The 2021 Major League Baseball season is here! With it comes a plethora of betting options, most notably the futures market for the most coveted individual award in the sports: the MVP.
The favorites are clear, but the best betting options are less so. Who should you be targeting with your MVP future bets ahead of the start of the season?
Our experts pored over the field to come up with their favorite bets, and made their selections fantasy draft-style. Below are their 18 favorite bets to win the AL and NL MVP awards.
1. Brad Cunningham — Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (+225, DraftKings)
This a chalky play, but it’s based on the competition Trout has for the MVP this season. We all know Mike Trout is the best baseball player in the world, but two of his main competitors for the award are now in the National League in Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor.
There is just nobody in the AL right now that can even come close to Trout’s numbers. For most hitters, a wOBA above .400 is viewed as the best season of their career. Trout has now done that for nine straight seasons. His slugging percentage has been above .600 for four straight years. To put it in perspective, in 2019 only three guys had a wOBA above .400 and a slugging percentage above .600.
There is a huge gap in the odds right now too, as Alex Bregman is the next on the board at 12/1, so, this is Trout’s award to lose.
I know the price is short, but there is not a player in the game who that consistently puts up Hall of Fame numbers year in and year out, without any sign of dropping off. So, I do think there is some value at the top of the board here at +200 or better.
2. Matthew Trebby — Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves (+850, PointsBet)
The MVP in baseball has pretty much become the OPS award. Last season, Acuña finished with a career-high .987, and entering his age-23 season, it’s safe to assume he’s only going to get better. His speed-power combo is the best in baseball. I’ll take my chances that he’ll keep getting better and potentially win himself points defensively, unlike fellow phenom Juan Soto.
3. Travis Reed — Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros (+5000, FanDuel)
Yordan Alvarez crushes baseballs. Can I leave it at that? He is in the top 10% in the league in Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, xwOBA, and Barrel %. If you’re not familiar with all of those stats, it’s a fancy mathematical way of saying he crushes baseballs. His only faults are he strikes out a lot and he’s not very fast.
The good thing is you don’t have to be speedy when you are trotting around the bases. I love Alvarez at this price and also bet him to top the majors in home runs this year as well.
4. Collin Whitchurch — Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees (+2500, DraftKings)
In 2018 and 2019, Torres was worth a combined 7.6 WARP, and he wasn’t yet 23 years old by the end of either of them. Last season was forgettable, but we’re still talking about one of the brightest young hitters on the most popular team in the biggest market in baseball.
Plus, he was ultimately (although not directly) the Derek Jeter replacement, so if he’s anywhere near MVP contention, he will get a narrative boost from a voting base that loves itself some narratives. Torres’ long odds are logical after a disappointing 2020, but if he breaks out, those odds will shorten in a hurry.
5. Sean Zerillo — Juan Soto, Washington Nationals (+850, William Hill)
At +750 or better, I’m betting Soto for NL MVP until he wins one — at which point his odds may drop to around +100 to +200 for the remainder of his peak. Not only do I think Soto is likely to be declared “the best player in baseball” by the end of the calendar year, I think a Triple Crown is well within his range of outcomes.
Through age-21, his closest player comp from ZIPS is Ted Williams, which shows that Soto possesses a rare combination of elite power and pitch recognition. And per Baseball Reference, seven of his 10 closest peers through age 21 are Hall of Famers, including Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Ken Griffey Jr.. Twenty of the past 22 MVP winners have finished in the top three in their respective league in WAR, and virtually every projection system has both Soto and Mookie Betts within that NL top three.
6. Collin Wilson — Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (+750, DraftKings)
For the history buffs out there, Frank Robinson is the only player to win both AL and NL MVP awards. Mookie Betts has a chance to make history after winning the AL MVP in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox and now firmly entrenched in the league’s best lineup. It is still mystery how the Boston Red Sox could let an MVP winner in his mid-20s leave the organization, but the Dodgers will never stop thanking Boston.
