Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports. Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) celebrates with left fielder J.D. Martinez (28) after a two run home run during the fourth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park.
- Not surprisingly, Mike Trout (-140) leads the American League's MVP odds at the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas.
- Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are close behind at +275, but the list drops off rather quickly after just a handful of players.
- The National League race is much more open, with Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt all between +250 and +400.
The first “half” is over, and there are some strong MVP candidates in both leagues thus far. I put half in quotes because some teams have already played more than 60% of their games.
We’ve been diving into some team futures odds, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up some individual accolades.
The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has technically had MVP odds posted the entire season, but I’ll be comparing the current odds to the opening odds from way back in March. I can remember writing about those odds like it was yesterday … life moves fast, as a guy once said in a movie.
The machine that is Mike Trout has improved on his odds since the beginning of the season, but has fallen in recent weeks. I did see him listed at a whopping -700 at some point around when Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts was on the disabled list in early June.
Trout is tied with Betts and Jose Ramirez with 6.5 fWAR and leads the league in bWAR at 6.8. He’s having a career year at the plate and up until the end of June, had a wRC+ of 198 — that means he was almost twice as good at producing runs as the average player. In July, however, Trout is at a mere 104 — a tick better than league average. He can afford some lulls here or there, but will need to return to form relatively soon to remain the favorite.
Speaking of Betts, he and teammate J.D. Martinez have both put up monster seasons and find themselves with the same odds at the break. I am a proud holder of a Betts ticket from before the season so I’ll be rooting hard for him down the stretch. Something that may help or hurt his case is his time missed due to injury.
Betts has played 19 games fewer than Trout, and you’d have to imagine he’d be ahead of him in WAR if had he not been hurt. Health is a valuable trait, so perhaps the voters won’t give him a benefit of the doubt.
Indians infielder Jose Ramirez is somewhat quietly putting up an insane season of his own and is tied for the MLB lead in homers with Martinez. He’s been a terrific all-around player and is not getting the respect from the oddsmakers that he deserves at just +600.
If you are a holder of a Betts, Martinez or a Ramirez ticket with a big payout on the line, this may be the time to hedge and put a bit on Trout. The American League does not have many situations that can play out in which one of those four (or Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor) does not win.
If you’re looking for value plays at this point, the one person I would recommend is Aaron Judge, who currently has MLB’s fifth-best fWAR in and has contributed in the field and on the basepaths, as well. If the Yankees can come back and win the division with the help of another power surge from Judge, he may follow his runner-up 2017 campaign with a first-place 2018.
The National League is far more wide open and has more than double the amount of players with 100-1 odds or shorter. Right now, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado holds the slight edge over Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman both on the odds list and fWAR list (4.1 to 3.9.) Since the entire National League has tight division races to be decided in the second half, I feel that each of these guys’ chances are tied to how their teams do. Trout and Giancarlo Stanton have proved in recent years that MVPs don’t need to come from playoff (or winning) teams, but considering none of these guys is running away in the race with ridiculous statistical seasons, a division title should help any of these players’ chances.
The preseason favorite, Nats outfielder Bryce Harper, still has the ninth-best odds, but has the 93rd-best fWAR out of 164 qualified hitters in the bigs. Not exactly something to add to the resume when he’s asking for that $500 million contract this winter.
Unlike the AL, the NL has a handful of surprises near the top of the list. Neither Milwaukee’s Jesus Aguilar nor Chicago’s Javy Baez was listed before the season, but Aguilar has been the best hitter in the NL with a 159 wRC+ while Baez’s 3.4 fWAR is fifth-best among NL positional players.
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez and Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies — also top 10 in NL fWAR — round out the eight guys with 20-1 or shorter odds.