Altuve, Arenado, Merrifield Co-Favorites to Lead MLB in Hits; No One Shorter Than +1200

Jose Altuve at the plate
Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado and Whit Merrifield are all tied for the best odds to lead the MLB in hits. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr).
  • While MLB contemplates return to play options, the odds to lead the league in hits were released
  • Whit Merrifield led the league in 2019 and 2018
  • We examine who could thrive in a shortened season

In hopes that Major League Baseball returns in 2020, the odds to lead the league in hits were recently released.

While there are a lot of in-season variables at play, bettors still don’t even know how many games will be played. That alone will have a major impact on the hits race as we explore the favorites.

2020 MLB Hits Leader Odds

Player 2019 Hit Total 2020 Odds
Jose Altuve, HOU 149 +1200
Nolan Arenado, COL 185 +1200
Whit Merrifield, KC 206 +1200
Rafael Devers, BOS 201 +1300
DJ LeMahieu, NYY 197 +1500
Francisco Lindor, CLE 170 +1500
Ketel Marte, ARZ 187 +1500
Ozzie Albies, ATL 189 +2000
Trea Turner, WAS 155 +2000
Tim Anderson, CHW 167 +2200
Xander Bogaerts, BOS 190 +2200
Jeff McNeil, NYM 162 +2200
Jorge Polanco, MIN 186 +2200
Jean Segura, PHI 161 +2200
Christian Yelich, MIL 161 +2200
Mookie Betts, LAD 176 +2500
Freddie Freeman, ATL 176 +2500
JD Martinez, BOS 175 +3000
Ronald Acuna JR, ATL 175 +3300
Charlie Blackmon, COL 182 +3300

Odds as of Apr 11th.

When you look at the top five in the odds, something stands out. The names are AL-heavy, and there’s good reason for that.

Since 2010, the NL has been home to the leader in hits just twice. Don’t bother going back farther, because then you’re in Ichiro territory.

Despite the ineptitude of the roster around him, Merrifield has led the league in back-to-back years. But if we’re dealing with a shortened season, is he still a favorite?

Any Slow Starters Among Hits Contenders?

Some players tend to struggle out of Spring Training. So with an interrupted spring, that could make 2020 even worse.

With that in mind, here’s how the top five have produced in the recent past.

March/April Hits Totals

Player 2019 March/April Hits Three-Year Average
Jose Altuve, HOU 28 32.6
Nolan Arenado, COL 32 29.3
Whit Merrifield, KC 34 23.6
Rafael Devers, BOS 30 28.5
DJ LeMahieu, NYY 31 29

All of them are fairly consistent from beginning to end. Merrifield’s numbers are dragged down by playing just 10 games in April of 2017. His two-year average would be 31.5 hits.

Altuve’s numbers are boosted by a 41-hit start in 2018, while Devers didn’t start 2017 in the majors.

Age shouldn’t be a factor for any of the favorites. If you feel that a delayed start could hurt older players though, both Merrifield and LeMahieu are 31. Devers is the youngest of the group at just 23.

Dark Horses to Lead MLB in Hits

Farther down the list there is some intriguing value.

Xander Bogaerts, Ozzie Albies, Ketel Marte and Jorge Polanco all finished among the top ten last year, and everyone other than Marte can be had at +2000 or longer.

Xander Boegarts’ Past Five Seasons

Season GP Batting Average Total Hits
2019 155 .309 190
2018 136 .288 148
2017 148 .273 156
2016 157 .294 192
2015 156 .320 196

Bogaerts isn’t moving out of third in the lineup, right Ron Roenicke?

When Mookie Betts was there, Bogaerts spent plenty of time hitting third and he thrived there. For his career, he’s hitting .313 with 432 hits when he’s slotted in third. If he’s moved to second? His numbers drop to .242 and 135 hits in roughly a third of the games.

Roenicke has been the Red Sox bench coach for two years so he knows his lineup. But without Betts, moving Bogaerts up in the lineup even for two weeks could cost him the hits crown.

As for the other three, Marte and Polanco are in the same boat. Both are young but have plenty of MLB experience. So they’re worth it if you think their 2019s were for real.

Albies may be our favorite of the second tier. He’s got less experience than Marte and Polanco, but led the NL in hits last year. He got a hit in 27% of his plate appearances in 2019, and converted at 24% and 25% clips each of the previous years.

Familiar Name Should Lead the League

While we’d avoid Altuve because of the controversy surrounding the Astros, an investment in any of the other four favorites is worthwhile. Devers is the one that stands out as a young player that should hit the ground running.

While his teammate Bogaerts offers good value, he’s a little too risky. So if you want to go farther down the board, Albies is a worthwhile target.

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