NL MVP Odds: Is Freddie Freeman the Best Value?
NL MVP Odds: Is Freddie Freeman the Best Value?
Before the 2022 MLB season begins, oddsmakers believe Juan Soto can rise above all other MVP candidates. The Dodgers also field a couple top-five players and 2021 winner Bryce Harper looks to repeat.
Freddie Freeman NL MVP Odds: (+1200) (Bet $100 to win $1200)
Considering we could be in line for a truly historic offensive season from the Dodgers, I believe right now, at the end of March, that Freeman is my pick to win MVP. If he plays another 160 games like he did in 2021 and is surrounded in the lineup by Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Will Smith, and Cody Bellinger, this could be the best season of Freeman's career.
The move to Dodger Stadium is an upgrade for Freeman's homerun potential. The Los Angeles stadium has a 113 home run park factor for lefties the past three seasons while Atlanta comes in at 109. Freeman is also likely batting just behind Mookie Betts who has a career .374 on-base percentage.
With the shift to the Dodgers, projections have been updated to reflect a likely 30 homer, 100 RBI, 100 run, .300 average season. If any of those numbers tick up this year in what should be an offensive bonanza at Blue Heaven, these odds for Freeman at MVP will look downright silly by the season's end.
Bryce Harper NL MVP Odds: (+1100) (Bet $100 to win $1100)
A lot was made last year about Harper's relatively anemic RBI total. With just 84 RBI trailing a .309 average that included 35 home runs and 42 doubles, many wondered if that number was attractive to MVP voters. Since 1956, only 15 times has a batter hit 35 or more homers with 84 or fewer RBI (Joey Gallo also did it last year!).
To the voters' credit, they looked past a stat that Harper can not control and gave him the well-deserved award. Can he repeat? That is tougher to predict. Albert Pujols in 2009 was the last NL repeat MVP award winner, but with the revamped Phillies' lineup, there may be a reason to believe this year could be even better.
Philadelphia opened up their wallets and added Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to add to Harper, JT Realmuto, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins. Looking past what that may do to the team's defense, they now have a top-six of the order that can rival anyone in baseball. In what should be an ultra-competitive NL East race, Harper would be my pick if you told me someone from that division is winning the award.
Mookie Betts MVP Odds: (+1000) (Bet $100 to win $1000)
If we are, in fact, due for a historic season from the Dodgers' offense, why not bet on the man who is slotted to lead off and should get the most plate appearances of anyone on the team? Even while missing 40 games due to hip injuries last year, Betts put up 23 homers, 93 runs, 58 RBI, 10 steals, and a .367 on-base percentage. His 3.9 WAR was 20th among all players in the NL even while missing a quarter of the season.
Presumably fully healthy this season, the thought is that Betts should be able to improve on last season's .264/.367/.487 slash line and if he can put up a season more in line with his career averages (.296/.373/.518), the stats will start to pour in.
At age 29, Betts still likely has 2-3 elite years left in him and he will likely never have a better lineup to help him produce a second MVP season. I still think I would rank Betts behind Freeman because voters dig the long ball, but with odds this close it's a smart bet to lay some wagers on an all-time offense.
Ronald Acuna Jr. NL MVP Odds: (+900) (Bet $100 to win $900)
Can Ronald Acuna Jr. come back in late April and play enough games to meaningfully enter the MVP conversation? Of course. But I'm not personally betting on him taking home the prize.
The Braves have already said he will likely be eased back in, playing mostly DH at first before getting to the outfield again. An extended time without any defense will likely also hurt his case for the award, as voters typically ignore players who are primarily DH. Shohei Ohtani from last season would be the notable exception, but he had the pitching angle working in his favor as well.
The aggregate projection systems peg Acuna for about 120 games, low 30s in home runs, about 80 RBI, a .280 average, and 20 stolen bases. That's a fantastic regular-season line that should put him on track for about 5.0 WAR, but if any of the Dodgers on a 100+ win team or this next guy do something truly elite, they would all leapfrog Acuna who will miss the first month or so.
Juan Soto NL MVP Odds: (+360) (Bet $100 to win $360)
Since 1987, the National League has had one league MVP winner who came from a team with a losing record. In 2017, Giancarlo Stanton slugged his way to the award despite the Miami Marlins finishing 77-85. Stanton was otherworldly that season, hitting 59 home runs with 132 RBI and a 1.007 OPS. Soto may need to do something similar if he is to win the award on a likely-to-be-bad Nationals team.
Projections all put Washington at fourth in their division this season. And the signing of Nelson Cruz won't be able to completely overhaul an offense that likely will run out Cesar Hernandez, Alcides Escobar, Maikel Franco, and Victor Robles in their everyday lineup. Soto may be just as much of an alien as Giancarlo Stanton, but does he do enough to push voters past what will likely be a bad seasonal record?
Last season, Soto tied Harper for second in NL WAR, led the world in on-base percentage (.465), and played in 151 games. But Harper tripled him up in first place MVP votes because the Nationals finished 2021 at 65-97. Soto is projected to finish at or near the top of almost every advanced offensive metric we have for 2022, so your risk tolerance on betting Soto is how you feel voters will value the contribution to his team's record.
For that reason, Soto is likely my third-favorite option right now by the odds.
NL MVP Odds
|Fernando Tatis Jr||+2400|
Proudest husband and dad you will ever find. When I'm not with my wife and two kids I split my time working in higher ed, grinding DFS and season-long, collecting silver age comics, studying behavioral economics, and drinking coffee. I once played Pat Connaughton in an actual NBA DFS lineup for money. Astros, Rockets, and Texans for life.