While nothing is certain amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball is indeed scheduled to begin its 60-game 2020 season on July 23. The return of baseball also means the return of sports gambling. Some players are opting out of playing this season, and it will change both the races for playoff spots and individual awards -- and the odds for both.
The MLB betting lines for league awards have been set from William Hill Sportsbook. The latest odds have Mike Trout as a +200 (risk $100 to return your $100 bet plus $200 for a total of $300) favorite to win American League MVP. Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, and Ronald Acuna are +700 co-favorites to win National League MVP. Gerrit Cole is +280 favorite for AL Cy Young and Jacob deGrom is +350 favorite for NL Cy Young. Pete Alonso is the league home run leader favorite at +1000.
The condensed 60-game season can not only change the playoff scenery, but it, in all likelihood, can provide opportunities for players to ride a hot streak toward career years and possibly even award honors. For that reason, we have highlighted a few bets that could be worth consideration for this unequivocally unique baseball season.
Here are some of the best bets for the 2020 season.
Safe bets: Christian Yelich (+700), Ronald Acuna Jr. (+700), Bryce Harper (+1800)
- Yelich has a history of getting hot early, evident by his .353 BA, 14 HR, and 34 RBI in March/April last season.
- Acuna fell just three bags short of becoming the fifth 40-40 player after being sidelined with a hip injury just four games before the end of last season. He's healthy and has another year of experience under his belt.
- If the Phillies make a postseason push this year, it will largely be because of the success of Harper. Considering the credit he would receive and betting reward, Harper could be a low-risk, high-reward option.
- Betts is part of a quartet of favorites to win the award for good reason. However, teammate Cody Bellinger is also a favorite, meaning the two could steal votes from one another.
- Hoskins struggled mightily the second half of last season to say the least, slashing just .180/.318/.361. His strikeout percentage has gone up every year since his 2017 debut and, in all likelihood, Harper will be given much of the praise for any success found in Philadelphia.
- Suarez finished second to only Pete Alonso in home runs last season. This year, he has even more lineup protection around him with the additions of Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, and Shogo Akiyama.
- Who remembers the record-breaking start to Trevor Story's career? The man hit seven home runs in the first six games of his career. While the Rockies were a bottom-feeder last year, Story continues to both hit and field his position at an elite level and can get hot at any time.
- The long-shot Schwarber, rather quietly, hit 38 long balls last season and is notoriously a streaky hitter. With a 60-game season on the radar, one hot streak could lead to some hardware for a guy like Schwarber and a generous payout for his believers.
Safe bets: Mike Trout (+200), Francisco Lindor (+1000)
- Trout has never finished outside the top five in MVP voting. He has won three MVPs and finished second in voting four times. Enough said.
- With his 2022 free agency on the horizon, Lindor is now playing for a multitude of reasons. The addition of Domingo Santana and having a healthy Jose Ramirez back on the lineup card will certainly help boost his numbers.
- Judge has always had MVP talent, but health has always been his Achilles' heel. He has played 70% of his team's games just one season in his career.
- What are we to make of the Astros this year? With the sign-stealing scandal still fresh, it's tough to say whether the backlash will have an impact on their production, including that of Alex Bregman. Is there a chip on his shoulder? Will the criticism of the scandal take a toll? A laundry list of questions loom over Houston.
- The difference between Stanton and teammate Judge is the payout difference. Both have been riddled with injuries in recent years, but the reward for Stanton is much greater -- especially if he can find a way to suit up for 55-plus games this year.
- Remove the 2017 season where he underwent wrist surgery and Semien has improved every year in all of the following categories: batting average, games played, doubles, and WAR. He finished third in MVP voting last year.
- Olson is another player infamous for riding hot and cold streaks. His rookie season in 2017, Olson played just 59 games and crushed 24 homers with 45 RBI. Those numbers alone would be MVP-worthy for this shortened season. He has upped his HR, RBI, and extra-base hits in each of the past three seasons and is fresh off winning his first Gold Glove last year.
NL Cy Young
Safe bets: Jacob deGrom (+350), Walker Bueher (+800)
- We have finally reached a point in baseball where pitching wins are taken with a grain of salt. Considered one of the unluckiest pitchers due to lack of run support (21 combined victories from 2018-19), deGrom is looking to become the third pitcher in MLB history to win the award three straight seasons.
- Through his first two full seasons, Walker Buehler has a lower ERA than John Smoltz, more strikeouts than deGrom, higher K/9 than Clayton Kershaw, lower WHIP than Gerrit Cole, and higher WAR than Zack Greinke. He's still just 25 years old.
- Mad Max battled back and neck injuries much of last season, forcing him to miss nearly two months and skip his World Series Game 5 start. He has been an iron man his entire career (30-plus starts from 2009-18), but back and neck problems tend to linger. Not to mention, he ground out another 30 innings during last year's postseason, eight of those coming either out of the bullpen or on short rest.
