Zerillo’s MLB Futures: World Series, Division, Win Total, and Player Prop Bets to Make Before Opening Day

Zerillo’s MLB Futures: World Series, Division, Win Total, and Player Prop Bets to Make Before Opening Day article feature image
Credit:

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: The New York Mets celebrate.

The idea of betting futures  — and tying up your money with a book for several months (often) at a relatively small edge in terms of expected value — is naturally unappealing to many bettors.

Just by placing these wagers, you’re both diminishing your accessible bankroll in the short term and providing the house with an interest-free loan for at least half a year.

But for my money, there’s nothing more fun or interesting than building a portfolio of futures throughout the MLB offseason. There’s plenty of bettors who would tell you that it’s a waste of time, but they’re looking at things purely from the perspective of immediate financial gain, and are typically dreary, uninteresting blowhards.

I’m here to discover and exploit edges, back those opinions up with my money, and ultimately turn a profit — no differently than they are. But I’m also here to have fun. And if there’s something that really tickles your fancy in the betting space — something that brings you legitimate joy — why wouldn’t you invest your time, effort, and money into those perceived edges, regardless of the time horizon?

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The MLB regular season is a complete grind. Projecting and analyzing lines for 2,430 games (about 13.5 games per day) over the period of six months is a daunting task amid a field of variance landmines that cause massive swings on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. While I mostly enjoy the process, there are some major ups and downs along the way.

The offseason, however, is a complete labor of love. And, unfortunately, this article represents the end of that road for 2021.

Fortunately, you still have some time left to lock in futures for the upcoming season. I’m not here to tell you to bet the near 50 potential wagers in this article — I am here to stop you from making bad bets and to encourage you to spend time and money on the type of bets or categories that appeal to you the most.

Here are the value bets that still excite me for the 2021 baseball season:

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Click on a section to skip ahead
World Series Futures
Divisional Futures
Team Win Totals
Cy Young
MVP
Most Home Runs
Most Hits
Most Runs Scored
Most Runs Batting In
Most Stolen Bases
Most Strikeouts
Most Saves

World Series Futures That Still Hold Value

Rather than updating my full projections post from February, I’m going to present my final projections and the teams that offer value — relative to listed odds — in each of the next three sections.

Six teams -—one in each division — are potential value plays in the World Series market:

 

While the Yankees and Padres are both potential plays — and I wouldn’t fault you for locking in a bet on either team — I don’t personally bet World Series futures below +1000 during the preseason. If you’re patient, you might find a better price during the season, like if the team slips to second place in their division after a slow start, for example.

You would need a divisional title for either team to justify their current valuation.

Furthermore, that Twins number is almost splitting hairs and within the margin of error. The +2500 number is only available at WynnBet; otherwise, Minnesota is +1800 across most of the market.

1. Houston Astros to win the World Series

Value to +1500

In February, I projected the Astros at 5.6% (implied +1686) to win the World Series.

They added Jake Odorizzi to their rotation since that time, will likely be getting Justin Verlander back late in the season, and the injury outlook on Framber Valdez is much more positive than initially expected.

FanGraphs currently sets their chances at 6.7%, while ATC projections set their odds at 9.2%.

2. New York Mets to win the World Series

Value to +1000

  • Best odds: +1800 at The Westgate
  • Actionable Odds: +1200 at WynnBet

I projected the Mets at 9% (implied +1000) to win the World Series in February.

FanGraphs currently sets their chances at 10.2%, while ATC projections set their odds at 11%.

The newly minted richest club in baseball is flush with cash, and I wouldn’t be surprised if either Eugenio Suárez or Kris Bryant is eventually acquired to assist with their playoff push.

3. Milwaukee Brewers to win the World Series

Value to +5000

I projected the Brewers at 2.2% (implied +4445) to win the World Series in February.

Since then, Milwaukee added both Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. .to bolster their defense significantly

FanGraphs currently sets their chances at 2.3%, while ATC projections set their odds at 4.1%.


Divisional Futures That Still Hold Value

Six teams offer value in the divisional market — including two teams from the AL Central following the long-term injury to White Sox star Eloy Jiménez.

The only division without a representative is the NL West since the Dodgers (projected -250, listed -250) didn’t technically qualify. Other teams who just missed the cut include the Cubs (projected +528, listed +500) and Royals (projected +4155, listed +4000).

