NL MVP Picks, Predictions: Using History To Identify Best Bets For 2023 MLB Award
Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images. Pictured: Manny Machado
On Monday, we looked at the history of the MVP Award and used those historic parameters to walk through the American League MVP race. Corey Seager and Yordan Alvarez were the two bets to really pop in the Junior Circuit.
Now let’s head to the Senior Circuit and use those same historic patterns to find out who presents strong preseason value in the National League MVP betting pool right now. In case you really don’t want to click that link to the AL article, the very brief summary of those key factors:
- Age around 24-30.
- Despite what you’ve heard, winning still matters.
- A previous top finish in the MVP race is very common.
- A top-three finish in your league’s WAR rankings is an almost near-must.
With that in mind, let’s peruse our options.
2023 National League MVP Picks
Longshots To At Least Mention
Corbin Carroll (+40000 Caesars) — No rookie has won MVP since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, and he was obviously was in a unique position having already established himself as an All-Star in Japan before coming to the United States. Before that, it was Fred Lynn in 1975. That’s why it’s 400:1.
Tommy Edman (+20000 FanDuel) — Edman is a WAR machine, but he’s never even received a vote before despite a 6.3-WAR season last year. It makes you wonder what it would take to actually win this award.
Sean Murphy (+20000 FanDuel) — Only two catchers have won MVP this century, with the most recent being Buster Posey in 2012. Murphy is much closer to Joe Mauer, who won in 2009 and made his impact with his bat. The case to at least mention him is that he plays more games than most catchers, and is on a big-name, winning team. He did technically receive a vote before, doing so last season despite playing for the woeful A’s. It would be VERY surprising to see him win the NL MVP this season, but again, to paraphrase Don Draper: That’s what the +20000 is for!
Corbin Burnes (+15000 FanDuel) — He’s only one year removed from a season in which he won the Cy Young and finished 15th in the MVP, but he’s in a small market at a position that is really an uphill battle to win MVP these days. Just think about how dominant—and for how long—Kershaw had to be to get his MVP in 2014.
Max Scherzer (+15000 FanDuel) — He’s way out of the age range, is a pitcher and hasn’t thrown 200 innings in half a decade. BUT he’s in a mega-market with a winning team, and I could squint and see a legacy MVP narrative taking shape. If he’s something like 15-2 with a 1.85 ERA as the Mets lead the NL East, he’ll at least be in the running.
Will Smith (+15000 FanDuel) — Smith is the epitome of this group where I’m super tempted to at least put a dollar on him, but at the same time, I just can’t really see it happening. His case is very similar to Murphy’s. These two catchers are guys who I won’t wait long to bet if they get off to an awesome start.
Not For Me (At These Odds)
J.T. Realmuto (+10000 FanDuel) — Here’s a catcher I’m out on. His odds are shorter than the two above, and although he has the reputational edge on either, that’s because he’s been around so long. Even at 100:1, this is a 32-year-old catcher on a team I am fading this season.
Justin Verlander (+10000 FanDuel) — The difference in implied odds between his and Scherzer’s number isn’t massive, but the payout is.
Sandy Alcantara (+10000 FanDuel) — Here are a few names with better FIPs than Alcantara last year: Max Fried (yup), Kevin Gausman (OK), Alex Cobb (what!), Tarik Skubal ($#%#%%). Alcantara is great, for sure, and he has the element of us knowing him from his Cy Young award last season, but that’s not enough to overcome the rest of the profile lacking severely.
Dansby Swanson (+10000 FanDuel) — I could see him popping on a few folks’ radar, but I’m incredibly low on the Cubs, and did you know Swanson is already 29? There’s not much more ceiling than last year.
Ozzie Albies (+8000 FanDuel) — His WAR ceiling is far too low.
Michael Harris II (+5000 BetMGM) — I don’t hate this look overall, but the price is just a little off for me. This is a perfect player to circle to keep an eye on, though. Because of his swing profile (willing to go out of the zone, prone to strikeouts without walks), he’s bound to be streaky. If he starts out cold and this number plummets, but everything still looks good under the hood, this is definitely a player I could be on.
