To round out this series of posts on player props betting for the 2019 MLB season, we are going to take a look at all the awards that can be wagered on. I will not necessarily be wagering on all of these, some of these will just be “forced leans” in order to provide some sort of recommendation, but I will label it as a LIKE or a LEAN to indicate what I personally have wagered on. When all is said and done, some of the leans I may end up taking for the action.
**Unless otherwise noted, all lines are from MyBookie
So let’s get caught looking at these props!
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP
Personally, I probably would not feel comfortable wagering on anyone to win this award besides Mike Trout at +250. I believe that Trout is just in for a career year that is going to blow all the other fish out of the water, and that no matter if the Angels end up contending or not, Trout’s performance will be amazing enough to take home the hardware. But I am going to throw a couple suggestions out there as LEANS on guys whose odds are long enough to potentially have some value should Trout suffer an injury (God forbid).
Andrew Benintendi (+5000) (LEAN) – Benintendi is all set to leadoff for the defending champions where he will be hitting in front of a couple of pretty okay hitters in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. In that spot, we know that Benintendi will score a lot of runs, but he is going to really have to step up his game in some other aspects in order to make a run at MVP here, but I do see some sort of pathway for him to do it. Firstly, he is going to have to become a .300 hitter. He was a .300 hitter in the Minors, but that was largely in part due to his elite ability to avoid striking out. His 16.0% K% from last year is good, but not elite. If he can cut down on the strikeouts by a few percentage points, then that should be enough for his first .300 AVG season. What also may help his AVG as well as boost his overall resume is if he adds on some pop. This is probably going to be his biggest obstacle. While he has shown 20 HR pop from the 2017 season, it is going to be tough to expect a big progression in this category, especially since he has been quoted this Spring Training as saying his focus is on his AVG and not HR since he is now a leadoff hitter, and his home park is not conducive to left-handed home runs. But being a leadoff hitter now, he may start running more. While not a burner on the base paths, he seems to pick his spots well and is efficient. It may not be out of the question for Benintendi to push 30 SB. So it seems like the best case scenario here is something like a .315 AVG with 25 HR, 90 RBI, 125 R, 30 SB, which would almost certainly put him in the MVP conversation.
Matt Chapman (+4000) (LEAN) – Chapman is already an elite defender at third base where a ton of his real life value lies. With that amazing defense, he was able to finish 7th in the Majors (6th in the AL) in WAR last year at a 6.5 mark. His offensive stat line read as: .278/.356/.508 with 24 HR, 68 RBI, 100 R, and 1 SB. That is a solid line, but certainly not MVP caliber on the surface. If he was able to finish 7th in the Majors in WAR with that offensive stat line, then how high might he finish if he bolstered that a bit? I think Chapman will get to 30 HR this year, even if it’s barely so, and he will also contend for 100 R again as long as he’s in the 2-hole for the A’s. However, I would not expect a bump in his AVG as that .278 mark from last year was probably due to an inflated BABIP and his strikeout rate is not likely to drop enough to make up for any BABIP regression. And unfortunately, he probably is going to have to hit near .300 if he is going to have a realistic chance at the MVP here. Chapman has a similar feel to former A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson (2015 AL MVP with the Blue Jays), but Chapman seems like he may always be a step below Donaldson as a hitter. Chapman is a longshot to win here, but he at least has the elite defense to always keep his WAR at a healthy level to help him garner some MVP votes.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP
Ronald Acuna Jr. (+2000) (LEAN) – Acuna Jr. very much lived up to the hype last year on his way to nabbing the NL Rookie of the Year Award and I think he has a very solid chance of following that up with the NL MVP Award, just like Kris Bryant did in 2015-2016. My projections probably don’t indicate an MVP caliber season from Acuna Jr., but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he demolishes my projections in many ways.
Anthony Rendon (+2000) (LEAN) – Would it surprise you to know that Rendon finished 2nd in the NL in WAR last year behind NL MVP Christian Yelich? Rendon also accomplished that in only 136 games played. If anyone in the NL is going to make that jump from a perennial solid player to an actual MVP candidate like Yelich did last year, I think Rendon is the man. I have already outlined some lofty expectations that I have of him in previous posts, but in summation, his batted ball profile suggests that he may have some untapped home run potential, which combined with his excellent ability to put the ball in play, we are potentially looking at a player with the upside of a .315 hitter with 35 HR, 115 RBI, and 100 R while playing rock solid defense at the hot corner. Or in other words, Nolan Arenado without the aid of Coors Field.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG
Trevor Bauer (+2200) (LIKE) – In my opinion, Bauer would have won this award last year had it not been for a fractured fibula that he suffered on a comebacker. But outside of that unfortunate injury, Bauer has been a model of pitcher health throughout his career so another injury is not something that would worry me here. Bauer is also adding in a changeup to his already well crafted arsenal of pitches, so this makes me like him even more. This wager is not just me liking it as a value pick. Don’t get me wrong, it is of course a sweet and delectable value, but I do legitimately feel that this is going to come down to either Chris Sale or Bauer. I do have Sale projected slightly better than Bauer, but Sale’s recent health issues with last year’s late velocity dip is a concerning point. By MyBookie odds, Bauer is the 9th favorite for this when at worst I think he should be 3rd.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG
Miles Mikolas (+4000) (LEAN) – Let me lead this off by saying Miles Mikolas is very unlikely to win the NL Cy Young. But given his odds, I wouldn’t disagree with anyone taking a chance here. What exactly would be Mikolas’ path to get there? Think Dallas Keuchel in 2015 when he won the AL Cy Young. Keuchel was coming off a very solid 2014 campaign where he posted a 2.93 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, but he was really lacking in the strikeout department with an 18.1% K%. With a big spike in his K% to 23.7% in 2015, Keuchel was able to pitch his way to an even better 2.48 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while recording 20 wins. This year, Mikolas is essentially in the same spot that Keuchel was heading into 2015. Mikolas had only an 18.1% K% last year, to go with his 2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, but he may have some untapped strikeout potential. If he can unlock that then this is going to give this (potential) wager some real run. In order to beat out the likes of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, though the win statistic is being rightfully devalued some in the Cy Young voting nowadays, Mikolas is probably going to need a 20-win season here. Mikolas was able to log an 18-4 record last year and the Cardinals went and improved their offense with Paul Goldschmidt, and they improved their bullpen by adding Andrew Miller and they could also have top prospect Alex Reyes pitching out of the pen, which could put 20 wins within reach.
