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AL MVP Picks, Predictions: Using History To Identify Best Bets For 2023 MLB Award

AL MVP Picks, Predictions: Using History To Identify Best Bets For 2023 MLB Award article feature image

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Yordan Alvarez

March Madness hasn’t quite finished, so most people’s attention is on the court, but that just means there’s more room for us baseball sickos to play around in the futures market as we get closer and closer to Opening Day.

If you have ever read Brandon Anderson’s NBA Award previews here at Action, you’ll have a feel for how this is going to go. To paraphrase a quote far too important to be paraphrased in a sports betting preview(…): In order to predict future MVP Award Winners, we must first look back. 

We’ll be looking at the MVP winners since 2013, highlighting a few factors that seem to weigh heavily in the vote each year, and then looking towards who in the American League fits the bill this season in order to find the best AL MVP bets for 2023. 

*Among position players in their respective league
**If pitching and batting WAR are combined

Ok, so what stands out?

For full MVP odds and more MLB futures updated throughout the season, click here.

Peak Age Is Real

Of the last 20 MVP winners, 15 were in their 20s, three were 30 on the dot, one was in the COVID year and the one true outlier was Goldschmidt last year.

Now, it’s fair to wonder if the outlier being last season matters since it’s our most recent bullet point, but until we see it as more of a pattern, the overwhelming dominance of 24-30 year olds is definitely a key factor when looking for candidates.

The average age for these winners in the last 10 years is 26.95. If you have been immersed in the baseball analytics community, you know that the age-27 season has been a long debated “truism.” While the exact age peak is still somewhat up for debate (and ever-changing), no one should be surprised by this average age.

Winning Doesn’t Matter As Much As It Used To … But It Still Matters

Modern MLB MVP voters like to pat themselves on the back for being evolved enough to no longer pay attention to winning and being able to truly just focus on the individual numbers. (Whether or not that truly deserves back patting or not is a debate later in the season.) However, in the past 10 years, 13 of the 20 winners have been from teams with 93 wins or greater (prorated for the COVID season). 

I will certainly admit that some change has been made in this mindset, as four MVPs have been given out to players on losing teams since 2016, making it far more common than it was for the first 100+ years of baseball history. But it’s undeniable that even if winning is no longer mandatory for an MVP, it is certainly correlated with it.  

We Need to Know Who You Are

It’s rare in baseball that a player truly comes out of nowhere to win MVP. Of the data set above, only two players had not previously received MVP votes and both of those players had won Rookie of the Year, so it’s not as if they were unknowns.

Even further, 14 of these 20 winners had a previous top four finish, and five of the 17 distinct winners had been as close as a runner-up finish before eventually winning their first MVP. In the NBA this season we’re seeing that the voters inevitably let previous votes seep into their thinking, and it appears the same is true in baseball. If you’ve done your time and came as close as a runner-up in the past, the voters are more likely to reward you further down the road.

WAR is King

I chose 2013 as our line of demarcation because it was a decade ago and we humans love round numbers. But it also is a really clean line of demarcation because 2013 was the first year that WAR really dominated the MVP debate, and it’s now just a given. 

There has been exactly one player in the last 10 years who wasn’t in the top three in his league in WAR. That player was Bryce Harper, and he’s arguably the most famous baseball player on the planet. He also wasn’t a far shout from the top of the WAR leaderboard finishing just 1.2 wins behind Juan Soto, per rWAR. (Note here that I used rWAR from Baseball-Reference throughout the article.)

Every other MVP has ranked in the top three in their respective league in WAR, with more than half outright leading their league. Voters are intelligent enough to not simply sort the league leaderboard by WAR, but they also undeniably weigh WAR very heavily.

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2023 American League Picks

Now that we have some of the factors we’ll be looking for in this year’s AL MVP race, let’s look at all the names currently listed at U.S. books.

I’ll be separating them into eight different categories, spending less time on those bets that don’t need our time, and focusing instead on the most intriguing lines out there.


Vinny Pasquantino (+10000 FanDuel) — lol, I LOVE that some sicko in Crown Center is gonna toss five bucks on this.
Eloy Jimenez (+10000 FanDuel) — No previous votes or RoY; only played more than 90 games once, never more than 122.
Jeremy Pena (+15000 FanDuel) — Honestly, give this a couple years and I’ll be all over him, but he doesn’t have nearly the institutional knowledge for a MVP win.
Teoscar Hernandez (+8000 FanDuel) — He quietly has received MVP votes the past two of the past three seasons, but ask yourself: Do you see a world in which Teoscar Hernandez is the 2023 AL MVP? Even in our era of hot dog finger multiverses, that seems hard to imagine.
Luis Robert (+5000 FanDuel) — The shortest odds of anyone I just can’t see, but he’s never received MVP votes before, can’t stay healthy and is on a team I think will greatly disappoint.

