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2022 MLB Futures Odds, Betting Picks: Finding Value in MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Bets Ahead of Opening Day

2022 MLB Futures Odds, Betting Picks: Finding Value in MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Bets Ahead of Opening Day article feature image
Credit:

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Cubs rookie Seiya Suzuki

In addition to MLB win totals, divisional odds, World Series odds, and player props, I also bet on player awards — including Most Value Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year — before any MLB season.

If you missed Part I, my team futures Mega Guide, or Part II, my player prop predictions, you can see the remainder of my futures card for the 2022 MLB season.

It’s worth noting that your risk profile for player awards should fall somewhere between the risk allocation for those two articles.

For example, I have placed 23 World Series, divisional bets and win total wagers for the 2022 season — and I have risked more than 32 units on those wagers (an average risk of 1.39 units per wager).

Conversely, I provided 29 player props but only risked around three and a half units, in total, across those bets (an average risk of 0.12 units per wager).

For my player awards bets below, I wagered 5.75 units across 18 wagers (0.32 units per wager).

Below, I’ll provide my projected leaderboards for all awards categories and tell you where I’m placing my money for 2022.

Rookie of the Year

In 2011, a pair of pitchers (Jeremy Hellickson and Craig Kimbrel) swept the Rookie of the Year honors for the first time since 1981 (Dave Righetti and Fernando Valenzuela).

However, 16 of the past 20 winners (80%) accumulated more playing time on offense (including Shohei Ohtani, 2018), so I tend to lean toward position players in this market, all else being relatively equal.

Moreover, Wins Above Replacement, or “WAR” ranking, has become increasingly crucial to awards voters in the past decade. 

Fourteen of the past 20 Rookie of the Year winners (70%) finished atop the rookies in their league in WAR, with an average rank of 1.55 among the 20 awards recipients. And that includes a pandemic-shortened 2019 season, where Devin Williams (sixth) and Kyle Lewis (second) claimed honors.

Here are my projected WAR leaders among rookies for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at Caesars:

National League

Seiya Suzuki (+500 at Caesars and WynnBet) is my biggest wager for any player prop, or awards bet in 2022.

Not only does Suzuki top my NL rookie WAR projection on volume by a relatively significant margin, but he also sits atop the NL list on an average basis (0.09 WAR accumulated per 25 plate appearances). It should be challenging to pass Suzuki in WAR with less playing time.

SEIYA SUZUKI'S SECOND HOME RUN IS CRUSHED!💪🏼

(📸: @WatchMarquee) pic.twitter.com/mKo0cYGgAP

— Cubs Zone ™️ (@CubsZone) April 2, 2022

Unlikes Pirates prospect O’Neill Cruz — who will remain in the minor leagues likely until the Super Two cutoff — Suzuki will be in the majors on opening day.

And while Cruz offers more optimistic projections than my own (as high as 3.1 WAR in 113 games) for 2022, some projections for Suzuki (high of 3.9 WAR from Steamer in 130 games) place him closer to the MVP discussion, as opposed to top rookie honors.

American League

Adley Rutschman (+800 at Caesars) and Julio Rodriguez (+900 at bet365) stand out from the field in both leagues in average production (0.14 and 0.13 WAR per 25 plate appearances, respectively).

Rodriguez, in particular, is a must-bet at that bet365 price (+900). He’s less than half that number at most sportsbooks. And Rutchsman is a must-bet given his anticipated volume and average production combination.

While Bobby Witt Jr. (0.08) projects near the rookie leaders on volume, it seems like either Rutschman or Rodriguez could pass him eventually if they’re in the majors by mid-May.

Among infielders, I’m more interested in Vidal Brujan (+4000) than Witt — if Brujan finds a path to playing time via injury, he should be a dark-horse contender.

Beyond Rutschman and Rodriguez, I would look at Joe Ryan (+3000) or Shane Baz (+2000).

Baz (0.11 WAR per 25 batters faced) has far more upside and would have been my preseason selection, but he’s still healing from elbow surgery. I would monitor Baz’s odds in-season and look to add a Rookie of the Year ticket closer to May.

Ryan can keep up with the AL field on overall WAR and should put up a strong argument if he can avoid surrendering the longball (career 1.35 HR/9). Ryan seems like a logical play relative to the projected leaderboard at his price point.

Rookie of the Year Bets

  • AL: Julio Rodriguez (+900, 0.5 units) at Bet365
  • AL: Joe Ryan (+3000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Adley Rutschman (+800, 0.5u) at Caesars
  • NL: Seiya Suzuki (+500, 1u) at Caesars

Most Valuable Player

Before breaking down the potential list of MVP candidates for 2022, let’s talk about what matters and what does not matter to MVP voters.

