NL Rookie of the Year Odds, Picks | Best Bets for Jordan Walker, More
Benjamin Rusnak/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Walker
In 2011, a pair of pitchers (Jeremy Hellickson and Craig Kimbrel) swept the Rookie of the Year honors for the first time in 30 years (Dave Righetti and Fernando Valenzuela in 1981).
However, 18 of the past 22 winners (82%) accumulated more playing time on offense (including Shohei Ohtani, 2018), so I lean toward position players in this market, all else being relatively equal.
Moreover, Wins Above Replacement, or “WAR” ranking, has become increasingly crucial to award voters in the past decade.
Sixteen of the past 22 Rookie of the Year winners (73%) finished atop the rookies in their league in WAR, with an average rank of 1.5 among the 22 awards recipients. And that includes a pandemic-shortened 2019 season, where Devin Williams (sixth) and Kyle Lewis (second) claimed honors.
Here are my projected WAR leaders among rookies for the upcoming season, alongside their listed odds at FanDuel:
Corbin Carroll (the No. 2 overall prospect) is a bit clearer of a favorite in the National League than Henderson is in the AL, despite the spring buzz surrounding Jordan Walker (No. 4 prospect), who I bet in late February on a scouting assumption, as opposed to a combination of scouting and projections (like Volpe).
While my projections for Walker have improved since the preseason (by about 150 plate appearances), his stats aren’t in the territory to justify a wager as essentially a co-favorite with Carroll. Walker was my favorite rookie bet in the NL at +1000; however, I wouldn’t play him below the best current price (+600 at bet365).
If you didn’t speculate a month ago before spring training, you were already too late on Walker.
I potentially fired too early on top pitching prospect Andrew Painter (at +2500), but his number started to drop after one outing before his injury. Those are the risks we take betting players before spring training. I would avoid Painter since he’s dealing with a UCL sprain, and the Phillies will be extremely cautious with his arm.
Other current NL targets include Ezequiel Tovar (No. 25 prospect), another 21-year-old starting shortstop like Volpe, who should get a boost to his offensive stat line at home; and a couple of Reds prospects, Spencer Steer and Elly de la Cruz (No. 10 prospect).
Steer has a path to full playing time as the Reds’ everyday third baseman. The most optimistic projections put Steer at 2.6 WAR, which would put him in contention for the award.
De la Cruz will start the year in the minors, but he could see the majors by early summer, if not earlier. While you can wait for a better price on him, I’m comfortable with the current number. Upon his call-up, de la Cruz will immediately be among the most electric players in the major leagues. While he has similar physical gifts to Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, he is more than three years younger. His upside is galactic.
The final player I would consider in the NL is Garrett Mitchell, who played well in a 28-game sample last season (136 wrC+) and should hold down an everyday outfield spot for the Brewers. In terms of prospect status, he pales compared to the other top contenders, but he is guaranteed a healthy amount of playing time (400+ plate appearances) with the opportunity for more.
Rookie of the Year Bets
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