It would be a lie to suggest that we are at the exact halfway point of the 2019 MLB campaign – as only the White Sox have played precisely 81 games as of writing this – but, with the All-Star break right around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to assess what we’ve seen so far and project out the rest of the season. Specifically, let’s focus on the MVP races. Now, at first glance, you might be inclined to believe that there is currently no value in betting AL or NL MVP odds on the DK Sportsbook. I mean, in both leagues we don’t just have a favorite, we have a favorite with even odds or higher. Still, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played with a lot more narrative to unfold. Is there a case to be made that any long shots can take home the crown?
Let’s break down my top value bet in both races.
Note: All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVPCurrent Favorite: Mike Trout (-200)
I’d be remiss if I did not mention my general reluctance to bet against Trout – arguably the greatest player of his generation and one of the best of all-time from a statistical perspective. This is a pretty vintage Trout season, too. Not only has the 27-year-old put up at least a .420 wOBA in every single month of the year, showcasing his incredible consistency; but he’s also seen his walk rate fall and his swing rate increase with every flip of the calendar. That’s not necessarily the best news from a strictly saber-metric sense, yet it means more batted ball events and raw counting stats for Trout. That could factor heavily into MVP voting, as will the fact that Trout hasn’t won the award since 2016. We likely won’t hear about the “voter fatigue” that has plagued Trout in the recent past.
Best Value: Gary Sanchez (+4000)
With injuries to Joey Gallo, Francisco Lindor, George Springer, and Jose Altuve; the non-Trout tier of the AL MVP odds looks understandably strange as we sit here at the beginning of July. For some perspective on the matter, consider that DJ LeMahieu currently has the second-highest odds of any American League player at 5-1. DJ LeMahieu. That’s not to take anything away from the fact that LeMahieu is the AL’s leader in batting average at .345 and is third in fWAR at 3.5, however I’m hard-pressed to believe we inhabit a world where LeMahieu steals the crown from a healthy Trout. LeMahieu’s teammate, on the other hand, might have a chance.
Sanchez has rebounded spectacularly from a poor 2018 and is slashing a respectable .261/.330/.588 through his first 264 plate appearances of the year. More importantly, he’s putting up the flashy numbers, with his 23 home runs, the second-most of any player in the Junior Circuit. Really, with Sanchez’s clear-cut archetype at the plate, a 50 home run season is not out of the question. Putting aside the comfy confines of Yankee Stadium and the fact that the new baseballs are helping pave the way to long ball records across the sport; Sanchez has the second-highest qualified fly ball rate in MLB (50.6%) and he pairs that distinction with the the league’s highest propensity of barrels per batted ball event (23.1%). In fact, among the 204 players with at least 150 BBEs, Sanchez is the lone man to produce a barreled ball on over 20% of those events. Its the main reason Sanchez is on pace to hit 48 home runs in a 500 at-bat sample in 2019. If he can get to 50 and New York compiles over 100 wins in the process, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Sanchez isn’t getting some MVP buzz. Especially with all the injuries the team has had to endure and with Sanchez playing the most physically demanding defensive position. He still might not beat out a prime Mike Trout effort, but there’s no reason he should be listed at 40-1 with that obvious a path.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVPCurrent Favorite: Cody Bellinger (+100)
This time last week Bellinger was actually tied atop the NL’s MVP odds with last season’s winner Christian Yelich, but then a four-game trip to Colorado went exactly how you might expect it to go for the Dodgers and the 23-year-old. Honestly, you could pick a statistical category at random and there’s a pretty good chance that Bellinger happens to lead MLB in it. The former top prospect ranks first in runs scored (67), wOBA (.454), wRC+ (187), fWAR (5.5), and bWAR (6.6). He’s also walked more often than he’s struck out. You know, just for good measure. As a relatively fresh face on a team seemingly destined to win the most games in baseball, Bellinger checks every single box in a prospective voter’s head. He’ll be hard to topple.
Best Value: Freddie Freeman (+1500)
The case for Freeman is centered around buying into the Braves as a whole. Let’s all go back in time to May 9. After a three-game sweep at the hands of Los Angeles, Atlanta fell in extra innings to Arizona, leaving the club with a record of 18-20. That was good enough for second place in the National League East, but was four games back of the retooled and highly-regarded Philadelphia Phillies. Well, since that point, the Braves have gone 32-15 with Freeman responsible for most of the heavy lifting on offense. Freeman would collect two hits and an RBI in a victory over Zack Greinke on May 10. The following week, he would hit a home run in four-straight games. All told, in the 209 plate appearances Freeman has taken in this 47-contest stretch, the All-Star is slashing .323/.397/.656 with a .333 ISO. That last point is key, too.
While Freeman is one of the league’s more decorated and recognized hitters, he’s never exactly been viewed as a “power” bat. Freeman’s main attribute has been his consistency. He’s one of only 16 qualified players with a .300 average going back to the start of 2016 – a span of time in which Freeman actually leads the National League in wRC+ (147). If Freeman can maintain a career-best HR/FB ratio of 24.4%, he’ll be sure to smash his prior career high of 34 home runs. He’ll also likely do so with more than 100 runs driven in and 100 runs scored. Would he need a prolonged slump from Bellinger to catch-up in the minds of award voters? Probably. However, if that were to occur, and the Braves were to continue winning games at anything resembling this current pace, Freeman would suddenly emerge as a focal point of the 2019 season.
Odds and lines subject to change. See website for actual odds.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theglt13) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.