MLB Midseason Stock Report: Assessing the Futures Value of World Series Contenders, Shohei Ohtani, Jacob deGrom & More

MLB Midseason Stock Report: Assessing the Futures Value of World Series Contenders, Shohei Ohtani, Jacob deGrom & More article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: From left, Shohei Ohtani, Jacob deGrom and Carlos Rodón.

The All-Star break is more than a week away, but in terms of games played, we’re right around the midway point of the season. As the season gets later, the odds for World Series, MVP and Cy Young continue to react to what we’ve seen thus far.

Each month, we’ve been detailing how the odds have been shifting as the season has progressed. While odds boards still list all 30 teams for World Series and dozens of players for the individual awards, for this edition we’re going to focus on the favorites as well as some down-board sleepers who might present value going forward.

All odds via DraftKings and as of June 30.

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World Series

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The Favorites

Team July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Los Angeles Dodgers +400 +350
Houston Astros +650 +2200
San Diego Padres +700 +800
Chicago White Sox +800 +1000
New York Mets +850 +1000
Tampa Bay Rays +1000 +2500

No real surprises here as these teams make up eight of the nine best winning records in baseball at of the start of the day Wednesday, and four of them were among the top-five favorites at the start of the season.

If you’re a Dodgers believer, it’s probably safe to say you have your money invested in them already, but if you didn’t and believe they’re sleeping giants (they’re still in second place despite being tied for the second-best record in baseball), now would be the time to jump in. It’s hard to imagine the odds getting worse than they are today. Those implied odds suggest they have a 20% chance of winning the World Series.

None of the other five possess any real value. The Padres, White Sox and Mets have all hovered around their current odds all season long, and if you didn’t buy into the Astros or Rays early, it’s tough to do so now at their current odds.

The Value Plays

Team July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Boston Red Sox +1600 +5000
New York Yankees +1600 +550
San Francisco Giants +1800 +8000
Toronto Blue Jays +2500 +2200

Yes, I know, three of these four teams play in the AL East. Call it East Coast bias, except I reside in Texas.

It may seem strange to list the Red Sox and Giants here when you compare to their long Opening Day odds, but the point is these odds aren’t likely to get lower. The Giants aren’t going away, folks. They may not hold off the Dodgers in the NL West, but they’re very much contenders, and getting the team with the best record in baseball at 18/1 at the midway point of the season is tough to pass up.

Similarly, nobody seems to believe in the Red Sox while they continue to fend off the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays in the toughest division in baseball. Unlike the Giants, the Red Sox run differential (+44, eighth in MLB and fifth in the American League) doesn’t portend future success, but it’s hard to see Chaim Bloom & Co. sitting on their hands at the deadline with a serious postseason run in their sights.

The Yankees … sigh, it somehow always comes back to the Yankees … aren’t in terrible shape despite what their fans may say. It took nearly three months for oddsmakers to react accordingly to their entirely average first half of the season, but it finally got to the point where it might be time to buy. Like the Red Sox, I can’t imagine them sitting on their hands at the deadline, and even if they don’t, they have the talent to make a run. Right? Right?

The Blue Jays are another sleeping giant with clear and obvious talent but also clear and obvious needs. They were in the mid-tier of contenders entering the season and now find themselves … in the mid-tier of contenders. They have one of the most exciting lineups in baseball but have obvious holes in both the rotation and the bullpen.

With the Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays all AL East teams sitting at +2200 or shorter to win the World Series, you need to pick your spot in terms of which team you want to back, but the Blue Jays have as good of an argument as any, considering their long odds compared to the other three.

The Enticing Longshot

Team July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Atlanta Braves +4500 +850

The Braves have been markedly worse than every team we’ve discussed thus far, but when you consider the talent on the team, the front office’s history of aggression and their relative standing in the underwhelming NL East, +4500 is really tough to pass up.

Consider: The Braves are two games better than the Tigers, but sit 5 1/2 games out of first place compared to Detroit’s 12 1/2.

It’s tough to get past the “are two games better than the Tigers” part, but the Braves have the pieces. The lineup is among the best in baseball, Ian Anderson looks like a legitimate frontline starter, and the rest is, well, why they’re in this mess to begin with.

Two years ago, we saw Atlanta make a couple of solid deadline deals in fortifying its bullpen with Shane Greene and Chris Martin. Whether or not it worked is another story, but the team needs pitching — both of the starter and reliever variety.

Even beyond that, the Braves are simply too talented to stay out of the race all season long, and too talented to be at 45/1 for the World Series with three months to play. I’m buying them right now.

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American League MVP

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The Favorites

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. -121 +2000
Shohei Ohtani +105 +2500

It’s surprising to see Ohtani behind Guerrero right now, even after Ohtani’s misfortune in the Bronx on Wednesday. When it comes down to it, there’s just no way to envision voters passing up on giving the MVP to a guy hitting like he’s hitting and pitching like he has for the better part of the season.

Guerrero is having a fantastic season, and I sure do wish I had bought an MVP future to go along with my 33/1 ticket on him to lead the majors in home runs. But it’s nonetheless crazy to me that, for as good as Guerrero has been, he’s considered the favorite over Ohtani.

The literal only thing in my eyes that will keep Ohtani from winning this award is if some sort of injury forces him to stop pitching on a regular basis. Even at short odds, I’m buying Ohtani if I can find him anywhere at plus money.

The Enticing Longshots

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Aaron Judge +3500 +1200
José Ramírez +4000 +1200
Yordan Alvarez +5000 +4000
Tim Anderson +6000 +2500

Back to the Yankees, because why not? If they do indeed turn things around and qualify for the postseason, their best player is going to get some MVP love. Judge has been far and away the team’s best player, and his lengthening odds make him worthy of investment. If you’re buying a Yankees future now that their odds have grown, why not pair it with a Judge MVP future?

Similarly to Judge, Ramírez has been essentially the only offensive weapon for Cleveland. Unlike Judge, Ramírez plays for a team that’s contending now. They remain within striking distance of the White Sox in the AL Central as well as the AL Wild Card race. Ramírez had a legitimate argument to win this award a year ago, and while nobody believes in Cleveland’s staying power, if the Tribe stay in the race through September, he’ll be right at the front of the line again.

Alvarez and Anderson both fall under the “best player on the best team” list. Alvarez was kind of the forgotten man in Houston with all of the Astros’ offensive stars after missing essentially all of the 2020 season. He’s not actually the Astros’ best player, but he’s their most dangerous hitter — even when they’re at full strength with Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and José Altuve in tow. You don’t have to squint to envision a scenario where Alvarez does for the final three months what Guerrero has done for the first three.

Anderson slumped a bit in the month of June but has bat-to-ball skills that are unmatched by virtually any other hitter. The fact that he plays a premiere defensive position will help him in the WAR category, which voters absolutely take into consideration. If the White Sox finish among the best records in baseball, someone on that team is going to get some MVP love. It was José Abreu a year ago, so why not Anderson this time?

National League MVP

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The Favorites

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Jacob deGrom +125 N/A
Fernando Tatis Jr. +200 +850
Ronald Acuña Jr. +450 +800

We’re going to talk more about deGrom in the Cy Young section, but it’s worth mentioning how insane it was that he wasn’t listed — at least at DraftKings — at the start of the season. If he continues doing what he’s doing for another three months, he’ll be the third pitcher to win MVP this century.

Tatis and Acuña were among a group of favorites at the beginning of the season who have separated themselves a bit from the pack. It’s also worth mentioning that the two players’ ages combined only adds up to four years older than Rich Hill. If deGrom comes back down to reality a bit — yeah, right — it looks like a two-headed race between two of the best young players in baseball. Tatis has the edge given his team’s record, but I don’t see a lot of value in either relative to their preseason odds.

The Enticing Longshots

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Juan Soto +3000 +700
Mookie Betts +3500 +750
Manny Machado +5000 +2200
Christian Yelich +5500 +1300

My colleague Sean Zerillo said before the season that he was at the point with Soto where it was time to start betting him to win MVP every year until he finally does. This is a totally reasonable stance, as Soto stands with the aforementioned Guerrero, Tatis and Acuña as the best young players in baseball.

The Nationals have been ascending of late, but Kyle Schwarber’s tear has gotten more publicity than the steady production of Soto, who once again sits with an OBP of .400 or better. His traditional counting stats aren’t likely to be there by season’s end, but he’s gonna be up there on the WAR leaderboard when it’s all said and done and will be tough for voters to ignore. He’s worth a buy at 30/1, as I don’t foresee those odds dropping.

The other three guys here fall more under the “traditional MVP candidates who aren’t going away” list. Betts remains one of the best players in baseball for what will likely by the end of the season be the best team in baseball, and Machado and Yelich are superstars for teams that will be playing meaningful baseball in August and September. Yelich’s power has been virtually non-existent this year, but we saw in 2018 the kind of late-season tear he’s capable of, and the Brewers are clearly the class of the NL Central. Any three of them are worth a flier.

