The Major League Baseball season is in full swing and for bettors, that means a huge range of markets to choose from at online sportsbooks.
Among those options are season-long futures, many of which remain open after Opening Day. These can be exhilarating to place and follow over the course of the season, with the odds updating based on the action that takes place on the field.
One such example that is being talked about in baseball betting circles is the odds for the American League Most Valuable Player. Using odds from multiple sportsbooks including DraftKings, William Hill, and BetMGM among others, we are analyzing lines for some of the contenders and making our own AL MVP betting picks in the process.
Odds To Win American League MVP
AL MVP Betting Picks: Should You Back Shohei Ohtani?
Angels center fielder Mike Trout, almost universally regarded as the best player in baseball, was the heavy favorite to win his third AL MVP award going into the start of the 2021 season. But when teammate Shohei Ohtani started the season on fire both at the dish and on the mound, the script began to flip.
Fast forward a few weeks and while Ohtani is continuing to tear it up from both sides, Trout is injured with a calf strain that is likely to sideline him for nearly two months. Ohtani not only thrust himself into the MVP conversation, the two-way superstar is now the favorite. But is he worth the bet?
Shohei Ohtani (P/DH/OF, Los Angeles Angels)
If you took Shohei Ohtani’s preseason American League MVP odds, which were +2000 at FanDuel, you are a happy camper right about now. But for those who haven’t committed to a player in this race yet, is Ohtani the right pick?
For what it’s worth, which is plenty, Ohtani’s season is on its way to being historically significant. We were told he was this generation’s Babe Ruth and this year, he looks like it. Ohtani no longer leads the league in home runs but still has 15 of them to go with 38 RBI at the plate, along with a .944 OPS, good for a top-15 mark in the league. Not bad for a pitcher.
On the mound, Ohtani is truly living up to his promise. He’s having a stellar season and could be on his way to a better performance than the one that helped him win Rookie of the Year in 2018. Through 30.1 innings, Shotime has a 2.37 ERA and 45 strikeouts. Not too shabby for a hitter.
Ohtani’s two-way contributions make him one of the most valuable players in all of baseball, as he’s posting a top-10 WAR (wins above replacement) and an even higher-ranking WPA (win probability added).
Ohtani seemingly has everything, and his overall skillset is a pretty mind blowing one. He hits the ball as hard as anyone in the league (check the exit velocity stats) and he’s second in total bases behind Guerrero. Maybe it wouldn’t be so impressive if he also didn’t post an elite 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings on the mound and one of the highest whiff rates in the game while throwing 100 miles per hour.
So, we get it. To some degree, Ohtani is breaking baseball and proving to be a truly transcendent player. He’s doing things we haven’t seen before and for that reason, he’s very deserving of his place on the odds board when it comes to AL MVP. But when it comes time to place that bet, is this the right time or price for Shotime?
Plenty of bettors think so. According to data from BetMGM, Ohtani has gotten 30 percent of the bets and 20.4 percent of the money for AL MVP in the time since Trout went down on May 17. In total, Ohtani has gotten 44 percent of the bets and over 33 percent of the handle to date. But it’s his recent popularity that has lowered the price to its current range, which now hovers between -110 and +135 at most sites.
At the current number, one must question how much value is really left. Where Ohtani’s odds currently sit, we should be talking about a slam-dunk MVP with little chance of losing. But we aren’t sure that’s the case.
If you do want to target Ohtani, the time isn’t when he’s at his absolute peak, which results in diminishing betting value. Plus, it’s likely that he’d have to keep up his two-way prowess for the entire season to walk away with the award, and there are several factors going against that possibility including his injury history and the possibility of natural regression to the mean.
But if not Ohtani, who should you be betting on for MVP? We’ve got a few suggestions.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (First Base, Toronto Blue Jays)
Once you get past Ohtani, the very first name to consider is that of Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is enjoying a breakout season in the heart of a strong Toronto lineup and is clearly one of the current/future faces of baseball. There aren’t many major statistical categories that Guerrero isn’t dominating in, and he could be the MVP when it’s all said and done.
The 22-year old phenom came up with a ton of fanfare in 2019 and hit 15 home runs in 123 games. Just two seasons later, Guerrero hit his 16th homer in just his 47th game to take the MLB lead, and that’s just one example of how far he’s come in a short time.
