The 2022 Major League Baseball season is just about to get underway. It's delayed a bit, though not substantially, and thankfully we won't have to think about negotiating things like the CBT or pre-arbitration bonus pool or anything like that during the coming months. No, instead we can start thinking about fun things like who might win the NL MVP, lead the majors in home runs or save the most games.
That's right, we're gonna go through some individual accolades here and make some picks. I'll list the favorite, via Caesars Sportsbook, on each entry and then make a "value" pick -- someone who has a decent chance to win and with the odds that make it a quality selection -- and a longshot to watch. In the case of the latter, it's someone who is unlikely to ultimately be the winner but also has a remote shot if everything breaks correctly and could yield a nice windfall to any bettors.
Let's get to it!
I don't love the odds here on Ohtani. Not only is it extremely unlikely he can stay healthy and play at a high level with both pitching and hitting all year -- there's a reason he got some much well-deserved fanfare last season -- but voter fatigue is absolutely something that has been happening for years. Even if he repeats last year, there's a block of voters that'll try to give the award elsewhere (Vladimir Guerrero at +500 is a better bet among favorites and he's my pick).
Vlad Jr.'s teammate, Bichette, led the AL in hits in his first full MLB season at age 23 last year. He hit .298/.343/.484 while homering 29 times, driving in over 100 runs and stealing 25 bases. If the power continues to grow, his all-around game at these odds is very enticing.
Another Blue Jay, Chapman, has finished sixth in MVP voting before. He was awful at the plate last year, but he was also coming off hip surgery. If he hits more like 2019, he's capable of close to 40 homers with a huge RBI figure and his defense would push the WAR to around 8. I don't think he'll win, but those odds suggest it's worth a look.
I love Soto, but he'd have to blow the field away, perhaps exponentially so, in order to win on such a bad team. The three +900 guys (Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper) make more sense for me among the favorite-type picks. Trea Turner at +1500 is pretty damn enticing, too.
Olson is my outright pick to win MVP, so we love these odds. The story of him returning home (he's from the Atlanta area and already lived there before the trade) and replacing Freeman will carry weight with some voters if it's close. He had 39 homers and 111 RBI last season with his home park being one of the toughest in the league on hitters, while Truist Park plays more neutral or even hitter-friendly.
With Soler, we've seen his upside before. He had 48 homers and 117 RBI in 2019. Let's say behind their sneaky-good pitching staff, the Marlins contend all season while Soler posts monster power numbers to buoy the offense. Stranger things have happened.
AL Cy Young
Cole is my pick here and I don't really like the odds much for anyone else, really. It's a tough league and most players have major question marks attached.
We have no idea what kind of workload Verlander can handle, but he had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2020. That means the season starts more than 18 months after. He should be back. How far back? Who knows. But we know he's good enough to win it if he can manage even around 165 innings.
As for Means, a shoulder injury sidelined him for a bit last season and he had a rough final 10 starts. He still showed himself a very capable, well-above average starter. In a full season of health, he could well post a low-3.00s ERA in around 200 innings. In that division, you never know. The good thing is the W-L record likely barely matters anymore. And I'll tell you what, if Means puts up big numbers against the Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox offenses, he'll get bonus points.
I thought about Liam Hendriks at the same odds as Means, but I don't think a closer can win anymore. Look at Zack Britton's 2016 season and note that he finished fourth. It just won't happen. Means has a better chance.
NL Cy Young
Max Scherzer and reigning Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes (+800) are the chalk picks and each would be a fine selection. Jacob deGrom was the favorite before news broke over the weekend that he'll miss month-plus of the season.
Sure, Buehler is less "value" than the other value picks, but he's my pick to win the award, so I'll gladly take the 9-1. He heads to his age-27 season after finishing fourth last year and looking as strong as ever.
