Aaron Judge favored to win AL MVP after scorching start to MLB season
Before the season, Aaron Judge declined an extension with the Yankees and bet on himself ahead of free agency. Others who bet on him could be in for a big payday, too.
The New York slugger is now the favorite to win this year's AL MVP, dealing at a short +125 at Barstool Sportsbook. He's ahead of Angels teammates and former MVP winners Mike Trout (+325) and Shohei Ohtani (+400), the only other players priced at 10-1 or shorter to win the award.
It's hard to argue with oddsmakers - or with Judge's decision to hold out - with the Yankees star posting a .315/.385/.685 slash line through the first two months of the season. Judge has always possessed immense power, but he's taken that to new heights in 2022, pacing all qualified batters in slugging, OPS (1.070), and home runs (22) through 53 games.
He's also not showing any signs of slowing. Entering Wednesday, Judge had hit a homer in five of his last eight games, and his performance Tuesday was the 10th time he's earned at least three RBIs in a contest this campaign. It's not as if he's getting lucky, either. His 62.8% hard-hit rate ranks second in MLB, while his elite barrel rate (25.9%) leads all qualified batters.
However, as we know from seasons past, two months is just a slice within a larger 162-game sample. Here are the current odds to win AL MVP and a few other names to watch:
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||+1800|
Jose Ramirez, Guardians (+1100)
We'd be talking a lot more about the eye-popping stat line that Ramirez has tallied through the first two months of the season if it weren't for the power-crazed run that we've seen from Judge and a few other sluggers.
The longtime Guardians star has posted a stellar 14.4% walk rate while striking out a mere 7.2% of the time - best among qualified batters. That ridiculous split has helped Ramirez post the third-best fWAR (3.0) in the AL behind Judge (3.4) and Rafael Devers (3.3), even with a batting average (.280) below his contemporaries.
He still has an AL-best 53 RBIs on the year, and he's already hit an MLB-best four triples, so the power is there for Ramirez to make a run down the stretch. He's finished in the top three in MVP voting in four of the last five years. Don't be surprised when he's in the mix again in October.
Rafael Devers, Red Sox (+2100)
As mentioned above, Devers' value on the field is just a tick below Judge's per advanced metrics, and he's been the superior defensive player through the first two months of the season. So why is he dealing at such a discount?
Sure, voters love the long ball, but Devers still ranks seventh in the AL in home runs (12) and fourth in slugging (.603). Where he's really excelled is as a contact hitter. The Red Sox star ranks third in the AL in batting average (.342) and leads all of baseball in hits (80), doubles (23), and total bases (141).
Those numbers don't jump off the page for MVP voters, nor will Boston's 29-27 record entering Wednesday. Yet this is clearly an individual award - Ohtani won unanimously in 2021 despite the Angels posting a losing record - and Devers has been as impressive as any individual this year.
Yordan Alvarez, Astros (+2500)
If anyone can threaten Judge's reign as baseball's ultimate power king, it's Alvarez. He actually leads MLB in hard-hit rate (64.2%) and expected slugging percentage (.788), per Statcast.
That's translated into a whopping 95 hard-hit balls and 27 barrels for the Astros slugger, with 17 leaving the park as of Wednesday. That's still a notch behind Judge (22), though Alvarez is drawing more walks and striking out less than the Yankees star. Alvarez also has a much lower BABIP (.267) to support his box-score metrics.
Positive regression could be on his side down the stretch, and he has the power to compete with Judge in the relevant areas that voters tend to favor at season's end. Health is always a concern for Alvarez - and Judge, for that matter - but at this price, it's well worth the wager.
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