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Harper, Ohtani draw MVP betting interest

By Jason Weingarten  () 

It was a long and rocky road to get MLB up and running, but here we are. And with a 60-game mini-season, we might as well try to make the best of it. Stats can be all over the place with 60-game sample sizes. For this weekly column, I will be betting $500 to equal one unit, and each week I will be adding to and making new bets. This week’s and the season’s initial bets follow. All bets are risking one unit unless specified.

NL MVP: Bryce Harper 20/1 at BetMGM. Ronald Acuna is listed between 6/1 and 9/1, and Juan Soto is 9/1 to 11/1, depending on where you look. Bryce Harper is 13/1 to 20/1. Harper didn’t make the All-Star team last season, his first with the Phillies, but still put up very respectable numbers, including 35 home runs and 114 RBIs. He can carry a team for 60 games and already has one MVP, so I took a shot 20/1. 

AL MVP: Shohei Othani 35/1 at BetMGM. Wide range of lines available here. FanDuel has Shohei Ohtani 19/1, DraftKings offers 30/1 and BetMGM has the best number at 35/1. The reasoning behind this bet is fairly simple: Nobody is more valuable than a guy whose fastball sits at 97 mph with over a strikeout per inning, and when he’s not pitching once a week he’s starting at DH and hitting home runs. The downside is he has Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon as teammates, and it will be hard for Othani or anyone to leapfrog Trout in the MVP voting.

Home runs leader: Vlad Guerrero Jr. 50/1 at DraftKings. Last year I bet heavily against Guerrero as AL rookie of the year. I believed he was not worthy of starting the year a -200 or -300 favorite, with the early numbers getting as high as -500 when he finally got called up. Now with a year of experience and the outside possibility of the Blue Jays playing their home games in Florida, I’m going to start the year with Guerrero 50/1. He is batting cleanup and will have opportunities to pad his home run stats against the Orioles and Marlins and will visit home run-favorable ballparks in Atlanta and New York.

Hits leader: Ozzie Albies 22/1 at FanDuel and Fernando Tatis Jr. 33/1 at FanDuel (.5x units each). For hits leader I am looking for someone who is batting at the top of the order and is not expected to miss many if any games. Two players stand out for me. Albies is batting second in Atlanta, while Tatis should lead off every day for the Padres. Neither should need many rest days. Tatis just needs to cut down on the strikeouts a bit. Twenty to 25 players could contend in this market, and I wouldn’t fault anybody who wanted to bet Xander Bogaerts or Jean Segura or even Juan Soto at similar odds. This was the hardest market to narrow down. 

Strikeouts leader (both leagues): Max Scherzer 6/1 at FanDuel. Scherzer is the second favorite behind Gerrit Cole. Cole wouldn’t be the first Yankees free agent to start slowly, and in a 60-game season, one or two bad starts might be enough for someone to jump in front of him. I think the short season and extra rest helps the Nationals’ pitchers after a long postseason and a seven-game World Series. Scherzer is my pick to lead the NL in innings pitched and should be near the top in strikeouts.

AL strikeouts leader: Lucas Giolito 10/1 at BetMGM. While most books are combining the leagues for their strikeouts market, BetMGM has decided to list the AL and NL separately, and we thank them for that. Giolito is the fourth favorite at 10/1, trailing only Shane Bieber, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Last year Cole struck out 39.9% of the batters he faced compared with 30.1% for Bieber, 35.4% for Verlander and 32.3% for Giolito. For both strikeouts bets, I’m hoping the favorites falter a bit early. 

Recap:

$500 to win $10,000 on Bryce Harper winning NL MVP

$500 to win $17,500 on Shohei Ohtani winning AL MVP

$500 to win $25,000 on Vlad Guerrero Jr. to hit the most home runs

$250 to win $5,500 on Ozzie Albies to have the most hits

$250 to win $8,250 on Fernando Tatis Jr. to have the most hits

$500 to win $3,000 on Max Scherzer to lead both leagues in strikeouts

$500 to win $5,000 on Lucas Giolito to lead the AL in strikeouts

So far I’ve bet $3,000 in futures

Next week: Rookie of the year, Cy Young, waiting for Circa markets to open and more futures.

 

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