MVP, Cy Young long shots worth betting ahead of MLB's 2nd half
We're roughly halfway through the MLB season, and we've already got a pretty good sense of who will win each of the four major awards. Jacob deGrom is the prohibitive favorite to win both NL MVP (-105) and Cy Young (-1000), while Shohei Ohtani (-290) and Gerrit Cole (-115) are the clear leaders for AL MVP and Cy Young, respectively.
That said, we have played just over half the campaign, meaning there is still plenty of time for a player to have a scorching second half and rip the award away from the current favorite. Here are the odds to win each of the major awards (100-1 or shorter) and our favorite sleeper pick for each:
AL Most Valuable Player
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr||+210|
This has clearly emerged as a two-man race between Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who appropriately rank first and second in the AL in home runs, OPS, and combined fWAR. The clear difference between the two is on the mound, where Ohtani owns a 3.49 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 67 innings to complement his already MVP-level bat.
If anybody can bust up the party at the top, it's Xander Bogaerts, who is quietly having an Ohtani-like season at the plate but with fewer home runs and much better contact. The Red Sox star ranks third in batting average (.321) and fWAR (3.9) among qualified AL batters and anchors Boston's elite lineup, which could help his narrative case should either the Angels or Blue Jays fall short of the postseason.
Pick: Xander Bogaerts (+4000)
NL Most Valuable Player
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||+115|
DeGrom is having a season for the ages and was our favorite value bet when he was still dealing at 6-1 odds in early June. The right-hander has since ascended to the top of the oddsboard, but Fernando Tatis Jr. also has a strong case as the NL leader in home runs (28) and stolen bases (20) and the runner-up in batting fWAR (4.0) behind injured Ronald Acuna Jr.
Tatis and deGrom have both battled injuries this year, though, and are a risky bet at such short odds to sustain over the second half of the campaign. So why not take a shot on a player like Nick Castellanos, who leads the NL in average (.331) and is among the league leaders in runs (59) and RBI (59)? The Reds slugger is among the streakier stars in baseball, so if he gets hot over the season's second half, he'll be well worth a bet at these odds.
Pick: Nick Castellanos (+3500)
AL Cy Young
|Lance McCullers Jr.||+100000|
For a few weeks, Cole's place atop the Cy Young oddsboard looked tenuous, at best. The Yankees ace posted a 5.24 ERA in a six-start stretch beginning in early June, which coincided with MLB's crackdown on foreign substances. Then Cole went the distance in a 129-pitch shutout gem against the Astros, allowing three hits with 12 strikeouts - his most in a start since May 12.
Still, do we trust that performance to carry over for the rest of the campaign? If he falters, Red Sox ace Nathan Eovaldi could be worth betting as a dark horse. The 31-year-old journeyman doesn't have the ERA (3.66) or strikeout rate (22.8%) you'd expect from a Cy Young winner, but he trails only Carlos Rodon in FIP (2.60) and fWAR (3.4) at a much better price.
Pick: Nathan Eovaldi (+3500)
NL Cy Young
It's tough to envision betting against deGrom, who has already separated himself with one of the best starts to a season we've ever seen on the mound. Yet as we mentioned before, his injury woes could lead to a potential late-year absence, which would open the door for someone to challenge him in this market.
If anyone can do it, it's Corbin Burnes, who trails only deGrom in FIP (1.37), xFIP (2.16), xERA (1.84), SIERA (2.36), and strikeout rate (37.1%) among NL pitchers with at least 50 innings. The righty also ranks third in fWAR (4.2) despite missing a handful of starts for the Brewers, which are positioned to win the NL Central thanks in part to Burnes' mastery on the mound.
Pick: Corbin Burnes (+2000)