The Cy Young Award is pitching’s highest honor, and in this article, we are going to break down the current betting odds to win the American League Cy Young Award in 2020. First, we will start with the favorites, then we will look at some of the best value bets, and finally, we will give you a couple of guys that you are going to want to stay away from. Let’s get started!
Gerrit Cole +150
Justin Verlander +600
It isn’t shocking that the two best pitchers in the American League last year, are the favorites to win the award in 2020. Verlander edged out his then teammate, Gerrit Cole, to win last year’s award, splitting all of the first-place votes between the two Astros pitchers. It was his second time winning the award, winning it for the first time in 2011 when he was with the Detroit Tigers. Cole has now moved on to New York, and despite a runner up finish last year, is the prohibitive favorite to win the award this season.
Justin Verlander – Houston Astros
Justin Verlander has received Cy Young Award votes ten times in his seventeen-year career and shows no signs of slowing down at age thirty-seven. The Astros ace won a league-high twenty-one games last year and struck out three hundred batters for the first time in his storied career. Coming into this season, he is again expected to lead the way for a Houston rotation that is trying to find a way of life after losing Gerrit Cole in the offseason.
In Verlander’s two full seasons in Houston, the ace has made two All-Star teams and finished in the top-two of the Cy Young Award voting in each season. But at thirty-seven years old, eventually, father time is going to catch up with him, and it is a bit surprising to see him valued so highly right now at +600. He is deservedly one of the favorites, but I’m not sure he is worth a play at this price. I think we can find better value further down the board.
Gerrit Cole – New York Yankees
Gerrit Cole went from a solid pitcher in Pittsburgh to an absolute monster in Houston. He now takes his talents to the Bronx to lead a Yankees team that most see as the favorites to win the AL in 2020. Many people, myself included, thought that Cole should have won the award last year, and I can see why people think he is a shoo-in for it this year.
Cole’s stuff is elite, and his strikeout numbers are prolific. His 326 punchouts last year were the most in the majors since 2002, and only Randy Johnson has had more strikeouts in a season this century than Cole had last year. In his last two seasons, he ran up a 35-10 record with a sub-three run ERA. Last year in the playoffs, he was nearly unhittable as he went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts, pitching at least seven innings in all five games.
Gerrit Cole's contract is the 5th $300M deal ever handed out in MLB history.
It’s also the 2nd largest free agency deal in MLB history. pic.twitter.com/AF231uBjK4
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 11, 2019
But two things are going to scare me away from backing Cole right now. First, the price is awful. At just +150, he is a full one hundred points lower than Jacob deGrom is in the National League, and deGrom has won back to back Cy Young awards, and Cole is still looking for his first win. I don’t blame people for making Cole the favorite, but +150 shows almost no value this early in the year.
And second, New York has a way of causing elite pitchers to falter, particularly in their first season in the Bronx. Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright, Kevin Brown, AJ Burnett, and Kenny Rogers are all examples of free-agent pitchers that went into New York looking like stars and left looking like losers. Now, I’m not saying that Gerrit Cole is Kenny Rogers, but some guys can hack it in New York, and some guys can’t. That alone is enough doubt to make me pass on Cole as the prohibitive favorite.
The Value Bets
Corey Kluber +1,000
Blake Snell +1,000
Lucas Giolito +1,200
In this second section, we are going to look a little further down the board and identify a few guys that could very easily win the award and are offering more attractive odds than the favorites. These are the guys that you are going to want to back to show a long-term profit at the end of the year.
Corey Kluber – Texas Rangers
Corey Kluber has been the most reliable arm in the AL for most of the last decade. Last year, he was hit with a line drive on May 1st that broke his right arm, and he missed the rest of the year rehabbing the injury. The Indians decided they wanted to start a rebuild in the offseason and sent Kluber to the Texas Rangers in a trade headlined by Delino DeShields Jr. Kluber will now lead a Texas team that should compete with Houston and Los Angeles for the American League West Division title.
Kluber was a bit shaky last year in limited action, but he barely made it out of April, so I am not going to overreact to those struggles in a small sample size. When you look at his career, he is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and finished in the top-ten of the voting for five consecutive years before last year’s injury-shortened campaign.
In his last two full seasons, he was a combined 38-11 with an ERA of under two and a half runs. He has stuck out more than 200 batters in his last five full seasons played and hasn’t had an ERA above four runs in a full season since 2012.
Corey Kluber is headed back home after being traded to the @Rangers.
Kluber is one of just five pitchers to win multiple Cy Young awards this decade. pic.twitter.com/rAxif8oXVn
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 15, 2019
I like Kluber to have a bounce-back season this year. Kluber will turn thirty-four during this season, and age is going to be a factor soon, but I think he still has a lot of gas left in the tank, especially considering he threw just thirty-five innings last season. It wasn’t like his arm got worn out, and he had to have Tommy John surgery, he had a fluky injury from a batted ball and should be able to recover 100%.
And Texas has become a place where pitchers have had a lot of success lately. Both Mike Minor and Lance Lynn were excellent last year for Texas with double-digit wins and ERA’s under four runs. Throw in fellow newcomers Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, and the Rangers just might have the best top to bottom rotation in the American League. This should allow Kluber to have a lot of the pressure taken off in what should be a very successful season for Texas.
Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays
Similar to Corey Kluber, Blake Snell had an injury-plagued season last year, and produced results that weren’t expected from him. But unlike Kluber, who was shut down and missed most of the year, Snell tried to pitch through the pain, with limited success. But we saw just how good Snell can be when he is healthy, last year in the playoffs, where he made three appearances out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay and had an ERA of just 1.69 against the hard hitting Houston Astros.
