Stock rising and falling with MLB awards contenders

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We're about one-third of the way through the season and contenders for MLB awards are having very different stretches. Let's look at some players whose recent numbers have pushed sportsbooks to adjust the odds on various awards.

Stock Up

Mookie Betts (NL MVP) Last 15 days: 22 hits, 12 runs, 6 HR, 15 RBIs, 8 strikeouts/5 walks, 3 SB, .386/.444/.772/1.216, 150 wRC + 

Betts hasn’t slowed down after putting up elite numbers all of May and jumping to the front of the NL MVP race. Currently tied for the NL lead in home runs, I absolutely expect Mookie Betts to remain a top contender in the NL MVP race all season. Betts is currently beating out Manny Machado the MLB fWAR lead (3.6 to 3.5). 

Yordan Alvarez (AL MVP) Last 15 days: 18 hits, 10 runs, 4 HR, 10 RBIs, 5 strikeouts/6 walks, 0 SB, .375/.464/.688/1.152, 228 wRC + 

Vlad Guerrero Jr. (AL MVP) Last 15 days: 11 hits, 8 runs, 6 HR, 9 RBIs, 10 strikeouts/8 walks, 0 SB, .229/.399/.646/.1.002, 157 wRC + 

Aaron Judge is the guy to beat right now, and the market is giving Judge a huge “pinstripe premium”. While he deserves to be the frontrunner, there’s no value in betting Judge at + 200 or even + 300. It is easy to play the ‘if the season ended today’ game and declare Judge the current MVP and you wouldn’t be wrong. While I am not convinced that Judge keeps this pace up all season, it's also true that outside of seven games against the Blue Jays and four at Tampa Bay, the Yankees have played a mostly cupcake schedule and have played 19 of their 54 games against the cellar-dwelling Orioles and Tigers. 

Judge’s last 15 days for reference: 19 hits, 12 runs, 7 HR, 12 RBIs, 14 strikeouts/6 walks, 1 SB, .300/.362/.680/1.042, 208 wRC + 

Point being, given the chance to bet on Judge right now at + 200, or Yordan Alvarez at 60/1 (Westgate), or Vlad Jr. (30/1, also at Westgate) I’d much rather take a position on Alvarez and/or Vlad Jr. here. 

Julio Rodriguez (AL ROY): Last 15 days: 16 hits, 10 runs, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 15 strikeouts/5 walks, 5 SB, .302/.362/.585/.947, 160 wRC+ 

Rodriguez had a rough April batting .205 with 30 strikeouts in 73 at bats. Maybe he just needed 100 MLB at bats to get his legs under him because since May 1, Rodriguez is hitting .316/.359/.526 with a 162 wRC + . He’s becoming a superstar right before our eyes. Don’t think any other AL rookie is going to match Julio’s combination of stolen bases (17 so far) and home runs (7). If he can avoid a late-season, month-long slump like Luis Robert in 2020, he will likely be the second Mariners OF to win the AL ROY in the past three years. Westgate became the first book this week Julio Rodriguez’s AL ROY odds to + 100. 

MacKenzie Gore (NL ROY) – Last 30 Days: 32.2 IP, 5 ER, 0 HR, 37 K/11 BB, 10.19 K/9, 1.38 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 3.25 xFIP

Gore has jumped to the NL ROY frontrunner almost by default as nobody else in the field has really done anything to justify favorite status. Nolan Gorman has come on strong and has seen his odds drop from 50/1 down to 3/1, but Gore has pitched so well this season he’s clearly the early favorite and will likely maintain that position as long as he continues to put up elite starts in the Padres rotation. His xFIP does indicate there’s likely some regression coming, and he’s going to need to get that 3.19 BB/9 rate down a bit. I’m not buying Gore at 2/1 here, and I’m worried the Padres are going to max out his innings too early for a serious ROY run down the stretch, but there’s no question Gore has vaulted ahead of most of the rest of the NL field early.

Zack Wheeler (NL Cy Young): Last 30 days: 38.2 IP, 8 ER, 1 HR, 49 K/7 BB, 11.41 K/9, 1.86 ERA, 1.64 FIP, 2.41 xFIP. 

