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MLB AL Rookie of the Year Odds: Best Value Is Found Outside the Top Five

MLB is underway and it's been impressive so far. There are a lot of candidates for the American League Rookie of the Year. But is the best value outside the top five candidates? Ryan Kirksey breaksdown the MLB AL Rookie of the Year odds.
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MLB AL Rookie of the Year Odds: Best Value Is Found Outside the Top Five

Adley Rutschman AL ROY Odds: +1200 (Bet $100 to win $1200)

Rutschman may end up being the next coming of Mike Piazza or Pudge Rodriguez, but if he can't get back on the field in the minors, he will run out of time to make a major impact for the big club this season. Rutshcman suffered a triceps strain in an intrasquad game almost immediately after Spring Training began, and he has been shut down for more than a month.

Orioles' General Manager Mike Elias recently said Rutschman would return to game action "soon," but that, of course, is extremely vague and he will need time to get ramped up in AAA before he can make his major league debut.

With an injury this serious and the Orioles with zero incentive to rush him to the majors this year, I will be avoiding Rutschman everywhere until we see him in-game action and his path to the big club becoming more clear.

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Julio Rodriguez AL ROY Odds: +700 (Bet $100 to win $700)

The major league start for Julio Rodriguez has gotten off to a terrible start, to say the least. We might expect a bumpy road for a 21-year-old with no MLB experience, but he is slashing .143/.231/.171 through his first 39 plate appearances.

He has no barrels yet on his balls in play, but there are some marginal signs of encouragement. He has an average exit velocity of 92.4 mph and a max exit velocity of 111.7, plus a 61% hard-hit rate.

The major issue, however, are the strikeouts. He has struck out 43.6% of the time through 10 games, and that absolutely must be cut by at least 15% if he wants any hope of producing consistent contact that can lead to the prodigious power he displayed in the minors and throughout Spring Training. We have seen Seattle treat their uber-prospects with kid gloves recently. Last year they sent Jarred Kelenic down after he struggles for a period of time. Would they do the same to Rodriguez? Right now, he doesn't look close to a ROY award.

Steven Kwan AL ROY Odds: +650 (Bet $100 to win $650)

Kwan had about the hottest start to a player's first five games that we have ever seen. At the end of the day on April 12, he was batting .667 with a .750 on-base percentage and a .933 slugging percentage. That start, including being bumped up to the second spot in the Guardians' batting order, propelled him up the odds list where he now resides among the preseason favorites.

But the next three games saw him crash back to earth, as he went 0-for-11 with one walk and just one RBI. Such is baseball as it can take just as fast as it can give over the course of many small samples. The hit tools are there for Kwan, and he is likely to get playing time, so the question becomes can he put together some consistency and surge past these other leaders?

Kwan has always been a strong hit-to-contact hitter. He has an immaculate 100% zone contact rate, meaning he has now swung and missed on a single ball in that area this year. Overall, his contact rate is 98.2%. As a rookie, pitchers will be looking to find ways to challenge him and also deceive him with different looks on pitches. How Kwan can adapt to that will go a long way towards determining whether he can maintain a pace for a ROY award.

Spencer Torkelson AL ROY Odds: +600 (Bet $100 to win $600)

Of the three huge names to break Spring Training with their clubs (Rodriguez, Torkelson, and Witt), Torkelson is having the best campaign of that trio, but it's still not saying much. Torkelson is slashing .207.343./.448 with a couple of home runs and a strong 14% walk rate. Those numbers look good compared to his peers and might put him in the early clubhouse lead in my book.

Like Rodriguez, the problem is the strikeouts. Torkelson is going down on strikes 34.3% of the time and has a ridiculously high 25.9% called strike rate. He would benefit from getting the bat off his shoulder and using the elite power to his advantage.

The Tigers are struggling to score runs as a team (30 runs is 13th in the AL), but Torkelson is at least doing his part. He has a .400 OBP and .625 slugging percentage with men on base this year. If the Tigers can get him more of those opportunities, he might cruise to an easy ROY win.

Bobby Witt Jr. AL ROY Odds: +300 (Bet $100 to win $300)

Witt represents the third elite rookie prospect on this list that is supremely struggling to start his first season. He might actually be the worst of all of them with a .139/.162/.250 line including zero home runs and a 32.4% strikeout rate. As the most hyped player in this class, his struggles stand out, particularly as he is penciled into the second spot in the order game after game.

At 75.3%, his contact rate is way too low and he is also hitting an extremely low number of line drives (8.3%). He was over 21% each of his last two minor league seasons, so that is bound to correct at some point, but even Witt does not seem immune from the contagious rookie struggles.

The fact that he is still listed at +300 shows there is faith in his skills from oddsmakers. For me, that's not enough juice to get me to bet on someone who hasn't shown anything yet. For my money, give me either Jeremy Pena (+1300) or Matt Brash (+1600), who have both shown flashes of brilliance along with some normal rookie growing pains. Witt may soon join that group and deserve these low odds, but the first two weeks are not a great start.

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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.


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