According to FanGraphs, he leads the league in valued statistics such as wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) and OPS (on-base + slugging) while ranking second in on-base percentage and hitting .333, which is good for a top-five mark in MLB.
Considering the kind of season Vlad Jr. is putting together, it’s no surprise that his odds have fallen from around +3500 on opening day to where they are now, which is in the neighborhood of +350 to +450 depending on the sportsbook.
The odds change can be directly correlated to Guerrero’s popularity among bettors since the Trout injury. While the line continues to drop, the public has found Vlad Jr.’s line even more valuable that than of Ohtani. According to data from BetMGM, Guerrero Jr. leads all players in bets (35.5%) and handle (50%) since Mike Trout’s injury, and by a pretty significant margin.
One thing going against Guerrero is the fact that he doesn’t play on an elite team, although Toronto is just a few games out of a playoff spot. While lack of team success has counted against players before, MLB also has a track record of giving the award to the best player. That includes Trout’s two wins on non-playoff teams and besides, both Ohtani and Trout still play for a last-place Angels club.
All things considered, there may be no wager better than one on Guerrero right now. His odds are nowhere close to where they were when the season began, but bettors can still get more than triple their money on a player that is ahead of nearly everyone else and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Aaron Judge (Right Field, New York Yankees)
Another name that bettors may want to consider for AL MVP is Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, who is the best player on a very good baseball team. Judge leads New York in all major statistical categories and is having an All-Star type of season, though his MVP odds are much longer than those of Ohtani or Guerrero.
Judge was second behind Trout in the odds when the season started and he remains third (or tied for it) at most sportsbooks today, but the odds are actually a bit longer than they were on Opening Day. Little attention has been paid to Judge among bettors since the Trout injury, with the Yankees right fielder only receiving 1.8 percent of the bets and 0.5 percent of the handle.
Even though Judge’s numbers aren’t as eye-popping as those of other players, his consistency and impact cannot be understated. He’s hitting over .300 (.307 at time of writing) with a top-five on-base percentage (.406) and a top-10 OPS (.983). Judge, who should’ve likely won the MVP in 2017, could be a valuable longshot bet to remain in that conversation again.
Hovering somewhere between +1800 and +2000, Judge is a great value play for anyone who wants to target an elite-level player who is leading his team to the postseason.
Mike Trout (Center Field, Los Angeles Angels)
Bear with me, here. Will it be extremely tough for Trout to come back and put up MVP-type numbers? Of course. But there’s actually one thing working for him that’s always worked against him in the past: his team.
The Angels, despite Ohtani’s heroics, are a last-place team in the AL West. If Trout comes back and returns to form and somehow drags the Angels into a wild card spot, we can’t say there is no chance that he gets a hard look. If Los Angeles has no chance without him but can make the postseason with him, he’d be in the running purely by the definition of ‘most valuable’, no?
It’s worth mentioning that Trout’s numbers in 117 at-bats this season are pretty much what you’d expect. He’s hitting .333 with a .466 on-base percentage and a monster 1.090 OPS. If qualified, his 197 wRC+ would trail only Guerrero Jr.
Trout has gotten 6.7 percent of the bets and 39.3 percent of the money for this market since it opened at BetMGM, but just over one percent of that handle has come since the calf injury. It’s a long way back to the top for Mike Trout in the MVP race but with odds inflated this much, don’t fully remove the best player in baseball from your mind.
AL MVP Betting Odds Conclusion
Think about where things currently are at the end of May as Ohtani sits atop the American League MVP odds board. Mike Trout is injured and Anthony Rendon is struggling, while Ohtani lights the world on fire as a two-way star.
Strictly speaking about Ohtani’s chances to win the MVP, this is all a bit of a perfect storm. But because his stock could not be higher, this is not the time to put your money on Ohtani’s odds, even if he’s ahead of the pack after two months. The action he’s seen at sportsbooks such as BetMGM has removed too much of the value in our eyes.
With the potential for injuries, regression, and the lack of value in the current odds, we would consider investing in another worthy player. The top choice for us and the majority of the betting public is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose odds still hold some value withthere is still some value with plenty of season left.