- Trevor Bauer has put up All Star numbers one time in his career (12-6 record, 2.21 ERA in 2018; 4.04 career ERA). He strikes out hitters at a high clip, but his numbers show he also gives up his fair share of runs. Now, he's being placed in Great American Ball Park, which is notoriously one of the more hitter-friendly yards in the league (227 home runs in 2019).
- Nola, an LSU product, rarely misses starts (27-plus starts each of the past three seasons). He took a bit of a step back last year in regard to his numbers, but he should have more bullpen protection this year and an offense that could provide plenty of run support.
- Wheeler has an intriguing price here. The new Phillies hard thrower (97 mph average fastball velocity in 2019) has a knack for missing barrels (86.2% exit velocity last season, top-10 percentile last year).
- San Francisco will ask Cueto to be its ace this year with a depleted bullpen, meaning Cueto will likely be asked to throw plenty of innings. While his final two outings last season were rough, his first two starts were anything but, throwing 10 innings without allowing a single run.
- The Rockies are one of four franchises to never have a player win a Cy Young award. It makes sense considering Coors Field is, unarguably, the most hitter-friendly park in the league. Nonetheless, Jon Gray might have some of the best pure stuff in the league (career 24.5% strikeout percentage, 9.4 SO/9). He also can be hit-or-miss on the mound (career 5.26 ERA in March/April, 3.52 ERA in July).
AL Cy Young
Safe bets: Gerrit Cole (+280), Charlie Morton (+1400)
- Cole recorded an MLB-record nine consecutive outings with double-digit strikeouts last year. The Yankees are projected to possess one of the best hitting teams in the league to go along with a dominant bullpen. There's a plethora of reasons Cole is the favorite to take home the hardware.
- Despite recent success, Charlie Morton said he is weighing retirement. He set career-bests in ERA, innings pitched, WHIP, and WAR last season. Perhaps we see Morton end on a high note?
- Verlander had offseason groin surgery after leading the league in innings pitched (223) and is now entering his age-37 season. A $700 payout is decent, but not all that great considering the circumstances in Houston and Verlander's age and health.
- Ryu has started a new journey with Toronto after spending his first six seasons in Los Angeles. Across his career, he is considerably better at Dodger Stadium than any other park (2.62 ERA at home, 3.35 ERA away). Furthermore, he has accumulated a 6.21 ERA in six starts against AL East opponents.
- When healthy, Big Maple is one of the more talented arms in the game today -- sixth-highest K/9 over the past three seasons (11.1). Paxton has a top-tier bullpen and lineup behind him, setting him up for success if he can stay robust.
- After coming back from shoulder surgery in September 2019, Manaea gave up a total of four runs in 29 2/3 innings pitched and struck out 30 batters. He's already proven to have no-hit stuff. It wouldn't be crazy if he made a run at this award,
Home run champ
- Gallo was on his way toward his third consecutive 40-HR campaign before having season-ending surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his right wrist on June 23. Whether the famous jet stream, which became a luxury for left-handed hitters at Globe Life Park (originally named The Ballpark in Arlington), will exist in the brand new Globe Life Field remains to be seen.
- Before fracturing his kneecap via foul ball last year, Yelich was just three home runs behind Pete Alonso for most long balls in the league. He is now healthy and might be the safest bet for both home run champion and NL MVP.
- Much like his case for MVP, Acuna is another year older and experienced. Typically, year three has proved very beneficial for young baseball stars to play to their true potential (e.g. Cody Bellinger in 2019) and that same case could be made for Acuna this year.
- The crown for most home runs over the past decade is worn by Cruz. In fact, his 271 dingers since the start of 2013 is a 20-year pace of 774 HR. Cruz tallied 41 homers last season and is entering his age-39 season.
Riskier bets: Khris Davis (+2500)
- Davis' decline last season was in large part due to his struggle to hit breaking balls -- 34.3% of pitches seen by Davis were breaking balls, according to FanGraphs. Davis hit just .174 against sliders last season.
Dark-horse bets: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+3000), Kyle Schwarber (+6000), Hunter Renfoe (+10000)
- The raw power Vladdy Jr. possesses was on full display in last year's Home Run Derby, as he broke the record for most home runs in any round (40) and in total (91). Whether he can translate that pop to actual games remains to be seen, but his 15 homers in 123 games as a rookie is promising.
- The aforementioned Schwarber can be the best hitter in the league one month and can also be one of the worst the next. Point being, if the Cubs' slugger can find his swing early and often, +6000 is a great price.
- Renfroe finally got his opportunity in San Diego last year and smacked 33 big flies. Now in Tampa Bay, an organization that has a knack for finding lightning-in-a-bottle players, Renfroe is a large human with proven power history.