MLB Stock Watch: Notable Odds Changes for World Series, MVP & Cy Young as Season’s First Month Ends
Getty Images. Pictured: Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes and Twins outfielder Byron Buxton.
We’ve reached the end of the first month of the MLB season, and as with any other arbitrary endpoints, that means it’s time to overreact to stuff.
April baseball isn’t always meaningful, as you’re probably well aware. For example, on April 28, 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies led the NL East (they finished in fourth place), and the Washington Nationals were 12-14 and in fourth place (they won the World Series).
Not all reactions are created equally, and we can use what we’ve learned to find value in future odds that are still on the board. Thus, it’s time to take a look at the World Series, MVP and Cy Young odds, compare them to what those odds were at the beginning of the season, and use what we’ve learned to react accordingly.
All stats through end of play Tuesday unless noted otherwise.
Odds via DraftKings and as of April 28.
World Series Odds
|Team||4/28 Odds||4/1 Odds|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||+325||+350|
|New York Yankees||+750||+550|
|New York Mets||+900||+1000|
|San Diego Padres||+900||+800|
|Chicago White Sox||+1400||+1000|
|Boston Red Sox||+2000||+5000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+2200||+2500|
|Los Angeles Angels||+2500||+4000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+2500||+2200|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+3000||+2200|
|Kansas City Royals||+7500||+10000|
|San Francisco Giants||+8000||+8000|
It’s not a surprise that the Boston Red Sox have seen their stock rise the most. Their implied odds went from just 2 to 4.8 percent, but that represents the most drastic change by any team just one month into the season. Boston’s offense has led the way in the 15-9 start as its cumulative 119 wRC+ paces not just the American League, but all of baseball. What’s been more surprising has been the Red Sox pitching staff, which currently ranks 10th in the league with a 3.94 xFIP. Boston’s run differential of +20 does portend future success, however, as at +20 it’s the best in the American League East and second-best in the AL as a whole.
Next up in terms of implied odds risers are the Milwaukee Brewers, who have — at least early on — emerged from the muddled race that is the National League Central. Milwaukee has used elite pitching from Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff & Co. to jump out to a divisional lead despite a wRC+ that ranks an abysmal 27th in MLB, ahead of just the Nationals, Tigers and Rockies. The good news for Milwaukee is that likely pitching regression should be accompanied by an offensive improvement. They should be in the NL Central race throughout the season.
The Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers saw their implied odds go up 1.5 and 1.3 percent, respectively. For the former, it’s a bit of a surprise in that the Halos are hovering around the .500 mark with a negative run differential. For the latter, it’s also a surprise but more due to the fact that it’s impossible to imagine the Dodgers’ World Series odds getting any more likely.
Other risers of 1% or less include the Cincinnati Reds (1%), New York Mets (0.9%), Oakland Athletics (0.9%), Tampa Bay Rays (0.5%), Houston Astros (0.4%), Kansas City Royals (0.3%) and Seattle Mariners (0.2%).
Things could certainly be worse for the Atlanta Braves, if anyone in the National League East felt like looking like contenders. Still, Atlanta and its lofty expectations are below .500 a month into the season, which has been enough to see the Braves’ implied odds drop 4.2%, the most of any team thus far. The Braves still have a top-five offense by wRC+, just as they did last year, but they’ve allowed the most runs in the National League at the time of this writing. Atlanta should get right before long, and will have Mike Soroka back presumably in June, but if any of the other would-be contenders in the East decide to get their act in gear, it would be tough sledding for the Braves.
The team you likely thought would be atop this list is the New York Yankees, but while their implied odds have dropped 3.6 percent, they still have the second-best World Series odds in baseball. This makes sense, as any presumed contender should not be written off after one poor month, but it’s a drop nonetheless. And if you’re a Yankees believer who didn’t pull the trigger on them at +550 before the season, now might be the time. It’s tough to imagine these odds dropping any more than the +750 price we have right now.
If you’re a casual viewer who only tunes in for the nationally televised matchups, you might be surprised to see the San Diego Padres (1.1% drop) on this list, but San Diego has struggled outside of their recent series win over the rival Dodgers. The Chicago White Sox were the most popular preseason bet at at least one book, and early struggles saw their implied odds fall 2.4 percent, but a recent hot streak against subpar competition and the best run differential in the league at the time of this writing makes them worth a buy at +1400. It’s hard to imagine them getting better than that.
The other team that dropped by more than one percent is the St. Louis Cardinals, who has been as mediocre as the rest of the NL Central — perhaps the most average team in baseball through one month— and whose drop coincides with Milwaukee’s rise.
Other teams down after one month are the Washington Nationals (0.9%), Toronto Blue Jays (0.5%), Chicago Cubs (0.4%) and Detroit Tigers (0.4%).
