AL, NL MVP odds: Shohei Ohtani headlines early risers after hot start
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Entering this season, two-way sensation Shoehi Ohtani was one of the most intriguing dark horse MVP bets. Two weeks in, he's delivering on that hype - and the market is taking notice.

The Angels star opened at 25-1 at most shops and as high as 50-1 at theScoreBet to win AL MVP, despite sharing the same dugout as heavy favorite Mike Trout. Sure enough, after two weeks, Ohtani is +1200 to win the award - behind only Trout (+220) and ahead of recent MVP finalists Alex Bregman (+1400) and Jose Ramirez (+1600).

Ohtani has already demonstrated immense upside as a hitter and pitcher, which is why we highlighted him in our preseason best bets.

As of Friday afternoon, he ranks 15th in the majors in batting fWAR (0.7), and leads all batters in barrels (9) and max exit velocity (119 MPH). As a pitcher, he owns a 1.93 ERA after his lone start, when he struck out seven batters through 4 2/3 innings and threw nine 100-mph pitches. Only Jacob deGrom (23) has more than two such pitches on the entire season.

Ohtani shows no signs of stopping, either. On Monday, he hit the aforementioned 119-mph double - something only four players have done - before hitting his team-leading fourth home run on Tuesday. His .404 ISO ranks sixth in the bigs, and he's tied for fifth with 12 RBIs thus far.

His biggest competition is the man one spot after him in the order, which is the only real reason to hesitate before betting Ohtani at these odds. Trout is already off to his usual MVP start, ranking third in fWAR (1.1) with a monstrous .381/.509/.762 slash line.

If Ohtani hopes to make the case he's more valuable than the three-time MVP winner, he'll likely have to do so on the mound. He hasn't pitched consistently since 2018, when he showed signs of brilliance but settled for a 3.31 ERA through 51 2/3 innings. If he can provide top-20 value with his arm and his bat, he'll be the story of this 2021 season - and likely the MVP, too.

Buxton, Castellanos among other risers

No player has been better through two weeks than Byron Buxton (+2000), who ranks second in fWAR (1.2) despite playing three fewer games than leader Ronald Acuna Jr. (1.4). The Twins outfielder is finally flashing his elite power potential with five HRs and an eye-popping 1.094 slugging percentage while striking out just 16.7% of the time.

In the NL, Reds star Nick Castellanos (+3000) forced his way into the discussion with a seven-game hit streak and four homers to start the season. He's fallen into a 3-for-21 rut since then, but the streaky bat can turn it on at any time and is still worth a look at these odds.

Don't forget about Yermin Mercedes (+9000), who hasn't skipped a beat in his storybook rookie season. The 28-year-old slugger entered Friday with the MLB lead in batting average (.500) and OBP (.548) after hitting an absolute blast on Thursday for his third homer in 10 games.

Slow starts hamper Tatis, Albies

While those players have gotten off to scintillating starts, the same can't be said for Fernando Tatis Jr. (+3000), who hasn't played since April 5 as he recovers from a lingering shoulder injury. He was 3-for-18 at the time of the injury, though if he does come back healthy, he could be a steal at this price.

The same goes for Ozzie Albies (+7000), who's batted .159 through 12 games and has as many hits (7) as strikeouts. Don't be surprised to see those numbers turn around. In 2020, he coincidentally hit .159 through his first 11 games before batting .338 with a .953 OPS over the rest of the season.

C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.

AL, NL MVP odds: Shohei Ohtani headlines early risers after hot start
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