With the MLB Mid-Summer Classic just a few days away, the MLB MVP races are taking form. In the first of my two-part series, I am looking into the American League MVP race. Who are the contenders? And who are the pretenders?
American League MVP Betting Odds
How it started – As has been the case for the better part of the last decade, Mike Trout opened as the clear favorite to win the 2021 AL MVP at +200 odds…and rightfully so. The Angels star is a three-time MVP and has never finished outside of the top-5 in MVP voting in his nine years since becoming a full-time player. A calf injury has Trout sidelined through the All-Star break, moving him to longshot status (+4700) for the first time in his career.
Other names atop the preseason AL MVP betting favorites were Yankees slugger, Aaron Judge, and Cleveland star, Jose Ramirez. They both opened at +1200 to win the AL MVP. White Sox outfielder Jose Abreu (+2500) and Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (+2500) also received some preseason love from the lines makers.
How it’s going now – With the exception of Trout, the AL MVP race mostly includes the same cast. The odds have greatly narrowed on Vlad, Jr. (+150) and Shohei Ohtani (-173), and this is clearly a two-man race at this mid-way point of the season. That’s not to say there won’t be somebody entering the race or even exiting. Injuries can happen, any number of guys could go on a tear the second half of the season…there is still a lot of baseball to be played, so this is far from over. And don’t be surprised if Trout inserts himself back in this conversation. Up until about a week ago, Guerrero was the betting favorite to win the AL MVP, but Ohtani has been on a tear at the plate and is now the frontrunner to win the 2021 American League MVP.
Shohei Ohtani – Batting: 64 runs, 33 HR, 70 RBI, 12 SB, .279 AVG, 1.066 OPS | Pitching: 13 GS, 67.0 IP, 4-1 W/L, 3.49 ERA, 87 K, 1.21 WHIP – The Angels are finally reaping the on-field rewards of winning the Ohtani sweepstakes three years ago. Showtime is more than carrying his weight at the plate. In his third full season, the youngster from Oshu, Japan leads all of MLB in bombs, is third in the AL in RBIs, and is also sixth in the AL in stolen bases. His past month has been one of the best power showcases ever and has created some separation in this MVP race. His 16 HRs in his last 21 games is the most in a 21-game span in AL history. And with the exception of a couple of clunkers, Ohtani has been dealing from the mound, as well. He has allowed 24 runs in 60.0 innings and has 83 Ks to 35 walks. Ohtani’s offensive numbers alone have him in this MVP race, and if he can string together a strong second half on the hill, he will walk away with the American League MVP.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. – 68 runs, 28 HR, 73 RBI, 2 SB, .340 AVG, 1.110 OPS – Guerrero might be the scariest hitter in the Bigs right now. He is a very large and powerful man, and he is living up to all of the hype this son of a former American League MVP (Vlad, Sr. – 2004, Angels) has received. Junior is at or near the top of just about every major statistical category this year. He’s first in OPS, first in average, first in RBIs, first in hits, second in HRs, and the Toronto 1B is also fourth in the League in walks. And he has his team in the thick of the Playoffs hunt (7th in AL standings). If he doubles his numbers from the first half, Guerrero may very well win the AL MVP (.340 would be huge!), but he doesn’t even need to be that good if his team is in contention at the end of the summer. His team is also better than the Angels, giving him another leg up on Showtime.
Mike Trout – 23 runs, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB, .333 AVG, 1.090 OPS (36 games played) – With Trout close to coming back, and with the Halos actually showing some life, I think you have to include the perennial MVP candidate in this discussion. When healthy, he is easily one of the top two or three players in the game, and if the Angels can make a second-half push towards a Wild Card spot (that’s a big IF), Trout is likely to be a major reason. And for that, he deserves an outsider’s shot and could be worth a flier.
Xander Bogaerts – 55 runs, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 5 SB, .321 AVG, .913 OPS – While Bogaerts’ numbers aren’t gaudy, he is the best player on the best team, so far, in the American League East. Not many outside of that clubhouse gave the Red Sox much of a chance this season, but they have parlayed a great start into a 55-34 record. And they are 2.5 games clear of the fading Rays. That, his high batting average, and his ability to come up big when his team needs him (6-for-11 in a recent series vs. NYY with 3 2B) is why Bogaerts is in this race. A couple of things could work against him, however. One is he plays in the same division as Vladamir Guerroro, Jr. (see above for his stud-factor), and two, Xander has gotten a bad rap for his defense. Playing shortstop in the Majors doesn’t seem like an easy task, and I have seen plenty of good-glove from Xander, so I’m willing to give him a pass on that last part.
Any longshots? Beyond the two favorites, they could all be considered longshots at this point. I would tend to look towards players that could improve their numbers from the first half of the season. Mike Trout is probably at the top of that list, but there is the whole “will he and Ohtani take votes from each other?” scenario. Trout is the kind of player that can insert himself back in this equation if he returns to his normal self when returning from the calf injury. The same, “taking votes from each other,” could be said with the Red Sox trio of Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers. Another factor to consider is what teams are likely headed to the postseason, and which of their stars could have a big second half in leading them there…? Do you expect the Yankees to get things together for a Playoffs push (Aaron Judge)?
Be sure to look for my National League MVP betting analysis next week.
This is my 17th year handicapping MLB games professionally, and I offer daily picks on MLB and all other major college and professional sports. Check out my MLB picks packages, and be sure to sign up for my Free MLB picks today!