Important

  • Position: In the past 18 years, pitchers have won just two MVP trophies (three in 32 years). Outfielders and corner infielders have won the award more than 75% of the time, including 12 of the 14 most recent recipients (Jose Altuve and Shohei Ohtani the only exceptions).
  • OPS Ranking: Counts twice as much as a player’s ranking in batting average, RBI, home runs, stolen bases or team winning percentage. Every (offensive) MVP winner since 2001, except for Ichiro, has had an OPS greater than .850.
  • WAR: 22 of the past 24 MVP winners (92%) ranked in the top three in WAR in their respective leagues. Sixteen of those winners (67%) finished as the league leader in WAR.

Irrelevant

  • Making History: There have been four “40-40” seasons in MLB history, and 23
    “30-30” seasons in MLB history. Just three of those 27 (11.1%) players (Jose Canseco in 1988, Jimmy Rollins in 2007, and Mookie Betts in 2018) won the MVP award. Those 27 players finished 9.7, on average, in MVP voting. Similarly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. likely wouldn’t have won the MVP last season, even if he had captured the Triple Crown.
  • Making the Playoffs: 11 of the past 44 MVP winners (25%) failed to make the postseason. Perhaps more importantly, none of the three finalists in either league made the postseason in 2022.

Inconclusive

  • Teammates Competing for Votes: Since 2000, the closest teammate in MVP voting, relative to the actual MVP winners, ranked 10.8 on average. One pair of teammates finished one-two (Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds, 2001). Three additional pairs finished in the top three of the voting. Four MVP winners finished with multiple teammates in the Top 10. Similarly, there are four instances where multiple teammates finished in the Top 10 without any winning the award.

Here are my projected WAR and OPS leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at Caesars:

National League

Let’s start in the NL, where Juan Soto is a prohibitive favorite, matched only by Mike Trout (0.27 WAR per 25 PA). and Fernando Tatis Jr. (0.26) among all MVP players in terms of average production.

Before the 2021 season, I said I would “continue to bet [Soto] every season until he takes home the hardware.” However, I had incorrectly assumed that we would continue to get +500 or better on Childish Bambino if he hadn’t won an MVP yet.

At his current price point (high of +360 at FanDuel), you’re betting on whether Soto will stay healthy for an entire season. I would rather wait and see Soto gets off to a slow start — as he did in 2021 — and look to back him during the season at a better price.

If memory serves, Soto climbed as high as +10000 last year before surging for the final two months and re-entering the discussion.

If you’re willing to bet against Soto, Trea Turner (+1800 at FanDuel) might be the best value play. Turner led the NL in WAR in 2021. However, he ranked eighth in OPS (.911), while Bryce Harper paced the NL (1.044).

Turner comes with several red flags, however. The relative lack of power when comparing up-the-middle players to corners harms their argument in the MVP race.

Turner projects outside the Top 10 in OPS ranking (14th), and he might also have to compete with several teammates (Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Justin Turner) for votes.

American League

The AL field offers significantly more value, in my opinion. There are up to six players that I considered betting for 2022.

Jose Ramirez (+2500 at Caesars) is the apparent value option — ranking third in projected WAR, second in OPS and second in average production in the AL field. Ramirez leads all MLB in WAR (9.8) over the past two seasons (roughly 220 games) and ranks highly by every data point used in MVP selection. However, he could get traded to the NL, which would destroy your ticket.

Aaron Judge (+2400 at FanDuel) can match Ramirez in terms of average production (0.24 WAR per 25 PA) and seems like an equally viable bet; if you replace Ramirez’s trade risk with Judge’s injury risk.

Byron Buxton (+5000 at bet365) falls below that pair in average projected production (0.22). However, Buxton accumulated 4.2 WAR in 61 games played last season (0.41 WAR per 25 PA) and has proven to be one of the best players in baseball when fully healthy.

While it’s difficult to project Buxton for more than 550 plate appearances or 130 games played, he will enter the MVP conversation if he can surpass those expectations.

Lastly, I have a trio of youngsters who should continue to improve: Rafael Devers (+2500 at Caesars), Wander Franco (+2400 at FanDuel), and Luis Robert (+2800 at bet365).

Devers (seventh in WAR, fifth in OPS) is the best hitter in that trio, and I mentioned some red flags about betting up-the-middle players.

That said, I anticipate that both Franco and Robert will be viewed as Top 10 players in all of MLB by the end of the 2022 season, and given their proximity in the rankings to other stars, I’m inclined to bet both wunderkinds.

MVP Bets

  • AL: Byron Buxton (+5000, 0.25u) at Bet365
  • AL: Rafael Devers (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Wander Franco (+2200, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • AL: Aaron Judge (+2400, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • AL: Jose Ramirez (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Luis Robert (+2800, 0.25u) at Bet365
  • NL: Trea Turner (+1800, 0.25u) at FanDuel

Cy Young

Historically, four basic statistics correlate most strongly to Cy Young winners: Wins, ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched).

However, there has been a clear upwards trend in recent seasons regarding WAR and Cy Young winners — which mirrors the trend between WAR and MVPs.