Wheeler once again is the anchor in the rotation for a floundering Phillies team. While this season is shaping up to be similar to last year for the Phillies and they are currently on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, it's not because Zack Wheeler hasn’t done his job, giving the Phillies 38.1 innings over 6 starts with a 3-0 record over the past month (I prefer to use trailing 30 days for pitchers). Wheeler is currently striking out slightly more batters than last season (10.52 K/9 vs. 10.42 in 2021) and he’s cut down on the home runs year over year (0.31 HR/9 vs. 0.68 HR/9 in 2021). If he can keep these numbers up I don’t see any reason why Wheeler isn’t going to be in the top 3 in NL Cy Young votes. With Corbin Burnes taking a slight step back from his 2021 #s, I think Wheeler is a guy I’d be interested in adding to at 17/1 or better.  

Stock Down

Shohei Ohtani (AL MVP) – Last 15 days: 9 hits, 7 runs, 3 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 SB, 16 strikeouts/8 walks, .196/.351/.435, 134 wRC +  

Ohtani Last 30 days pitching: 28 IP, 12 ER, 6 HR, 35 strikeouts/6 walks, 11.25 K/9, 3.86 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 3.17 xFIP. 

It pains me to write anything bad about Shohei Ohtani, but the Angels are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak and Ohtani gave up three home runs against the Yankees in his last start, including one to Judge. Ohtani’s MVP moments have been lacking as of late, and while there are some positive signs looking at his statistics (134 wRC + , 3.17 xFIP and 11.25 K/9), the fact of the matter is if Ohtani wants to win another MVP award he’s going to have to do better than he’s doing currently. I wouldn’t panic too much here only because with the current 12-game losing streak, you are likely looking at a short-term bottom for both the Angels and Ohtani, but if they don’t change course soon there’s no telling what can happen in Anaheim if the Angels continue to freefall. 

Mike Trout (AL MVP) – Last 15 days: 10 hits, 5 runs, 2 HR, 4 RBIs, 0 SB, 19 strikeouts/4 walks, .192/.276/.346/ 83 wRC + 

Trout is currently experiencing the worst two-week stretch of his career and their playoff hopes already seem to be at risk. I’m actually surprised Trout’s MVP odds haven’t drifted up more, he should be closer to 10/1 than 5/1, and I’d probably put Jose Ramirez ahead of him if I was booking it. Trout is still Trout, which is to say he’ll be a unanimous first ballot Hall of Famer but it's looking once again like he is going to be left out of the playoffs unless the Angels can turn things around ASAP. Trout is still behind Ohtani and neither of them are doing much of anything right now.

Ronald Acuna (NL MVP) Last 15 days: 16 hits, 9 runs, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 SB, 13 strikeouts/3 walks, .348/.389/.500, 141 wRC + 

Acuna is still working his way back to 100% health after a torn ACL cost him the 2021 season and a chance to play in the World Series. Acuna will still remain a perennial contender for years to come, but it’s a lot to ask for an MVP here after missing the first month of the season, especially when you could argue that Austin Riley or even Matt Olson have put up better season-long numbers on the Braves. Westgate has been the most aggressive and dropped Acuna to 80/1 this week, which is an indication that they don’t think he’s going to make a serious run at MVP this year and I have to agree. 

Oneil Cruz (NL ROY) Last 15 days minor leagues: 14 hits, 11 runs, 5 HR, 7 RBIs, 12 strikeouts/3 walks, .333/.404/.690, 184 wRC + 

The Pirates are choosing to play service time manipulation games and keep one of their best prospects in the minor leagues. It's unfortunate for fans and bettors when a team does stuff like this, but it's clear the Pirates care more about saving money than they do about winning and competing. If Cruz is up and in the Pirates starting lineup in the next two weeks he can make an impact on the ROY race, but the closer we get to the second  half of the season, the likelihood of Cruz contending for ROY drops. Cruz is a legitimate contender, but like we saw with Wander Franco and the Rays last year. MLB teams care more about their bottom line than they do about putting their best players on the field. 

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