Last week, while most of the gambling world was getting ready for the Super Bowl, I sold an autographed Julio Rodriguez 2019 Bowman Chrome speckle refractor card for $2,800 on eBay. I also found my first MLB futures bet of the season.
For some background, Rodriguez has played all of 46 games at AA and has yet to reach AAA for the Seattle Mariners, but he’s a high-ceiling outfield prospect who should contend for Rookie of the Year and later become a perennial All-Star/MVP candidate. Rodriguez is the kind of player you build an organization around. With MLB player futures hitting the market, and $2,800 now in my pocket, I think I found a compelling reason to sell the card and invest that money in Rodriguez to win AL Rookie of the Year.
Rodriguez hit .362/.461/1.007 in 174 at bats with 63 hits, 11 doubles, 7 home runs, 16 stolen bases and a 37/29 strikeout to walk rate at AA for the Mariners in 2021. He probably deserved to finish the season at AAA and a more aggressive organization, one less concerned with service time, might have even promoted him to the Majors in 2021. I like him a lot, but I didn’t have much attachment to his baseball card, and while it's nice and shiny, it just sits on my bookshelf most of the time. I don’t really get anything out of owning it, but I could get something out of his upside as a player.
DraftKings and Kambi books (BetRivers, Barstool, etc.) put up MLB odds last week before the Super Bowl and I was surprised to see how early and how deep these books went in putting up Rookie of the Year odds. It is only mid-February, but there were 37 players listed at DraftKings for AL Rookie of the Year and Rodriguez was listed at 16/1.
The next time we see Rodriguez will be when the lockout is over and players on the 40-man MLB rosters report to Spring (or maybe summer) Training, but he’ll have a chance to force the Mariners to make him an everyday starting outfielder out of camp. At worst, Rodriguez is likely to spend a month or six weeks down in AAA before joining the Mariners for the remainder of the season.
He will face stiff competition for the AL Rookie of the Year from the likes of Bobby Witt. Jr (Royals), Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene (Tigers) and Adley Rutschman (Orioles), assuming Baltimore doesn’t keep him down in the minors too long. But Witt Jr. is priced at + 300 and Torkelson + 450, so I think Rodriguez is badly mispriced at + 1600.
I don’t think my Rodriguez baseball card is going to go up 16x in value if he hits his 99th percentile projections for 2022, but if he is as good as he’s projected to be, I’d be happy to make 16x my money this year backing him for the AL Rookie of the Year. With that in mind, I took $2,000 of my $2,800 and put it on the Mariners prospect to win the award. I don’t think that number will stay double digits once Spring Training gets underway and more people start paying attention to MLB markets.