It’s always nice to get another shot at some MLB futures during the season as some of our pre-season value picks can always go sideways due to injury or underperformance.
Thanks to MLB betting sites, we get a chance to take another glance as some MVP futures after two months and change of the MLB regular season. A lot can change in that time in this sport and it never hurts to re-examine some value options given the current landscape of the MLB season.
Let’s take a look at both leagues and see if we can identify some value to the Most Valuable Player.
*Odds courtesy of BetOnline
**Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and as of 6/5/2019
George Springer (+1000)
Boy, it’s going to be hard to knock Mike Trout (+125) off the stoop as the best player in baseball, but if for some reason Trout underperforms (good luck) or gets injured (more realistic) a nice plan B is Springer who has elevated his game to a new level in 2019.
As the Astros’ leadoff man, Springer has been the keyest of cogs in the Astros’ lineup despite Alex Bregman having a nice season behind him out of the two-hole. Springer’s .389 on-base percentage is contributing to the Astros second-ranked offense this season.
To prove just how productive the bat of Springer has been this season, I’ll briefly point to a counting stat I rarely use in my research: RBIs.
Springer sits in a third-place tie in the AL with 43 RBI on the season along teammate Bregman. However, as I mentioned before Springer has hit in the leadoff spot all season for the Astros, meaning he’s hitting behind the likes of Robinson Chirinos, Tony Kemp, and Jake Marisnick. While those players are having fine seasons, they aren’t Springer and they aren’t sporting OBPs pushing .400.
In other words, it’s been much easier for Bregman to achieve his 43 RBIs hitting behind Springer than Springer hitting behind Marisnick.
Of course, he’s not going to win the MVP on RBIs, so let’s check out Springer’s ranks across the AL so far this season.
|George Springer vs. the AL|
No he’s not leading any specific category, but yes he’s close.
Now, he’s currently on the IL with an IL, but he is apparently really close to returning. Fellow contender Austin Meadows also spent time on the IL this season.
Speaking of Meadows, if it comes down to him or Springer, I have a hard time seeing the voters giving the nod to Meadows with all else being equal. Springer’s been a steadily improving superstar for years now, and while you have to tip your cap to the wonderful season Meadows is having after spending time in the minors last season, the seniority factor is working in Springer’s case in that race.
Springer is one of two value picks I like given the current state of the odds.
Matt Chapman (+1600)
Whether or not it’s the west coast factor, Chapman seems to be the quietest superstar in the game.
Perhaps Nolan Arenado would have something to say about it, but Chapman, in my opinion, is the best defensive third baseman in the game today.
According to FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved metric, that is indeed the case as Chapman’s seven runs saved to this point ranks first among third baseman, 12th in the big leagues and fourth in the American League.
His bat is also MVP-caliber.
Chapman has hit 16 home runs to rank third in the AL and only two behind leader Eddie Rosario. That’s about as high as he’s going to rank in any one category until you slide over to the WAR category that combined the bat, glove, and baserunning to give us a bigger picture idea of how good a player is.
The games played matter as the season is not even close to half over at this point. Chapman wasn’t exactly thought of as an MVP candidate by both the media and fans alike last season, but there he was at sixth in the AL in WAR, ahead of J.D. Martinez and his highly-publicized 43 home runs.
It’s going to be a long shot to be sure, as per the odds. Chapman might need to go on a second-half binge to get it done and his lack of base-running impact might ultimately keep that WAR number well below the likes of Trout, Bregman, and Springer, among others.
However, when you combine bat and glove there are few players in this game that are superior to Matt Chapman and he could be worth a sprinkle in case he cranks the bat up a notch or two above the next 100 games.
Christian Yelich (+500)
Right now, the NL MVP race is a two-man race and likely even a one-man show as Cody Bellinger seems to be running away with the award and somehow is making Yelich’s numbers look ordinary.
Still, given the fact that a drop off from Bellinger and steady-as-she-goes from Yelich would once again make this a 50/50 shot, I like Yelich’s odds at +500.
I have to admit that I didn’t believe Yelich had it in him to repeat his 2018 season here in 2019 as he was a very good, but not elite player in his Miami Marlins tenure prior to his MVP 2018 campaign.
Well, I was right. He hasn’t repeated his 2018 production. He’s increased it.
Sure, we are just entering the month of June, but the advanced numbers on this guy are just ridiculous to this point.
|Christian Yelich 2018 vs. 2019|
Yelich has improved in essentially every single statistic possible and his 12 steals through 236 plate appearances easily puts him on pace to beat last season’s mark of 22, which was a previous career high. Get ready for a new one this season.
Yelich missed some time with a back issue that will cost him some counting numbers while Bellinger never missed a beat, but he does nonetheless have the edge in home runs by a 22 to 20 count as speak, but as you see, Bellinger does have the edge in most other departments.
|Yelich vs. Bellinger MVP Race|
Not helping Yelich is the fact that Bellinger has been the best defensive player in baseball with 16 defensive runs saves. As a result, the WAR trends higher on top of his edge at the plate.
Still, if this is going to boil down to a two-man race, and we’ll need some regression from Bellinger for that to happen, I’ll take the guy at +500 odds every time.
Anthony Rizzo (+1600)
It’s going to be a wildly tall task to upset the likes of Bellinger, Yelich, Nolan Arenado, Josh Bell, Javier Baez, Bryce Harper, and Trevor Story before him, but I love the season Anthony Rizzo is putting together here in 2019.
The guy is a quality hitter and one of the toughest outs in baseball. He has a walk rate of 11.3% that is approaching his strikeout rate of 13.7%. His 16 home runs are actually as many as Arenado has slugged despite the latter playing his home games at the league’s most hitter-friendly venue at Coors Field in Colorado. As a result, Rizzo’s 152 wRC+ actually tops the 145 mark Arenado has as that stat takes park factors into consideration.
In terms of power/speed, Rizzo actually has been better than Baez as both players have two steals and Rizzo is has hit for more power in the form of a .288 ISO to Baez’s .279 mark. Defense has Baez sporting a notably higher WAR at 2.8 versus the 2.0 mark Rizzo has to this point.
Rizzo is going to need to put this team on his back and into the playoffs as the NL Central champions to be considered for this award.
The award isn’t supposed to go to the player with the best stats, but the player most valuable to his team. It may not work out that way, and even if it does you have to argue that Bellinger, Yelich, and Arenado are more valuable to their teams than Rizzo as the Cubs also offer Baez and Kris Bryant as superstar talents.
Rizzo indeed hangs around as a top-10 player in most NL offensive categories, but his lack of basepath contributions and his first base position are likely to hold him back.
Still, we’ve seen crazier things happen. If he puts together the best offensive performance in the second half of the season and the Cubs win the division, he would have a real shot at this award as he is truly one of the most talented hitters in the senior circuit today.