This billboard can be found at 60–62 Brookline Ave Boston, MA 02215 RIGHT NEXT to Fenway Park. pic.twitter.com/WQSygsAxbn
— Pantone 294 (@Pantone294) March 22, 2021
There was a drop in exit velocity among hitters in 2020, but Betts was able to maintain his 2019 levels while posting the best HR/FB rate of his career. ZIPS projects the Dodgers’ outfielder for a 30/20 season and a bump in defensive WAR that almost doubles last year. This is the best player on the best team, giving him more value in his price range over Soto and Acuña.
7. Collin Wilson — Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays (+3300, DraftKings)
As I put pen to paper, Bichette just smacked two home runs against the Yankees on March 25th. The Blue Jays’ offense is absolutely loaded and the centerpiece is this second-round draft pick. In a shortened 2020 season, Bichette trimmed his strikeout rate and increased his defensive WAR from 0.2 to 1.9.
The ZIPS projections for 2021 make him a clear contender for 25 home runs and steals while finishing top 20 in projected WAR. A Toronto push to the playoffs and a continued increase in defensive WAR may be enough to contend in a loaded field.
8. Sean Zerillo — José Ramírez, Cleveland Indians (+1500, FanDuel)
Since a sustained cold streak during the first half of the 2019 season (.652 OPS), Ramírez has been one of the best hitters in baseball. Over his past 102 games, he has the second-best wOBA in MLB (.426), and has hit .307 with a 1.041 OPS, 33 homers and 16 steals. Ramírez has accumulated 6.1 WAR over that same span, which ranks third in all of MLB, and would likely be higher if he hadn’t missed a month of action with a hand injury.
9. Collin Whitchurch — Manny Machado, San Diego Padres (+2600, FanDuel)
Fernando Tatis Jr. is one of the most exciting young players in baseball. Maybe the most exciting. Thus, it’s easy to forget that he’s not even the best player on his own team. That title belongs to Machado, who tied for the fourth-best WARP in baseball a season ago.
He finished third in MVP voting, but in the leadup to this season all the talk is about Tatis, while you hear little about Machado, and the +2600 number is part of that, too. Tatis may very well be one of the MVP frontrunners in 2021, and he’s undoubtedly a contender for years to come, but for this year and at these odds? Give me Machado.
10. Travis Reed — Luke Voit, New York Yankees (+8000, DraftKings)
This draft was done prior to the news that Voit would miss time with a partial meniscus tear.
11. Matthew Trebby — Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees (+4000, DraftKings)
Since OPS matters so much to MVP voters, I’m going to back a guy who when healthy (yeah, I know) can match anyone in baseball if he’s on. A lot of the players around Stanton cannot say they have a 1.000+ OPS season under their belt. He can, as well as an MVP on a last-place team.
If Stanton is healthy and finally able to get in a rhythm, he’s capable of competing for an MVP. The biggest issue will be his status as the Yankees’ primary designated hitter this season. Hopefully he splits that with Judge and plays enough outfield to get enough votes.
12. Brad Cunningham — Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox (+3000, DraftKings)
Rafael Devers is ready for a breakout season. He’ll get the benefit of being surrounded by a solid lineup, while also feasting on a weak division starting pitching-wise. Toronto and Baltimore have really weak rotations and when you get past Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow, the Yankees’ and Rays’ rotations aren’t that impressive either.
Devers’ 2019 numbers were really impressive. He had a .311 average, 32 HRs, 129 runs and 115 RBIs. His numbers took a dip in the shortened season, but every projection model has Devers hitting at least 30 HRs and driving in close to 100 runs. So, if he can return to his 2019 production and perhaps take a step forward, his numbers could rival that of Trout for the AL MVP.