Until 2003, the Cy Young winner finished at least 1 WAR behind the pitching WAR leader (for that league) 48% of the time. Since 2004, that difference has only occurred six times (20%), a decrease of 28%

Ten of the past 12 Cy Young winners have finished in the top three in their respective leagues in pitching WAR — the only exceptions being Blake Snell (2018) and Robbie Ray (2021).

Here are my projected WAR and OPS leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at Caesars:

National League

The Jacob deGrom injury skews the entire field in the NL, but there might be actionable value on deGrom at some point. At the earliest, the Mets’ ace expects to return in June, but he could still make 20 starts over the final four months of the season, and he’s capable of winning the Cy Young in 2/3 of an entire season.

deGrom generated 4.9 WAR in just 15 starts, and 92 innings last season (0.53 WAR per 10 IP). I would look to bet deGrom as he progresses toward a return during the season.

Aaron Nola (4.63 ERA, 3.37 xFIP) is a strong bounce-back candidate for 2022; and can grind his way to a Cy Young award (+2500 at Caesars). The righty ranks second in total innings pitched (666 2/3) behind Gerrit Cole (667) since the 2018 season and is one of six NL pitchers who project to surpass 200 strikeouts.

Freddy Peralta (+6000 at Caesars) also fits that 200-strikeout filter after generating 195 punchouts in 144 innings last season. Peralta dealt with some arm fatigue last year but is more comparable to his rotation-mates than the odds market suggests.

Sandy Alcantara and Logan Webb (both +2500 at Caesars) fall shy of that 200 strikeout benchmark. And I don’t think that either projection necessarily captures the appropriate upside for either pitcher.

Both righties were visually impressive down the stretch last season (2.71 and 2.47 xFIP, respectively, in September) and rank as Top 10 pitchers for 2022, per Eno Sarris. 

34 seconds of Sandy Alcantara fastballs destroying hitters at 97+ mph pic.twitter.com/neMcxxTuuF

— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) January 31, 2022

For context, Nola ranks 12th, Peralta ranks 14th on that list, and all four pitchers are viable Cy Young bets for 2022.

American League

I took shots deeper down the board in the junior circuit, beginning with Nathan Eovaldi (+4000 at Caesars), who led the AL in pitching WAR (5.6) last season.

Eovaldi ranks as a top-three pitcher in the AL for 2022, both by volume and average production.

Based on the projections, I had difficulty leaving Eduardo Rodriguez (+5000 at Caesars) off of my card. However, I’m particularly low on the Tigers relative to the betting market. While Rodriguez is a fine pitcher, his upside (career-best 3.50 xFIP) seems limited to that of a No. 2 starter.

Relative to his teammates, Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease (+3000 at Caesars) could offer value. Cease led all of baseball in strikeout rate (34.6%) and led the AL in K-BB% (25.3%) over the final four months of the 2021 season.

Cease averaged 0.27 WAR per 10 IP over those four months. On average, Cease is more productive than Lynn and almost as productive as Giolito.

Lastly, I have to take the 100-1 shot on my guy Framber Valdez — the only pitcher projected for 3+ WAR who doesn’t appear on the odds boards at multiple sportsbooks.

Valdez was a popular Cy Young sleeper last offseason at +2500 but missed some time after sustaining a spring training injury. His price for 2022 is absurd.

Valdez pitched to a 3.50 xFIP over his final 10 regular-season starts in 2022 (averaging 6.3 innings per outing) while maintaining a league-leading groundball rate of around 70%.

His playoff results (19.2 IP, 7.78 ERA) were relatively poor, aside from his gem in Boston.

If Valdez gets strong defense and some BABIP luck, he can undoubtedly finish as the wins leader in a single season and potentially enter a Cy Young discussion.

Cy Young Bets

  • AL: Dylan Cease (+3000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Nathan Eovaldi (+4000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Framber Valdez (+10000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Sandy Alcantara (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Aaron Nola (+2500, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • NL: Freddy Peralta (+6000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Logan Webb (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
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Cy Young

  • AL: Dylan Cease (+3000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Nathan Eovaldi (+4000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Framber Valdez (+10000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Sandy Alcantara (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Aaron Nola (+2500, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • NL: Freddy Peralta (+6000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • NL: Logan Webb (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars

Most Valuable Player

  • AL: Byron Buxton (+5000, 0.25u) at bet365
  • AL: Rafael Devers (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Wander Franco (+2200, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • AL: Aaron Judge (+2400, 0.25u) at FanDuel
  • AL: Jose Ramirez (+2500, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Luis Robert (+2800, 0.25u) at bet365
  • NL: Trea Turner (+1800, 0.25u) at FanDuel

Rookie of the Year

  • AL: Julio Rodriguez (+900, 0.5u) at bet365
  • AL: Joe Ryan (+3000, 0.25u) at Caesars
  • AL: Adley Rutschman (+800, 0.5u) at Caesars
  • NL: Seiya Suzuki (+500, 1u) at Caesars

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