MLB Futures: How to Bet MVP and Cy Young Award Races
Pictured: Sean Murphy. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Nearly a month has passed since we did our first awards check-in of the season, and naturally a lot has happened.
However, in the MLB awards betting market, a lot of familiar faces sit atop the odds charts. Shohei Ohtani is now minus money to win the AL MVP, the NL Cy Young has two early favorites and the NL MVP and AL Cy Young each have an early season favorite.
Here’s a brief reminder of the criteria we are looking for when assessing these two main awards.
We’re looking for someone typically in that peak range of 24-30 years old.
A previous strong finish in the MVP race is needed
WAR is by far the most important statistic
ERA is king. All other factors can be pushed away to bow at the altar of a top-two ERA.
With that in mind, let’s assess these markets. As a reminder, you can shop odds at multiple books for all MLB awards by visiting our futures betting odds page.
NL Cy Young
We’ll start with the market we are in the best position on. In these articles, I’m going to be tracking the plays given out either on the Action Network app (@TurveyBets) or in these articles. Let’s start this conversation by looking at the portfolio we have so far:
Julio Urias +900
Aaron Nola +1300
Spencer Strider +1500
Blake Snell +5000
Clayton Kershaw +8000
Hunter Greene +8000
This is by far the most sprawling portfolio we have on any of these awards (ironically it was the one I was most worried about a month ago), but as of now, it’s working out well.
In Strider and Kershaw, we have two of the top three favorites at far longer numbers than currently available. That allows a bettor to assess each “challenger” who emerges throughout the season and deem if they are worthy of some action. Our challenger today: Zac Gallen.
Gallen was, regretfully, not a name I covered in our preseason overview, and looking back, that was a massive oversight. He’s a pitcher I’ve been high on for a while and three of his four professional seasons have come with an ERA under 3.00.
He has earned every bit of his 2.36 ERA with a 2.74 xERA, a 1.69 (!!!) FIP and a 2.35 xFIP. The latter two lead the NL and the xERA ranks third. Given that names like Wade Miley and Bryce Elder rank above him in terms of actual ERA, it isn’t hard to picture Gallen moving up from his current position (seventh) on the ERA leaderboard. Gallen has a very legitimate shot at the Cy Young, and even though the number is short, because of our other good positions, I like adding Gallen here as well.
One other name: Alex Cobb. I’ve been flirting with this bet for a while, mentioning him in both of our other articles. Now that he has survived the Mexico City start — and still has a 2.01 ERA — I’m going to add him as well.
Bets for today: Zac Gallen +300 (Caesars); Alex Cobb (+8000 BetMGM)
AL Cy Young
Jacob deGrom +600
Kevin Gausman +1200
Drew Rasmussen +6600
We have far less action on the AL side of things, and given that this is the most open of the races, it’s not a terrible spot to be. In a season in which pitcher injuries are through the roof, there is plenty of time remaining.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not at the top that I’m looking to bet right now. Cole has certainly been excellent to start the season and has as good a health record as any pitcher in baseball. However, even if he wasn’t the favorite, his xFIP (3.45) and xERA (3.20) suggest that when the warmer weather comes to the Big Apple this summer, those short porches could come calling a bit more often.
Kevin Gausman remains an interesting name. He is once again among the truly elite by the advanced metrics (lowest xFIP of any healthy starter right now and sixth in Stuff+ in the AL), but his ERA is once again lagging. Remember: ERA is king when it comes to the Cy Young and the Blue Jays are a very poor defensive team. Usually I try to bet pitchers who are “due” for positive regression, but with Gausman, I’m going to pass. I like having the top two pitchers in the AL by K-BB% (I still have hope for Jacob deGrom to return and amass enough innings to be in the race), so instead of doubling down on Gausman, let’s add another who is excellent in that regard.
Logan Gilbert holds a similar profile to Gausman (3.79 ERA but 2.68 xERA, 2.72 FIP and 2.90 xFIP). However, he has a much better defense behind him. The Mariners have the second-best defense in baseball, so an ERA-FIP gap that large shouldn’t be expected to stick. If we look at the top things pitchers can control — strikeouts and walks — Gilbert sits third behind Gausman and deGrom in K-BB%. He’s ahead of Shohei Ohtani and a healthy ways ahead of Cole.
Bet for today: Logan Gilbert +5000 (BetMGM or Caesars)
|Ronald Acuna Jr||230||BetMGM|
|Fernando Tatis Jr||1400||Caesars|
Manny Machado +1400
Xander Bogaerts +3000
Will Smith +15000
I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on Ronald Acuna Jr. before the season because I wanted to see him healthy. Then, a few weeks into the season he appeared healthy, but I worried about his WAR production. Well, I may have waited too long.
Personally, my approach to awards betting has never been to chase the favorite, but rather to either: A) build a strong portfolio right from the jump to leverage throughout the season, or B) take smaller, longer shot bets in a market with a heavy favorite. Acuna still carries decent injury risk, so instead of chasing, I will be looking further down the odds board.
I still really like the Bogaerts odds (which haven’t moved since our last update), as he remains in the top five in the NL for fWAR, despite the lowest BABIP of any player in the top 10 for NL fWAR. Many others will be due for regression, but I don’t want to add to that bet today.
In fact, the only addition I’ll be making today is a player I included in our “Long shots to watch” before the season: Sean Murphy.
The ex-A’s catcher is leading all of baseball in fWAR (he ranks seventh by rWAR), and it’s no fluke. He is making the best contact in baseball with a league-best (by a notable margin) .486 xwOBA. Despite being a catcher, Murphy is playing nearly as many games as the rest of the top position players (32 games played compared to 36 for Acuna), and he did receive an MVP vote last season. He’s also in the perfect age range and on a team that’s likely the best in its league. It certainly is going to hurt that his teammate is the current favorite, but at +3000 there is value, and this bet isn’t likely to hit unless Acuna is injured anyway.
Bet for today: Sean Murphy +3000 (Caesars)
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr||1200||Numerous|
Yordan Alvarez +1200 and +3000
Corey Seager +5000
Kyle Tucker +5000
Matt Chapman +10000
We said it at the start of the season, but this was always going to be Ohtani’s award to lose, should he stay healthy. So far, it’s been all clear on that front and that health, combined with Judge’s brief stint on the Injured List has made for a massive gap between Ohtani and the rest of the pool. However, I still think there is a health risk. We are seeing more pitchers injured than ever in this first pitch clock season and Ohtani was the slowest starting pitcher in baseball last season.
That being said, this is a market I’m looking to mostly avoid right now. The only sprinkle I am going to add is a very long shot: Marcus Semien (+10000).
Semien currently ranks fourth in the AL in fWAR and third in rWAR. He has twice finished in the top three in the MVP race, and although he is slightly older than the age range we are looking for, this lofty WAR rank is no fluke. Semien has been a WAR monger his entire career, averaging 5.5 rWAR per 650 PA since the start of the 2018 season. The Rangers are also a team I am high on in terms of their potential to be around come October. Add it all together and at 100:1, this is a mispriced number.
Bet for today: Marcus Semien +10000 (numerous)
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.