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NL MVP Odds, Picks | Best Bets for Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuna Jr, More

NL MVP Odds, Picks | Best Bets for Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuna Jr, More article feature image
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Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images. Pictured: Ronald Acuna Jr.

Before breaking down the potential list of MVP candidates for 2023, let’s talk about what matters and what does not matter to MVP voters.

Important

  • Position: In the past two decades, two pure pitchers (Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander) have won MVP trophies (three in 33 years). Outfielders and corner infielders have won more than 75% of the time, including 14 of the 16 most recent recipients (second baseman Jose Altuve and DH/pitcher Shohei Ohtani are the only exceptions).
  • OPS Ranking: Counts twice as much as a player’s ranking in batting average, RBI, home runs, stolen bases or team winning percentage. Every (offensive) MVP winner since 2001 except for Ichiro Suzuki has had an OPS greater than .850.
  • WAR:Twenty-four of the past 26 MVP winners (92%) ranked in the top three in WAR in their respective leagues. Seventeen winners (65%) finished as the league leader in WAR.

Irrelevant

  • Making History: There have been four “40-40” seasons in MLB history, and 23 “30-30” seasons in MLB history. Just three of those 27 (11.1%) players (Jose Canseco in 1988, Jimmy Rollins in 2007, and Mookie Betts in 2018) won the MVP award. Those 27 players finished 9.7, on average, in MVP voting. Similarly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. likely wouldn’t have won the MVP last season, even if he had captured the Triple Crown.
  • Making the Playoffs: Eleven of the past 46 MVP winners (24%) failed to make the postseason. Perhaps more importantly, none of the three finalists in either league made the postseason in 2022, the most dramatic shift in the history of MVP voting. While five of the six MVP finalists made the playoffs in 2023, it’s become almost irrelevant to discussing which player is having the best season.

Inconclusive

  • Teammates Competing for Votes: Since 2000, the closest teammate in MVP voting, relative to the actual MVP winners, ranked around 10th, on average. One pair of teammates finished one-two (Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds, 2001). Four additional pairs finished in the top three of the voting, including Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in 2022. Four MVP winners finished with multiple teammates in the Top 10. Similarly, there are four instances where multiple teammates finished in the Top 10 without winning the award.

Here are my projected WAR leaders in each league for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at FanDuel:

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National League

I bet on Juan Soto to win the NL MVP before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (at +1200), and before the 2021 season, I bet him at +850 and said that I would keep betting on Soto until he wins an MVP award.

Ultimately, I lied. Soto’s odds dropped to +300 before last season, and I never pulled the trigger, but I’m back in for 2023 at a far more reasonable price point.

Aside from his teammate, Fernando Tatis Jr. — who is suspended for 20 games to start the season and, in my opinion, the worst player to bet in any market for 2023, and Dodgers catcher Will Smith — Soto laps the NL field in terms of production as a component of playing time.

Soto to win NL MVP is my favorite player awards bet; you can play him down to +400.

Overall, the NL MVP field is significantly weaker than the AL field. I could argue that seven of the best eight players in baseball all reside in the American League.

Aside from Soto, the most threatening competition comes from Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mookie Betts (both in the 0.21 tier) and Trea Turner (0.20), who is in a prime position to garner MVP consideration on the heels of his WBC publicity, with significant injuries to Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins giving him further opportunity to grow his star.

Generally, I prefer my future bets to correlate to one another, and I have a difficult time betting a Phillies player to win MVP, in contraction to my win total under. Still, you can make a decent case for Turner at +1200.

Smith caught my attention, too, given his price point. Smith has averaged 4.25 WAR over the past two seasons, but The Bat X projection calls for 5.7 WAR (with a 133 wRC+) in 2023, and if Smith cracks 30+ home runs, he’ll undoubtedly enter the conversation on a new-look Dodgers squad.

Like Soto, I’ll gladly bet Acuna in this price range every year until he secures some hardware.

Aside from the players I listed and Freddie Freeman, I would be relatively surprised by any other NL MVP; there is a reasonably significant drop-off beyond that group (all >0.20 WAR per 25 PA) in average production.

MVP Bets

  • NL: Juan Soto (+550, 0.5u) at FanDuel
  • NL: Mookie Betts (+950, 0.1u) at FanDuel
  • NL: Ronald Acuna Jr. (+1000, 0.1u) at FanDuel
  • NL: Will Smith (+15000, 0.01u) at FanDuel

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