Allllmost No Humanly Way Possible

Tim Anderson (+15000 FanDuel) — He does have a seventh-place finish and has some lowkey Face of the League moments, but he’s quietly 30 years old and trending the wrong way (along with his team).
Bobby Witt Jr (+10000 FanDuel) — So I’m quietly cooking up some Royals hot takes that would overlap real cleanly with a Witt MVP case … but no.
Carlos Correa (+5000 FanDuel) — You gotta admit it would be kind of funny, right?

If You Love Putting A Dollar On Things That Aren’t Going To Happen But Have “Value”

Gerrit Cole (+12000 FanDuel) — Has indeed received votes before but never higher than 10th and is 32 years old this season. Does play in major market.
Jose Abreu (+7000 BetRivers) — Putting this here out of respect for some smart folks I’ve seen make the bet, but personally, I’m not betting on a 36-year-old DH to win MVP.
Wander Franco (+4000 FanDuel) — He doesn’t fit every part of our logic here because he’s never received an MVP vote before, and as we’ll mention later, he doesn’t play in a big market. But getting a former mega prospect who is on a team that will be in the playoff hunt at 40:1 is a bet I just can’t quite write off entirely.

Not For This Price

Marcus Semien (+10000 FanDuel) — Has two top-three MVP finishes and does have a bit of a reverse SF Giants thing where he dominates odd seasons. But he’ll be 32, and I don’t even see him as the first or second most likely player to win the award on his team, let alone the greater landscape.
Jose Altuve (+7500 Caesars) — Quiet top-five finish last season after a couple of quieter seasons. But say it with me: 33-year-old who I don’t see as a top candidate even on his own team. Plus, he’s starting the season injured.
Giancarlo Stanton (+6000 DraftKings) — 33 years old. Can’t stay healthy. Overshined on his own team.
George Springer (+10000 FanDuel) — Literally exactly the same as Stanton.
Bo Bichette (+7000 FanDuel) — He’s been top-12 in the MVP last two seasons but hasn’t been higher than 11th. He doesn’t have nearly the ceiling most true candidates have, especially in terms of WAR.
Rafael Devers (+3000 FanDuel) — Devers is an absolute mega talent, but he’s never finished even top 10 in the MVP vote. He also doesn’t do well by WAR because his defense is poor, and if the Red Sox have a breakout season, there will be so many storylines that he may slip under the radar.

Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton (+4000 FanDuel) — This man could get his own article. On the one hand, he’s played more than 92 games in exactly one of his eight seasons. And even that season, he still missed more than 20 games.

On the other hand, you can make a really good case that no player outside of Shohei Ohtani has a higher MVP ceiling than Buxton. So is it a good bet? A bad bet? The books tossing out +4000 feels weirdly accurate.

Favorites I’m out on

Vladimir Guerrero Jr (+1400 BetRivers) — On the one hand, he fits the criteria perfectly: He’ll be 24-years-old and in his fifth season. He’ll be playing for a team that has a very high ceiling. We definitely know who he is, and he already has an MVP runner-up. But I can’t help but be nervous about the notable drop in production last season and more notably the chatter around why. Conditioning seems to be a constant worry for Guerrero, and he’s already picked up a nick this spring. He could certainly shake off these little nagging injuries and go supernova again, but I’m likely not going to be there cashing the ticket if he does, or at least not until his odds are a lot longer.
Julio Rodriguez (+900 FanDuel) — Rodriguez is AWESOME. I think he’s perfectly positioned to be the next Face of the League at a time when the league is in need of it. But these odds are CRAZY short for almost anyone, let alone a second-year player. I would be shocked if Rodriguez doesn’t win at least one of these in the next decade, but I’d also be quite surprised if it came in 2023.
Mike Trout (+800 FanDuel) — Trout looked outstanding at the World Baseball Classic, but we’re less than a year removed from some really weird whispers about his back being in such a bad spot that he might never play again. He’ll be 31 this season and is entering his 13th season. He hasn’t even played 162 games the past two seasons combined.
Shohei Ohtani (+225 BetRivers) — His current odds carry an implied odds of 30.77 percent, which is crazy until you think about what exactly it is Ohtani is doing. He’s currently a top-10 pitcher in the sport AND a top-10 hitter in the sport. I know you know that, but please just pause to really drink it in for a minute. We’re so lucky to get to see this. He’s also coming off a season in which he did this over the course of a full season and somehow didn’t win MVP (which honestly was fine because Judge was out of this world too and easily the story of the season). So the voters will definitely give him the tiebreaker in the case of a close race. But if you read my previous props preview, you know that I am low on Ohtani this season for a number of reasons, mostly all centered around me being worried about him staying healthy all season. He might do it; he’s quite possibly the best athlete in professional sports right now. But at such a short number, I’m not going to be there to start the season.