AMERICAN LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Eloy Jimenez (+275) (LIKE) – While I wouldn’t say Eloy Jimenez has gone unnoticed, there is certainly more hype surrounding Vladimir Guerrero Jr., especially since he is in the bloodline of a Hall of Famer. But would I say that Guerrero Jr. is almost three times as more likely to win the AL Rookie of the Year than Jimenez? Definitely not, and especially not now after two very important things happened. 1.) Guerrero Jr. suffered an oblique strain in Spring Training, which means he is going to be looking at a late April or early May debut at the earliest. 2.) Jimenez signed a record-breaking contract for a player with zero Major League service time, so now the White Sox have zero excuse to not have him begin the year in the Majors. Given these two new developments, these two players’ odds should have a much smaller margin (Guerrero Jr. is at +100 odds). Assuming the White Sox do the right thing here and go with Jimenez on the Opening Day roster, Jimenez is essentially going to have a one month headstart on Guerrero to compile the counting stats. While Guerrero Jr. is widely considered to be the more polished hitter because of his elite K%, Jimenez is definitely no slouch with the bat and should be able to keep pace with Guerrero Jr. as long as there isn’t too much of a disparity in batting average.
NATIONAL LEAGUE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Chris Paddack (+2500) (LIKE) – I think that players like Victor Robles, Pete Alonso, and Nick Senzel do have a bit of a better chance to win this award, but at these odds, there is much to like here. This is going to be risky because while it does look like Paddack is in line to crack the Opening Day roster (not sure why the Padres wouldn’t wait till 2-3 weeks into the season though), we don’t know exactly how many innings he will pitch. His season high as a professional is 90 innings and he does carry some injury history with him. But what Paddack brings is an extremely unique skill set of a high strikeout rate and a nearly non-existent walk rate and he’s been fully displaying that in Spring Training as well. Right away, this could translate to a sub-3.00 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, with over a strikeout per inning. I am not saying it will, but it could. This could be a Jose Fernandez type of impact from his 2013 NL Rookie of the Year season (R.I.P.).
MOST HOME RUNS
Mike Trout (+1200) (LIKE) – My projections have Trout as the leader in HR at 46. As mentioned in Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Home Runs (Part One), Trout’s flyball rate surged in the second half of last season while his hard% still remained strong. This suggests that he made somewhat of a conscious effort to lift the ball more, potentially intentionally trying to attack the shortened home run line in right field at Angel Stadium where it would just require a flick to go yard to the opposite field. Tied for 3rd favorite to win this when he’s my top HR projection, Trout seems like an excellent value here.
Joey Gallo (+2500) (LIKE) – I liked this a lot more when I submitted this wager because Gallo has been dealing with a groin injury in Spring Training as of late. But in terms of just sheer home run ability and raw power, Gallo may be second to none, it’s just that his ghastly inability to put the ball in play hurts him. But he is coming off of back-to-back 40 HR seasons and if he is able to trim his strikeout rate by even a few percentage points then a 50 HR season would be within reach, also assuming full health. Tied as the 10th favorite for this at +2500 odds, this is a tremendous value. He may not win this, but the value on this makes it almost impossible to not like.
MOST PITCHER WINS
Trevor Bauer (+2500) – I probably have talked about Bauer enough for you to know that I am all-in on Bauer this season. My projections have Bauer and Max Scherzer tied for the most wins at 18, yet by MyBookie odds, Scherzer is tied as the favorite while Bauer is tied as the 8th favorite to create a ton of value in this.
Miles Mikolas (+10000) – As mentioned previously in this post, Mikolas does have a pathway to potentially log 20 wins, which of course would likely have him in contention for the most wins. But maybe the more underrated factor in this would be what was mentioned in Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Wins regarding his pitches per start. Mikolas’ pitches per start last year sat at an underwhelming 93.9 pitches. If the Cardinals’ new manager gives his starting pitchers a longer leash to allow Mikolas to get close to (or surpass) 100 pitches per start, then not only will that allow for Mikolas the extra chances to log more strikeouts for his Cy Young resume, but it would in theory increase his win probability. Coming off a season where he logged 18 wins based largely on the fact that he was efficient with his pitches and pitched 6+ innings in 24 of his 32 starts, if he’s able to go even deeper on average then that would certainly be helpful here. At +10000, Mikolas is ranked as the 30th favorite on MyBookie. In contrast, I have him projected for 16 wins, which is tied for 3rd behind Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer. So yes, I feel this is a ridiculously nice value bet.