I try not to play an edge of less than five percent in the divisional market, which only leaves me with five teams from the list below:

1. New York Yankees to win the AL East

Value to -260

In February, I projected the Yankees’ divisional chances at 67.2%.

Since that time, the Blue Jays sustained injuries to both George Springer and Nate Pearson, while the Rays lost closer Nick Anderson for at least half the season with an elbow injury.

Based upon current projections from ATC, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, the Yankees’ AL East chances range from 68-89%.

At the more conservative end of that projection (implied -212), there isn’t enough of an edge for me to place a wager — and I generally don’t lay this much juice on any MLB futures.

But if you’re highly confident in this Yankees team, I wouldn’t talk you out of this bet.

2. Cleveland Indians to win the AL Central

Value to +700

In February, I projected the Twins at 36.5% to win their division, with Cleveland at 11.4%.

Following the recent injury to the White Sox’s Jiménez, the projections for both teams have improved.

Based upon current projections from ATC, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, the Twins’ AL Central chances range from 27-70%. Given the potential downside, I cannot recommend a play on the two-time reigning Central division champions.

Based upon those same projections, Cleveland’s AL Central chances range from 13.5-23.3% — so there’s enough value there to take a small stab.

Since hiring Terry Francona in 2013, Cleveland has the most wins in the American League (six more than the Yankees) and has won 52% of its games in every season except for 2015 (81-81). They are loaded with young pitching, have few weaknesses, and appear set to overachieve yet again.

3. Houston Astros to win the AL West

Value to -185

In February, I projected the Astros at 61.8% to win their division, and we locked in some wagers at +160.

Based upon current projections from ATC, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, the Astros’ AL West chances range from 55-82%. Their most conservative projection still represents an actionable edge compared to listed odds.

I prefer Houston’s divisional bet to their win total — it’s a low percentage outcome for Houston to win 88 games without securing a division title.

4. New York Mets to win the NL East

Value to -108

In February, I projected the Mets at 49% to win their division, and we locked in some wagers at +170.

Based upon current projections from ATC, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, the Mets’ NL East chances range from 54-63%. Their least-optimistic projection still represents a substantial edge compared to listed odds.

I’m admittedly worried about the Braves. Projection systems have missed on that team for a couple of seasons in a row, and they are loaded with young talent. But I still don’t think the Mets are getting enough respect relative to their rivals.

5. Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL Central

Value to +104

In February, I projected the Brewers at 31.1% to win their division, and we locked in some wagers at +380 and +385.

Based upon current projections from ATC, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, the Brewers’ NL Central chances range from 37-63%. Their most conservative projection still represents a substantial edge compared to listed odds.

Their win total is significantly closer to the Cardinals than their divisional odds suggest it should be. And I think they’re the most undervalued team in the betting markets.

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Win Totals That Still Hold Value

In general, the win total market was a lot less inflated this season than in prior years — where there were up to 30 additional wins if you combined the listed totals for all teams.

Af of writing, I still show value (plus or minus three wins from my projected total) on up to 10 win totals — five overs and five unders — this late in the offseason.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates Over 35.5% Win Percentage

Value to 59.5 Wins

  • Best odds: Win Percentage Over 35.5% (-115) at Bet365

This win percentage bet implies a total of 57.5 wins for the Pirates over a 162-game schedule.

In February, I projected the Pirates at 59.5 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 61-66, meaning that the least-optimistic projection still exceeds their listed total.

 

2. Houston Astros Over 87.5 Wins

Value to 88.5

  • Best odds: Over 87.5 Wins (-110) at PointsBet

In February, I projected the Astros at 89.1 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 89-94, meaning that the least-optimistic projection still exceeds their listed total.

Despite the projected edge, I would still prefer to bet on their divisional odds instead of their win total.

3. Milwaukee Brewers Over 50.5% Win Percentage

Value to 83 Wins

  • Best odds: Win Percentage Over 50.5% (-115) at Bet365

This win percentage bet implies a total of 81.8 wins for the Brewers over a 162-game schedule — meaning that you win the bet if they finish with 82 or more wins over the course of a full season.

In February, I projected the Brewers at 81.9 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 82-88.5, meaning that the least optimistic projection still exceeds their listed total, and there is fairly significant upside.

4. San Francisco Giants Over 73.5 Wins 

Value to 73.5

In February, I projected the Giants at 77.9 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 73.5-78.5.

