MLB awards futures: sizing up the current odds

June 19, 2023 07:25 PM

Sizing up the MLB Futures Market

Now that all the NBA and NHL wagers have been decided for the season, let’s get a status check on the Major League Baseball futures market, player awards in particular, to see where the candidates stand after 70-plus games. 

Handicapping the races at this juncture is multifaceted—part of the analysis needs to be directed toward the production on the field and the amount of media attention the candidates are getting so far. 

The first step of this combination is the easy one, obtaining the on-the-field stats and the projections for the remainder of the season. The much harder piece is somehow finding a way to quantify the media coverage players get. 

In a month or so, bettors can tune into a multitude of podcasts featuring voters breaking down the races. Those voters aren’t talking too much yet so something is needed in the meantime. 

On June 12th, posted its second MVP poll with 47 voters. The results in order went Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Wander Franco and Marcus Semien in the American League along with Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, Corbin Carroll and Luis Arraez one through four in the National League. 

In an effort to gauge the narrative angle even more, here is some primary research that identifies the amount of media coverage some key players have already received regarding the awards races. The logic here is the more media coverage a player has already obtained will only strengthen his case as the season progresses (as long as he continues to produce at the plate and on the mound). 

This analysis was conducted by a focused Google News search over the past week (June 11th-18th) using the player’s name and the award. The search parameters are player name, award name, and league (for example: “Shohei Ohtani, MVP, American League”). 

This form of media environmental scanning can be used as another component alongside the statistical output to create a broader handicap for awards races. Since not every mention of the player and the award comes from voting media members, the value of this data lies more in a statistical representation of the media narrative surrounding certain candidates.   

Bettors need to do the work now to see if this important variable aligns with how the sportsbooks are pricing the candidates. 

Just look back at the NBA MVP race and see the role media narrative plays in who ultimately wins the award. 

All odds courtesy of DraftKIngs



Shohei Ohtani (-425) 

Results: 2,770 mentions.

Overview: Really no reason to go deep down this board, the Los Angeles 2-way superstar has a steamrolling media narrative to his credit. The local LA CBS affiliate wrote that he “ has already put an end to the MVP race” while the Sporting News reinforced the “unicorn” label. There are times when laying such a large price like this can make sense, and so far it does for Ohtani. The problem is the amount of time left in the season and the chance of injury. This would be a great bet in August. The problem is that come August, his odds might be near what Victor Wembanyama to go No.1 are now. 

Aaron Judge (+1700)

Results: 1,140 mentions. 

Overview: Most of these articles detailed his injury and how it has hurt the New York offense. 

Wander Franco (+3000)

Results: 1,070 mentions. 

Overview: He is having an MVP type of season, but his numbers and media coverage in Tampa still trail Ohtani considerably. At this point, any other candidate having a great season like Corey Seager (+3000), Randy Arozarena (+3500), Adley Rutschman (+3500) and Marcus Semien (+4000) who have to face off against Ohtani is like going against Cindy Crawford in a beauty pageant circa 1992. 

Mike Trout (+5000)

Results: 434 mentions. 

Overview: Good news—he is healthy. Bad news—way deep in the media shadow of his teammate. 



Ronald Acuna Jr. (-140)

Results: 172 mentions. 

Overview: Interesting how he is now a minus leader but not the amount of media coverage one would expect, certainly compared to his American League counterpart. 

Freddie Freeman (+500)

Results: 200 mentions. 

Overview: Here is an interesting piece of information from this study. Acuna is the prohibitive favorite while Freeman is getting more current media attention. Not that a bet needs to be made now on him or Mookie Betts (+1000; 120 mentions), just keep an eye on them since it seems like there is some value on both. 

Corbin Carroll (+1200)

Results: 203 mentions.

Overview: Fox Sports referred to him as an “unconventional, sensational rookie superstar.” Sports Illustrated wrote that he “muscled his way into the MVP race.” As a rookie, he is going to need to produce even more in order to pull off the accomplishment only Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki did—winning both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP. Voters usually lean towards giving a player like this just the ROY. Those who took a flier on Carroll when he was near 400-1 or anything close to that have a live longshot to ride out the rest of the season with. 

Luis Arraez (+3000) 

Results: 232 mentions. 

Overview: He is getting media coverage, just not the type that creates an influential narrative. Most of the pieces on him centered around how much batting average means these days and if a single hitter can do enough to win the award while also playing for Miami. His rise to .400 is great for a media narrative; playing in obscurity isn’t. 


AL Cy Young 

Shane McClanahan (+225)

Results: 75 mentions. 

Overview: His current status feels a lot like last year when he was also one of the favorites. Unfortunately, an injury derailed his case in late August. There should be optimism for those with McClanahan tickets. Those without a ticket on him, tread lightly on a bet that pays less than 3-1 for a pitcher with a history of health issues. 

