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A shortened season with COVID-19 opt-outs ensures that bettors are in for an interesting season. Despite futures odds being on the board, there is too much uncertainty to slam any plays prior to a player confirming his intentions for the upcoming 60-game season.
Playing 102 fewer games means less time for starting pitchers to shine, but it could also result in hitters not having enough runway to truly take off. This is especially true for this year’s crop of rookies. Let’s take a look at the favorites to win the American League Rookie of the Year award.
AL Rookie of the Year (via BetMGM Sportsbook)
- Luis Robert (+400)
- Jesus Luzardo (+500)
- Michael Kopech (+600)
- Brendan McKay (+700)
- Casey Mize (+1000)
- Jo Adell (+1100)
- Evan White (+1600)
Luis Robert (OF – CWS): +400
Luis Robert is a strong favorite for AL Rookie of the Year honors. His slot in the batting order could play a major role in whether he has the numbers to win this award, so he is far from a sure thing despite being considered the favorite. He will be the top day-one hitter on this list and is in a very underrated White Sox lineup that could provide RBI and run opportunities to make him the runaway winner. Bettors should strongly consider Robert, a potential five-tool, middle-of-the-order hitter.
Jesus Luzardo (SP – OAK): +500
Jesus Luzardo is a talented prospect who could make some waves if he grabs hold of a starting spot in the Oakland Athletics rotation. He had his struggles in Triple-A but was widely regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the minors. His COVID-19 diagnosis at this point of the year could keep him from contracting the virus a second time during the season, in which case he’d be one of the safer plays on the board. Expected to start before testing positive, Luzardo should still get a chance when healthy due to his electric stuff. His inclusion in the rotation gives Oakland an obvious upgrade.
Michael Kopech (SP – CWS): +600
Michael Kopech would have been one of my picks to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. A player I have long regarded as the top pitching prospect in the minors, the flamethrower has marshaled his command to the point where he has future ace potential. However, he announced on July 10 that he will opt out of playing the shortened 2020 season, instead choosing to focus on getting ready for the 2021 campaign.
Brendan McKay (SP – TB): +700
The American Shohei Ohtani? Hardly, but Brendan McKay is indeed a two-way player who should see some at-bats in games he does not start as a pitcher. A much better pitching prospect, he would still be in Double-A as a hitter alone. He is expected to get normal starter treatment in Tampa Bay if he cracks the rotation, but McKay could just as likely be used as an opener or out of the pen. Despite his stellar stuff, he will need to improve by leaps and bounds in order to have the non-strikeout peripherals to be a serious consideration for this award. The AL East is not your friend as a rookie pitcher in a shortened season. I love the player, but hate his prospects in a truncated season.
Casey Mize (SP – DET): +1000
Casey Mize is a talented pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He could impress this season, but may not have the overpowering stuff in order to truly open the eyes of AL Rookie of the Year voters. A future number two or three, the former number one overall pick will have his work cut out for him on what projects to be one of the worst teams in the American League. Mize, despite his obvious talent, is a fade outside of multiple-player strategies.
Jo Adell (OF – LAA): +1100
Arguably the most talented player on this list, Jo Adell is expected to begin the season on the taxi squad. A five-tool talent with future All-Star written all over him, Adell would likely be listed as one of the top-three favorites if we knew he was starting from day one. As it stands, Adell is too risky of a play to consider until we get further clarification on whether he will play alongside Mike Trout (or in place of the MVP if he opts out) from Opening Day. Adell is on the Angeles’ 60-man list, so we should see him at some point this season. However, he will be hard-pressed to make up ground on Robert, Luzardo, and McKay, who will operate as starters from the season’s opening week.
Evan White (1B – SEA): +1600
A ho-hum first baseman who will hopefully hit for average at the big league level, White is lacking the sort of power many like to see from the corner. He could turn into a 25-30 home run hitter over a full season, but he may not have the impact on either side of the plate to win this award. White is more advanced defensively than offensively, and playing for a decidedly average team will not help his numbers at all. White is an easy fade.
A multi-player strategy that includes both Robert and Luzardo is the preferred approach here. One unit on both players would result in a minimum two-unit profit if either favorite wins the award. With Kopech opting out of the season and McKay showing enough control issues to fade, a Robert and Luzardo combo could provide a multiple-unit return.
For those looking for just one player to bet on, potentially at a partial unit, the White Sox’s five-tool outfielder is the play. Robert’s toughest competition for the award, Adell, is expected to be a victim of the service time game. He’ll finish significantly behind Robert in plate appearances, and thus opportunities to make an impact on the hearts and minds of voters.