There is some downside here — and I would choose between either the Giants or Padres if you’re selecting teams within the NL West — but I like the construct of this Giants’ roster and the direction of their organization during the Farhan Zaidi era.

5. San Diego Padres Over 93.5 Wins 

Value to 93.5

In February, I projected the Padres at 97.9 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 95.2-101, meaning that the least-optimistic projection still exceeds their listed total.

6. St. Louis Cardinals Under 86.5 Wins 

Value to 83.5

  • Best odds: Under 86.5 Wins (-110) at BetMGM

In February, I projected the Cardinals at 85.5 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 77-84, meaning that the most-optimistic projection still falls short of their listed total.

They are likely the best defensive team in baseball, and good defensive teams typically exceed their win totals. Still, I also see a lot of injury downside with this Cardinals’ roster.

7. Oakland Athletics Under 87.5 Wins 

Value to 84.5

  • Best odds: Under 87.5 Wins (-110) at BetMGM

In February, I projected the Athletics at 83.8 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 79.5-84, meaning that the most optimistic projection still falls short of their listed total.

8. Chicago White Sox Under 90.5 Wins 

Value to 90

  • Best odds: Under 90.5 Wins (-110) at BetMGM

In February, I projected the White Sox at 88.9 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 80-91, so there is a ton of variance within their range of outcomes.

The injury to Jiménez (projected 2.5 WAR) was a bit of a game-changer, which lowers their floor, and generally opens things up within the AL Central.

9. Atlanta Braves Under 91.5 Wins 

Value to 90

  • Best odds: Under 91.5 Wins (-110) at BetMGM

In February, I projected the Braves at 92.4 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 83-90, meaning that the most-optimistic projection still falls short of their listed total.

However, projection systems have been low on this Braves squad for a few seasons in a row, and they keep exceeding expectations. Because I have multiple positions on Mets’ futures, I’m not double-dipping by taking the Braves under, too. But it is probably the best way to fade them directly.

10. Los Angeles Angels Under 85 Wins 

Value to 85

  • Best odds: Under 85 Wins (-110) at WynnBet

In February, I projected the Angels at 80.2 wins.

Based upon current projections from ATC, Davenport, FanGraphs, and PECOTA, their win total projection ranges from 78-87, so there is a upside variance within their range of outcomes.

However, I think this Angels’ team is a poor defensive club, filled with players on the wrong side of the age curve. I also have a share of Under 83.5 based upon my initial projection, but they’re the one team I would have looked to fade before running any projections.

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Player Futures That Still Hold Value

The picks in the following sections are based on my 2021 player projections.

I evaluate each category differently. For example, the awards sections are based upon an explicit set of criteria, as outlined in my articles related to those specific awards, linked below.

Conversely, the stat leader props are selected by grouping players into projection buckets and finding outlier prices.

Cy Young Award

If you want a deeper dive into this category, I recommend reading my full analysis of the 2021 Cy Young race.

I ended up selecting nine value plays that meet the requisite projection benchmarks and look like strong targets, and I have Cy Young tickets on seven of these pitchers.

1. Jacob DeGrom to win the NL CY Young

Value to +350

Since the midpoint of the 2019 season, deGrom leads all MLB pitchers in WAR (6.5), FIP (2.18), and swinging-strike rate (18.6%), and ranks near the top of the leaderboard in both xFIP (2.71, third) and K-BB% (29.5%, third).

Health provided, this is his award to lose.

2. Yu Darvish to win the NL CY Young

Value to +1000

  • Best odds: +1400 at The Westgate

Darvish is the only pitcher in the NL who has kept pace with deGrom since the 2019 All-Star break, ranking fourth in MLB in WAR (5.4), second in FIP (2.54), first in xFIP (2.59), second in K-BB% (31.2%), and seventh in swinging-strike rate (14.7%) over that span.

He owns a 10:1 strikeout to walk ratio (211 K, 21 BB) over his past 25 starts, which easily paces all of MLB (Gerrit Cole is second at 7.14; Shane Bieber third at 6.32).

3. Jack Flaherty to win the NL CY Young

Value to +1500

Flaherty had a wonky 2020 campaign due to COVID protocols. The Cardinals had numerous delays early in the year, and the gap between Flaherty’s first start (July 24) and second (August 19) didn’t allow him to stretch out until mid-September. 

He accumulated an NL-best 4.1 WAR while posting a 0.91 ERA, 2.22 FIP, and 3.19 xFIP in the second half of the 2019 season, and his combined K-BB% over the past two seasons (22.2%) ranks fourth in the NL.

