MLB AL Rookie of the Year Odds Update: Jeremy Pena Makes a Huge Leap

Jeremy Pena makes a huge leap in the standings for the AL Rookie of the Year award at this stage in the MLB season. Ryan Kirksey
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MLB AL Rookie of the Year Odds Update: Jeremy Pena Makes a Huge Leap

Spencer Torkelson AL ROY Odds: (+900, Previous: +600) (Bet $100 to win $900)

The first iteration of this column for 2022 talked about how much of the value seemed to lie outside the top five when the season was just two weeks old. Since then we have seen two of those players make major leaps into the ROY conversation and seen Torkelson almost fall out of the top five. With players contributing in a major way jumping in front of him, can top prospect Torkelson make up ground and be a value at +900?

Simply put, Torkelson needs to figure things out quickly at the major league level or he is in danger of a trip back down to the minors. Right now a ROY award looks like a true longshot. Slashing just .160/.277/.284 with a 34% strikeout rate, Torkelson is already starting to see the bench more than we first expected. He sat out three of the Tigers' last nine games and has hit seventh or eighth in his last four contests. He has a serious contact problem, ranking 110th among qualified batters in contact rate this season and he only ranks 132nd in percent of pitches swung at in the zone. It's a common growing pain for rookies, but one that will keep Torkelson out of this race until he can course-correct.

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Joe Ryan AL ROY Odds: (+600, Previous: Unranked) (Bet $100 to win $600)

I'm not sure a rookie pitcher can have a better first five starts than Joe Ryan this season. And because of that, he has catapulted himself into ROY consideration and is the only pitcher (as of the second week of May) with even a remote shot in the AL. Matt Brash crashed and burned in his audition and who knows what we will get from George Kirby or Reid Detmers the rest of the way. But if Ryan keeps up this pace, there will be very little the other hurlers can do to overtake him.

Ryan leaves his first five starts with a pristine 1.63 ERA, with a 9.11 K/9 compared to just 2.29 BB/9. He has been aided by a tiny .212 BABIP and a 6.1% HR/FB rate, but even some correction on those would regress Ryan back into just a very good pitcher. Ryan is already 16th among AL pitchers with at least 25 innings pitched with his 0.6 WAR. His minor league track record also shows he has some room to grow in the strikeout rate. He is above 10 K/9 in every stop at the minors. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher which could come back to bite him, but right now, his value looks extraordinary considering some of the struggles by the bats around him on this list.

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Bobby Witt Jr. AL ROY Odds: (+550, Previous: +300) (Bet $100 to win $550)

Witt dropped well out of the pole position since the first update of the year, as the offense still isn't what oddsmakers and analysts thought it would be through his first 100 plate appearances. But even with a total line of .229/.260/.333 this season, there are signs of life in May that might cause us to want to buy the dip on his odds.

In the month of May, Witt is now batting .273/.304/.409 with his first home run and six of his 22 hits on the year. If that level of progress keeps up, Witt will have a shot to move back up this list as the summer rolls along. He was the consensus favorite to take home the award before the season began, so it's not a crazy idea to think he could move back into that spot. Unlike Torkelson, Witt is playing every day and even moved into the leadoff spot the past two games. That's a tremendous vote of confidence for the young rookie, so if that momentum carries into his production, this could still be his award.

Jeremy Pena AL ROY Odds: (+500, Previous: +1300) (Bet $100 to win $500)

When discussing the value of longshots in the last column, I wrote when considering the top five:

"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." Well, forget the Matt Brash call as he couldn't keep his control in check and is back in the minors. But Jeremy Pena continues to rake on offense and is an above-average defensive shortstop already, making the Houston Astros fans forget about Carlos Correa.

The .242 average and .305 on-base percentage aren't knocking your socks off, but the .495 slugging percentage is elite and he already has 11 extra-base hits in his first 106 plate appearances. Pena's six home runs leads the AL for shortstops and is second only to Willy Adames in the majors. I hope you bought in at +1300 because the odds aren't dropping back there anytime soon on Pena. Voters love lower and Pena has plenty of it.

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Julio Rodriguez AL ROY Odds: (+450, Previous: +700) (Bet $100 to win $450)

Much like Bobby Witt, Julio Rodriguez is absolutely raking in May after a very poor first month of the season. After a slow start with a .205/.284/.260 March and April, his bat has come alive to the tune of .364/.400/.545 in 35 plate appearances in May. The scary thing about Rodriguez is, despite how good he has been this month, the power hasn't even arrived yet. He could get even better.

Rodriguez still has just one home run and nine RBI on the season, but his greatest asset with the bat is his overwhelming power and on-base ability. He has an abnormally low 30% flyball rate this season accompanied by a 4.8% HR/FB rate that has kept most of his long hits in the park. Those numbers will certainly improve as he gets more comfortable in the zone and with his approach. Much like Witt, Rodriguez has been rewarded with his efforts lately. He has hit in the third spot in the order the past two games and that might be something that sticks. As one of only a couple of rookie bats who are starting to perform up to expectations, the +450 price on Rodriguez still looks appealing.

PlayerOddsPrevious Odds
Julio Rodriguez+450+700
Jeremy Pena+500+1300
Bobby Witt Jr.+550+300
Joe Ryan+600Unranked
Spencer Torkelson+900+600

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insightpicks

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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