The player movement of the offseason has settled down, and before you know it, award races will be taking shape as baseball starts up again.
Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto entered 2022 as the betting favorites for MVP, and while neither won, they find themselves right back at the top of preseason odds again in 2023. Will the AL come down to Ohtani and Aaron Judge again, or is there a darkhorse in the race? Who can separate themselves in what could be a wide open NL race?
Let’s take a look at the favorites and some sleepers who can give you great value.
MLB MVP Odds 2023
The Favorites for AL MVP
Shohei Ohtani (+200)
Ohtani didn’t go back-to-back last season, but he fell into the same category as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in 2021 with a clear-cut MVP-caliber season that didn’t have a chance against a truly historic season.
No one was unseating Aaron Judge in 2022, but Ohtani’s odds are even better than they were at this point a year ago because he proved his 2021 wasn’t a fluke. Ohtani has stayed fully healthy for two years and is seemingly only getting better as a pitcher.
The Angels might not be any good, but that won’t matter to any MVP voters if he plays like he did last season. With that being said, the durability of a player who does as much as Ohtani is always an underlying concern.
Aaron Judge (+400)
Aaron Judge is undoubtedly the best hitter in baseball. Like Ohtani, he’s stayed fully healthy for the last two seasons after battling injuries earlier in his career.
It’s hard to question anything Judge can do with his bat, but if there’s any concern, it might be a lack of protection in the Yankees’ lineup. New York has big names around Judge, but the names won’t matter if Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo can’t start hitting for some contact. Judge has become an extremely patient hitter, though, so walks may just help him in his quest for MVP.
At +400, you could make the case there’s some value for a man who just did something no non-steroid user has ever done.
Mike Trout (+600)
Injuries might be all that can stop Mike Trout’s quest for a fourth MVP award, but if history tells us anything, there’s a good chance they will stop him. I fully understand why he’s just behind Ohtani and Trout – hitting 40 home runs despite missing more than a month is ridiculous – but he didn’t come close to winning MVP because of that missed time.
With rumors of a chronic back issue still in mind from last season, there are much better values than Trout at +600.
The Favorites for NL MVP
Juan Soto (+600)
Juan Soto entered last season +280 to win NL MVP, and he was my personal pick. +600 may be enough value for bettors to take advantage of a down season for the young star.
Soto is a relatively safe MVP pick because it’s a given that he’ll walk at a ridiculous rate. That means his OBP and OPS will be sky-high. He hit some severe slumps in 2022, but entering 2023 without the turmoil of a looming trade and with two – eventually three – superstars surrounding him in the lineup should do wonders for him. Even as the favorite, you have to like the odds here on Soto’s first MVP award.
Mookie Betts (+800)
Mookie Betts was a little too inconsistent last season, and an IL stint didn’t help his case. Still, when Betts is hot, there’s nobody better. He can hit five home runs in a week when he’s at his best, and it feels like 2023 may be his time to carry a Dodgers team that lost some notable pieces. Betts is also able to pile up impressive WAR with his defense, which makes an impact on the voters.
+800 isn’t great value for a player who’s only finished top-4 in voting once in the last four years, but a race without a clear-cut frontrunner heading into the year gives Betts a real chance.
Manny Machado (+1200)
Manny Machado finished as the MVP runner-up in 2022 despite not having Juan Soto for four months and not having Fernando Tatis Jr. at all. With much better protection in the lineup this year, can 2023 be the best season of his career? Machado is in a contract year, and he might fall along the same lines as Paul Goldschmidt as a veteran who is ‘due’ for an MVP award.
In a wide-open group of candidates, one of the best all-around players in baseball can’t be ignored. Machado is one of three players at +1200 right now, next to Paul Goldschmidt and teammate Fernando Tatis Jr., but he’s easily the best bet of that trio.
Top Value Picks for 2022 MLB MVP
Jose Ramirez (+1600)
Jose Ramirez is in the MVP mix every single year. He’s consistently one of the best infielders in baseball, and he’s set to be the centerpiece of a Guardians team that figures to be a postseason team again in 2023.
Ramirez carries no recent injury history and has posted an OPS+ north of 140 in four of the last five seasons. It hasn’t put him over the top yet, and the path isn’t as clear as it would be in the NL, but a season even slightly above the norm for Ramirez would be enough to make him a prime MVP candidate who comes in at a great value at +1600.
Freddie Freeman (+1400)
Speaking of consistency, Freddie Freeman is about as much of a sure thing as anyone in baseball. He routinely churns out multi-hit games, plays every day (only six days of rest over the last two seasons), and is coming off a season with 199 hits, a .407 OBP, and 100 RBI despite a power decline.
With Freeman more settled in Los Angeles, I expect the power to come back – not that 21 home runs is anything to ignore. In fact, it did come back later in the season after a slow start on that front. He hit .359 with a .994 OPS over his last 75 games in 2022, forcing himself into the MVP conversation. A former MVP and World Series champion, Freeman is one of baseball’s most intelligent hitters and doesn’t belong below Fernando Tatis Jr. and even Paul Goldschmidt in MVP odds.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+1400)
Like Jose Ramirez, Guerrero is probably at +1400 because of how much Ohtani and Judge have cornered the market. How quickly we forget he had one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory in 2021. Guerrero did take a step back in 2022, but 32 home runs and a 132 OPS+ isn’t bad for a down season.
If he can be as patient of a hitter as he was in 2021, Guerrero can compete with anyone in this race and contend for the unofficial title of best hitter in baseball. Few can go on a power tear like Guerrero can, and it would’ve won him an MVP at age 22 if Ohtani didn’t have a genuinely historic season.