4. Brandon Woodruff to win the NL CY Young

Value to +2000

Among pitchers who have thrown 150+ innings over the past two seasons, Woodruff ranks eighth in FIP (3.08), 11th in xFIP (3.34), ninth in K-BB% (23.7%), and seventh in SIERA (3.49).

Woodruff should have a strong defensive unit behind him in 2021 and finally gain recognition as one of the best pitchers in baseball.

5. Aaron Nola to win the NL CY Young

Value to +1500

  • Best odds: +2000 at The Westgate

Nola is a modern-day workhorse, posting consecutive seasons with more than 200 innings pitched from 2018-19 while ranking second behind deGrom (489) in total innings pitched (486) over the past three seasons.

Nola ranked eighth in pitching WAR (11.0) over that same span and seemed to unlock a new level last season by raising his K-BB% to 25.3%, the fifth-best mark in the NL, after bringing his secondary pitches to level terms in usage rate.

6. Lucas Giolito to win the AL CY Young

Value to +750

  • Best odds: +900 at The Westgate

Based upon which projection system you use, your opinion of Giolito might change.

ZIPS projects him for the most pitching WAR (5.8) in the American League, which should be enough to justify a wager at this outlier price.

7. Tyler Glasnow to win the AL CY Young

Value to +1000

Over the past two seasons, Glasnow ranks second in xFIP (2.84) behind Cole (2.72) and ahead of both Bieber (2.91) and deGrom (2.97).

While the projection market has Bieber anywhere from 185-197 innings pitched, Cole between 190-201 innings and Giolito ranging from 171-180 innings, Glasnow (133-163), Kenta Maeda (135-172), and Lance McCullers Jr. (113-148) have a significantly wider range of IP outcomes. If any creeps into 180+ territory, they should be receiving votes for the award.

8. Kenta Maeda to win the AL CY Young

Value to +2000

  • Best odds: +2500 at The Westgate

In 2020, Maeda dialed back his fastball usage (from 38% to an MLB-low 26%) and leaned on his two best pitches (slider and changeup) more often than ever, leading to more strikeouts, fewer walks (28.2% K-BB%, vs. 19.9% for his career), and a sustained ability to generate weak contact.

PECOTA sees the changes in a more pronounced way than other projection systems, pegging Maeda for a 3.24 FIP in 2021 (3.79 to 4.30 in the rest of the market).

And he’s getting a significantly longer leash from the Twins than the Dodgers ever allowed him.

9. Lance McCullers Jr. to win the AL CY Young

Value to +5000

  • Best odds: +6000 at The Westgate

McCullers has dealt with injuries throughout his career, but the Astros demonstrated confidence in the righty, inking him to a five-year, $85M extension last week. 

He was highly effective after returning from Tommy John surgery last season, posting a 2.18 ERA, 2.88 FIP, and 3.23 xFIP over his final eight starts. Furthermore, he’s an extreme groundball pitcher (59.7% in 2020) who has been able to sustain a low home-run rate (0.71 HR/9), which takes a lot of volatility out of his range of outcomes.

If McCullers ever stays healthy for 30+ starts, he should post some eye-catching numbers and make his way into the Cy Young conversation.

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MVP Award

If you want a deeper dive into this category, I recommend reading my full analysis of the 2021 MVP race.

I ended up both selecting and betting one player from each league to win the award:

1. Juan Soto to win the NL MVP

Value to +750

Soto finished fifth in MVP voting last season but essentially lost the award on Opening Day when he was ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols and ultimately missed 13 games.

Otherwise, Soto was the best hitter in baseball last season (.478 wOBA, 201 wRC+).  And four of six projection systems project him to outperform Mike Trout at the plate in 2021.

Through age 21, Juan Soto and Ted Williams are the only two players with:

  • A walk rate greater than 15%
  • A home run plus walk rate greater than 20%
  • A wRC+ greater than 150
  • A season with more walks than strikeouts, where they also led the league in on-base percentage

2. José Ramírez to win the AL MVP

Value to +1200

  • Best odds: +1600 at The Westgate
  • Actionable Odds: +1400 at William Hill

Over his most recent 102 games — which includes the second half of his 2019 season and all of 2020 — Ramírez has the second-highest wOBA in all of MLB (.426), behind Nelson Cruz (.436) and ahead of Juan Soto (.425), with the following stat line: .307/.377/.664 (1.041 OPS), 33 home runs, and 16 stolen bases, or a pace of 52 homers and 25 steals.

