Baseball futures are so much fun to bet. Shrouded in Spring Training’s optimism, you can be convinced of just about anyone’s prospects to win an award. This article will take you down that betting sheet, though. I’ve sifted through the odds at Draft Kings Sportsbook and found my three favorite longshots to win. By pure coincidence, they all happen to be in the National League. Go figure.
NL MVP: Trea Turner +5000
As far as pure talent goes, there are not many players in the National League you can comfortably put above Turner. He has been steadily improving for years and was the #1 player on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2o2o. Yes, that’s right, better than Juan Soto, Fernando Tatís, and Mookie Betts. What gives him a legitimate chance at MVP is his growing power. Turner has been hitting the ball harder and harder as he matures, earning more barrels and a higher ISO in each of the last three seasons. Additionally, his once concerning durability has not been an issue in recent years. Since the start of 2018, Turner has played in 343 out of a possible 384 games. His only missed time was due to a broken index finger in 2019 that came on a missed bunt attempt.
Turner’s MVP case is hurt by a few mitigating factors. First off, the Nationals are not expected to be very good. The team has a wide range of outcomes that hinge on a shaky bullpen and aging rotation. It is rare for a player to win MVP on a non-playoff team, especially when they have a teammate who has the potential to have the type of awe-inspiring season to win the award regardless of their team’s record. But if things do happen to go right for the Nationals and Soto winds up with merely spectacular numbers, a monster season by Turner can push him over the top.
NL Cy Young: Brandon Woodruff +2200
Steadily ascending since his debut in 2017, Woodruff still has another gear to reach. He was masterful in the shortened season, getting his K-rate up over 30% for the first time in his young career while earning an xERA and xwOBA that were both in the top 10% of the league. His WHIP sat just under one and he threw the seventh most innings in the league with 73.1. With an offense near the bottom of the league, he was certainly the Brewers’ MVP and more or less carried them to the postseason.
Even after sustained success, Woodruff’s profile is begging for a step to be taken. The big-bodied righty was effective for years simply relying on his fastball. Sitting 96 and touching triple digits, you can get away with that for a while. More of a thrower than a pitcher back then, that fastball accounted for around 50-60% of his total pitches. Over the last two seasons, his four-seamer has given way to more sinkers and however you may feel about sinkers in general, the pitch has been downright disgusting.
Brandon Woodruff, Wicked 97mph Sinker. 🤢
10th K. pic.twitter.com/F8bbPuWMPl
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 30, 2020
An underlying key to the sinker’s effectiveness has been the continued development of Woodruff’s changeup. Traditionally using a slider as his key secondary pitch, his upped his changeup usage ahead of it last season. The pitch behaves incredibly similar to his sinker and he locates them in similar areas of the plate. With virtually the same spin axis, it is more difficult for hitters to register which is which (especially when the changeup is coming in at 87 mph).
Lastly, Woodruff has been working on a fifth pitch. He introduced a curveball in 2018 and threw it 7.0% of the time in 2020, a serious jump from just 1.9% in 2019. It was clear he had been in the Brewers trusted pitch design laboratory working on the offering since he added a whopping six inches of drop to it last season. That’s half a foot! Woodruff already boasts plus command, plus-plus velocity, and a four pitch repertoire. Adding a reliable fifth pitch would be an embarrassment of riches and put him on par with the best arms in the National League.
NL ROY: Christian Pache +1200
What’s that old saying? Success is at the intersection of preparation and opportunity, right? Pache is looking at one heck of an opportunity heading into the season. Ender Inciarte‘s recent thumb injury has blown the door wide open for Pache to seize the starting CF job. I find it very unlikely Inciarte ever takes it back given his woes at the plate and declining defensive ability, especially considering how well Pache plays the position.
FUTURE GOLD GLOVER CHRISTIAN PACHE pic.twitter.com/0DQF3LW1LL
— Georgia Sports Now (@GASportsNow) March 5, 2019
Despite only playing 26 games above AA, Atlanta included Pache on the postseason roster for that defensive ability. He appeared in all 12 games very clearly demonstrating how highly the team values his skills. He wasn’t so bad the plate, either. His .182/.280/.364 slash line appears unimpressive, but his 4:3 K:BB lends confidence in the potential for league-average plate discipline. He also put seven balls in play above 95 mph and four over 100 mph, hinting at some power potential. The foundation exists for Pache to flirt with a 20-20 season, putting him very much in play for rookie of the year.
Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)