Even after one of the most significant seasons in MLB history, Aaron Judge isn’t the favorite to repeat as the AL MVP.
And it shouldn’t surprise anyone who is.
Shohei Ohtani, who won this award in 2021 and finished as the runner-up in 2022, enters the 2023 season as the overwhelming favorite (+200) to win AL MVP at BetMGM.
He’s priced just ahead of Judge (+500), who joins three-time winner Mike Trout (+650) and sophomore slugger Julio Rodriguez (+800) as the only players dealing at shorter than 10/1 odds.
2023 AL MVP preseason betting odds (via BetMGM)
Ohtani favored over Judge for 2023 AL MVP
It may seem blasphemous to price anyone ahead of Judge after he smacked an AL-record 62 home runs to earn the first MVP award of his seven-year career.
But his campaign was built on a historical anomaly that we almost certainly won’t see again – whereas Ohtani’s generational exploits seem much more likely to continue in 2023.
Consider this: last season, Judge became the fourth player to ever hit 62 home runs in a season and posted the third-highest OPS (1.111) of any player since Bonds’ reign from 2001-04.
Even so, Ohtani still picked up a couple of first-place votes and remained a legitimate contender through the end of the season.
That’s how ridiculous the Angels’ two-way star was in 2022, when he hit .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs while spinning a 2.33 ERA with an AL-best 11.9 strikeouts per nine through 166 innings.
If Ohtani is healthy, he’s a legitimate top-10 hitter and top-10 pitcher, and it’ll take another historic effort to upend him.
But what if he isn’t healthy?
We’ve seen Ohtani’s season derailed by injuries in the past, and there’s no precedent for a player sustaining the historic workload that he’s managed over the last two seasons.
With that said, here are a few other players worth targeting at longer odds in the AL MVP race:
AL MVP predictions, picks, best bets
Corey Seager (+3000)
I’m hardly the only one calling for a breakout campaign for Seager, who figures to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of MLB’s ban against the shift.
Still, the former Rookie of the Year and World Series MVP is easily the best value on the board, and he’s dealing at an even juicier 45/1 price at FanDuel.
Seager suffered from an unusually low BABIP (.242) in 2022, even as his hard-hit rate (45.6%) and exit velocity (91.1 MPH) hovered around his career averages.
We saw that reflected in his career-high 33 home runs, but his rotten luck on batted balls tanked his slugging percentage (.455) and OPS (.772) in his first year in Texas.
There’s little reason to expect such low marks again for the three-time MVP finalist, who posted a 145 OPS+ over his previous two seasons and is crushing the ball this spring.
If that carries into the regular season, this price won’t last a week.
Byron Buxton (+3000)
Look, I get it: it’s hard to bet on someone who can’t stay on the field.
Even the biggest Buxton truthers – which includes yours truly – have to draw the line somewhere if the former top prospect can’t play 100 games, which he’s done once in his eight-year career.
Still, in a league ruled by Ohtani, Judge and Trout, the only players worth betting in this field are those with otherworldly upside.
Buxton’s got plenty of that: over his last two seasons, the Twins star has hit 47 home runs – his 0.31 per game ranks fourth in that span – with 111 runs and a .903 OPS across 153 games.
If those stats all came within the same season, he’d be dealing at 10/1 odds or shorter to win this award.
With his odds as high as 40/1 at FanDuel, the injury risk is worth the reward.
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Luis Robert (+4000)
Another player with immense talent and a checkered bill of health, Robert is dealing as high as 60/1 at FanDuel after another limited campaign in 2022.
That type of discount is simply too steep for a player of his caliber.
Robert was one of the hottest bets in the MVP market entering last season, which came on the heels of his .338/.378/.567 slash line in a limited 2021 sample.
Yes, availability was an issue once again in 2022, but a slate of fluky injuries shouldn’t dissuade bettors from backing a 25-year-old former top prospect with a career .289 average and legitimate five-tool potential.