His WAR (6.1) ranks third over the same span, and he might have pulled ahead of Mookie Betts (6.2) and Anthony Rendon (6.4) if he had been able to avoid a freak hand injury near the end of the 2019 season.

Most Home Runs

Here are my projected home run leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at The Westgate:

1. Pete Alonso to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +1200

  • Best odds: +1400 at The Westgate

Alonso Led MLB with 53 home runs in 2019 and owns the most home runs (69) over the past two calendar years.

His overall batted ball metrics took a dip last season. However, Alonso’s maximum exit velocity (118.4 mph) matched his max from 2019 (118.3 mph) and still exceeded any other batter by 1.7 mph last season.

Max exit velocity is one of the more important metrics for quantifying power potential.

2. Joey Gallo to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +1500

  • Best odds: +1600 at The Westgate

If we limit the field to greater than 400 projected plate appearances and divide total home runs by total plate appearances, this is how the leaderboard reshapes itself:

Gallo dealt with injuries in 2020, but he remains one of — if not the — biggest power threats in the game thanks to his extreme flyball tendency (career 50.8%).

He ranked second (behind Trout) in average flyball distance (209 feet) last season.

3. Juan Soto to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +1500

  • Best odds: +1600 at The Westgate

Soto needs to hit more flyballs (career 32.9%) to increase his home run rate, but his bat control is as good as it gets.

He ranked third in both barrels per plate appearance and per batted ball event in 2020 while ranking 13th in hard-hit percentage (51.6%).

He has the skillset to adapt his swing for more power, and I’m expecting that adjustment to start this season.

4. Eugenio Suárez to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +2500

  • Best odds: +3000 at The Westgate

Suárez ranks second behind Alonso with 64 total home runs over the past two seasons and first in all of MLB since the 2019 All-Star break (44).

He has increased his flyball rate from 37% to 42.3% and 47% over a three-year period while ranking in the top 25 for both barrels per plate appearance and per batted ball event over the past two seasons.

Suárez should continue to receive enough playing time to put him within range of the league leaders.

5. Miguel Sanó to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +2500

Sanó is my favorite longshot bet on this list, having ranked near the top of the leaderboard in barrel rate, exit velocity, and hard-hit rate for consecutive seasons and four of the past five years.

He ranks eighth with 34 home runs since the 2019 All-Star break while pacing the league in barrel rate (22.7%) and exit velocity (95.3 mph) by significant margins.

If he’s able to cut down on the whiffs (league-worst 43.9% strikeout rate in 2020) and make slightly more contact, there’s a 50+ homer season in his bat.

6. Yordan Alvarez to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +3000

  • Best odds: +300 at The Westgate

Alvarez missed the entire 2020 campaign — first due to COVID protocols and then as a result of knee surgery.

Among batters with at least 200 plate appearances, he ranked sixth in barrel rate, sixth in max exit velocity, and 13th in hard-hit rate during his Rookie of the Year campaign.

Based upon wOBA projections, he profiles as a top-10 hitter for 2021 but may not get enough playing time — as a DH with bad knees — to get to the top of the leaderboard.

7. Franmil Reyes to lead MLB in Home Runs

Value to +5000

  • Best odds: +6000 at The Westgate

“The Franimal” has freakish power to all areas of the park, but his 2019 metrics (second in hard-hit rate, fourth in exit velocity, 10th in barrel rate) took a slight step back in 2020 as Cleveland’s full-time DH.

He hit too many grounders (50.3%), which ultimately sapped some of that power.

But the 25-year-old still has massive power potential, and the market isn’t giving proper respect to his upside.

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Most Hits

Here are my projected total hits leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their  listed odds at William Hill:

1. DJ LeMahieu to lead MLB in Hits

Value to +1200

Sitting atop the Yankees’ lineup, LeMahieu ranks second in all of baseball with 268 hits over the past two seasons.

He is the inside-out king, hitting to the opposite field a league-high 36% of the time over the past two seasons and 35% for his career.

2. Mookie Betts to lead MLB in Hits

Value to +1200

Betts ranks ninth with 240 hits over the past two seasons, and he should continue to flourish in the Dodgers’ leadoff spot.

