Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has new Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper as the National League MVP favorite (and was even before officially signing with the Phillies), with 6/1 odds (BetOnline has Harper at 4/1).
While Harper could indeed be the NL MVP (as he was in 2015), those odds shouldn’t be too viewed as all that favorable to a bettor. There are better values to be found, particularly with a couple young stars and a couple stars that recovered from injuries.
Here’s a full listing of the Westgate NL MVP odds (click to enlarge):
You’ll find slightly varying odds by sportsbook, and there will surely be some movement in these odds before Opening Day. But using the Westgate opening NL MVP odds, let’s take a look at some players that stand out as values (you can see the AL MVP odds best values here):
Kris Bryant (12/1)
These odds seem to be an overreaction to Kris Bryant’s 2018 season, in which he wasn’t fully healthy for most of it and shouldn’t have even been playing for some of it. Bryant was putting up usual Bryant numbers before a shoulder injury, with a .948 OPS in March/April and a .904 OPS in May. But his numbers went downhill from there, with a .707 OPS in June, a .787 OPS in July, and a .765 OPS in September/October. He was clearly in pain at times and even altered his swing — going to a two-handed finish — to play through the shoulder injury.
Now, the 27-year-old is fully recovered from the injury and has looked great in Spring Training. He sounds quite confident and motivated.
Kris Bryant seems eager for the season to start. After homering in his first spring at-bat, Bryant calls out all doubters https://t.co/g38ClF9Wnv
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) February 24, 2019
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) March 4, 2019
From 2015-2017 (his first three seasons), Bryant didn’t have a WAR lower than 6.1 according to both Baseball Reference (bWAR) and FanGraphs (fWAR). Bryant’s fWAR over those three seasons was 20.7, 1.7 higher than any other NL position player (3.2 WAR ahead of Harper). His 2016 NL MVP season featured an fWAR of 7.9. For perspective, Nolan Arenado — second on Westgate’s NL MVP odds at 7/1 — has never even been a 6-fWAR player.
This is the player Bryant has always been when healthy, and he’s healthy now. He’s not just a great value at 12/1; he’s arguably the safest NL MVP pick in general.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (25/1)
This seems pretty low for a player that was the consensus top prospect in baseball one year ago, and immediately proved to be one of the best players in baseball.
Ronald Acuña Jr. put up monster numbers in his rookie season with the Atlanta Braves over 111 games: .292 AVG, 26 HR, 16 SB, 9.2 BB%, .366 OBP, .552 SLG, .388 wOBA, 143 wRC+, 4.1 bWAR, 3.7 fWAR.
Acuña’s .917 OPS would’ve ranked fourth in the NL if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He did all of this as a 20-year-old! He’s a special, special talent and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a monster in 2019 (and for the next decade+).
Corey Seager (40/1)
Corey Seager wouldn’t be in the 40/1 tier if not for two injuries that both required surgery last year- Tommy John Surgery and a hip procedure. These obviously aren’t injuries and procedures to just throw aside when projecting his 2019 season. The truth is we won’t have a real answer on what version of Corey Seager we’re getting until April comes around and he’s out there playing.
But the 24-year-old shortstop claims to be feeling great, and has lost 25 pounds while apparently maintaining his strength.
Corey Seager has trimmed down considerably since last season. Told me he’s now dairy free & has lost about 25 pounds. He attributes the weight loss to being dairy free & his ability to workout after recovering from two surgeries. Said his strength is there & feels great.
— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) February 13, 2019
And — like Bryant — when Seager’s been healthy, he’s been just about as good as anybody in the NL since he entered the league in 2015. Seager was worth 7.0 fWAR in 2016 and 5.9 fWAR in 2017. He has a career slash line of .307/.372/.494 in 1,528 plate appearances.
If healthy, Seager is a top-five player in the NL, and it doesn’t hurt for voters that he’s on a team likely to be a division winner.
Juan Soto (40/1)
The Washington Nationals could afford to lose Bryce Harper, because they basically have another Bryce Harper in Juan Soto. In fact, Soto was even better than Harper in 2018… as a 19-year-old rookie.
Soto showed off a ridiculously advanced approach, with a .292/.406/.517 slash line and a 16.0 walk percentage that would’ve ranked fifth in the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
With that kind of plate approach (to go with his natural hitting talent and power), Soto should be expected to maintain or even improve on his 2018 success going forward. In fact, the FanGraphs Depth Charts projections have Soto at a .935 OPS in 2019, first in the NL and behind only some guy named Mike Trout in MLB.
Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom (100/1)
Pitchers rarely win the MVP, with many voters refusing to vote for pitchers even if they perform significantly better than any position players. Pitchers have their own prestigious award in the Cy Young, and there’s the argument that the MVP should be given to players that play daily rather than once every five days. Clayton Kershaw was the last pitcher to win the NL MVP in 2014, and Justin Verlander was the last pitcher to win the AL MVP in 2011.
And this is certainly unlikely to happen in 2019, but 100/1 odds seem to be a bit of a stretch when talking the NL. There’s no Mike Trout or Mookie Betts in this league, and it’s entirely possible the best position player output is under 7-WAR.
Maybe Jacob deGrom — 9.6 bWAR in 2018 — or Max Scherzer — 8.8 bWAR in 2018 — puts together a ridiculous season and there isn’t a clearly great season from an NL position player.