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Predicting the Major MLB Award Winners

MLB Major Award Winners Picks - James Paxton and Patrick Corbin

Ah yes, baseball season is steadily approaching, and we need to get our ducks in order when it comes to our futures bets for the upcoming campaign.

I’ve broken down several types of bets including finding value in winning each division, finding value from each division in terms of their World Series odds, finding value to win each pennant while including both an American League and the National League team that I didn’t believe held enough value to win their respective pennant given the odds we have been given.

Now, it’s time to dish out some hardware.

These bets can be both straightforward and flat-out difficult. I mean, Mookie Betts to win last year’s AL MVP wasn’t an outrageous bet. However, not many saw Rays’ southpaw Blake Snell taking down AL Cy Young honors, either.

As always, I’m looking for value. Sure, Mike Trout to win AL MVP is a logical bet, but the reality is he hasn’t won it much more often than he’s earned it, so we also need to consider alternative options that pay us more in the end.

Also, I’m not going to list the odds for every single player for every single award, so head over to MyBookie for the full odds breakdown for each award.

With that in mind, let’s find some value picks to win baseball’s most prestigious awards in 2019.

*Odds courtesy of MyBookie

American League Cy Young Award

James Paxton – New York Yankees
+2200

2019 will be Paxton’s first year in pinstripes after coming over in an early-offseason deal with the Mariners.

In the Bronx, he should get every opportunity to rack up plenty of wins with an elite offense and bullpen on his side, which could help appease some of the old-school voters who still value wins in casting their vote.

Already 30, Paxton is a late-bloomer who has yet to make more than 28 starts or exceed 160.1 innings in his big league career. Both of those career-highs were set just last season when he pitched to a 3.76 ERA, but his ERA indicators were much more fond of his work in the form of a 3.24 FIP and 3.02 xFIP.

Paxton also hurled a no-hitter in Toronto and his home country of Canada last May.

He’s had a hard time staying healthy in his pro career, and the innings reflect that, but over the last two seasons, he has been one of the better pitchers in the American League.

James Paxton 2017-2018 AL Ranks (Min. 200 IP)
Stat Number AL Rank
ERA 3.40 12th
FIP 2.95 4th
xFIP 3.13 6th
K/9 11.06 3rd
WAR 8.4 7th

Paxton has acquitted himself quite well against the league’s best in recent seasons, and if his career trajectory is any indication, the best is yet to come.

He didn’t even hit 100 big league innings pitched in a single season until 2016, and he’s incrementally seen his innings pitched rise from there.

He had some issues with the home run ball last year, but as the xFIP tells you, once that number comes back to the mean, he is going to sport a much prettier ERA.

If he can eclipse 180 innings and 30 starts this season, his high strikeout numbers and the expected increase in win total with the Yankees could very well put the hulking left-hander into the Cy Young conversation with plenty of value to boot.

The Bet
James Paxton

National League Cy Young Award

Patrick Corbin – Washington Nationals
+1800

Another pitcher that switched teams in the offseason, Corbin looks like an excellent value candidate to take a run at the National League Cy Young Award.

Unlike Paxton, Corbin has been virtually injury-free in each of the last three years, taking the ball for a minimum of 32 starts in each of the previous two seasons. He’s actually cracked the 200-inning barrier twice, once last season with the other time coming way back in his sophomore season when he pitched a career-high 208.1.

He came extremely close to a no-hitter himself in 2018 but fell short with a one-hitter in April against the Giants.

After spending some seasons going back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen all the way until the 2016 season, Corbin turned himself into one of the NL’s very best in 2018.

His ranks can’t be denied.

Patrick Corbin NL Ranks – 2018 (Qualified)
Stat Number NL Rank
Innings Pitched 200.0 7th
ERA 3.15 8th
FIP 2.47 2nd
xFIP 2.61 2nd
K/9 11.07 3rd
BB/9 2.16 7th
HR/9 0.68 2nd

In other words, Corbin’s work deserved the NL’s second-best ERA behind the insane season that Jacob deGrom put together while taking home the 2018 NL Cy Young Award.

A move to a more pitcher-friendly park might help as Chase Field in Arizona can yield its fair share of home runs, although clearly, Corbin didn’t have much of an issue keeping the ball in the yard last season.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle(s) to his Cy Young candidy reside in the same clubhouse. New teammate Max Scherzer is favored to win the award at +225 while Stephen Strasburg boasts some elite stuff of his own and sits one spot behind Corbin at +2500 to win it. Overcoming Scherzer to win the award may prove difficult, but there’s no doubt that Corbin is set up to succeed in Washington.

He’ll get run support from his lineup to rack up the victories while he is projected to pitch more than 200 innings again this season. It would be pretty cool to see this come down to a race between the teammates, but at +1800 odds I will roll with the left-handed Corbin to pull off the upset and take home his first career NL Cy Young Award at quality odds.

Longshot Pick: Zack Wheeler – New York Mets (+3300)

Briefly, Wheeler produced the second-best NL ERA in the second half last season and even bested teammate deGrom in the process. He enjoyed a breakout 2018, to say the least, and is bound to have more success with a much-improved Mets offense and bullpen to work within 2019.

