American League Preseason Awards; Best Bets

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The MLB season is days away. Before the first pitch is thrown, it’s time to place bets on postseason award winners. The focus of this piece isn’t necessarily to determine who will win the awards, but based on odds, which bets make the most sense considering factors like the team they are on, the risk involved, and odds that will make the risk worth the reward.

Rookie of the Year: Lots of intriguing rookies in the American League. The favorite is Orioles SS/3B, Gunnar Henderson, at +240. Henderson projects to be the everyday third-baseman for the Orioles, supplanting gold glover Ramon Urias. Henderson impressed in a short stint in Baltimore last year and could be a 20 homerun/.270 hitter as a rookie. However, the presence of Urias, Jorge Mateo, and Adam Frazier means that a team aspiring to reach the playoffs could opt to use more of the veterans should the rookie struggle. Further hurting Henderson’s cause is his teammate Grayson Rodriguez, the O’s top pitching prospect, who has the 4th best odds in the AL at +900. Rodriguez has yet to secure a spot in the rotation to start the season, but regardless of that, he should be up for most of the year.

The Boston Red Sox also have two prospects vying for the award. Masataka Yoshida (+600), who will likely bat cleanup and play left field every day, and Triston Casas (+900), who will be the regular first-baseman for the Sox. These teammates certainly don’t have the buzz that the Orioles’ rookies have, but they have an advantage because they are guaranteed a spot almost every day, and neither have a player that will be pushing them for playing time.

Yankees shortstops Anthony Volpe (+800), and Oswald Peraza (+2000), are another pair of teammates that will be battling each other for playing time. The decision on who will start the season in NY has yet to be announced.

Astros starter Hunter Brown (+1600) takes Justin Verlander’s spot in Houston’s rotation. The 2022 minor league pitcher of the year was very impressive in his call-up last season and should be the Astros’ fifth starter for most of the season. However, Brown was scratched from his last start of spring training with lower back tightness, so his availability is now in question.

Rounding out my favorite candidates is Texas third baseman Josh Jung (+1400). The young slugger has enjoyed a great spring after major injuries sidelined him the past two springs. If he stays healthy, he will be a regular in a deep lineup and looks like a 25 homerun/.275 hitter.

The pick: The Orioles rookies are going to be tough to beat out for the award, but as a bettor, I prefer to stay away from teammates that could steal votes from each other. Keeping that in mind, I prefer to take a chance on winning some real money, and I’m betting on Jung to win the award at +1400. If you prefer less risk, Yoshida (+600) is a polished veteran from Japan who has an experience advantage over the other rookies.

AL Cy Young: Jacob DeGrom (+550) is the favorite after putting up ungodly numbers when healthy for the Mets for the last several years. Health is a big factor here though, so putting money on DeGrom is unwise.

Gerrit Cole (+700) finished 9th in voting in 2022 but, for some reason, has the second-best odds this year. Cole will undoubtedly be the ace of a decimated Yankees rotation but hasn’t been the stud he was expected to be when he signed a 9-year/$324 million deal.

2022 runner-up Dylan Cease (+900), Alek Manoah (+1200), Shohei Ohtani (+1100), and Shane Bieber (+1600) round out the favorites, excluding Carlos Rodon (+1400) because of injury, and Shane McClanahan (+1600) because of the way the Rays use starters.

The pick: If DeGrom stays healthy, nobody is better… but that hasn’t happened, ever. The Blue Jays are my pick to win the AL East, and ace Alek Manoah is going to lead them there. Manoah posted a ridiculous 2.24 ERA in 2022 and finished third in Cy Young voting. The hulking right-hander has the attitude and confidence to be dominant, as shown by his invitation last year to Gerrit Cole to “come closer if you have something to say.” At +1200, Manoah is my bet to win the award in 2023, with a slight edge over Shohei Ohtani and Shane Bieber.

AL MVP: Mike Trout (+800) is the best hitter to ever play the game; there is no argument there, don’t even bother trying. Shohei Ohtani (+220) is the best baseball player I have ever seen and is the favorite to win the MVP. Normally, teammates can cancel each other out when it comes to awards voting, but these two are on a ridiculous level above their peers that we may never see again.

Aaron Judge (+650) is coming off a historic season in which he hit 62 home runs and won his first MVP. Repeating those numbers is going to be tough, and beating the two Angels for the award a second time will be even tougher.

Young Sluggers Julio Rodriguez (+1000), Yordan Alvarez (+1200), and Kyle Tucker (+2500) will make leaps forward in 2023, but it’s not quite their time yet.

Guardians slugger Jose Ramirez (+1500) has finished in the top 6 in voting in five of the past six seasons. Ramirez is quietly consistent and would likely have a couple of trophies by now if he played in a better market or if Mike Trout was never born.

Vlad Guerrero Jr finished 2nd in voting in 2021 and followed up last year with a slight down year, but still received some down-ballot votes. Toronto made renovations to the Rogers Centre this winter, moving in the outfield walls a little bit in both power alleys. It’s crazy to think that Vladdy could post near triple-crown numbers this year and still finish out of the top 3 in voting.

The Pick: It’s not a sexy pick, and it’s not a surprise. Mike Trout, at +800, will reclaim his spot this year after missing time in each of the past three seasons. Of course, his teammate could do ridiculous things that a human shouldn’t be able to do, but Ohtani’s odds are only +220, and that isn’t any fun. Bet on Trout and enjoy watching him win a 4th MVP and secure his plaque, and possibly his own wing, in Cooperstown.

Jim

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