This is arguably the most wonderful time of the year to be a sports’ fan. The incredible NCAA tournament is coming to an end while both NBA and NHL are approaching their respective postseasons. We now have America’s National Pastime stepping to the plate.
The MLB season is set to start on Thursday when the New York Yankees welcome in the Toronto Blue Jays (1:05pm ET; TV: Live on ESPN). We will be treated to 15 games on Thursday, six games on Friday, 15 games on Saturday, and 13 games on Easter Sunday. It will be a packed weekend of baseball and we will be giving you one player future that I love to lock in before then. Having some money on a player makes it a much more exciting season where you watch everything they do closely.
Our play takes us to the nation’s capital and one of the most exciting players in the sport. Juan Soto opens the season as the consensus NL MVP favorite. He is currently sitting at +650 on BetOnline to win the award. Los Angeles Dodgers’ duo Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are not too far behind at +750. San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. is the only player with less than 10/1 odds (he is currently +800 or 8/1). On Bookmaker Betts is the favorite at +703, followed by Bellinger at +753, then Soto at +803 and lastly Tatis at +853.
I initially looked at the MVP bet, but I didn’t love the odds quite as much as I do for the homerun prop. Soto is rightfully the National League MVP favorite. He was the best hitter in baseball last season, but lost the award from the outset after missing 13 games to start the season due to COVID-19 protocols. It was impossible for him to make up that lost time in a 62 game shortened season. I think he will be even better and ultimately even more productive this season.
The addition of Josh Bell from Pittsburgh is massive. Bell will slot in perfectly in the lineup behind Soto to protect the young MVP favorite. Gone are the days of intentionally walking Soto to get to a significantly inferior batter. Bell has the power to punish any team that decides to put Soto on base intentionally. The 28-year-old first baseman hit a career high 29 homeruns in 2019 on Pittsburgh and he will look to bounce back after a down season last year. The change of scenery may do Bell well.
Soto was intentionally walked a league leading 12 times in only 47 games last season. The next highest was Bryce Harper with eight intentional walks in 58 games. It is quite obvious the fear that Soto strikes in opposing pitchers and rightfully so. The 22-year-old star has 69 homeruns in 313 career games and he only continues to improve. Last season Soto hit 13 long-balls in 196 plate appearances (one HR per 15.1 plate appearances). This was on pace to be better than his previous two seasons. In 2019 he hit 34 homers in 659 plate appearances (one per 19.4) and in his rookie season he hit 22 in 494 appearances (one per 22.5). Last season was also Soto’s best year for average. He hit a career high .351 (54 hits divided by 154 at-bats) despite missing games in what was quite a weird year mentally for the players. This was significantly better than his .282 average in 2019 and .292 in 2018.
I think all this points to another breakout year by the young star. Having power hitters Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber batting behind him will limit the intentional walks and give him that many more opportunities to crush balls deep. I love the value here, but also wouldn’t blame anyone who wanted to be a bit more conservative and take him to win the NL MVP at +803. When it comes to season long I generally like to play a bit longer odds. I am personally going to be taking both plays. I like both Soto to lead the league in homeruns and for him to win the NL MVP trophy. If you have just the one wager, make it this: