MLB NL MVP Odds Update: Francisco Lindor Is Making an Early Case for MVP

After an abysmal season in 2021, Francisco Lindor is one of the hottest players in the NL to start the season. Can he keep up the momentum and is there value in his MLB NL MVP odds?
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MLB NL MVP Odds Update: Francisco Lindor Is Making an Early Case for MVP

After an abysmal season in 2021, Francisco Lindor is one of the hottest players in the NL to start the season. Can he keep up the momentum and is there value in his MLB NL MVP odds?

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Freddie Freeman NL MVP Odds: (+1600, Previous: +1200) (Bet $100 to win $1600)

In the last iteration of the NL MVP Odds piece, here is what I wrote one week before the season began:

"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." Through 73 plate appearances, Freeman has the highest average, highest wOBA, second-highest wRC+, second-highest barrel rate, and fourth-highest slugging percentage of his career. That's not to say that those will continue for six months, but he is mashing the ball early and only Mookie Betts' relatively slow start ahead of him in the lineup is keeping Freeman from flying up this list.

Several Dodgers' hitters have been very good so far, but Freeman has been the best. If he continues leading the best offense in the league, he has a tremendous shot at the award.

Francisco Lindor NL MVP Odds: (+1200, Previous: +2400) (Bet $100 to win $2400)

In 2021, there is no other word you can use to describe Lindor's performance other than "disappointing." Most of his counting stats and rate stats were down across the board, and his wRC+ of 103 showed that he was barely an above-average hitter.

But this year, he is making all those numbers feel like a distant memory. He is slashing .294/.388/.529 and is already 20% of the way to last season's home run total and 30% of the way to his stolen base total. His walk rate is a career-high, his strikeout rate is almost a career-low, and he has a hard-hit percentage of about 33%.

Could these all be small sample sizes to start a season? Perhaps, but his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .296, just slightly over league average. His contact rates are just marginally above his career averages, so everything seems to line up with this being a legit bounce back. After a huge jump in odds over two weeks, we have to take his candidacy seriously, especially with the Mets off to a scorching 13-5 start.

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Bryce Harper MVP Odds: (+1200, Previous: +1100) (Bet $100 to win $1200)

In addition to Harper also getting off to a relatively slow start (.231/.297/.462), it's the elbow injury suffered by Harper that should give us the most concern. The injury has forced Harper to serve as the DH for eight straight games and looks like it will keep him out of the outfield for another week at least.

If the injury appears to be more serious than the Phillies are letting on, they might have no choice but to sit Harper for a period of time to let it heal. Any extended absence would likely tank the 2021 MVP's chances at repeating.

The other downside to Harper's candidacy in the early going is that the Phillies have severely underachieved as a team so far. Through 17 games they sit at 7-10, just 11th in the league in runs scored and 24th in team ERA. All of these stats are too premature to make any definitive judgments, but it's possible we start to see players like Lindor, Freeman, Machado pass Harper if these issues persist.

Ronald Acuna Jr. NL MVP Odds: (+850, Previous: +900) (Bet $100 to win $850)

Acuna will get an incomplete grade until he takes the field sometime in May. With so many others off to hot starts in the NL (this list plus Nolan Arenado, Seiya Suzuki, and Manny Machado to name a few), it will be hard for Acuna to compete with only five months to compile stats.

But if he can do it at the pace he was last year before the injury (24 homers, 17 steals, and 52 RBI in just 82 games), there just might be a chance. On the news that his rehab in Triple-A is going very well, Acuna's odds shorten slightly. But this isn't where I'm putting my money until I see some time in the field or in the batters' box for the star outfielder.

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Juan Soto NL MVP Odds: (+400, Previous: +360) (Bet $100 to win $400)

Of all the slow starts in the NL, perhaps Juan Soto's is the most perplexing. He is still walking at an elite rate (20.3%), and never strikes out (13.9%), but the batted ball skills are severely lagging to start the season.

His average (.242) and slugging percentage (.435) are completely abnormal for someone who has career .300 and .545 figures. He has three home runs so far, which is fine, but also only three RBI. He is suffering from Bryce Harper circa 2021 disease where he has no teammates on base in front of him to drive them in.

And therein lies the problem for Soto this year. Soto has hit second every game this season, but Cesar Hernandez and his .275 on-base percentage is always batting ahead of him. Pitchers could just say, you know what, we are fine taking our chances with Nelson Cruz or Josh Bell than letting Soto tee off on us.

The advanced numbers look mostly fine so this is likely just a slump to start the year. According to Baseball Savant, his expected batting average is .283, and his expected slugging .533. If he starts producing more on those lines, he is going to be just fine.

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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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