American League Cy Young

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The Favorites

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Gerrit Cole -190 +350
Carlos Rodon +300 N/A
Lance Lynn +600 +1700
Shane Bieber +1600 +400

This race got a whole lot more more interesting since MLB started enforcing its vague “sticky substances” rule, as Cole simply hasn’t looked like himself — whether it’s a cause or not — over his last two starts. Cole is head and shoulders above any other candidate given current production, but the rest of his season will determine whether any of the guys below him truly have a shot.

Rodón is obviously the biggest surprise on any of these lists after being non-tendered by the White Sox after last season, signing a one-year deal and winning the fifth starter spot in spring training. He’s someone who hasn’t shown any drop in velocity or spin rate since the sticky substance ban went into effect, and possesses a slider that is literally the most unhittable pitch in the majors. Of any of the favorites, he’s the most enticing to buy if you believe in Cole’s drop-off.

Lynn has seen a dropoff in spin rate since the rule enforcement change, but his high strikeout numbers and a sparkling ERA are always among the favorites of award voters. He’s the least-appealing here, but remains among the favorites until he’s not.

Bieber is currently on the injured list and has been since June 13, but still leads the league in strikeouts, which shows just how dominant he was before the injury. His run prevention numbers weren’t what we saw during the shortened 2020 season, but keep an eye on those odds as well as his projected return. A pitcher can win the Cy Young while missing around a month, but any longer than that and he’ll be a non-candidate.

The Enticing Longshots

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Lucas Giolito +5000 +450
Kyle Gibson +5000 N/A
Shohei Ohtani +6600 +4000
Robbie Ray +8000 N/A

Giolito has been a lot better than his ERA and has high strikeout numbers to boot. He’s yet another guy to watch after his spin rate was down and he only struck out one against the Twins earlier this week (are we sensing a theme here?) but is among the best and most visible pitchers on the best pitching staff in baseball. He might be worth a buy at 50/1, but I’d see how things look around the All-Star Break before deciding.

Gibson and Ray are … wait, what the hell are these guys doing here?

The former is doing the unthinkable in Texas in that he’s preventing runs at an elite rate despite a pedestrian strikeout rate and while playing with an otherwise significantly below-average team around him. I wouldn’t recommend a buy on Gibson given the peripherals, but the run prevention is tough to ignore.

Ray has gotten dinged by the dinger quite a bit this season, but for the first time in his confusing career seems actually to know where he’s throwing the ball. He’s always had elite strikeout rates, but has dropped his walks to an unfathomable degree. He hasn’t had a BB/9 below 4.3 since 2017, and this year it’s all the way down to 2.2. Ray’s path to legitimate Cy Young contender would look something like 2015 Jake Arrieta in that he figured something out and turned into a dominant world-beater for the second half of the season. He absolutely has the skill and is on my long-range buy list.

For Ohtani, it’s all about narrative. Baseball writers love narratives, and if he continues to do what he’s doing for the duration of the 2021 season, will they be able to resist awarding the first true pitcher/hitter since Babe Ruth with both of the major awards?

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National League Cy Young

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The Favorite

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Jacob deGrom -560 +425

I’m struggling to come up with anything to say about deGrom that hasn’t already been uttered by every baseball analyst on the planet. You’re obviously not buying a Cy Young future at these odds. But I will say that I’m of the belief that deGrom will not continue to do what he’s done for the entire 2021 season. So watch these odds closely. If something happens that pushes his odds to a number with a + in front of it, buy.

The Enticing Longshots

Player July 1 Odds April 1 Odds
Brandon Woodruff +1300 +2200
Corbin Burnes +1600 +4000
Kevin Gausman +2000 +5000
Max Scherzer +3000 +950

The Brewers’ duo got a lot of helium in the first month of the season before being lapped by deGrom, but both Woodruff and Burnes stand with the most to gain should something happen to the Mets’ ace. It’s actually funny to look at either guys’ Baseball Reference page and see no black ink (which denotes league leader) because of how good deGrom has been.

Of the two, while Burnes has the video game numbers, Woodruff has the better track record of being able to put it together for a full season. A bet on either is more a bet against deGrom than a bet for them, but if you want to go that route, my choice would be Woodruff.

Gausman is my favorite longshot bet, although, again, that would be more a bet against deGrom than anything, but the Giants’ righty and pending free agent is having a remarkable season that would be getting more publicity if he weren’t dwarfed by that guy in Queens. Since moving to the Bay after being a failed Orioles prospect with pit stops in Atlanta and Cincinnati, all Gausman has done is miss bats and prevent runs. He’s the best pitcher on the team with the best record in baseball, and if (I’ve used the word ‘if’ a lot here, but this is the biggest IF) this race opens up, Gausman is my favorite candidate.

I don’t want to recommend any non-deGrom candidates for this award, but Gausman would be my top choice if you’re looking for value.

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