I continue an all-star break updated look at MLB preseason props with the MVP awards in each league and the re-posted odds at Bovada. It’s safe to say that we will have a new MVP in the American League, all apologies to Justin Verlander and his fine season so far, but we could see the NL’s third repeat winner this century.
I have to give the oddsmakers at Bovada some credit as they installed Cincinnati’s Joey Votto as the preseason 7/1 favorite to win the National League MVP, and he’s definitely one of the leaders right now. Votto, the 2010 MVP, is hitting .348 (fifth in the NL) with 14 homers and 48 RBI for first-place Cincinnati, which is a game behind Pittsburgh in the NL Central and leads the wild-card race in the Senior Circuit. Votto leads the NL in OPS (1.087), walks (65) and doubles (35, on pace to potentially break the MLB record of 67 set by the Red Sox’s Earl Webb in 1931). He’s now at 9/2 to win the award.
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Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is the reigning NL MVP, and, rather amazingly, he’s on pace to have a better season in 2012 -- .306 average , 24 homers, 61 RBI, 15 steals -- despite being without Prince Fielder in the lineup to protect him and having to play through the distraction his positive drug test from last year. Of course, that was supposed to result in a 50-game suspension but Braun controversially won on appeal. Braun was at 10/1 to win it in the spring and I didn’t like him back then. I still don’t think he wins it (now 13/2) because the Brewers aren’t likely going to be a contending team.
The guy I liked in the spring in terms of value was Giants catcher Buster Posey at 25/1. I think he deserves MVP consideration. Yes he’s “only” hitting .289 with 10 homers and 43 RBI, but he’s by far the Giants’ most indispensable player and is terrific managing that excellent pitching staff. But Posey’s not an option on Bovada’s updated odds – teammate Melky Cabrera, who is second in the NL with a .353 average, is a 15/1 option.
The new favorite is Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who is probably the most indispensible player in all of baseball. I’m not sure McCutchen (4/1) has enough power to win a Triple Crown, but he’s among the leaders in all three categories with a .362 average (first in NL), 18 homers (fourth) and 60 RBI (third). Thanks to McCutchen, the Pirates are the story of baseball in leading the NL Central as they look to return the playoffs and have their first winning season since 1992.
I see no way that McCutchen doesn’t win unless the Pirates go completely in the tank in the second half or he gets hurt. If either of those happens, it probably goes to Votto. The other betting options are the Mets’ David Wright (9/2), Cardinals’ Carlos Beltran (13/2), Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (13/2), Mets’ R.A. Dickey (7/1), Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez (10/1) and Nationals rookie Bryce Harper (18/1).
In the American League, we could see history if Angels outfielder Mike Trout wins the award as he would likely join Boston’s Fred Lynn and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki as only the third rookie to sweep Rookie of the Year and MVP honors (I’m presuming Trout is named the AL’s top rookie, although Texas pitcher Yu Darvish might get some votes). Trout is the 2/1 MVP favorite at Bovada and the Halos completely turned their season around the day they called him up. Trout leads the AL in batting average (.341) and steals (26) to go along with 12 homers, 40 RBI and highlight-caliber defense in 64 games.
Trout’s main competition will come from Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (5/2) and Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton (4/1). Albert Pujols was the 6/1 preseason favorite but isn’t an option any longer – he’s currently only the third-best player on his own team behind Trout and Mark Trumbo. I strongly recommended not betting on Pujols back then. My value choice was Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler at 30/1. He has been just so-so this season, hitting .279 with nine homers, 41 RBI and 15 steals and is no longer a betting option.
As good as Trout is, I think he hits a bit of a rookie wall at some point and slows down. His reward will be the ROY. It’s hard to go against Hamilton, who leads the majors with 27 homers (tied with Toronto’s Jose Bautista) and 75 RBI to go with a .308 average. But as I noted in my updated home runs leader props story, I believe Hamilton will break down at some point and miss a chunk of time. If he stays healthy, it’s his MVP to lose. But I would go with Cano, as it never hurts to get all the publicity of playing on the Yankees. Plus, the Bombers may well finish with the best record in baseball, which they currently hold by a half-game over Texas.
The other AL betting options are the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera (6/1), Jays’ Bautista (9/1), Angels’ Trumbo (14/1), Red Sox’s David Ortiz (15/1), Tigers’ Prince Fielder (15/1) and Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (18/1).
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