American League MVP Value Picks: Pair of High-Profile Shortstops Offering Value
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor.
- Mike Trout (+100) is the overwhelming favorite to win the American League MVP in 2019, but there's not much value there considering risk of injury and the unpredictability of baseball.
- Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa (+2500 each) are coming off of wildly different seasons, but both offer a lot of value for different reasons.
- For those looking for a longshot, former top prospect Byron Buxton (+30000) is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward candidate.
Betting on the American League MVP has been a challenging task since Mike Trout entered the league. Though Trout has actually won the award only twice, he’s finished in second place four times and caused some serious MVP sweats every year of his career.
It’d be tough to argue that he’s not the best player in baseball right now. In fact, he’s on pace to become one of the best players of all time. However, his odds to win the MVP, which opened at +200 and are already down to freaking even, offer no value.
Some odds do offer value, though. Maybe you won’t agree with mine, but here are some elements you should look for in a player if you want to choose some guys of your own.
Things To Look For
Multiple tools and high ceiling: Last year, Mookie Betts actually posted a higher single-season fWAR than Mike Trout ever has. Like Trout, Betts is someone who boasts a very high ceiling thanks to his ability to contribute at the plate, in the field and on the base paths. If you don’t possess either of the latter two skills, it’ll be tough to accrue a high WAR. And sorry, even if you don’t like WAR, the voters are paying attention to it at this point. You want someone who, if all things go right, can reach a WAR of at least 7-8 and possibly more for the American League. Over the past five years, here’s how many fWAR each of the 10 MVPs have had:
- <7: 0
- 7-8: 5
- 8-9: 2
- 9-10: 2
- 10+: 1
Power potential: Though it’s not a dire necessity, the ability to hit home runs is a key element to winning the MVP. I’m not saying you need 40-HR power, but just the ability to hit 25 or so makes a big difference. If you can hit 25 jacks, get on base a ton and also hit a lot of doubles, you’re going to end up with a great slash line at the end of the day. In this millennium, of the 36 position players to win MVP, only five have had fewer than 25 home runs: Jose Altuve (2017, 24), Buster Posey (2012, 24), Andrew McCutchen (2013, 21), Dustin Pedroia (2008, 17), Ichiro Suzuki (2001, 8). For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Suzuki and Pedroia wouldn’t win in this era with the type of seasons they had.
Athleticism: I think Miguel Cabrera is going to be the last guy for a long time to win the MVP and have the body of Babe Ruth. This is kind of aligns with my first point. Older, slower guys that don’t contribute (or potentially hurt their teams) on the base paths and in the field have a limited ceiling.
Things To Avoid
Designated hitters: Just look at J.D. Martinez last year. Unless a DH has a Barry Bonds-esque season at the plate, it’s going to be very hard for him to win the MVP. Since they don’t contribute in the field, they are actually penalized by WAR calculations. Like I said, that’s something that voters pay attention to. There’s never been a player who’s played the majority of their games at DH to win the MVP.
Old folks: Baseball players generally follow an aging curve. When they get old, they get worse. Anyone in their mid to late 30s can take a hike because they won’t be winning.
Here are the latest odds from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
American League MVP Odds
Francisco Lindor (+2500)
Francisco Lindor is coming off a career-best season in which he hit 38 home runs, stole 25 bases and posted a 7.6 fWAR. However, he came just sixth in the MVP voting.
If he can repeat that type of performance, I guarantee he finishes better than sixth this year.
Lindor’s power numbers have gone through the roof over the past two seasons and the 25-year-old shortstop should still be getting stronger and improving at the plate. His home runs, walks and hard-hit rate have all gone up every year of his career. Don’t forget that he plays a gold-glove worthy shortstop, too.
If Trout or Betts either miss some time or have a bit of a down season, I would say Lindor has the best chance of winning — much better than a 3.8% chance.
The one “con” about Lindor is that he’s dealing with a calf injury and may miss a few games at the start of the season, though it’s possible he’ll be ready by opening day.
Carlos Correa (+2500)
While Lindor is coming off of his best season, Correa is coming off of his worst. The Astros shortstop dealt with a nagging back injury that caused him to miss about a third of the season and struggle when he did play.
His fWAR, home runs, strikeout rate, batting average, hard-hit rate and HR/FB rate were all the worst he’s ever had. When not dealing with back problems, which he isn’t anymore, he’s an elite hitter.
In 2017, he was having just as good of a season as Jose Altuve, the eventual MVP winner, before tearing a ligament in his thumb and missing a month and a half.
Side note: He also had surgery this offseason to repair a deviated septum that caused him to have trouble breathing during games. #SeptumSteam
Now that he’s healthy again, he should be much closer to 15-1 to win the MVP.
Yelich-esque Longshot Candidate
Not for the faint of heart …
Byron Buxton (+30000)
After a promising second half of the 2017 season, I threw a few bucks (away) on Buxton to win MVP last year and have officially put down $1 on him this year. Not $1,000, not $100 — literally just $1.
Spring training stats don’t mean anything, but Buxton is hot and healthy so far. He’s the ultimate high-risk, high-reward type of guy. If he stays healthy and hits well over the season, his great fielding and base running could lead to a lofty WAR. Couple that with a Twins division title and boom! Buxton goes from absolute dog crap to MVP just like that.
Either that or my wallet is a dollar lighter …