Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is the best player in baseball. There aren’t many reasonable people out there that would fight you on that. Still, just because Trout is the best player in baseball doesn’t mean he’s a lock to win MVP every year.
That said, it’s safe to say he’s always going to be in the mix. Despite the fact that he won’t even turn 27 until August, Trout already has a pair of AL MVP awards on his mantle, and he’s finished second in the voting 3 times. Despite the fact that he missed the better part of 2 months due to injury last season, Trout still finished fourth behind Jose Altuve, Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez.
As you may expect, Trout is the odds-on favorite to win the award in 2018. Per Betonline, Trout is at +150 to win AL MVP, with Jose Altuve checking in at +500 right behind him. Those are the only 2 players with current odds under +1000.
While Trout and Altuve may well duke it out once again in ‘18, there’s a rather large figure looming on the east coast that may give them a run for their money.
Giancarlo Stanton +1000
Stanton is one of a handful of players listed at +1000 to take home AL MVP honors. His new teammate, Aaron Judge, is one of them.
Stanton, of course, won the 2017 NL MVP award with the Marlins after smashing a career-high 59 home runs. The Marlins were nowhere near the playoff picture in the National League, but voters simply couldn’t overlook the unreal power display Stanton put on in the season’s second half.
Miami shipped him to New York in a cost-cutting move over the winter, and Stanton appears primed for another monster season. The fact that Stanton hit 59 dingers last year is amazing in any context, but let’s not forget that he managed to accomplish the feat while playing half of his games in the cavern known as Marlins Park. Marlins Park features a huge outfield that swallows up fly balls that would get out of other more hitter-friendly parks.
Yankee Stadium is the opposite. The home of the Yankees features almost cartoonishly small dimensions in the corners, which obviously leads to plenty of homers. The Bronx Bombers hit 241 home runs last season, which led all of Major League Baseball. The 2018 iteration of the team is very similar to last year’s, with one of the few changes being the addition of baseball’s individual home run king.
So, it’s safe to say the Yankees have a good chance at eclipsing the 241 they hit last year. Assuming he can stay healthy, there is no reason to believe Stanton can’t hit 50-plus home runs again in 2018. The 59 he hit last year were the most he’s ever hit by a country mile, but it was also one of the few seasons in which he didn’t suffer a long-term injury.
Injuries are obviously unpredictable, but we’re in store for an incredible show if he’s able to stay in the lineup every day. 4 of the top projection systems featured on Fangraphs (The BAT, ZiPS, Steamer, ATC) have Stanton projected to hit at least 51 home runs. It’s also worth noting that most projections are somewhat conservative.
The fact that Stanton will be playing in the country’s largest media market for baseball’s most prestigious franchise won’t hurt his chances with voters, either. Stanton at +1000 to win AL MVP in 2018 is almost too good to be true. The profit potential here is massive, so jump at those odds while you can still get them.
Other Names to Watch
I don’t need to tell you that Trout and Altuve will likely be a couple of Stanton’s chief challengers. Let’s instead talk about a few longshots that have a chance to make some headway.
We saw Stanton win MVP last season despite playing for a team that didn’t qualify for the postseason. It takes a remarkable individual statistical campaign for an MVP voter to overlook the fact that the player played for a bad team.
Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers makes for a very sneaky option here way down at +10000. Gallo has been one of the Rangers’ top prospects for the last several years, but the 2017 season was his first full big league campaign. Across 145 games, Gallo slashed .209/.333/.537 with 41 homers and 80 RBI.
Gallo spent most of his time toiling near the bottom of Jeff Banister’s lineup. However, Gallo is expected to start the season hitting out of the No. 2 hole, which will obviously result in more plate appearances. Gallo logged 532 PAs last season. If he’s able to stay in the No. 2 spot all year, that could theoretically result in another 100 plate appearances. Obviously, if he’s going to have more chances to hit home runs, he’s probably going to hit more home runs.
Gallo has as much raw power as any hitter in baseball. It’s hard to see how the Rangers can realistically contend this season, but if Gallo hits 60 bombs he’s going to force his way into the MVP discussion. I don’t think 60 is out of the question for a guy with his talent level, which makes him a super sneaky AL MVP candidate at +10000.
Minnesota’s Byron Buxton (+6600), Oakland’s due of Matt Olson and Khris Davis (+6600 apiece) and Baltimore’s Jonathan Schoop (+4000) are a few more intriguing flier candidates.
What About the National League?
Now that Stanton is plying his craft in the AL, we’re going to have a new NL MVP in 2018. Washington’s Bryce Harper, who won the award in 2015, is the leading candidate to win in 2018 at +350. This race looks far more wide open than the AL with 5 others (Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Cody Bellinger) checking in below +1000.
While Harper is always going to be in the mix, I think his teammate, Trea Turner, looks appealing way down at +5000. Turner burst onto the scene as a speed-power threat in 2016, and many had him tapped for a huge 2017. Unfortunately, injuries wound up limiting the 24-year-old speedster to just 98 games.
In those 98 games, he hit .284/.338/.451 with 11 homers and 46 stolen bases. If he’s able to stay healthy enough to play a full complement of games, he’s realistically a guy that can challenge for 20 homers and 70-plus stolen bases. Nowadays, it’s rare to see a guy with that kind of all-around skill set.
The Nationals are once again expected to reign supreme in the NL East, so Harper will obviously have some help. Turner is a game-changing kind of player, and I’m expecting him to flourish in 2018 now that some have forgotten about him altogether. He’s a solid MVP candidate.
I also think you can take a look at Kyle Schwarber (+10000). Schwarber struggled mightily last season, finishing with a slash line of .211/.315/.467. He did pound out 30 homers, but the rest of his game was sorely lacking.
It’s clear that Schwarber worked hard during the winter to get himself into better shape. We’ve always known him as a pudgy slugger, but now he looks downright trim. His spring training numbers look great, as he hit .353 with 4 homers during the exhibition season. He also stole 4 bases. Now that he’s skinny, are we going to see Schwarber transform into a speed merchant?
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo tend to draw most of the accolades, but a new and improved Schwarber could be what puts the Cubs over the top once again. This guy was a former first-round pick for a reason, so don’t sleep on him.
Stanton’s former teammate, Marcell Ozuna (+3300), may get the attention he deserves now that he’s out from under Giancarlo’s shadow. Ozuna was shipped to the Cardinals this winter, which should help. The Marlins are a rather anonymous franchise, while the Cardinals are among baseball’s elite.
Ozuna isn’t yet a household name despite the fact that he’s put together back-to-back outstanding seasons. The 27-year-old smashed 37 home runs last year alongside a strong slash line of .312/.376/.548. Busch Stadium isn’t a big park upgrade over Marlins Park, but I still expect Ozuna to keep doing what he’s been doing.
The Cardinals are something of a sleeper themselves this season, so if they wind up raising some eyebrows, I’d expect Ozuna to be one of the reasons. Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins (+5000), LA’s Corey Seager (+2000) and Milwaukee’s Domingo Santana (+15000) are other names to consider. The NL MVP race should be epic, so no bet is a bad bet at this point.