Peralta only threw 144 1/3 innings last season, but he packed 195 strikeouts into those innings, along with a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. A shoulder injury limited him a bit after the All-Star break. Imagining a 2022 with full health, perhaps Peralta can work up around 167 innings and that's all Burnes needed to win last year. At that workload and with even a slight improvement in his rate stats, Peralta would be a threat.
MLB HR leader
Frontrunner: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., +1000
Value pick: Matt Olson, +2000
Longshot to watch: Kyle Schwarber, +3500
This is a really fun one. How many people had either Guerrero or Salvador Perez last season? They tied for the crown at 48 and Ohtani was third with 46. It shows how volatile this category can be. Of course I like Olson since I already picked him to win the NL MVP. Some others near the top that make sense:
- Aaron Judge, +1400
- Joey Gallo, +1600
- Mike Trout, +2000
- Giancarlo Stanton, +2000
- Yordan Alvarez, +2200
- Bryce Harper, +2500
Schwarber had 32 homers in just 399 at-bats last regular season and tacked on three more in his first eight playoff games. He's finally going to get his first 40-homer season, I'm calling that much. And since I've come this far, yeah, why not? Schwarber is the pick to lead the majors in homers.
Also, Spencer Torkelson is +15000 (150-1). He homered 30 times in 431 minor-league at-bats last season, including 11 in his last 119 Triple-A at-bats.
MLB RBI leader
Frontrunner: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., +850
Value pick: José Abreu, +2000
Longshot to watch: Christian Yelich, +7500
Even more a crapshoot than the HRs, which means it can be fun. Alvarez checks in at second (+1200) on the odds board here and would make a nice pick. Rafael Devers at +1400 and Olson (+1600) would work, too.
Abreu was second last season, first in 2020 and second in 2019. He's going to hit in the middle of a great White Sox lineup, too.
It's hard telling what happened with Yelich. He was possibly the best hitter in the majors for a stretch that contained both 2018 and 2019. Then he broke his kneecap on a foul ball, had an incredibly weird 2020 (which, hey, that's par for the 2020 course) and was pretty bad last season, given him immense talent level. He's still only 30 years old, though, and a return to form puts him right in the mix.
MLB strikeouts leader
Cole, Scherzer (+600) and Ray (+600), last year's winner, are all fine picks. Shane Bieber had 259 strikeouts in 2019 and led the majors in 2020 (though he only faced fellow Central division teams) before 134 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings last year. He can be had at +1100.
Wheeler only finished one off the lead last year and gets really nice odds.
Gausman was sixth in baseball at 227 (Ray had 248 to lead). He goes to a whiff-heavy AL East (the Rays were third in the majors in strikeouts last year, the Yankees sixth and Orioles 10th while he doesn't have to face his new teammates, the 30th-ranked Blue Jays) and we just saw the Jays get the best out of Ray.
I'll go with Cole, but I really like both Wheeler and Gausman here. Any of them work.
MLB saves leader
The Hendriks placement was tough for me to fathom. He's arguably been the best reliever in baseball the last three years combined. He was only one off the lead last year to Mark Melancon, who now plays for a brutal Diamondbacks team. Hendriks is still with a team that will win a lot of games in the White Sox and has a manager fixed in his ways that will absolutely manage to a save when possible. And yet, there are five relievers above him on the odds list (Chapman, Diaz, Raisel Iglesias, Ryan Pressly and Emmanuel Clase. Jump on this one. He's my pick.
Kenley Jansen at +1000 looks pretty good as well. So does Josh Hader at +1200.
I think Doval has the stuff to be the best closer in baseball, perhaps even as soon as this year. We still can't be sure how the Giants employ him, of course, but I like 25-1.
The longer of the longshots is Knebel. He's battled arm injuries through the course of his professional career, but when he's healthy he can be one of the best. He was amazing in 2017 for the Brewers, saving 39 games with a 1.78 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 76 innings. Given the volatility of the Phillies' bullpen in recent years, manager Joe Girardi would love to hold tightly onto just one closer this season and pump him full of save chances.