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Not Quite Best Bets

Jacob deGrom (+10000 FanDuel) — Is there a better than 1 percent chance he stays healthy for the entire season? Because if so, there’s a decent chance he’ll be the best pitcher in baseball, and even with a move to the American League, he could be rocking a sub-2.00 ERA on a Rangers team that we’ll talk more about later.
Alex Bregman (+6000 FanDuel) — He has the runner-up helper, and at age 29 he’s still within shouting distance of the peak age range. His team will almost certainly win 90+, and he averaged 8.4 WAR in those two peak seasons. However, he hasn’t  been the same player since, in large part due to health, which is a double whammy.
Adley Rutcshman (+3500 FanDuel) — Put up 5.2 WAR and finished 12th in the MVP race as a rookie who didn’t make it to the bigs until late May. The only thing holding me back here is that these odds are just a little too short for me to make it a best bet. But there’s definitely a world in which Rutschman acts somewhat like a Kris Bryant in 2016 and wins the award this season.
Kyle Tucker (+3500 PointsBet) — Tucker fits nearly all of our criteria. He’s a former top prospect playing for a team that feels like a lock for 90 wins. He’s averaged 5.5 WAR the past two seasons, and he will be 26-years-old and entering his sixth season in 2023. However, the highest he has ever finished in the MVP is 15th and it feels like the reason for that is twofold: He is often overshadowed in Houston, and he’s not the best at anything. He’s a true five-tool player but at a corner outfield position that hurts his WAR. He’s not likely to lead the league in any statistic and while we can pretend that doesn’t matter as much these days, it still matters, just voters are following WAR instead of BA. I still like this bet though and originally had it under my best bets before cooling on it just a bit.
Jose Ramirez (+1600 FanDuel) — So there’s actually one other factor I didn’t mention above: Being in a big market actually does help. Of the past 20 winners, only really three are from small markets. L.A. alone has twice that. It’s unfortunate because Ramirez plays on a team that could easily finish in the mid-90s for wins. He’s a monster by WAR. He’s an incredibly likable veteran leader who will be right on the age cusp this season (30). It feels like he’s doomed for a career of bridesmaid finishes without ever getting to be the bride.
Aaron Judge (+700 FanDuel) — My favorite of the favorites, FanDuel has a much longer price than the rest of the books. There’s a bit of age-related risk since he’s now 31, but he made it to the majors late, so it’s still only his eighth season. He’s coming off arguably the most famous season in recent history, and his team should cruise to 90+ wins. He not only plays in a mega market, but he’s likely the most famous player in the league. If he stays healthy, he’ll be in the conversation pretty much guaranteed. 

Best Bets

Corey Seager (+4500 FanDuel) 

Seager was the bet I gave out for my earliest roundtable when these lines were first released. He was 50:1 at the moment, but the price still isn’t bad at +4500 at FanDuel. He fits this criteria to a T. Seager is 29-years-old, has a third-place MVP finish in a Rookie of the Year season. He is playing for a team that if he is having an MVP-worthy season could well be in the breakout bucket. And even in his down seasons, like last year, he does very well by WAR (3.9 rWAR and 4.6 fWAR in 2022).

There’s also the fact that no batter should benefit more from the shift than Seager, and that he is smoking the ball in preseason (look at the exit velocities rather than the raw numbers if you’re going to pay any attention to Spring Training at all), and he remains a best bet.

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Yordan Alvarez (+1200 FanDuel)

Alvarez fits the criteria better than anyone else in the American League. He’ll be 26-years-old and in his fifth season this year, both around the peak career trajectory points. He’s fresh off a third-place finish in the MVP race, and he has a Rookie of the Year Award to his name. His team is very likely to win 90+ games, and Houston is a market that has proven itself capable of creating award winners. He even has that semi-intangible where you can very easily make the case for him being the best hitter in baseball, which is an area where his teammate, Tucker, would likely fail.

The case against him is really only twofold: He has to go through Ohtani, and he has a bit of the Vladito Disease of seemingly not being in perfect conditioning and it leading to him being dinged up and not 100 percent all the time.

As for the former, I laid out above why I am passing on Ohtani this season.

And for the latter, that’s why it’s +1200 and not +600 or so. I’m definitely a bit worried about this hand injury Alvarez is carrying right now. The Astros have been vague about any updates, and he’s only just started swinging a bat. It feels like the type of injury that could definitely linger all season and sap power. It’s why I actually targeted Alvarez to go against in terms of head-to-head home run props.

But there’s a big difference in betting Alvarez’s floor vs his ceiling. There are also plenty of times in which people hear these stories during preseason and get scared off, only to have the player fully locked and loaded all season, and there are very few players in the sport with a higher ceiling than Alvarez. He totaled 6.8 rWAR in just 135 games last season, mostly as a DH. His 187 OPS+ would’ve led all of baseball five of the past 10 seasons.

There’s definitely some inherent risk here, but at 12:1 and with the ceiling he has, Yordan Alvarez for AL MVP is my second favorite bet this season.

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