AL MVP Odds
|Player||4/28 Odds||4/1 Odds|
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||+1600||+2500|
He’s been in and out of the lineup because of — big surprise — injury issues, but when he’s been in, Byron Buxton appears to, at long last, be fulfilling the promise that made him the top prospect in all of baseball more than five years ago. Buxton, who for years has been an injury-prone defensive specialist whose offense was a net negative, has built on last season’s promising shortened campaign with a 1.276 OPS at the time of writing. Both DRC+ (139) and wRC+ (257) say he’s been no fluke. All of that adds up to a player whose MVP odds are only bested by Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Alex Bregman.
Yermín Mercedes has won the hearts of fans on the South Side of Chicago in the first month of the season. The 28-year-old’s circuitous route to the major leagues has been much discussed, and his tremendous bat-to-ball skill and superlative power have made it impossible for oddsmakers to ignore. At +5000, Mercedes doesn’t deserve serious MVP consideration … yet. But the fact that he’s even being mentioned here at all is amazing when you consider the path he’s taken to playing time.
The rest of the new arrivals are a litter of AL Central players with long odds, including Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield, Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz, and Detroit’s Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera.
Perennial favorite Mike Trout only saw minimal movement in his odds, but the fact that he moved in a positive direction, while none of the other contenders could trim their odds to better than 11-1, shows the length any individual player has to go to in order to take over the best player in baseball.
Among contenders near the top, Trout’s teammate Shohei Ohtani actually made the most notable move, with a 3.5 percent improvement in his implied odds. Given that Ohtani has been able to successfully pull double duty on the mound and at the plate for the first time since 2018 — and has been superb at the disk — makes his candidacy a no-brainer. It’s tough to imagine his odds getting better than they are right now barring injury or some sort of blowup on the mound. He’s the most unique MVP candidate since … well, you can guess.
Like Buxton, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a former top prospect who many envisioned would compete for a multitude of MVP trophies throughout his career. Guerrero’s ascent has been swifter, of course, but a raucous start for the 22-year-old has seen his odds shorten from the crowded group in the 20-1 to 30-1 range to a tie with Buxton and José Ramírez at 16-1.
Another slugger — just much older — in J.D. Martinez has ridden a power surge (he leads the league in doubles, homers and RBI at the time of this writing) and the Red Sox success to the most significant odds movement of anyone who isn’t a new arrival. Gone are the days when first base/DH slugger types are perennial MVP favorites, but José Abreu’s win last year — albeit under unusual circumstances — shows it’s still possible.
A pair of struggling Yankees hitters on the struggling Yankees’ offense are the most prominent here, as Aaron Judge (+1200 to +2500) and Gleyber Torres (+2500 to +6000) have seen their odds dip.
The Oakland Athletics have surged to the front of the AL West, but it hasn’t been because of the play of their nominal best player, Matt Chapman. The third baseman is hitting just .154/.284/.333 at the time of this writing, and has seen his odds dip from +1500 to +3300. Stellar defense is great, but it’s not going to get you MVP consideration unless it comes with an above-average bat.
The only other notable name here is injury-based, as George Springer has yet to play for the Blue Jays, and has seen his odds dip from +3300 before the season to +5000.
NL MVP Odds
|Player||4/28 Odds||4/1 Odds|
|Ronald Acuña Jr.||+300||+800|
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||+800||+850|
It was probably silly, in hindsight, to leave Jacob deGrom out of the preseason MVP discussion, but pitchers simply don’t win the award very often. Since Dennis Eckersley (as a closer!) won the award in 1992, the only two pitchers to win were Clayton Kershaw in 2014 and Justin Verlander in 2011. deGrom might make a legitimate case, though, with the start he’s gotten out to, and he’s on the DraftKings board at +1200 for now. He might not get any longer than that, so now is probably the time to jump, if you feel so inclined.
Other new arrivals are mostly of the longshot variety, including Justin Turner, Marcell Ozuna, Jesse Winker and Jazz Chisholm.
The NL MVP race entered the season as the more interesting one of the two leagues, with the three-headed race of young phenoms Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. leading the way along with stalwarts Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Freddie Freeman. Early on, Acuña has separated himself from the pack and has risen to a solid 3-1 favorite. You know about Acuña’s slugging prowess but most impressive to me so far is that he has, as of this writing, 12 walks and 12 strikeouts. This is the same hitter who, two seasons ago, finished with 76 walks and 188 strikeouts. Acuña has been a star since he entered the league, but he might be ascending to a whole new level right now. If you didn’t buy in before the season, the value is likely gone.
Corey Seager has also raised his stock during the first month, slightly but notably. He’s at +1200 after beginning the season at +1500, taking the place of one of his teammates as the second-favored Dodgers hitter.
The biggest riser by a strict numbers perspective has been Nick Castellanos. The Reds have been incredibly Jekyll and Hyde during the first month, but Castellanos got off to a hot start and went from +10000 during the preseason to a respectable +3300.
