hit 97 home runs across his last two healthy seasons (2017-2018) while it’s difficult to argue that he doesn’t sport the most raw power in the game.
I’m pretty pumped about getting his light-tower power at these odds despite the injury concerns.
J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (+3300)
Martinez struggled so bad in 2020 that he goes from being one of the favorites to one of the longer-odds players on this list.
After averaging 41 home runs over his previous three seasons, Martinez hit just seven in 54 games last season, but also hit just .213 with a .290 wOBA and 77 wRC+. Add in the complete lack of speed and defense and Martinez was worth -1.0 fWAR in 2020.
Prior to 2020, few players in the league hit the ball harder than Martinez, consistently ranking in the top 2% or better in the league in both barrel rate and hard hit rate. His numbers dipped slightly in 2019 before falling off a cliff in 2020, so perhaps some regression has kicked in.
That said, Martinez is just just 33 years old. He’s no spring chicken in the baseball world, but he’s also not ancient and appears to have a chip on his shoulder heading into 2021.
“I think I’ve got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder,” Martinez told the media this week. “I’ve always played with that, I’ve always played with that chip, having to prove people wrong my whole career. It kind of might have went away a little bit, but I think I’ve got it back a little bit now.”
Of course, there’s plenty of bounce back required here, but for a player that still ranks fifth with 191 home runs since the start of 2015, I’m willing to back him at this price to be sure.
Rhys Hoskins, Phillies (+5000)
The last name on the board, let’s reach out and nab some value here with the Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
Now, it is worth nothing that he underwent a procedure on his non-throwing elbow to repair a UCL injury, but it wasn’t as extensive as Tommy John surgery and he’s said to be ready for Opening Day.
Given his work last season, I like his chances to get into the mix if he is indeed healthy enough to play nearly everyday in 2021.
After clubbing 63 homers across his first two full MLB seasons, Hoskins hit 10 in 41 games last season, good for a 40-homer pace in a full 162-game season. His .258 ISO and 140 wRC+ were the best numbers of his career outside of the 50-game debut in 2017 when he went bonkers with 18 homers in just 50 games.
However, let’s check out the Statcast percentile rankings on Hoskins before the elbow injury cut his season short.
- xwOBA: 89th
- xSLG: 86th
- Barrel rate: 93rd
Interestingly, he slid to 66th in exit velocity and 68th in hard-hit rate, and while those aren’t terrible, it’s surprising to see is barrel rate so far above those figures.
Obviously, this guy can play long ball. He’s likely to be protected in the Phillies’ lineup by Realmuto while hitting behind Harper. If Harper indeed has an MVP-caliber season, Hoskins could benefit by seeing more pitches hitting behind the outfielder.
Clearly, this guy can play long ball. His 73 home runs since debuting on August 10, 2017 ties him for 23rd in the league, but he also sits around names such as Freddie Freeman, Jose Abreu, Javier Baez and George Springer in that time. All of those names sport far shorter odds to win the 2021 home run crown, so let’s give Hoskins a shot and look for a healthy and productive season for the 27-year-old.