We are almost one-third of the way through the regular season, and while chaos has reigned supreme, we are starting to get a clearer picture of who’s a contender and who’s not when it comes to MLB awards. All bets are risking one unit unless specified. For the purpose of this column, one unit is equal to $500.
I think this is the easiest market to handicap right now: It’s Mike Trout vs. Aaron Judge. Nelson Cruz and Matt Chapman certainly could make cases, but I just don’t think either will jump Trout or Judge. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor also have good cases, but playing on the same team will likely cancel each other out.
The current market prices for Trout and Judge are Trout + 250 and Judge + 300 at BetMGM and Trout + 200 and Judge + 235 at DraftKings. Before Trout’s two-homer night against the A’s, Judge briefly flipped to the favorite. But the Angels were a very unimpressive 6-11, and I’m not sure the MVP will go to a player on a losing team, nor should it. Trout is the best player in baseball, and his career is being wasted with the Angels, who lose when he’s in the lineup and when he’s out of the lineup. I think this is where the market should be, and the AL MVP might come down to how many games the Angels win or whether they make the playoffs. I don’t think Trout should win the award on a non-playoff team while guys like Judge, Chapman and Cruz are carrying their teams to the playoffs.
This is a much more exciting market. Here are the current odds at DraftKings and BetMGM:
DraftKings BetMGM (Nevada)
Betts + 650 Tatis Jr. + 600
Tatis Jr. + 700 Betts + 700
Acuna + 800 Blackmon + 800
Castellanos + 1000 Acuna + 800
Blackmon + 1400 Castellanos + 1000
Seager + 1600 Seager + 1200
Bellinger + 1800 Bellinger + 1400
Baez + 2000 Baez + 1600
Story + 2000 Arenado + 1800
Yelich + 2000 Yelich + 2000
Arenado + 2200 Harper + 2000
Harper + 2200 Story + 2000
First I would like to recap my experience trying to bet more money on Nick Castellanos at BetMGM last week in New Jersey. I tried to bet $500 on Castellanos there. The maximum bet was $95.68 at 30/1. BetMGM let me bet the maximum twice and then pulled the entire NL MVP market for the rest of the day. I am disappointed that the maximum bet was so low. I am more disappointed that at BetMGM in New Jersey, Charlie Blackmon’s odds have been off the board since last week, and he has a locked sign next to his name. I bet $191.36 more on Castellanos to win the NL MVP at 30/1. He’s now 10/1 everywhere, and I wouldn’t buy him at that price. The Reds are going to need to win the NL Central for Castellanos to have a real chance.
I also added a full 1x unit on Fernando Tatis Jr. to win the NL MVP at 8/1. He was 20/1 and then 16/1 last week, and I paid the price for hesitating. Tatis is the real deal. He’s a young A-Rod without the drugs, he was tied with Judge for most home runs and he was leading MLB in hard-hit balls with 29. I think barring injury we can pencil him in for a top-3 finish in the voting, but what would really put him over the top would be the Padres winning the NL West.
Which leads us to the Colorado Rockies and Blackmon. I didn’t give much thought to the Rockies as a team or any of their players for individual awards, but going into Tuesday they were 11-5 and leading the NL West. The Rockies are off to an excellent start led by Blackmon, who was hitting .484 while leading the majors in average, OBP, OPS, hits and RBIs. If Blackmon hits .400, he will have a very good shot at winning MVP. Blackmon was 100/1 last week and currently 14/1 at DraftKings and 8/1 at MGM in Nevada. At MGM in New Jersey, he’s locked and has been since last week. I was able to get $200 on Blackmon at 100/1 and another $1,000 at 18/1. I would still bet him at 14/1 if you have DraftKings available.