Like Corbin, Wheeler will be up against deGrom (+350) and Noah Syndergaard (+1400) to win this award within his clubhouse. Still, I think he is worth a sprinkle at +3300 considering the lights-out stuff he put on full display in the final two and a half months of 2018.

The Bets
Patrick Corbin – Nationals
+1800
Zack Wheeler – Mets
+3300

American League MVP Award

Jose Altuve – Houston Astros
+2000

I didn’t expect Altuve to fall so far down the list of AL MVP candidates, but nine players are listed with higher odds to win it, so I will snag the 2017 MVP and take my chances.

Altuve dealt with some injuries last season which hampered his overall production by season’s end but keep in mind this guy has some of the most cross-category upside in the big leagues.

Let’s check out his AL ranks over the last three years like we did with our Cy Young picks above.

Jose Altuve AL Ranks Last 3 Seasons
Stat Number AL Rank
WAR 26.3 3rd
Runs 304 5th
Stolen Bases 79 4th
K% 11.8% 8th
wOBA .387 5th
wRC+ 150 4th
OPS .910 6th

Altuve is right up there competing with the likes of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts in terms of being the very best player in the American League over the last three seasons.

Now, a familiar problem exists here with Altuve as he will have to compete against the rest of the league and his teammates for this award again. Both Alex Bregman (+900) and Carlos Correa (+1600) are listed ahead of Altuve on the list with George Springer (+4000) is a solid value play in his own right hitting at the top of that dangerous Astros’ offense.

However, the best player will win out, just like last year when Betts overcame a massive season from J.D. Martinez to edge out his first-year teammate.

After stepping to the plate at least 662 times in each of his previous five seasons, Altuve missed the 600-plate appearance mark with 599 of them in 2018 due to injury.

If he can get healthy, he’s likely to score more than 100 runs, steal 30+ bases, knock in 80 or more himself and hit 20+ home runs. Hitting in the two-hole of a potent lineup isn’t the worst place to be, and at +2000 odds I will look for Altuve to regain his MVP form in 2019.

The Bet
Jose Altuve

National League MVP Award

Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals
+2000

Rendon lived under the shadow of Bryce Harper for a couple of years now; however, with Harper taking his talents to the rival Philadelphia Phillies, this offense revolves around the Nationals’ third baseman.

If there is a notion out there that the Nationals offense is in for significant regression without the services of Harper, I’m not buying it. The Nats own a nice mix of youth and experience in the lineup as young impact names such as Trea Turner and Juan Soto will combine with the likes of Rendon, newcomer and former 40-home run man Brian Dozier, long-time Nat Ryan Zimmerman, outfielder Adam Eaton and newly acquired backstops Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki to form a sneaky-good offense in the nation’s capital.

It’s not the most star-studded group in the majors, but it’s a group that should score its fair share of runs, anchored by Rendon.

I’ll do a couple of things with Rendon. First, let’s take a look at his numbers over the last couple of seasons relative to the rest of the National League.

Anthony Rendon NL Ranks – Last 2 Seasons
Stat Number League Rank
Home Runs 49 19th
Runs 169 18th
RBI 192 5th
K% 13.6% T-10th
ISO .230 14th
OPS .923 9th
wOBA .389 9th
wRC+ 140 T-7th
WAR 13.0 1st

How about that bottom number? In other words, Rendon has been the all-round best player in the National League over the last two seasons despite falling short in every other statistical category.

Now, I want to compare Rendon to the last three NL MVPs not named Stanton given his move to the AL over the previous two seasons, including former teammate Harper. For this exercise, I’m going to use ratios and advanced stats

The winning number in each category is in bold.

Anthony Rendon NL Ranks – Last 2 Seasons
K% BB% OPS ISO wOBA wRC+ WAR
Harper 22.6% 16.7% .940 .260 .392 143 8.3
Bryant 20.9% 12.7% .900 .220 .383 138 9.0
Yelich 20.2% 11.0% .901 .213 .384 141 12.2
Rendon 13.6% 11.6% .923 .230 .389 140 13.0

Rendon has been better than 2018 MVP Christian Yelich in six of seven categories over the last two seasons and missed out by one tick in the wRC+ category. He’s been better than Bryant in six of the seven categories as well.

He’s been edged by Harper in five of the seven categories, but when it comes to all-round play, it hasn’t been close.

This gives us a real good grasp on where Rendon stands among the NL elite. Sure, the counting stats will matter. We will need Eaton and possibly Turner to get on base in front of him while we’ll need the bats of Zimmerman and Soto to get him around to home plate behind him.

He probably won’t lead the league in home runs and he certainly won’t in stolen bases. However, if the Nationals can find a way to overcome the favored Phillies, not to mention the Braves and Mets, to win the NL East, Rendon is going to get consideration. If he leads the league in WAR again, he will get strong consideration among those new-school voters who take a players’ all-round game into account rather than traditional countings stats only.

At the end of the day, I like Rendon’s odds at +2000 considering he’s been the best player in the National League over the last two seasons.

The Bet
Anthony Rendon