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In the past four seasons, just two players have been named NL Cy Young winners, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer each going back to back. Well, heading into this season, deGrom is suffering from back tightness and Scherzer turns 36 at the end of July.
Those factors make it harder to trust those two at such short prices, as does the variance within a shortened season. Time is the great equalizer.
It's much more likely for a pitcher to sustain a good run through 60 games than it is over the course of a 162-game season. That introduces plenty of value for bettors in the futures market, as we can look down the Cy Young oddsboard to identify pitchers worth backing at generous prices.
Heading into his third full season as a starter, 27-year-old Castillo is primed to build on last season's breakout. Pitching a career-high 190 2/3 innings last season, Castillo was among the best in MLB with a 55.2 ground ball percentage while limiting contact with an outstanding 10.67 K/9 rate.
He entered the All-Star break a remarkable 8-3 with a 2.29 ERA, 124 strikeouts, and a .169 batting average against before fatigue eventually got to him. His 4.78 ERA after the break prevented him from finishing near the top of the Cy Young conversation, but that won't be an issue in this shortened season. Backed by a vastly improved Reds offense and a strong bullpen, Castillo will put up gaudy numbers in this abbreviated 2020 campaign.
Paddack was plagued by similar issues to Castillo during his first MLB campaign in 2019. The dazzling rookie took an excellent 2.79 ERA into August but finished the year with a 3.33 mark. At just 24 years old, the sky is the limit for Paddack, who looks set to dominate in 2020 with a year of MLB experience under his belt and the pitcher-friendly Petco Park fences at his back.
With their sights set on ending a lengthy playoff drought, the Padres won't place any restrictions on their ace, especially not in a short season. Given his strikeout capabilities - he posted a 9.79 K/9 mark as a rookie - and his ability to limit baserunners, with an xwOBA of .275 last season (level with Walker Buehler), it's conceivable that Paddack catches lightning in a bottle and delivers a Cy Young-worthy stat line in his sophomore campaign.
Without question, this is my favorite value bet on the board. We're not talking nearly enough about just how good Woodruff is. An injury limited him to 121 2/3 innings last season as he finished the campaign with a 3.62 ERA, but there was plenty of bad luck involved, as a terrific 3.01 FIP suggests he's due for some seriously positive regression.
Woodruff is ready to burst onto the scene as a true ace. He's tremendous at missing bats, posting an outstanding 10.58 K/9 rate in 2019, and he was third among current NL starters at limiting good contact, surrendering just a 30.2% hard-hit rate - Paddack and Castillo weren't too far behind. Reports out of Brewers camp are that Woodruff looks incredibly sharp. He's getting plenty of movement on his breaking balls, twice striking out Christian Yelich in a simulated game, and by all accounts appears ready to strut his stuff without any limitations.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.