2023 MLB Futures: Best Bets, Value Plays to Win AL and NL Cy Young Awards

By Zachary Cohen  (VSiN.com) 

March 29, 2023 03:47 PM

Best Bets and Value Plays to Win American League and National League Cy Young Awards 

The 2023 MLB season is finally here and we're looking forward to making some money with all of you this year. A lot of our experts have already put some plays on our Pro Picks page, so make sure you head over there and hop on some bets with us. Also, you should make sure you check out all of Adam Burke's MLB season preview content. Nobody on the planet is doing a better job of getting you prepared for this baseball season, and reading his work is sure to make you a smarter bettor. With that said, we realize we haven't yet given out some of our favorite bets to win the Cy Young award in the American League and National League yet. So, keep reading to find out four starting pitchers we're targeting to do so on the futures market. 

Best Bet to Win American League Cy Young Award 

Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays (12-1)

After McClanahan turned in a stellar rookie season, the lefty improved his ERA, WHIP and K/BB in his sophomore year — while also seeing his WAR go from 1.6 to 4.0. McClanahan went 12-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 2022, while also striking out 194 batters in 166.1 innings. Those are borderline Cy Young worthy numbers and there’s no reason to believe the 25-year-old is done improving. 

The only question mark with McClanahan is durability. The southpaw was unhittable from April to June last year, but he began to slow down a bit from there — with September being a real area for concern. If McClanahan can avoid stumbling down the stretch, this award could be his. He has some of the most electric swing-and-miss stuff in the sport. He’s every bit as good as some of the players favored over him.

Best Value Play to Win American League Cy Young Award 

Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays (16-1) 

Gausman is a popular bet to win the AL Cy Young right now, but these odds still seem somewhat generous for him. Last season, Gausman was 12-10 with a 3.35 ERA and 7.3 K/BB in his first year with the Blue Jays. That ERA was up from the 2.81 he posted with the San Francisco Giants in 2021, but that number should come down a bit in 2023.

Last year, Gausman had a BABIP of .335 and that was one of the highest marks in baseball. The righty simply got very unlucky in his first year in Toronto, and it’s hard to believe hitters will be so fortunate this time around. But perhaps the most important thing to look at in Gausman’s 2022 season was the fact that he struck out 205 hitters in 174.2 innings. He has turned into a guy that misses a ton of bats, and he doesn’t walk many hitters. So, if the ERA comes down, he’ll absolutely be a contender for this award.

It also doesn’t hurt that Gausman is pitching for a Blue Jays team that is expected to be a contender in 2023. The best record he has had in his professional career was a 14-6 season in 2021. But Gausman could potentially win over 15 games for the first time in his career, and he’ll have impressive supporting numbers on top of that. With that said, this could be the year he truly joins baseball’s elite.

Best Bet to Win National League Cy Young Award 

Max Fried, Atlanta Braves (10-1)

Fried is coming off his best season in the bigs, as he went 14-7 with a 2.48 ERA and had the highest K/BB of his career. The lefty isn’t exactly the type of pitcher that goes out there and racks up strikeouts, but he has made improvements in that regard. But he pitches insanely well to contact and generally can be counted on to pitch seven stellar innings per game.

It’s not often that a pitcher like Fried wins an award like the Cy Young, but he’ll be hard to ignore if he has an ERA of less than 2.50 again. Fried also pitched 14.1 innings of no-run ball over Spring Training, and he struck out 19 batters in those frames. The southpaw did have the luxury of facing some minor league hitters in that stretch, but it’s still a good sign to see the strikeouts are up.

If Fried continues to miss more bats, he’s going to have a real shot at winning this award. He finished second in voting for the NL award in 2022, and something tells me we haven’t seen the best of him just yet.

Best Value Play to Win National League Cy Young Award

Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (19-1)

Woodruff is harmed by the fact that he’s not the true ace in his rotation, with Corbin Burnes being the team’s No. 1 starter and a +550 shot to win the NL Cy Young. However, Woodruff is talented enough to outperform his teammate in a single season, even if he’s not definitively a better pitcher than him.   

Two seasons ago, Woodruff had a 2.56 ERA and struck out 211 batters in 179.1 innings. He also had a WHIP of 0.96 and a 5.6 WAR. Those numbers are absolutely Cy Young worthy, but Burnes ended up winning the award that year — with Woodruff finishing fifth in voting.

If Woodruff can find a way to turn in another season like that, you’ll wish you bet him at these odds. Last year, the 30-year-old’s numbers were down a bit across the board, and his 2.7 WAR was especially concerning when compared to the 5.6 WAR from the previous year. However, Woodruff is another pitcher that had some bad batted ball luck. If things even out a bit, he’ll be a contender to win in 2023.

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