Framber Valdez (+450)

Results: 128 mentions. 

Overview: Valdez has the media’s attention and is just a McClanahn missed start away from jumping to the top of the odds board. 

Gerrit Cole (+650)

Results: 94 mentions.

Overview: Media support is not an issue for Cole. 

Kevin Gausman (+750)

Results: 47 mentions.

Overview: He is the best candidate to use this type of research to analyze. He has comparable numbers to the favorites but not the same media juice as the others. 

Shohei Ohtani (+1100)

Results: 279 mentions. 

Overview: Like Carroll in the NL MVP race, a change in the voters’ mindset is needed for Ohtani to win a pitching award. The stronger his MVP case becomes, the harder it is for him to win the Cy Young.


As for the other list of candidates: Luis Castillo (+1300), Joe Ryan (+1500), Nathan Eovaldi (+1500) and Sonny Gray (+2000), Ryan got the most mentions. 

Chris Bassitt (+9000) who got some attention as a bomb longshot registered less than 30 mentions. 


NL Cy Young 

Zac Gallen (+170)

Results: 66 mentions. 

Overview: He didn’t receive the same effusive headlines as the other favorites got in this analysis. That likely translates to a market with an established favorite yet still wide open. 

Clayton Kershaw (+600)

Results: 9 mentions. 

Overview: Surprisingly not a lot of media focus for the 35-year-old lefty. Kershaw remaining in the race will make a good story and boost his candidacy. Based on his current price, that is what the sportsbooks expect. 

Zach Wheeler (+700)

Results: 7 mentions.

Overview: An annual Cy Young candidate pitching in Philadelphia. The issue is his stats and media narrative have always been slightly less the top choice. He is still in that situation through the first half of the 2023 season. 

Spencer Strider (+800)

Results: 10 mentions. 

Overview: After several poor starts, the headlines are now “What has happened to Spencer Strider?” (Valdosta Daily Times). This might be a good buy-low situation.

Mitch Keller (+900)

Results: 8 mentions.

Overview: Anyone contemplating a Keller bet has to look more at the media support than what he does on the mound. These are low odds for a Pittsburgh player that somehow must remain in the media spotlight over the next few months. Andrew McCutchen’s 2013 MVP is the last major award for a Steel City player.  

Logan Webb (+1300)

Results: 8 mentions. 

Overview: Most of those mentions name him as a member of the pack. The same way books are listing him.

Going further down the odds board, Marcus Stroman (+1500) is starting to emerge. During that time frame, he got 61 mentions. Quietly Corbin Burnes (+2200; 35 mentions) is back in the race. 


AL Rookie of the Year

Josh Jung (+200)

Results: 244 mentions. 

Overview: Interesting how he is leading the board but the next candidate seems to be getting more publicity. 

Masataka Yoshida (+260)

Results: 284 mentions.

Overview:  ESPN wrote: “The Japanese Juan Soto: Masataka Yoshida has been a hit.” The issue will be if voters hold his 29-year-old age against him. Still, because of what the media can do for him compared to Jung in Texas, Yoshida might be the true favorite and comes with a better price. 

Gunnar Henderson (+400)

Results: 450 results. 

Overview: Henderson and his Orioles are on the move in the standings and on the odds board. 

Esteury Ruiz (+2800)

Results: 88 mentions 

Overview: Tracking a player’s odds who goes against the current trends by stealing bases should make an interesting case study for bettors. Nonetheless, when that player is in Oakland, where few notice, even media members, the interest vanishes. 

Based on a media narrative, New York’s homegrown Anthony Volpe (+5000) would have the inside track for the award. His current production doesn’t even merit a small longshot at this point. 


NL Rookie of the Year 

Corbin Carroll (-450)

Results: 511 mentions.

Overview: The media support he has received so far is pushing him also into the MVP race. Carroll needs to stay healthy and hold off the fast riser behind him to win an award the media will certainly declare his for the first half of the season. 

Elly De La Cruz (+700)

Results: 701 mentions. 

Overview: The Cincinnati sensation is one of the biggest stories in baseball right now. That doesn’t mean bettors should make an immediate reaction and bet on him now. The 7-1 odds are relatively low to bet based on his performance over a three-week span. He must continue this pace and have Carroll falter. With the play of Carroll and the media attention based on De La Cruz’s fast start as the main factors, a wager at 2-1 a month and a half from now would be wiser than betting at this moment. 

Francisco Alvarez (+3500)

Results: 1,160 mentions.

Overview: This data demonstrates the power of playing in the large New York market. Alvarez replaces LA’s Bobby Miller (+4500) as the closest long shot on the board. Miller has struggled recently on the mound. The issue against Alvarez will be doing enough at the plate for a team currently entrenched in a negative media cycle. 

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