With MLB’s regular season fast approaching, now is a good time to lock in futures bets. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper have finally signed, giving us a better idea of the strength of offered lines. Prop/future betting is often the preferred wager type for casual bettors who desire some action on the regular season. I have already discussed the best and worst values for the AL and NL pennants. Now I will take a look at the best values for each of the top-five prop bets offered for the 2019 season.
Most wins. Cy Young Award winner. Most home runs. AL MVP. NL MVP. These are the five most popular props at sportsbooks. They often see the most action from a volume perspective and should be considered by anyone not looking for player-specific props.
Chris Sale (+800)
There are many pitchers who deserve consideration for the most wins. Ultimately, unless you are intent on chasing an underdog, this future likely comes down to either Chris Sale or Max Scherzer. Despite playing in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are the better bet to win 95-plus games. They boast a much more potent lineup and promise to provide more run support.
If Sale makes it through the season healthy, he has a chance to crack the 20-win barrier for the first time in his career. He led the majors in K/9, FIP, and xFIP rate last year and should do so once again in 2019. Sale induces ground balls at a greater rate than Scherzer, which should help him last longer in more games. If not for being saddled with identical odds, Luis Severino and Corey Kluber would also be considerations. Sale is also my pick for the AL Cy Young at +400.
Most Home Runs
Joey Gallo (+2500)
Joey Gallo looks like a great value to win the home run title this year. He ranked third behind Khris Davis and Mike Trout with 12.5 home runs per at-bat in 2018, which piqued my interest despite his atrocious .206 batting average. After the All-Star break, Gallo managed to boost his average to .239 from the .184 he hit in the first half. During this period he increased his HR/AB to 10.11, a rate which would put him on pace 49 home runs over the 500 at-bats he saw last season.
He should be considered one of the favorites to win the home run title. The only player to place in the top five in both categories, Gallo ranked third in home run/fly-ball rate and fourth in hard-hit percentage. The value here is too good to ignore, even if you only want to get a taste at a tenth of a unit.
NL Cy Young Winner
Jacob deGrom (+350)
The New York Mets’ offense should improve considerably in 2018. With added run support, Jacob deGrom will not have to rely on historically great peripherals to take home his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award. This is essentially a two-ace race, and the current odds reflect that. Scherzer offers far less value at +250, largely due to the lurking presence of last year’s winner. Second behind Chris Sale in FIP and xFIP in 2018, deGrom led all pitchers in WAR on both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. He is the better value pick for anyone looking to put some action on the NL Cy Young battle.
Most Valuable Player
AL: Francisco Lindor (+2000)
Francisco Lindor is slated to miss up to the first two weeks of the regular season, which may help explain why he is listed at such a tremendous potential value. Arguably one of the AL’s top-three talents, the shortstop exploded for 38 home runs and 25 steals in 2018. Last year’s .277 batting average placed well below his career mark of .288, suggesting Lindor has room for improvement. With that said, this is more of a value pick as opposed to one on which to smash multiple units. He has a good chance to win the award, and even a tenth of a unit has the potential to provide a healthy return. Sixth in MVP voting in 2018, Lindor tied teammate Jose Ramirez for the AL’s fourth-highest rWAR.
Some things will have to break right for Lindor to win. He will have to put together a more consistent season after hitting.291 in the first half, but slipping to .253 after the All-Star break. He will also likely need to benefit from expected Mookie Betts regression. If Lindor doesn’t miss significant time and keeps playing to his potential, he will make a strong case for AL MVP honors.
NL: Christian Yelich (+1800)
Christian Yelich went on a tear in the second half of last season. He managed to tally 14 more home runs and 24 more RBIs despite seeing 62 fewer at-bats after the All-Star break. He also produced more hits, doubles, and triples. Yelich hit an absurd .367 during this period and should be the odds-on favorite for another NL MVP victory this year. He is not.
His extrapolated second-half pace would place him with these totals: 130 runs, 210 hits, 56 home runs, 22 stolen bases, and 150 RBIs. While I do not expect him to hit the .367 required to hit these numbers, it provides evidence of his true upside. There is quite a bit of inherent value in this future. Yelich is almost a lock to hit over .310, and his power surge appears to be real. Lock in Yelich before Vegas adjusts the odds.