MLB picks, odds: Sleepers for MVP, plus who’s being overvalued through 60 games

The 2022 MLB season is roughly a 2020 season (60 games), give or take a few games depending on the team. In mid-June we’re sitting deep in the hustle and bustle of the regular season dog days. When it comes to players trying to secure an MVP future, it’s certainly an interesting time.

Our job now is to use Caesars Sportsbook to sift through the odds and figure out who might be overrated, along with some underrated picks that could move up to victory. And hey, the favorites might end up being the best choice.

In the past few years we’ve seen both versions of MVP. One version: A mid-June leader continues to have an elite-level season and ends up winning the MVP. The other would be a late rise from a player who was good earlier in the season but not necessarily that great.

In fact, we saw both last year. Shohei Ohtani was the favorite for AL MVP in mid-June and he won it. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. was right about him and he also finished second. On the NL side, however, Bryce Harper didn’t even make the All-Star Game, but from June 12 through the end of the season he hit .331/.448/.681 with 34 doubles, 27 homers, 69 RBI and 73 runs in 98 games.

Ronald Acuña, Jr. was one of the frontrunners for NL MVP in July, but then he tore his cruciate ligament. Jacob deGrom would have been there before his injuries.

Players can also level up. We’re staying with Harper. Remember he was the NL MVP in 2015 and then had a paltry three weeks to start the 2016 season. He was the easy and obvious MVP favorite in May, but in the end he didn’t even get a single down vote (26 players got at least one).

What is the current situation?

Bundesliga

Manny Machado (+350) is probably the leader in the clubhouse, but Mookie Betts (+350) isn’t far behind. Neither does Paul Goldschmidt (+400). Bryce Harper (+750) is back. Pete Alonso (+1000) leads in home runs and has a big lead in RBI while the Mets have the best record in the league so he’s absolutely in the mix.

Overrated

  • Nolan Arenado (+2500) has actually “only” hit .241/.314/.400 at the plate since April 24 after a scorching start to the season. His defense will keep his WAR in the mix, but it’s difficult to win the MVP when you’re either the second or third most important player on your own team (we’ll get to that).
  • Jazz Chisholm (+2500) is a rising star and one of the funniest players in the league. He also sits fourth on a team with a percentage under .300 (.299) on base right now. There’s a reason he gets these kinds of chances, and he’s talented enough to be one of those players who gets insanely hot on the track — and if the Marlins make a playoff run in the process, he’s in with a good shot . I just don’t see it this year. He’s above at least a handful of players I would choose him over without even considering the odds.
  • Juan Soto (+2500) finished fifth in 2020, leading the league in averages, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+ and intentional walks. Last season he was second while leading the majors in OBP and averaging .999 OPS (177 OPS+). He hits .228 in 2022 with .833 OPS (141 OPS+). The field is a lot more crowded right now, the Nationals are terrible and Soto might be hurt. move on.

sleeper

  • Acuña could be? The only potential downside is that he’s +1600, behind only Machado, Betts, Goldschmidt, Harper, and Alonso. I’m just looking at the simple fact that the Braves are 22-11 when he’s playing and 13-16 when he’s not playing. He started a bit slow for his standards after returning from an ACL injury, but in his last 26 games he’s batted .337/.441/.568. As the Braves swell and his steamy game continues, a strong narrative takes over. Would it be enough to get over him missing around 30-35 games and catching a late start?
  • The upper middle area could be the sweet spot. From Freddie Freeman (+2500) to Trea Turner (+3000), Austin Riley (+4000), Francisco Lindor (+4000) and Matt Olson (+5000), you could absolutely see someone in this mix getting extremely hot at the end 6-8 weeks while leading a division winning charge.
  • Tommy Edman (+10000) switched to shortstop to house Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan at second base and the Cardinals got a big spark. Edman is one of the top chart-setters in the league with a .355 OBP and 15 steals. He has 49 goals in 61 games and leads the baseball reference version of WAR (he is behind only Machado and Betts in fangraphs).
  • Christian Yelich (+10000) won the award in 2018 and it could be argued that he should have won in 2019. After the All-Star break in 2018, Yelich hit .367/.449/.770(!) with 18 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 67 RBI, 58 runs, 10 steals and good god it was an absurd stretch for 65 games . If he did that again and the Brewers won the NL Central, he would have a chance to cash at those high odds.
  • Willson Contreras (+20000) is eighth in Fangraphs WAR among NL position players and sixth in the Baseball-Reference version. He’s having an outstanding offensive season and he’s a looker. It’s hard to imagine him rising to the top flight here with the Cubs, but what if he’s moved to another NL team and is getting even hotter while serving as a spark plug with his new boys?

American League

Between a potential Ohtani (+325) replay and Mike Trout (+650) perhaps winning his fourth MVP, there is a pillar to take on an Angels player (+250) or the field (-320). I’d probably walk by there, but the angels’ side is fascinating. There’s also something that might be appealing to Yankees fans. It’s +1000 for Aaron Judge to win the MVP while the Yankees win the World Series (you must hit both).

It looks like Judge (+125) will win it now, but José Ramírez (+750) and Rafael Devers (+1400) are hot on his heels. With Judge, we can’t escape his injury history either. With such a tight margin, it’s only a month away and it could be cooked.

Overrated

  • I could very well regret that, but I think Ohtani does. We just watched his career year last season, and while we should never assume how ridiculously difficult it is for him to be both a pitcher and a hitter — and being productive at both, which is the master key — I don’t think he is is able to cope with the inevitable phase of the season where he tires in the last 4-6 weeks. If he falls in the +2000 range, we throw him back into the threshold section. At the moment I pass. The AL is so top-heavy that you really have nowhere else to turn. Only Judge, Ohtani, Trout, and Ramírez are below +1000 and only Devers joins them below +2000. There’s an argument that Judge and Trout are overrated due to ongoing injury concerns, but I’m not betting against that either.

sleeper

  • I actually think Devers is undervalued at +1400. He’s a serious threat to win it. He is second to Judge in both versions of WAR and he will fill in all stat categories, New and Old School, except stolen bases. For example, he leads the league in hits and doubles while hitting .335 with banging WAR, OPS+ and wRC+ numbers. Something for every voter.
  • Yordan Alvarez (+2200) has a dispute as the scariest hitter in baseball right now, at least this side of Judge. Can a DH win? That’s probably a disadvantage, but he’s also capable of putting up mind-blowing numbers. So: In his last 16 games he has batted .468/.514/.790.
  • Vladimir Guerrero (+2500) is currently not included. He’s fully capable of going gangbuster in the second half (see the Yelich line above, barring the thefts). If he does this while the Blue Jays are progressing to, say, 95-plus wins, there’s a shot.
  • Byron Buxton (+3000) is also currently outside the top flight. He’s stayed on the field for the most part, however, and has an 18-homer-in-46-game foundation. He’s so incredibly talented and the Twins sit in first place. A huge second half gets him talking.
  • Much of the AL sleeper discussion is speculative because there’s such a big disconnect between the top tier and the rest right now, but we know that’s subject to change. Wander Franco (+8000) is someone with talent. He’s injured right now, but he hit .314/.372/.500 after the All-Star break last season, and that was as a rookie at age 20. Let’s say he’s even better this time while the Rays kinda chase the Yankees. There would be a chance. The odds are juicy enough.
  • Xander Bogaerts (+15000) is just behind teammate Devers, but those odds are far too high for a player of his caliber who is eyeing a possible exit while playing for a team that is making a run for it after a terrible start. I suppose we could throw in Carlos Correa at +20000 with a similar argument.

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