With Acuña’s ascent comes obvious dips to the likes of Betts, Soto and Freeman. The dips were not particularly meaningful, but if you didn’t buy in to any of them before the season and are a believer in their chances of overcoming Acuña during the next five months, now might be the time to pound.
The biggest favorite prior to the season to see his number dip has been Cody Bellinger. The 25-year-old began the season among the favorites but has been limited to just four games this season because of injuries and has dropped from +900 to +3300.
The rest of the fallen stocks are from the next tier of preseason contenders beyond the aforementioned favorites. Francisco Lindor (+1200 to +2000) hasn’t dipped far, but a slow start with his new team has taken some helium out of his name, for sure. Another new face in a new place, Nolan Arenado, dipped from that same +1200 a bit further to +2500. He’s been fine for St. Louis so far, but fine isn’t enough to hold that solid of odds. Finally, 2019 MVP Christian Yelich got off to a solid start for Milwaukee, but has been hampered by injuries which has hurt his case, and he’s dropped from +1300 to +3000. If you’re a believer in any of Lindor, Arenado or Yelich, the season is still young enough for you to buy in, and the odds aren’t likely to get any more appealing than they are right now.
AL Cy Young Odds
|Player||4/28 Odds||4/1 Odds|
Just one here, and it’s Carlos Rodón, who threw one of the two no-hitters we’ve seen in the first month of the season and has only allowed one earned runs in 19 innings over three starts. Rodón isn’t likely to carry an ERA under 1.00 all season (I know … crazy, right?) but has absolutely thrown himself into the mix, even if his odds remain long at +3300.
Both Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber — the favorites entering the season — have performed as expected through the first month and have, thus, seen their odds shorten incrementally. Tyler Glasnow has ridden a hot start to become the consensus third favorite, and Lance Lynn has jumped up as well.
The most notable movement, however, belongs to young Astros hurler Cristian Javier, who went from the incredibly long +6000 before the season to the “still long but eyeballs emoji” +4000. Javier finished third in Rookie of the Year voting a year ago and has been lights-out through four starts in 2021. His odds, as mentioned, are still incredibly long, but he might be worth buying now if you’re a believer, as they might not stay this long for … well, long.
Most notable here is a trio of preseason favorites in Lucas Giolito, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Giolito has been mostly fine save for a ghastly start against the Red Sox where he was knocked out after just an inning and tagged with seven earned runs. If you liked Giolito in the preseason and didn’t buy in, now might be the time.
It’s been a bumpier ride for Maeda. He’s registered just one quality start and has allowed 14 earned runs in his last 13 innings across three starts.
Ryu’s drop is a little more difficult to understand. Until leaving his last start with a minor injury, Ryu has been solid. However, his whiff numbers have reverted a bit to his pre-2020 form. As good as he is at run prevention, Ryu won’t be a legitimate contender against the likes of Cole, Bieber and Glasnow without the strikeout numbers.
The other noteworthy drops are a pair of veterans, Corey Kluber and Dallas Keuchel. Kluber’s odds were inflated in the preseason by the fact that he was a newly acquired Yankee, while Keuchel has taken an expected step backward after outpitching his peripherals in a solid 2020 season.
NL Cy Young Odds
|Player||4/28 Odds||4/1 Odds|
Just two here, and they’re both Miami Marlins. Trevor Rogers is one of the early favorites for NL Rookie of the Year and is on the odds board ahead of the likes of Jack Flaherty. Workload will limit Rogers’ ceiling likely to around where his odds are now, but you should absolutely buy his Rookie of the Year stock wherever you can find it.
Sandy Alcantara is a bit more established, but another young hurler who makes the Marlins more exciting than they are successful thus far. The Fish have so much young talent, and don’t even have Sixto Sánchez back yet..
Would you be surprised to know that the pitcher who has most improved his stock over the first month has been Corbin Burnes? Probably not. Burnes began the season as a mid-tier candidate among the many “if he figures it out, maybe” kind of guys. Well, he’s figured it out, and has turned in a historic April that would under any normal circumstances make him an immediate Cy Young favorite. These aren’t normal circumstances, however, because…
… Jacob deGrom still exists, and including another gem on Wednesday against the Red Sox he was simply putting up video game numbers, which have helped install him as the even-money favorite here to go along with his MVP candidacy listed above.
One other notable mover a bit further down the list is Joe Musgrove. He’s thrown one of the two no-hitters in baseball so far this year and has helped stabilize the Padres as they’ve played an otherwise uneven month of baseball. He went from +5000 to +2500, but remains someone who a lot would need to go right for in order to win.
When a pitcher goes from +4000 to +500 in the span of four weeks, it’s going to come at the expense of a whole lot of contenders. With Burnes’ move, we’ve seen incremental drops in virtually every other notable pitcher. Whether it’s because of Burnes’ ascent or injuries, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Aaron Nola, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty are just some of the pitchers whose odds are longer today than they were at the beginning of the month. In short, if you still like any of those pitchers, now is the time to buy in.