The 2022 MLB season is getting close to the halfway point. We aren't there yet, but it's coming. As such, many starting pitchers have made around 12-14 starts. When it comes to gamblers trying to grab a Cy Young future, we've got enough of a foundation here to know who the top contenders are while knowing there's plenty of time for hot and cold streaks to reshape the field.
Like we did with each MVP award last week, our task right now is to sift through the odds, via Caesars Sportsbook, and find who might be over-valued along with some under-valued picks who could surge to the win.
How does it look right now? Let's see.
The Marlins have never had a Cy Young winner. (For a trivia question the only three teams to have never won a Cy are the Marlins, Rangers and Rockies.) I mention the Marlins here because Sandy Alcantara is the leader in the clubhouse. He leads the majors in innings at 99 1/3 and still has a sparkling 1.72 ERA. He also has the lowest hit and home run rates in the league. To do all this with the most innings says he should be the unanimous winner right now. He's the favorite at +300. Joe Musgrove (the leader in ERA at 1.59) is next at +430. Last year's winner Corbin Burnes is +500. Phillies ace Zack Wheeler is next at +900 and his teammate Aaron Nola sits at +1400. Carlos Rodón is +1600 and fresh off a good outing Monday, Max Fried is down to +1200.
- Rodón just has far too much injury history to believe he can keep this up long enough to win. He finished fifth in the AL vote last season with only 132 2/3 innings and my hunch is that finish is the ceiling this year on the NL side. He'll be great as long as he's still taking the ball, but I just can't trust he'll take it enough times. I don't think I have anyone else here. The other names listed above are reasonably priced and I'm gonna ride Alcantara as my personal pick.
- How about Tyler Anderson at +5000? It would be funny, given that the Dodgers have the most Cy Youngs (12) as a team in MLB history and to get a winner from this team that wasn't Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler (or even Julio Urías) would be a major upset. Anderson is 8-0 with a 2.82 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 67 innings. He had one terrible start where bullpen issues at the time meant he couldn't be hooked early and he ended up just wearing it. In six starts since then, he's been nearly unhittable. While we're here, Tony Gonsolin is +2000 and similarly is an interesting pick.
- Max Scherzer is +6000. He's only started eight games due to his injury, but he's on his way back and could return next week. There's still time for him to make, possibly, 17 starts the rest of the way. In 25 starts, he could work around 160 innings. Would that be enough? Probably not, but we've seen what Mad Max can do and if the others listed above fall apart, he'd have an outside shot. The odds are nice.
- Yu Darvish is also +6000. He hasn't been hurt and he's been good. He just hasn't been great. In 2020, he made 12 starts and posted a 2.01 ERA and 0.96 with 93 strikeouts in 76 innings. If he went on a run like that, he'd jump right into the mix with the favorites. He's in the midst of a nice run right now.
The favorites right now are Nestor Cortes (+450), Shane McClanahan (+375) and Justin Verlander (+430) with Alek Manoah (+700) and Gerrit Cole (+700) closely behind. If voting were held right now, the winner would come from the three favorites with Martín Pérez (+4000), Logan Gilbert (+3000) and Jameson Taillon (+4000) also being strong down-ballot candidates.
- Cortes jumps right now for me here. It's not that I don't buy him as being a frontline starter. He's looked like one through 12 starts and he was a quality pitcher last season. I'm concerned about the workload, though. He only threw 108 innings last season after barely any game action in 2020. His highest load per season came in 2018 with 119 2/3 innings. He's at 69 2/3 this year. That's already quite a ways behind the leaders. How far will the Yankees extend him? 145 innings? The lowest-ever workload for a starting pitcher Cy Young winner in a full season came in 2021, when Burnes threw 167. Even if Cortes holds up with the sub-2.00 ERA, I just can't see him racking up enough innings.
- Verlander is 39 and coming off Tommy John surgery. He hasn't thrown a full season since 2019. He has a 4.11 ERA in his last five starts and he allowed seven unearned runs (21 runs total in 30 2/3 innings) in that stretch.
- I guess we might as well hit every favorite. McClanahan only threw 123 1/3 innings last season. He's already up over 80 this year. There are similar concerns here to Cortes.
- Cole is decent value right now, actually. Where there are concerns with workload and/or durability the rest of the way for the three favorites I mentioned in the over-valued column, there aren't many with Cole. He's likely to top 200 innings and while he's doing that, he's capable of leading the league in strikeouts and working his way up toward the top of the ERA and WHIP leaderboards. His gem of an outing Monday night against the Rays -- he took a no-hitter into the 8th -- dropped his ERA to 3.14 and WHIP to 1.02. And after 12 strikeouts, he has 103, good enough for second in the AL. He's my pick.
- Shane Bieber (+2200) has won it before and he's got a 2.18 ERA in his last seven starts. His strikeout rate is surging and so is his team, as the Guardians have won 15 of their last 19.
- Dylan Cease (+3000) has the highest strikeout rate in the league and is third in strikeouts behind McClanahan and Cole. Walks are an issue and he's only thrown 68 innings to this point, but he shouldn't be limited there later in the season, given that he went to 165 2/3 last season.
- Framber Valdez (+6000) is within striking range of the league lead in innings and he's pitched to a 2.78 ERA (136 ERA+). He's been very good and that probably continues. I'd take Verlander over him in the absence of odds, but the number is nice for a lottery ticket pick with Valdez.
- Paul Blackburn (+12500) is pitching for an atrocious A's team, but he's 6-2. The A's are 9-4 when he starts and 14-41 when he doesn't. He leads the league in baseball-reference.com's version of WAR and is within striking range of ERA and WHIP. Surely he can't keep this up and he only threw 127 innings between Triple-A and the majors last year, but we're in lottery ticket range. You never know and slapping something like $5 on this one would make sense.