3. Whit Merrifield to lead MLB in Hits

Value to +1200

Over the past two, three, and four years, Merrifield leads all of baseball in total hits, thanks to consistent playing time atop the Royals’ lineup and incredible bat control. Merrifield has ranked in the top 10 in the sweet spot rankings in consecutive seasons.

His rate of line drives (27.7%) ranks second over the past two years and fourth since 2017 (26.7%).

4. Freddie Freeman to lead MLB in Hits

Value to +1200

I generally avoid non-leadoff types for this category, but Freeman is as consistent as they come and ranks second with 440 total hits over the past three seasons.

He holds an MLB-best 30.1% line drive rate over that same span — backed up by a league-leading 49% sweet spot rate in 2020 and top-10 finishes in both 2019 (10th) and 2018 (3rd).

Freeman has been one of the best hitters in baseball for the entire Statcast era, and the metrics suggest that he is only getting better with age (career-best .462 xWOBA in 2020).

5. Jeff McNeil to lead MLB in Hits

Value to +2000

McNeil is expected to hit sixth in the Mets’ lineup and may not be an everyday regular, but he still finds his way near the top of the leaderboard thanks to his incredible hit tool.

With a full slate of at-bats, and a better spot in the lineup (he would be hitting second for most clubs), McNeil would outperform his odds. But those are legitimate concerns, and I didn’t end up betting this number.

Most Runs Scored

1. Mookie Betts to lead MLB in Runs Scored

Value to +750

Here are my projected runs scored leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at Bet365:

Betts leads all of MLB in runs over the past two, three, four, five, and six-year periods. He only led the league twice (129 runs in 2018, 135 in 2019), but he has been so consistent that the field has been unable to catch up.

Not only is he a great hitter and defender who gets on the pace at a high clip, but Betts is also arguably the best baserunner in the game, and he puts himself in a position to score more often than his peers.

Sitting atop the Dodgers’ lineup, he should score a plethora of runs again in 2020. The only question is whether he plays enough games to win this category on volume.

Most Runs Batted In

Here are my projected RBI leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their  listed odds at FanDuel:

As you can see, several players listed within range of the league lead offer odds more than double that of their peers.

Ultimately, I left Ramírez off the shortlist because I already have MVP action on him and show his team scoring at least 50 fewer runs than either the Blue Jays or Red Sox.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to lead MLB in Runs Batted In

Value to +3000

Based upon my projections, Guerrero’s odds should be half their current valuation.

He is playing in a potentially incredible hitters park in Dunedin (the highest park factor in the Florida State League). The Blue Jays should score a ton of runs this season regardless of their environment.

Vlad transformed his body during the offseason, is absolutely raking during spring training, and looks to be on the cusp of a breakout at age 22.

Players are rarely given an 80 grade (20-80 scale) in any individual category, but Vlad Jr. has a legitimate 80-grade hit tool, and he should turn into one of the fearsome run producers during his prime years.

2. Rafael Devers to lead MLB in Runs Batted In

Value to +3000

Devers is already one of the best run producers in baseball, and he ranks third with 158 RBI over the past two seasons.

Given that fact alone, I’m surprised to see him listed so low in this category. He’s still just 24-years-old and should continue to make improvements as he enters his prime.

Based upon his 2021 projections, Devers’ odds are double what I expected to find.

Most Stolen Bases

1. Myles Straw to lead MLB in Stolen Bases

Value to +2500

Here are my projected stolen base leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their projected stolen base rate (stolen base percentage, per plate appearance) and listed odds at Bet365:

A couple of players who didn’t make the list (filtered for greater than 400 plate appearances) include Jon Berti (19 SB, 4.6%) and Dylan Moore (23 SB, 4.4%), but they’re still lagging behind Straw and Turner in terms of opportunity.

It’s likely going to take an injury to Mondesi for anyone else to win this category, but there’s legitimate upside in Straw’s 2021 outlook.

Though he’s no longer expected to hit leadoff, it was something that Dusty Baker considered during his strong spring and could still happen if Straw carries that success into the regular season.

Straw ranks in the 91st percentile for sprint speed and turned in a minor league campaign in 2018 with 70 stolen bases (over 131 games) in the high-minors.

If he receives 500+ plate appearances as Houston’s primary center fielder, Straw should rank among the league leaders in steals.

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Most Strikeouts

Here are my projected strikeout leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at Bet365:

1. Shane Bieber to lead MLB in Strikeouts

Value to +600

Bieber introduced a cutter and increased his curveball usage in 2020 while dialing back both his fastball and slider usage — and he ended up pacing his league in virtually every metric, new and old.

