NL Cy Young best bets: Alcantara, Castillo have dark-horse upside
With the season just over a week away, there's still time to get in preseason bets before the market shifts with game action. Here are the odds to win the 2022 NL Cy Young at Barstool Sports and our best bets to cash:
Jacob deGrom, Mets (+400)
When healthy, deGrom is the best pitcher on the planet. If he had pitched at even a league-average rate over the back half of 2021 instead of spending it in the dugout, he very well might have won his third Cy Young award in four seasons.
That's how dominant the Mets superstar was a season ago. His career marks in ERA (1.08), WHIP (0.554), and FIP (1.24) were among the best in MLB history, and his K/9 (14.3) would have ranked as the best ever across a full season. Of course, we didn't see a full season from deGrom, who started just 15 games before he was shut down.
DeGrom had started at least 31 games in each of his previous three full campaigns (excluding a shortened 2020), and he appears as dominant as ever in spring training thus far, striking out 10 of the 20 batters he's faced. A bet against deGrom is a bet on him either missing 10-plus starts or coming back at less than 85%-90% of the pitcher he was pre-injury. If neither is true, this is his award to lose.
Luis Castillo, Reds (+2500)
It was a tale of two halves a year ago for Castillo, who was MLB's worst starting pitcher in the first half of 2021 and one of its best over the second. The former All-Star owned a 7.71 ERA on May 13 but eventually turned things around, boasting a 2.69 ERA over his final 20 starts.
The biggest change for Castillo was in his pitch mix, eventually leaning more on his sinker to keep batters from keying on his devastating changeup, which he used to attack the zone more aggressively over the back half of the season. It worked: Castillo's changeup was the fourth-best in baseball per Fangraphs' weighted runs metric from June 15, and he ranked in the top 10 in swinging-strike rate (14.1%) and zone-contact rate allowed (81%).
The Reds right-hander has long been an analytics darling, ranking ninth in fWAR (10.4) and sixth in xFIP (3.44) despite a so-so ERA (3.61). That's left him underappreciated in the Cy Young discussion, as has his lousy start to 2021. There's risk here, certainly, but few pitchers have shown the elite upside of Castillo at this price point.
Sandy Alcantara, Marlins (+2500)
Alcantara has been knocking on the door for a few years now after earning his lone All-Star nod in 2019. He's steadily improved since then and could be on the verge of a breakout showing in his age-26 season.
The Marlins ace doesn't have the flashiest statistical profile - he hasn't eclipsed one strikeout per inning since 2017 - but he has some of the best stuff in baseball, as evidenced by a fastball that ranks in the 98th percentile in velocity (98.1 mph) and two secondary pitches with a whiff rate of 30% or higher. That comes as he posted a career-low 6.0% walk rate, which was an issue for him early on.
The biggest development for Alcantara will be throwing strikes early in the count. In 2021, he ranked seventh in the percentage of his pitches thrown in the zone (45.1%) and 20th in first-pitch strike rate (64%), even as his swing-and-miss rates were among the best in MLB. If he can harness his bat-missing potential in all counts, Alcantara has Cy Young written all over him.
Other notable bets: Corbin Burnes (+750), Joe Musgrove (+2000), Trevor Rogers (+5000)
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