Snell is just one year removed from a truly historic season in 2018. Snell exploded onto the scene in 2018, with a 21-5 record and a 1.89 ERA. The only other guy this century with a sub-two run ERA in the American League was Pedro Martinez in 2000 with the Boston Red Sox. Since 1980, the only guys that have had a sub-two run ERA are Snell, Pedro, and Roger Clemens. That is some pretty elite company for a kid that is still just twenty-seven years old.
Your 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner: Blake Snell. pic.twitter.com/iNlApwxdKe
— MLB (@MLB) November 14, 2018
After using a bullpen by committee approach to start games a lot in the last two years, Tampa Bay has a very good rotation going into 2020. Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow are both Cy Young Award candidates along with Snell, and Brendan McKay is a blue-chip prospect with nasty stuff. It is just easier to dominate on the mound when you have other elite starters around you and a strong bullpen to support you, and Snell has all of that. Expect big things out of this kid in 2020.
Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox
Baseball fans rarely have a near-unanimous opinion on anything. But just about everyone you will ask will tell you that Lucas Giolito was by far the most improved pitcher in the American League last year. Giolito was a former first-round pick and was probably the worst starting pitcher in the majors in 2018. But the White Sox were rebuilding and allowed the youngster to figure things out on the Major League level and earn his lumps in the bigs.
Lucas Giolito overcame some jitters to show "this is where I belong" in the All-Star Game pic.twitter.com/3GPb7mHCLS
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) July 10, 2019
We saw the fruits of that labor in 2019, as Giolito was named to his first-ever All-Star team and was the AL pitcher of the month in May. At one point, this kid was 11-2 with a 2.75 ERA. He did hist a wall a little bit in the second half of the year, but he now has two full seasons of work under his belt, and at just twenty-five years old, should be coming into his prime this year.
The big question mark for Giolito is, will he take another step up this year, like he did last year? If we see another step function improvement, he could be the best pitcher in the game, his stuff is that good. When he wants to, Giolito can hit triple-digits with his fastball, and his 226 strikeouts last year were more than Madison Bumgarner, Walker Buehler, Chris Sale, and Noah Syndergaard. I expect big things out of both Giolito and his White Sox, and I love the value he shows here at +1200.
The Guys To Stay Away From
Chris Sale +1,400
Zach Greinke +2,000
This last section highlights a couple of guys that I wouldn’t bet on with your money! These are guys that are trading on their names right now, and even though they are priced as betting favorites, I think they are long shots. Stay away from these two guys!
Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale had a seven-year stretch where he was one of the most consistent strikeout pitchers in the game. He made seven straight All-Star games and finished in the top-six of the Cy Young Award voting all seven years, finishing runner up for the award in 2018. But last year, he just wasn’t the same.
In 2019, Sale finished with a 4.40 ERA, the highest of his career, a full run higher than any other season. While the strikeout numbers were still there, he had a K/9 ratio of 13.3, one of the highest of his career, he just couldn’t get guys out that actually made contact. Coming into 2020, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Sale, as he had to get a third opinion on his sore elbow, before deciding to pass on Tommy John surgery.
— NESN (@NESN) February 27, 2020
Sale was shut down early in spring training and is now on a throwing program, and if he has any discomfort, he will be forced to have surgery. The Red Sox already seem to be rebuilding as they saw Mookie Betts leave in the offseason, so this might be a year where they decide to shutdown Sale early-on, at the first sight of trouble, as they aren’t winning the division this year anyway with Tampa Bay and New York both looking really good. You hate to see your futures bet candidate get shut down before the All-Star break, but that looks like it just might happen to Sale this year, so stay away!
Zack Greinke – Houston Astros
The Houston Astros brought in Zack Greinke last year at the trade deadline to help them win a World Series. And in the regular season, he was mostly decent, but he really struggled with his consistency, as he was very hot and cold. While his record with Houston was stellar at 8-1, he allowed four runs or more in four out of his ten starts, relying on the Astros elite sign-stealing offense to keep him out of the losing column.
And in the playoffs, Greinke was a disaster when the Astros needed him the most, going 0-2 with an ERA of nearly five runs. Greinke was a solid pitcher in his years in the American League, mostly with the Kansas City Royals, but he was much better in the NL, splitting time with the Dodgers and the DBacks. All told, his ERA was nearly a full run lower in the NL than it was in the AL, and despite spending nine years in both leagues, Greinke had five hundred more strikeouts in the NL as he did in the AL.
Zack Greinke gets a lot of criticism for not having a sense of humor but his impersonation of postseason Clayton Kershaw is spot-on.
— Tuve’s Tongue (@TuvesTongue) October 7, 2019
As a general rule, pitchers aren’t as good when they go from the NL to the AL, and I worry that the struggles we saw in the postseason for Houston are going to carry over into this year. While Greinke has a long track record of solid performance, he is now thirty-six years old and has almost three thousand innings pitched in his career.
You have to wonder how much tread is left on the tires for the guy at this point. Houston is going to get every team’s best shot this year after their cheating scandal, and after seeing Gerrit Cole leave, and hearing lots of speculation about Carlos Correa getting traded, they just might start a rebuild in H-Town. The last thing you want at age thirty-six is to pitch in year one of a multi-year rebuild. Don’t be shocked if Greinke ends up getting moved at some point this year and has his fair share of struggles.
With the start of the baseball season on hold, there is no better time than now to do your homework and make some futures bets for Major League Baseball. With nearly every North American sport canceled or postponed, baseball futures are one of the few places left that you can still bet and find value. Stay tuned to the Sports Geek as we breakdown all the MLB futures action and give you plenty of value to bet on!