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Betts’ NL MVP Odds Get Longer; Acuna, Yelich, Soto Closing the Gap on the Favorite

Mookie Betts is the favorite for NL MVP, but could a shortened season expand the field and hurt his chances? Photo by Keith Allison {flickr).
  • Since MLB announced ‘Opening Day 2.0’, the NL MVP odds have been updated
  • Mookie Betts remains the favorite
  • We dive in to whether or not the newest Dodger is a safe bet, or if there’s value elsewhere

Since the LA Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts, he’s faced NL MVP buzz.

He’s joining a loaded lineup that has been a playoff lock for seven seasons. The thinking was the 2018 AL MVP would slide in seamlessly, putting the Dodgers over the World Series hump.

Now that baseball has finally sorted out what 2020 will look like, we get our chance to see Betts in Dodger blue.

2020 NL MVP Odds

Player Current NL MVP Odds APR 30 NL MVP Odds
Mookie Betts (Dodgers) +468 +448
Ronald Acuna Jr (Braves) +550 +600
Christian Yelich (Brewers) +613 +719
Juan Soto (Nationals) +825 +844
Cody Bellinger (Dodgers) +1025 +963
Fernando Tatis Jr (Padres) +1150 +1404
Bryce Harper (Phillies) +1300 +1375
Nolan Arenado (Rockies) +1825 +1775
Freddie Freeman (Braves) +1900 +2046
Javy Baez (Cubs) +2075 +2175

Odds as of June 27.

While it wasn’t a massive drop, Betts’ 2020 NL MVP odds did get slightly longer. And some interesting names closed in on him.

Ronald Acuna Jr, Christian Yelich and Juan Soto crept closer by varying degrees, but no one enjoyed more of a bump than Fernando Tatis Jr.

With plenty of variety in the race, a strong start is important for any candidate.

Projections for NL MVP Candidates

The word that’s used to describe the 2020 season is unique. Which is fair because this year will be unlike any other.

Considering that, one my favorite strategies has been to look at players’ early season splits and see how that could carry over a shortened season. But a four month delay makes that tough.

NL MVP Projections

Player HR RBI AVG OBP SLG% WAR
Mookie Betts (Dodgers) 11 31 .280 .371 .517 2.3
Ronald Acuna Jr (Braves) 14 33 .283 .363 .528 1.6
Christian Yelich (Brewers) 13 38 .304 .399 .567 1.9
Juan Soto (Nationals) 13 39 .293 .407 .557 1.6

With the 60-game announcement, FanGraphs have updated their projections. These create a race much tighter than the odds suggest.

In his third season, Soto would set new career-highs for average, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage. He would finish third in the NL in RBI and ninth in home runs (three off the league lead).

Betts still tops the NL in runs scored and WAR however, which makes sense considering LA’s lineup.

But there were also two big power bats that pop in these predictions.

Cody Bellinger vs Bryce Harper: 2020 Projections

Cody Bellinger
VS
Bryce Harper

15 HR 15
41 RBI 38
.386 OBP .383
.585 SLG% .541
.970 OPS .925
2.2 WAR 1.4

These two finish one home run behind Pete Alonso for the NL lead and league lead. Bellinger’s projections compare favorably to the rest of the field as well. One has to wonder if his 2019 NL MVP will hold him to a higher standard, which will be tough to judge in a shortened season.

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Harper is an interesting case. MLB.com identified him as the player with the most to prove entering 2020, and it can’t help that he had to watch the Washington Nationals win the World Series after he left.

Health Determines Tatis Jr’s Candidacy

One player to love on this list from a talent perspective is San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. He’s simply electric, finishing fourth in the NL in steals (nine), while mixing in nine doubles and 11 homers.

The average falls to .265 in the projections, but if his other numbers fall within his 2019 ranges, he’ll be in the NL MVP mix.

Health is the big question here, however.

In a shortened season, availability is important. Tatis finished last year shelved with a back injury, after he strained a hamstring in April.

He’s a buyer beware candidate, but his energy could dominate a shortened season.

Soto’s NL MVP Value Undeniable

Unfortunately for Betts, LA is a crowded place. He’s playing with the reigning NL MVP and a potential rookie of the year.

When looking at the race, Ronald Acuna Jr and Juan Soto stand out the most. But considering their prices, there’s more to like about Soto at +825.

A motivated Harper is a nice play too, but Soto’s game will translate nicely to a short season.

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