Is American League MVP Mike Trout’s to Lose?

The calendar is about to flip to August, which means there are about two months left in the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season. Most contenders have already separated themselves from the pack, but we do have quite a few teams still vying for playoff positioning. The NL Wild Card race should be particularly compelling, but there are also some intriguing storylines to follow on the AL side.

It’s also the time of year to start wondering about postseason awards. We won’t know until the fall which players will take home the hardware. But enough season has elapsed to where we can start making some educated guesses. The last couple of months will go a long way toward ultimately determining how people vote on awards like MVP and Cy Young, but they’re also full-season awards. The players’ respective bodies of work to this point matter.

Some players have established themselves as firm favorites, but the story on this MLB season hasn’t yet been completed. There’s still a long way to go, and I think there is betting value to be had in some of the most recent odds. BetOnline recently released MVP and Cy Young odds for both leagues. Let’s try to unearth some value here.

American League MVP

  • Mike Trout (Angels) -300
  • DJ LeMahieu (Yankees) +500
  • Alex Bregman (Astros) +1000
  • Jorge Polanco (Twins) +1200
  • Matt Chapman (A’s) +2000
  • Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox) +2000
  • Joey Gallo (Rangers) +2000
  • Mookie Betts (Red Sox) +3300
  • Francisco Lindor (Indians) +3300
  • Gary Sanchez (Yankees) +3300
  • Michael Brantley (Astros) +3300
  • Rafael Devers (Red Sox) +3300
  • Gleyber Torres (Yankees) +3300

In news that should surprise nobody, Mike Trout is the heaviest favorite on the board for any of these awards, as he’s currently listed at -300 to claim American League MVP honors for the third time in his career. Trout has once again put up stellar numbers at the plate, as he’s hitting .296/.443/.662 with 33 homers, 81 runs batted in, and 79 runs scored as of this writing.

Trout’s 6.6 WAR leads all players in the majors. The only tangible thing keeping Trout from winning this award every year is his team’s relative lack of success. The Angels have made it to the playoffs just once since Trout joined the team several years ago. This season, though, the Halos have a chance at nabbing a Wild Card spot. LA is four games back of the second Wild Card position as of this writing, and they have been one of baseball’s hottest teams over the last several weeks.

There’s no value in betting on Trout at -300, though. So, if you want to bet on AL MVP, you’re probably looking at long shots. DJ LeMahieu has been arguably the best signing of anyone since joining the Yankees last winter after spending the first chunk of his career in Colorado. Some attributed LeMahieu’s previous success to the hitter-friendly conditions at Coors Field, but he’s kept it up in his first MLB season in Yankee pinstripes.

The LSU product is slashing .336/.383/.523 with 15 homers and 70 RBI for the team with the best record in the American League. LeMahieu’s emergence has helped the Yankees survive a rash of injuries to key contributors, and the “best player on the best team” argument always holds water when it comes to MVP voting. LeMahieu fits the bill, so at +500, I don’t think he’s a bad betting option. The numbers clearly favor Trout (who nearly doubles LeMahieu’s current WAR of 3.8), but voters don’t always simply go by what the stat sheet says.

My favorite betting option among the true long shots is Boston’s Rafael Devers. The Red Sox have been in the midst of a World Series hangover all season long, which has caused Devers’ excellent year to go overlooked. He’s been the best hitter on the offense that ranks second (behind the Yankees) in runs scored in all of baseball.

Devers has already quadrupled his WAR from last season (4.0, up from 1.0), and he’s hitting a robust .322/.374/.561 with 20 homers and 79 knocked in. It’s weird for a Red Sox player to ever fly under the radar, but that’s exactly what Devers has done. If the Red Sox are able to awaken from their lengthy slumber and make a furious push toward the postseason over the last couple of months, I imagine Devers will start to garner more serious MVP consideration. At +3300, the betting upside speaks for itself.

National League MVP

  • Cody Bellinger (Dodgers) -125
  • Christian Yelich (Brewers) +150
  • Josh Bell (Pirates) +1200
  • Freddie Freeman (Braves) +1400
  • Nolan Arenado (Rockies) +1800
  • Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves) +1800
  • Pete Alonso (Mets) +2000
  • Max Scherzer (Nationals) +2000
  • Javier Baez (Cubs) +2200
  • Anthony Rendon (Nationals) +2800
  • Charlie Blackmon (Rockies) +2800

All season long, it has felt as though the NL MVP race will come down to Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. With two months left in the MLB season, there is really no reason to alter that mindset. Bellinger is currently the slight favorite at -150, thanks in most part to the fact that his Dodgers are running away with the National League. LA is 6 ½ games better than the next-best team (Atlanta), and no other team is within 10 games of the Dodgers as of this writing.

Bellinger endured something of a sophomore slump in 2018, but he’s bounced back and looked much more like the player that stormed his way to 2017 NL Rookie of the Year honors. Bellinger is hitting .331/.431/.638 with 34 bombs and 77 knocked in. He and Yelich are the only players in the majors in Trout’s stratosphere from a WAR perspective (6.1 for Bellinger, 5.9 for Yelich) and the “best player on the best team” argument holds up. He’s the favorite and understandably so.

He’s going to get a strong challenge from last year’s winner, though, and I definitely think there is merit to betting on Yelich to repeat at his current +150 odds. The primary factor holding him back is that voters may be reluctant to give him the award in consecutive seasons, and the Brewers haven’t hit the strides many expected them to. Last year’s team came to within a game of a World Series appearance. This year’s team wouldn’t be in the playoffs if the postseason began today.