The contenders standing in the way of Tatis and Blackmon are in their division — Dodgers Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. Betts is playing as well as expected after missing a few games with a hand injury, and Seager was second in MLB with 28 hard-hit balls. Seager, whom I grabbed at 30/1 and 40/1 odds last week, hurt his back a few games later and had sat out three games in a row. Seager can win MVP, but he’ll need to be back in the lineup ASAP. I’m not sure anyone is going to win an MVP playing fewer than 54 or 55 games. I am still excited to hold a large ticket on Seager, but his window is closing fast. The third contender on the Dodgers is last year’s MVP, Cody Bellinger. The next time he has a big hit in an important game will be the first time. Bellinger had a very disappointing second half of last season, and his power was nonexistent in August, September and the playoffs. He has carried that over this season with a pedestrian .176/.233/.512 line. He had three extra-base hits in 68 at-bats and had dropped to 18/1 at DraftKings and 14/1 at BetMGM, reflecting his poor play. I don’t expect him to hit this poorly all season, but time is running out to make a case for MVP inclusion.
If I had a vote for NL MVP right now, it would be:
AL Cy Young
Shane Bieber has overtaken Gerrit Cole as the favorite. Lance Lynn deserves some recognition as well.
Bieber: 1.63 ERA, 27.3 innings, 43 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2.45 FIP and a 14.0 K/9.
Cole: 3.22 ERA, 22.1 innings, 26 strikeouts, 5 walks, 3.83 FIP, 10.5 K/9.
Lynn: 1.16 ERA, 23.1 innings, 30 strikeouts, 12 walks, 3.11 FIP, 11.6 K/9.
Now let’s look at two other guys currently listed at 40/1:
Dylan Bundy: 2.08 ERA, 21.2 innings, 25 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2.47 FIP, 10.4 K/9.
Frankie Montas: 1.57 ERA, 23 innings, 22 strikeouts, 9 walks, 2.42 FIP, 8.6 K/9.
What most stands out to me about Montas is that he’s the only one of the five guys listed who has yet to surrender a home run. Montas is the best pitcher on the dominant Oakland A’s. This week I made a 1x unit bet on Montas at 40/1 at DraftKings.
I bet Bundy at 80/1 last week for $300, but I don't think he has a serious shot at contending unless the Angels get well above .500. It’s hard enough for Trout to contend for MVP on a losing team, so I doubt voters will seriously consider a Cy Young winner from a loser. I think Montas is a much better bet, with both priced at 40/1.
NL Cy Young
Max Scherzer came out of his last start with a hamstring injury, which might be enough to drop him from serious consideration. He’s currently 12/1, but I’m not sure he’ll have enough innings at the end of the season to contend. Same goes for Stephen Strasburg, who has been dropped to 30/1, and Clayton Kershaw, who is hovering near his preseason odds of 25/1. Kershaw was scratched from his opening-day start and got rocked by the Giants last time out. Jack Flaherty is another guy who, while having great potential, has seen 25% of his team’s season postponed. I doubt Flaherty will get enough innings to seriously contend.
Which means we have three guys with serious cases for NL Cy Young as well as a fourth who’s quietly making a case for consideration:
Jacob deGrom: 2.45 ERA, 22 innings, 28 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2.35 FIP, 11.5 K/9.
Trevor Bauer: 0.93 ERA, 19.1 innings, 32 strikeouts, 4 walks, 1.84 FIP, 14.9 K/9
Sonny Gray: 2.25 ERA, 24 innings, 35 strikeouts, 8 walks, 2.44 FIP, 13.1 K/9
Dinelson Lamet: 1.61 ERA, 22.1 innings, 28 strikeouts, 7 walks, 2.58 FIP, 11.3 K/9.
If I had a vote right now, I’d pick Bauer over deGrom. But it’s very close. Gray also makes a compelling case and could split votes with Bauer, his teammate, but I don’t see how you can not vote for Bauer right now.
Lamet is flying under the radar and has a shot at winning if he keeps up the way he’s pitching and the Padres win the NL West. He’s currently 22/1 at DraftKings and 20/1 at BetMGM. I bet a full 1x unit on Dinelson Lamet to win the NL Cy Young at 22/1 at DraftKings. Like the AL MVP between Judge and Trout, I see the NL Cy Young as a two-horse race between deGrom and Bauer right now.