Most importantly, for purposes of this prop, he led all qualified pitchers in strikeout rate (41.7%) and ranked fourth in swinging-strike rate (17.1%).

Each of his five offerings returned a positive pitch value, but I’m confident that he’s still trying to find ways to improve his arsenal.

2. Lucas Giolito to lead MLB in Strikeouts

Value to +800

In 2020, Giolito recorded a 17.3% swinging-strike rate — second behind only deGrom (21.6%) — while increasing his percentage of changeups (+7.6% over 2019 and +17.8% over 2018).

His strikeout rate (33.7%) ranked fifth among qualified pitchers, two spots ahead of Gerrit Cole (32.6%).

Most Saves

1. Trevor Rosenthal to lead MLB in Saves

Value to +1500

Here are my projected saves leaders for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at William Hill:

Rosenthal is grouped in with several closers whose odds are half his current price. Since he didn’t sign until late February, most books don’t even have him listed under the total saves category.

Rosenthal struggled in 2019 after returning from Tommy John surgery (13.50 ERA, 17 K, 26 BB in 15.1 IP) but eventually rediscovered his command and was arguably more dominant in 2020 than ever before. He posted career highs in swinging-strike rate (16.5%) and strikeout minus walk percentage (33%, vs. 19.9% career).

Since the midpoint of the 2019 season, Liam Hendriks led all of MLB in saves (34), and Rosenthal should have ample opportunities now that he’s assumed Hendriks’ old role in Oakland.

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Zerillo’s 2021 MLB Futures Card

World Series Futures

  • Houston Astros (+2500, 1u)
  • Houston Astros (+3000, 0.25u)
  • Milwaukee Brewers (+7500, 0.4u)
  • New York Mets (+1200, 0.5u)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (+3000, 0.5u)

Divisional Futures

  • AL Central: Cleveland Indians (+1000, 1u)
  • AL West: Houston Astros (+160, 2.5u)
  • NL East: New York Mets (+170, 2.5u)
  • NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers (+385, 2u)
  • NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers (+320, 0.5u)

MLB Win Totals

  • Chicago White Sox, Under 91.5 Wins (1.5 units)
  • Detroit Tigers, Under 68.5 wins (1u)
  • Detroit Tigers, Under 69.5 wins (1u)
  • Los Angeles Angels, Under 83.5 wins (1u)
  • Los Angeles Angels, Under 85 wins (1u)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, Over 101.5 wins (1u)
  • Milwaukee Brewers, Over 50.5% Win Percentage (1u)
  • New York Mets, Over 90.5 wins (1u)
  • Oakland Athletics Under 87.5 wins (1u)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates, Over 57.5 wins (1u)
  • San Francisco Giants, Over 73.5 wins (1u)
  • St. Louis Cardinals, Under 86.5 wins (1u)

Cy Young

  • NL: Jacob deGrom (+500, 1u)
  • NL: Yu Darvish (+1200, 0.25u)
  • NL: Jack Flaherty (+1500, 0.25u)
  • NL: Brandon Woodruff (+2500, 0.25u)
  • AL: Tyler Glasnow (+1500, 0.5u)
  • AL: Kenta Maeda (+2500, 0.2u)
  • AL: Lance McCullers Jr. (+6500, 0.05u)

MVPs

  • NL: Juan Soto (+850, 1u)
  • AL: Jose Ramirez (+1400, 0.5u)

Most Home Runs

  • Joey Gallo (+1600, 0.25u)
  • Miguel Sano (+5500, 0.25u)
  • Juan Soto (+1800, 0.5u)
  • Eugenio Suarez (+3000, 0.25u)

Most Hits

  • Mookie Betts (+1300, 0.25u)
  • Freddie Freeman (+2000, 0.25u)
  • DJ Lemahieu (+1300, 0.25u)
  • Whit Merrifield (+1500, 0.25u)

Most Runs Scored

  • Mookie Betts (+850, 0.25u)

Most Runs Batted In

  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+5500, 0.5u)

Most Stolen Bases

  • Myles Straw (+2800, 0.25u)

Most Strikeouts

  • Shane Bieber (+700, 0.25u)
  • Lucas Giolito (+900, 0.25u)

Most Saves

  • Trevor Rosenthal (+2000, 0.5u)

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