There is more than enough time for Milwaukee to get into a playoff spot. They’re 1.5 games adrift of the second NL Wild Card spot, and they’re only two games back of the Cubs in the NL Central. Yelich seems like a lock to at least be named a finalist to win MVP, so I’d be more than willing to take a shot on him now at his current odds.

It sure looks like one of these guys will win it at this point. In order for someone else to win, both Bellinger and Yelich will have to go into something of a slump, while a third player will need to enjoy an absolutely torrid final two months of the MLB season. I wouldn’t put it past someone like Nolan Arenado (+1800) or Javy Baez (+2200), but betting against Bellinger or Yelich at this point feels like a fool’s errand.

American League Cy Young

  • Justin Verlander (Astros) +150
  • Lance Lynn (Rangers) +300
  • Gerrit Cole (Astros) +400
  • Charlie Morton (Rays) +400
  • Mike Minor (Rangers) +500
  • Lucas Giolito (White Sox) +1600
  • Jake Odorizzi (Twins) +1600

At this point, I see the American League Cy Young as a three-man race between former teammates. Justin Verlander is an understandable favorite at +150, while Gerrit Cole (+400) and Charlie Morton (+400) are also deserving. Lance Lynn has had an excellent season, but I can’t really imagine voters opting for him over any of the other three. Ditto for his teammate, Mike Minor.

I understand why Verlander is the favorite, but my vote would go to his teammate. Gerrit Cole has been the best starter this MLB season. The right-hander has the best xFIP among qualified starters in the majors (2.56). His 3.03 ERA is a bit bloated thanks to a somewhat high .294 BABIP allowed. His strikeout rate of 37.9% is the best in the big leagues by over two percentage points, ahead of the likes of Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, and Verlander.

Verlander has been great in his own right, but Cole has been better in most areas with the exception of ERA. Verlander’s 2.86 mark will look shinier to voters that value more traditional stats, and it’s not like his other numbers are bad. His xFIP is almost a full run higher than Cole’s, and the 28 homers he’s allowed to this point is the most in baseball.

I think both guys are strong bets. I’d rather give the award to Cole, but it’s not egregious if voters side with Verlander. Morton, who is in his first season with the Rays, has quietly surpassed his own teammate, last year’s AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, as the ace of the Tampa staff. Morton has an xFIP of 3.22 with a stellar 31% K-rate for the surprising Rays so far in 2019.

Betting on Verlander (+150) or Cole (+400) comes with obvious upside. Morton (+400) is a fine option himself, but I think one of the Astros is winning the award at this point. It’s crazy that Sale didn’t even crack the leaderboard, but a ragged first couple of months of the MLB season will likely cost him in the long run.

National League Cy Young

  • Max Scherzer (Nationals) -200
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers) +150
  • Luis Castillo (Reds) +1000
  • Walker Buehler (Dodgers) +1200
  • Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks) +2200
  • Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) +2800
  • Jacob deGrom (Mets) +3300
  • Mike Soroka (Braves) +3300

Max Scherzer is the clear-cut favorite here, but I’m not sure he should be. Scherzer is currently on the injured list with a back issue, but he’s expected to make a quick recovery. The Nationals’ ace has been his usual stellar self this season, as he owns a K-rate over 35%, an xFIP of 2.82, and an even better 2.30 ERA. The Nationals have also been resurgent this season, and a push toward a playoff appearance will only boost his Cy Young case.

Hyun-Jin Ryu drew the start for the National League in the All-Star Game, though, and I’m a bit surprised the South Korean southpaw isn’t the current betting favorite. Ryu has a microscopic 1.76 ERA through his first 19 starts of the MLB season alongside a strong 11-2 record. The strikeout numbers (23.6%) aren’t as overpowering as some other Cy candidates, but any pitcher that finishes a season with a sub-2.00 ERA is going to stand a strong chance at winning this award.

As mentioned, the Dodgers are also the best team in the big leagues, which is something that will come in handy when awards season rolls around. At this point, I’d much rather take the value that comes with betting on Ryu at +150 than taking the favored Mad Max at -200. Voter fatigue is also something that could come into play with Scherzer, who has three Cy Young awards sitting on his mantle at home. Ryu has yet to win the award.

Those look like the clear-cut frontrunners. Someone like Walker Buehler (+1200) could nudge his way into the conversation if he continues to dominate over the MLB season’s final two months, but at this point, it looks like a two-man race between Scherzer and Ryu on the National League side.

Conclusion

We figure to have quite a bit more clarity on how these awards will pan out by the time the regular MLB season comes to a close in late September. As a result, we can pretty much expect the four betting favorites to win these awards to be tabbed with minus odds by then, too. So, there is plenty of merit to taking some shots on these guys now while the value is as good as it’s going to get.

I like Yelich at +150 to take home NL MVP, mostly because he’s the better betting value than Bellinger at this point. I don’t think you can go wrong with either pick, however. I prefer Ryu to Scherzer, as mentioned above.

On the AL side, LeMahieu (+500) looks like the biggest threat to Trout, while Devers (+3300) is looking like a decent flier at his long odds. The Cy Young will come down to Cole or Verlander, so whichever Astro’s odds you prefer is the bet I’d take at this point.

Taylor Smith: Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, but he’s willing to take one for the team on that front every now and then.