MLB Rookie of the Year odds show a couple of young hitters as favorites

(AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)
(AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)
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Unlike the other primary individual awards in Major League Baseball, the MVP and Cy Young, handicapping the Rookie of the Year race is difficult. You have to know young players coming up, international arrivals and playing-time situations. That’s no different in 2023, where one favorite hasn’t played a single MLB game and the other is only a couple of months ahead.

Let’s start with the (slightly) more experienced player: Third baseman Gunnar Henderson of the Baltimore Orioles is the +300 favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. Henderson made his MLB debut on Aug. 31 and had a healthy .788 OPS in 34 games.

The bigger favorite, however, is Jordan Walker of the St. Louis Cardinals, who’s +250 to win the National League Rookie of the Year. Walker also plays third base, though he’s spent almost as much time in the outfield in the minors and figures to play there for the Cardinals, who have Nolan Arenado entrenched at the hot corner.

Walker, a first-round pick in 2020, has an OPS of better than .900 through two full seasons in the minors.

Let’s dive into each league’s list of futures prices from Caesars Sportsbook, along with a peek at some good value picks in the market:

American League Rookie of the Year odds

Gunnar Henderson, Orioles 3B +300

Anthony Volpe, Yankees SS +450

Masataka Yoshida, Red Sox OF +700

Grayson Rodriguez, Orioles SP +800

Josh Jung, Rangers 3B +1200

Triston Casas, Red Sox 1B +1200

Royce Lewis, Twins SS/OF +1400

Hunter Brown, Astros SP +1400

Oscar Colas, White Sox 1B/OF +1500

Logan O’Hoppe, Angels C +2000

Daniel Espino, Guardians SP +2500

Oswald Peraza, Yankees SS +3000

Analysis: Henderson has a leg up on most of the field because he (a) has played in the Majors before (though obviously not enough to use up his rookie eligibility), and (b) has played well in the Majors before. In his month of duty last year, Henderson had a “hard-hit” rate (exit velocity of 90 mph or more) on 53.7% of batted balls, a rate more than a third higher than the average player. He’ll also steal some bases; it remains to be seen how many power numbers he rack up, but Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez won this award last season in large part because of those gaudy counting stats: 30 homers and 25 stolen bases.

Volpe, just 21, will start in the big leagues and has the stage of playing shortstop in Yankee Stadium. That alone could earn him some votes if he plays well, but unlike Henderson he has yet to see a regular-season big-league pitch — and has only played 22 games above the Double-A level. His glove may be ahead of his bat right now.

There are other interesting possibilities on the list. Yoshida was a star in Japan and showed what he can do in the World Baseball Classic; he’s also a .321 career hitter in the NPB and a lefty, which should play well in Fenway Park. Rodriguez won’t start the season with Baltimore, but he showed last year he can compete in the big leagues and shouldn’t be far off. Jung and Lewis both have big-league experience, though Lewis is coming back from a missed season because of a torn ACL.

National League Rookie of the Year odds

Jordan Walker, Cardinals OF +250

Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks OF +500

Kodai Senga, Mets SP +1000

Miguel Vargas, Dodgers IF +1000

Ezequiel Tovar, Rockies SS +1200

Francisco Alvarez, Mets C +1200

Elly De La Cruz, Reds SS +1600

Cade Cavalli, Nationals SP +1800

Andrew Painter, Phillies SP +2000

Brett Baty, Mets 3B +2000

Spencer Steer, Reds IF +2500

Hayden Wesneski, Cubs P +2500

Sal Frelick, Brewers OF +3000

Michael Busch, Dodgers 2B +3000

Analysis: Walker is an interesting favorite. Although he mashed in the minors and has impressed the Cardinals enough this spring to crack a very good opening day lineup, he doesn’t have the experience of Carroll. The Diamondbacks prospect destroyed minor league pitching last year before getting called up, and in about a month of action, he had 15 extra-base hits in just 104 at-bats. He also had 31 strikeouts, so making more contact could be key for his chances to follow another outfielder, the Braves’ Michael Harris, in winning this award.

Like Yoshida in the American League, Senga brings years of experience from the world’s second-best league, the NPB in Japan. We’ve seen Japanese players win Rookie of the Year over their younger counterparts plenty of times, and the 30-year-old Senga could be next. He had a 2.59 ERA in 11 seasons in Japan.

Vargas will start for the Dodgers after a season-ending injury to Gavin Lux, and as with Volpe, the stage of L.A. could help him. Tovar may lead the league in stolen bases.

If you’re looking for a longer shot, prospects Alvarez of the Mets and De La Cruz of the Reds won’t start the year in the majors but should get call-ups at some point and could make the same kind of impact that the ROY runners-up did last year: Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Braves pitcher Spencer Strider.

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