Kyle Schwarber (+4000 FanDuel) — Schwarber was worth 2.2 WAR in his 46-homer season last year … The only way he even sniffs this award is if he hits 60 homers. If I could pick one bet to fade, it would be this one.
Matt Olson (+2500 Caesars) — Olson has a top-10 finish to his name, and he has the home run ceiling to be in this. However, guys with his profile really need to reach truly massive home run totals to win. His highest-ever WAR finish was 7th in AL in 2021. For the last two guys, remember what we said in the AL MVP article: Only one player in the past decade (20 winners) has finished outside the top three in their league in WAR.
Pete Alonso (+1600 FanDuel) — Ok, now I’m just repeating myself, so see: Schwarber, Olson.
Paul Goldschmidt (+1500 FanDuel) — Now Goldschmidt is interesting because he’s a first baseman who actually did win the award. But that’s because he can accumulate WAR with his base running, defense and on-base skills that separate him from the previous three guys mentioned. (I know Schwarber isn’t a first baseman, but he fits the slugging mold.) The bad news for Goldschmidt is that it is incredibly hard to win back-to-back MVPs. It’s kind of the inverse of the Embiid Disease mentioned in the AL article. Here are the back-to-back winners this century: Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera. Goldschmidt isn’t in that tier.
Trea Turner (+1200 BetMGM) — He’s a popular pick and I could certainly see it. The case against him, though, is that despite playing at a skill position, he has never even reached 5.0 WAR in a single season. If I could bet him to be top-five (at much lower odds, of course), that’s a bet I’d like a lot more.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (+1400 Caesars) — From a talent level I like this a lot, and the amount of time he’s missing is not enough to rule him out—it’s basically an IL stint. But I just find it supremely hard to imagine the voters giving him an MVP after he was suspended for PEDs last season. I certainly don’t think he should be a top-10 preseason candidate.
Freddie Freeman (+1400 FanDuel) — Mr. Consistency, but he’ll be 33 this season and he isn’t often at the top of the WAR leaderboard. Plus, he already got his, albeit in the COVID-shortened season.
Mookie Betts (+950 FanDuel) — Into his 30s this season and has a tendency to miss games. OBVIOUSLY he’s a real contender, but I just don’t love this price. Big time candidate to target if his odds get longer early on.
Juan Soto (+550 FanDuel) — Soto has the sexiest profile of any candidate (MVP runner-up in 2021, winning team, star we know, still just 24 years old), but he’s coming off his worst season (yes, he still had a 130 OPS+, but he was only worth 1.8 WAR which is quite notably blah) and he’s dinged up already. It’s an oblique injury, too, which is one of those that can just linger and sap power all year. Again, if this number were even in the 12-15:1 range, I’d obviously be all over it, but at just +550, I can’t get there.
Can’t Quite Write Them Off
Spencer Strider (+20000 FanDuel) — Probably not happening, but at 200:1, you know that. If any pitcher were to fully shoot the moon and post something crazy like a Bob Gibson ERA for a playoff contender in a big market, Strider definitely has that ceiling. However, he’s likely not well known enough to jump from the Cy Young pool (where I love his number) to the MVP pool in his second season.
Starling Marte (+15000 FanDuel) — He has the big market bump, and he received votes last season despite missing more than 40 games. If he just duplicated his last season but didn’t miss any time, we could be looking at something like 5.5 WAR to go along with a 20/20 season, which would certainly get him in the discussion. It’s just hard to picture him leading that discussion. Probably a nice portfolio piece to get at this price though.
Bryce Harper (+8000 FanDuel) — It’s basically impossible to win an MVP in half a season, but if anyone could do it, it would be Harper (or the yin to his yang: Trout). It would be crazy to bet this now, though, because the odds are only going to get a lot longer. If you think he could somehow have a quick recovery and lead a second half charge in Philly to do it, you’ll get wayyyyy better odds a few months into the season.