13. Brad Cunningham — Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (+1200, DraftKings)
Freeman won the 2020 MVP while putting up ridiculous numbers. He was second to only Juan Soto with a .456 wOBA, which is by far the best mark of his career. In my opinion, the reason we saw such a jump in Freeman’s numbers is because he has unbelievable hitters around him. In some of the down years for the Braves, pitchers could pitch around Freeman, making life more difficult on him. Now, he is sandwiched between Acuna and Marcell Ozuna, who are two of the best hitters in the National League.
Freeman’s numbers in 2019 were very good as well. He hit 38 homers and drove in 121. Additionally, since 2018 he’s only missed four regular season games, so he is very durable. The production for Freeman is there and he’s going to be playing every day so, I think there is good value on him repeating at 12/1.
14. Matthew Trebby — Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals (+10000, DraftKings)
If OPS is one of the primary stats of consideration for the MVP voters, then Jorge Soler has no business being +10000. Granted, he was only at .769 last season, during which he missed 17 games, but the year before, Soler proved his power is legit. He hit 48 dingers and has a .922 OPS. That number was low because of a .265 average.
If he can repeat those power numbers and raise the average to about .280, there’s no reason Soler can’t compete for the MVP on a Royals team with high expectations for 2021.
15. Travis Reed — Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals (+5000, FanDuel)
His new teammate Nolan Arenado has much better odds, but I like the longer odds with Goldschmidt. He has seen his home run numbers dip as he has moved to the pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, but he has still maintained an elite hitter profile to go along with Gold Glove defense at first base.
The addition of Arenado should provide some protection in the lineup. Last year, Goldschmidt had a 16% walk rate. Some of that is due to his keen batting eye, but I believe a lot of it is pitchers simply willing to challenge the next guy in the lineup rather than giving in. Opposing pitchers will no longer have that luxury and I think Goldschmidt should benefit, take fewer walks and see an increase in his power numbers.
16. Collin Whitchurch — J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies (+5000, DraftKings)
When looking for longshots, it’s smart to target 1) players who are already really good, and 2) players on mid-tier teams who will get credit if that team leaps into playoff contention. Realmuto checks both boxes, as the consensus best catcher in baseball seems primed to continue doing his thing for a team that now has the second-longest playoff drought in MLB.
That streak is likely to continue, but if it doesn’t, Realmuto (along with ace Aaron Nola) will get a good amount of credit, making him a prime pick at 50/1 odds.
17. Sean Zerillo — Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics (+3000, The Westgate)
At the New Jersey sportsbooks, Chapman is listed between +1200 to +1800 in the MVP market, but I would take a stab on his outlier number at The Westgate. Chapman finished sixth and seventh in MVP voting during his two full seasons, while winning consecutive Platinum Glove Awards in the AL and leading the league in Defensive Runs Saved in both seasons.
His batted ball data shows some upside. Chapman has ranked in the top 4% in exit velocity, and top 8% in hard-hit rate for three consecutive seasons, and increased his barrel rate from 12.1% to 18% (98th percentile) in 2020. However, he also sold out for more power, and struck out more than ever (35.5% vs. 25% career). If he is able to refine his plate skills, and finish with a .260 average (projected .240-.246), 40+ homers (projected 31-36), and platinum defense, that should be enough for a top-three MVP finish, at worst.
18. Collin Wilson — Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies (+2000, DraftKings)
A former winner of this award in 2015, Harper has had a mostly silent tenure in Philadelphia. Through 58 games in 2020, Harper had just 13 home runs in 244 plate appearances and posted his lowest WAR since 2014. Plenty of that can be attributed to a back injury halfway through his 2020 season, but there were other advanced statistics that suggest Harper was better than ever.
Harper had the highest Barrel percentage of his career alongside an increase in exit velocity. Larry Bowa was quoted at Spring Training as saying he has never seen Harper’s bat speed as fast as it is right now, a scary thought after the outfielder logged his highest hard-hit rate in 2020 with an injury. If the Phillies can make any kind of push to the playoffs, Harper’s name will be atop of the MVP candidate list.