AL MVP best bets: Can Astros' Tucker put it all together in 2022?
We've already detailed our best bets to win the NL Cy Young and AL Cy Young, and we broke down the NL MVP market Thursday. This time, we're taking our shots in the AL, in which Mike Trout's reign seems to be a thing of the past.
Sure, the three-time award winner is still +375 to add a fourth trophy to his display case, but he's behind 2021 runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+300) and reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani (+350) - who garnered all 30 first-place votes last year. Can anyone break into the AL's elite tier and crash the party of short favorites?
Here are the odds to win the 2022 AL MVP at Barstool Sports and our best bets to cash:
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||+300|
Rafael Devers, Red Sox (+1800)
Which version of Devers will we see in 2022? The Red Sox infielder was electric in 2019, leading the majors in total bases (359) and finishing second in runs scored (129) en route to a 12th-place MVP finish. He regressed in a shortened 2020 but finished 11th in the MVP ballot a year ago behind a .279/.352/.538 slash line with 38 home runs.
Clearly, Devers has the power to put up an MVP-type performance in 2022, but his overall game is still improving. He posted a career-high walk rate (9.3%) last season to complement his career-best 5.7% home-run rate, which may be due some statistical regression this season. Yet a high barrel rate (15%) suggests that his torrid home-run pace may sustain, after all.
It all adds to a potentially elite season for Devers, which is what it'll take to break through in a league with Guerrero, Ohtani, and Trout in the mix. At this price, I'll gladly bet on prime Devers shining through.
Jose Ramirez, Guardians (+2200)
Will Ramirez ever get the respect he deserves? The Guardians star placed on the MVP ballot in five of the last six years - finishing third in 2017 and 2018, second in 2020, and sixth in 2021. So why is he dealing at longer than 20-1 odds to win it this year?
Sure, Ramirez doesn't have a sexy profile to challenge the elite trio in the AL, but he did rank third a year ago in fWAR (6.3) thanks to his ridiculously patient approach at the plate. The nine-year veteran also ranked third in walks per strikeout (0.83), nearly boasted a higher walk rate (11.3%) than strikeout rate (13.7%), and his contact rate on pitches in the zone (93.2%) ranked fourth in the AL.
Needless to say, Ramirez is a tough man to strike out, which helps make him one of the safest superstars in MLB. Can he add some power numbers, to boot? His hard-hit rate (42.9%) was a career high in 2021, suggesting a potential next level to his profile in 2022.
Kyle Tucker, Astros (+2800)
Tucker was one of the best prospects in baseball when he joined the Astros in 2018, but he struggled to find his groove right away with a .244 batting average through his first three seasons. He appeared to find it in 2021, slashing .294/.359/.557 on his way to a top-20 MVP finish.
The difference was his aggression at the plate. The smooth-swinging outfielder has always had the twitch and power to succeed at the major-league level, but he attacked the zone with reckless abandon in 2021, leading the AL in zone-swing rate (82.6%) while posting career-best marks in strikeout rate (15.9%) and walk rate (9.4%).
If Tucker already sees the ball that well and uses his raw power and speed, we could be talking about one of the five best players in baseball - if it all comes together. This is easily the best value on the board and could be the last time we see him priced longer than 25-1.