Ronald Acuna (+1000 FanDuel) — I want to spend a little longer here because I know Acuna is a popular pick among a lot of smart folks, but I can’t quite get there. He’s the third-favorite going into the season, despite only one season to his name of over 120 games played. Now, that season he finished fifth in the MVP vote as a 21-year-old, but even that season he wasn’t even in the top 10 for WAR in the NL. He’s also coming off his worst OPS+ season of his career, and his power was quite sapped from previous seasons. I agree with those whose thinking is that Acuna is going to win an MVP at some point in his career, but I want to see him turn the corner towards that path before I’m going to start lining up to bet him at this number.
Willy Adames (+15000 FanDuel) — This is a lotto ticket, so just a small unit play recommended, but I love Adames. In order for this to hit, the Brewers need to be in playoff contention, but if they are, don’t be surprised to hear Adames’ name mentioned in the running for this award. In 2021, when Milwaukee made the playoffs, Adames finished 16th in the MVP vote, despite starting the year in the other league! He’s a shortstop with power, which is like a cheat code for WAR, and he has the exact type of personality that voters can be drawn to. He’s an awesome guy who seems to always have a big moment or two during the season, and when you add in his ability to rack up WAR — that’s a killer combo.
Jazz Chisholm (+7000 FanDuel) — OK yes, he has never received a vote before and he plays in Miami. But getting onto the cover of the sport’s most notable video game cancels that out. His ceiling is honestly a 40/40 season with 6-7 WAR, which would basically guarantee a top-three finish at worst. However, he’ll be learning a new position, and it’s not as if this number is in the extreme lotto ticket range. Just off the best bets for me, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye here.
Xander Bogaerts (+4000 FanDuel) — Bogaerts will be new to the National League this year, but he could take it by storm in what is going to be arguably the most stacked lineup in baseball. Bogaerts feels like he’s never quite reached his ceiling, but he’s coming off his second highest WAR (5.9) and will be 30 this season. Mostly I just really like this number. It feels like he should be far closer to 20-25:1, rather than 40:1.
Francisco Lindor (+3000 Caesars) — He’s almost a near sweep for our categories, but everything is just a touch off. He’s under 30, but just barely (29). He’s on a winning team in a big market for sure, but he’s not the face of that franchise. He’s been in the Top 10 of the MVP vote four times, but has never finished higher than fifth. He’s a shortstop, but he’s never finished in the top five in his league in WAR. I just can’t quite get there, especially for that price. But if you’re a portfolio builder (allowing you to hedge later), I think the bet makes sense, especially if his price drops at any point.
Nolan Arenado (+2000 PointsBet) — There really isn’t a great case against Arenado. He’s fresh off his second third-place finish in the MVP race, and he did it in his second 7+ WAR season. He’s a touch older (age-32 season), but he hasn’t really shown any signs of aging so far. I really wouldn’t hate a look here, but personally I have players at odds I like more than this.
Near Best Bets
Unlike the AL, there is no bet JUMPING off the page right now. I like putting a touch on these two below, but I like neither as much as Seager and Alvarez in the AL. I’ll be back with plenty of these awards articles throughout the season, though, so we’ll have plenty of chances to get units aplenty down in this race, though, don’t you worry.
Austin Riley (+1600 FanDuel) — There are five players who have finished in the top seven in the MVP vote each of the last two seasons, can you name them? Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Jose Ramirez, Paul Goldschmidt, and … you guessed it: Austin Riley. He’s 26 years old, on a winning team, and has cleared 6.0 WAR each of the last two seasons. Sadly, the books kind of sniffed this out, putting a rather short number on him. Even still, I think there’s value on this bet, and if the number drops at all (and it’s not because of some troubling injury), I’m going to be going back to the well for more.
Manny Machado (+1200 FanDuel) — There’s A LOT to like here. He’s got a crazy history with the award, with a second, a third, a fourth and a fifth place finish in his career. He’ll be 30 this week, and although he debuted at a young age and therefore has a few more miles on his odometer, he hasn’t shown it at all in recent seasons, with a near perfect health profile in his career. He is on a team that is absolutely going for it, but that same team hasn’t been around long enough to be the villain yet. Only thing keeping it from being a full best bet is the short odds in an incredibly crowded field.
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.