We are back for another MLB season, and someone has to win the MVP in both leagues.
Who offers the most value in each league?
Shohei Ohtani and Bryce Harper took home the honors for the American and National League last season, respectively. Shohei is the favorite for the AL, just ahead of teammate Mike Trout. But Harper currently sits at fourth in the NL, behind Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Mookie Betts.
Generally, betting the favorite for MVP is never a smart idea. It’s better to pick a few sleepers, diversify your portfolio, and hopefully strike gold with someone in the +2000 to +3000 range.
Let’s look at the whole board and identify the best sleepers to bet.
MLB MVP Odds 2022
The Favorites for AL MVP
Who else but Ohtani?
He’ll be one of the best pitchers and sluggers in the American League. He accumulated 5.1 WAR as a hitter and 3.0 WAR as a pitcher in 2021, and he is projected to perform similarly this season.
Could he slug almost .600 again? I’d say that number will drop slightly, but he will still be one of the most effective hitters in baseball, projected to have a wRC+ over 140.
The Angels were a mediocre baseball team last year, finishing eight games under .500. But they finished 13-10 in Ohtani’s pitching starts and he posted a 9-2 record as a starter. The Angels win when he’s on the mound.
He’s going to have another monster year and will be the most valuable player in terms of value provided to his team. But, once again, there’s generally no value in betting the favorite, so I’ll pass on Ohtani at 3.5-to-1.
It sucks that Trout got robbed of almost two full seasons of his prime. He’s still on a clear Hall of Fame track, but he should also be considered the greatest player ever when it’s all set and done. That road is now much murkier.
What will he do this season?
Most likely post an OPS near 1.000 with 40 home runs and 110 RBIs. There’s no avoiding Mike Trout – he is inevitable.
Is there value with him at +400? Probably not. It’s just not enough juice to have any value.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vladdy probably should’ve won this award last season. He slugged .600 with a .400 OBP and hit almost 50 home runs. He also knocked in 123 RBIs and competed for the triple-crown with a .311 average.
But he ran hot in the wrong season, as Ohtani was never going to lose this award.
Guerrero is the best bet of the three favorites to win the award. But once again, I’m not willing to make a pre-season MVP bet with odds under 5-to-1.
The Favorites for NL MVP
Soto is the most improbable young hitter in the game.
Last season, he walked 145 times in 151 games while striking out just 93 times. That’s a 22.2% walk rate and a 14.2% strikeout rate, which is unfathomable. He ended the season with a .465 OBP.
Let’s not forget Soto hit 29 homers and recorded 111 RBIs.
He’s the favorite for a reason. If the Nationals have any success this year, it’ll be on the back of Soto and Soto alone.
But I won’t be buying him at 2.8-to-1.
Ronald Acuna Jr.
Baseball is better when the best young players are playing.
Sure, Atlanta won the World Series with Acuna sitting at home. But the Braves wished he was in the lineup for the Fall classic.
But he’s back this year, and he’ll hopefully pick up the slack after Freeman dipped for the Dodgers.
Acuna has more pop than maybe any hitter in baseball, and pre-season projections have him hitting up to 40 home runs. His Baseball-Savant page lights up like a Christmas tree, and that includes a top-rated sprint speed which led him to steal 37 bags in 2019.
The only reason I won’t be betting Acuna for MVP this year is that I’m worried he’ll start slow. Coming off a season-ending injury is never easy, and I can see him taking until the All-Star Break to break out.
One has to wonder if Mookie will ever return to his 2018 production when he posted a whopping 10.4 WAR season on his way to a consensus AL MVP award.
In the two full seasons since, he’s posted 10.5 WAR. His BABIP is down, which means could see some positive regression. But he batted just .264 last season, tied for the lowest of his career.
He has been hampered by injuries, most notably a bone spur in his right hip. But it’s not just bad luck. His xBA is down alongside his barrel rate and exit velocity. The injuries also hampered his defense and baserunning.
But if anyone has earned the benefit of the doubt, it’s Betts. Hopefully, he gets back to his slump-proof ways.
Harper put together a torrid stretch in the second half of the season last year. From June on – an 84-game sample size – he posted a 1.164 OPS and a 67:72 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
The stretch boosted the Phillies and kept them in the hunt for the NL East race. They felt short to the Braves, but Harper did enough to take home the big award.
Can he repeat?
The last guy to repeat as MVP was Miguel Cabrera in 2012 and 2013. Before that, it was Barry Bonds in 2002 and 2003. So, it happens about once every decade, meaning we’re due for a repeater.
I wouldn’t mind a shot with Harper at 9-to-1. However, if he starts slow again like he did last year, we’ll get Harper at a much better price. That’s what I’m going to target.
Top Value Picks for 2022 MLB MVP
Rafael Devers AL MVP
Raffy Big Stick continues to improve year after year. He’s consistently reaching new heights.
Devers didn’t quite post a 6.0 WAR season in 2021 as he did in 2019, but he posted a nearly identical OPS and dropped his strikeout rate by six percent while simultaneously upping his walk rate by four percent. His BABIP went down last year but his slash line went up, and he’s projected to hit 37 home runs this year.
He’ll also be the face of a top-five major league offense, and one that needs to rake to make up for a depleted pitching staff.
It’s also worth mentioning he’s already hit six homers in Grapefruit League play.
I could see him being one of the best hitters in baseball next year. If some luck rolls his way, he might be a lock for this award.
Byron Buxton AL MVP
All Buxton has to do is stay healthy.
When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best hitters in baseball. He posted a 169 wRC+ in his 254 PAs last year before getting shut down. He slapped 19 home runs in just 61 games.
He’ll also be hitting next to Carlos Correa, which should protect him a bit and also allow him to rack up runs. Let’s not forget he can swipe bags too, projected for close to 20 this season.
When Buxton is healthy, he’s a top-three hitter in the AL. I’ll take a shot with him at this number.
Trea Turner NL MVP :
There isn’t a lot of value in the NL MVP race. There are too many top names in the race.
But Turner stands out as a moderately long favorite.
He’ll challenge for the batting title (.328 BA last season), he’ll slug above .500 (projected as high as .525), he’ll steal bases (32 last season), and he’ll accumulate WAR (6.9 last year). And don’t forget he’s the leadoff batter for the most dangerous lineup assembled this century.
The stats and the narrative are there, and he can challenge some of the top guys for this award. He’s worth a bet at 14-to-1.