MLB MVP Odds: Bet Julio Rodriguez at This Valued Price
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Julio Rodriguez
MLB odds for the 2024 season have been released across a variety of sportsbooks with odds on World Series, pennant, division, and multiple awards and stat leaders.
While we still have the Super Bowl and March Madness between now and the start of the MLB season, a perusal of the odds market in its current state led me to find one bet I couldn't pass up.
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Shohei Ohtani's departure from the American League opens the door for a competitive race for the MVP this year. While Ohtani was pitching and hitting in the same season, it took a historic offensive showing for Aaron Judge to surpass Ohtani given the enormous value the Angels' two-way star was providing. The American League race is now wide open, with a pair of Yankees sluggers lined as the two favorites.
Aaron Judge and Juan Soto are essentially co-favorites for AL MVP around +550 consensus across multiple sportsbooks. Soto and Judge are projected for 6.2 WAR by the ATC projection system, which is one of the most important statistics for identifying potential MVP value in the eyes of the voters.
Soto was a part of a huge trade from San Diego in the offseason and will be adjusting to a new ballpark and team. We've seen time and time again that it can cause players to get off to slow starts. Soto's elite plate skills give him a very high floor as a hitter with a guaranteed high OBP, but Soto isn't a heavy pull hitter and won't benefit from the short porch in right field as much as a traditional lefty. His defensive metrics have been in consistent decline and he's also not going to steal bases.
Judge's situation isn't all that different from Yordan Alvarez. The two of them are the best sluggers in the American League and have the highest power potential. It all comes down to playing time. On a per-plate-appearance basis, it's hard to make a case for anyone to be above Judge, but what if the Yankees slugger misses time again? He posted back-to-back healthy seasons in 2021 and 2022 and had an MVP to show for it. Injuries in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2023 all killed his counting stats and there's no real value on him as a result.
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Julio Rodriguez likely won't have an OPS higher than Judge or Soto, but his elite defensive and base running value can vault him above his older and less athletic peers in this race. Rodriguez is projected to finish with 5.4 WAR, which is less than a win behind the leaders. Rodriguez is in the top five percentile for sprint speed and fielding range. He finished last season with a 126 wRC+ in a step back from his elite rookie season that won him ROY.
Rodriguez isn't without his flaws — his chase rate and whiff rates at the plate are well below league average — but Rodriguez just finished his age-22 season and there's plenty of room for him to improve in these areas.
You'd expect his strikeout rate to decline until he reaches his peak age around 26. Even despite a terrible first half of the season that saw his OPS below .700 near the All-Star break, Rodriguez finished fourth in AL MVP voting last season. Given the lack of help behind him in Seattle, Rodriguez has the narrative angle, too. He could carry the Mariners' mediocre offense into the playoffs this year or get them close.
There's only two players in the AL projected to have 25 HRs and 25 steals. He's top five in the WAR projections and has a ton of upside if he improves his plate approach. Remember Ronald Acuña Jr.? He had power and speed upside and finally put it together with his plate approach and a decline in whiff rate to produce a historic age-25 season.
Rodriguez is a good bet for AL MVP at anything 12/1 or better.