BetMGM is the only book currently up with ROY numbers. Kyle Lewis is the favorite at + 250. The odds look like:
Kyle Lewis + 250
Luis Robert + 400
Jesus Luzardo + 400
Nate Pearson + 750
Brendan McKay + 800
Casey Mize + 1000
I’d probably have McKay at 80/1, not 8/1. McKay hasn’t played yet and his timeline is a question mark, so there’s no reason for him to be under 10/1. Mize hasn’t started yet but could be the best pitcher to debut in the majors this year. I don’t think that’s enough for him to jump Pearson or Luzardo.
Luzardo: 2.60 ERA, 17.1 innings, 17 strikeouts, 7 walks, 3.03 FIP, 8.8 K/9.
Pearson: 2.70 ERA, 10 innings, 10 strikeouts, 5 walks, 3.83 FIP, 9.0 K/9.
Pearson and Luzardo have put up good numbers for rookie pitchers, but I don’t think either has really taken front-runner position and certainly not enough to jump ahead of Robert or Lewis. Lewis was third in MLB with 25 hits. He was also in the top 10 for most strikeouts with 22. Fortunately for Lewis, Robert had 23 strikeouts and was ahead of him on that list.
Lewis had more runs, more hits, a higher average, more home runs, more RBIs, more walks and more total bases than Robert. The only thing Robert was winning was having a 1.7 WAR, which put him fifth in baseball behind Carlos Correa, Mookie Betts, Mike Yastrzemski and Aaron Judge. Lewis’ war was at 0.0.
Lewis is clearly playing great, but I don’t think he should be a + 250 favorite vs. Robert. The strikeouts for both guys are alarmingly high. It’s possible neither guy wins in the end, but I’m going to take the opportunity this week to add a 1x unit bet on Luis Robert at + 400 at BetMGM.
This market has a clear favorite in Dodgers pitcher Dustin May, who is currently + 350 at BetMGM and was + 400 early Tuesday before I bet him. May is almost the favorite by default, with contenders Mitch Keller at 7/1 and Carter Kieboom 8/1 yet to do anything really compelling. Gavin Lux and Dylan Carlson are 10/1 and could be contenders, but the Dodgers are keeping Lux off the major-league roster and Carlson’s Cardinals have already lost 25% of their season. Beyond them are like Nico Hoerner, who hasn’t done much for the Cubs to warrant serious consideration, and Spencer Howard, whom I already bet and currently has a 7.71 ERA after his first career start for the Phillies. That’s not terrible, considering it was his first MLB start and he was facing a powerful Braves lineup, but definitely not good enough to vault in any rankings.
I added a 1x unit bet on Dustin May at + 400, and MGM moved it to + 350. A 2.75 ERA over his first 19.2 innings with 17 strikeouts, five walks and a 3.54 FIP hasn’t hurt May, nor does his 99-mph two-seam fastball. One more stat: May has thrown 55 pitches with a velocity of 97+ mph and a 19-inch-plus horizontal break. The rest of MLB has 50.
This week’s recap
$191.36 to win $5,740.80 on Nick Castellanos NL MVP (BetMGM)
$500 to win $4,000 on Fernando Tatis NL MVP
$200 to win $20,000 on Charlie Blackmon NL MVP
$1,000 to win $18,000 on Charlie Blackmon NL MVP
$500 to win $20,000 on Frankie Montas AL Cy Young
$300 to win $24,000 on Dylan Bundy AL Cy Young
$500 to win $11,000 on Dinelson Lamet NL Cy Young
$500 to win $2,000 on Luis Robert AL ROY
$500 to win $2,000 on Dustin May NL ROY
This week I bet a total of $4,191.36. Combined with the $17,650 I’ve already bet, I now have $21,841.36 worth of MLB futures.