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Odds to win 2020 MLB AL and NL MVP Awards

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As we patiently wait for the MLB season to begin, we take a look at the top of the betting odds boards for the 2020 AL and NL MVP awards, break down the favorites and bring you some of our best value bets.

ODDS TO WIN AL MVP

Players Odds to win AL MVP  (as of March 23)
Mike Trout +125
Aaron Judge +1,200
Gleyber Torres +1,200
Francisco Lindor +1,600
Alex Bregman +1,600
Shohei Ohtani +1,800
Yoan Moncada +1,800
Josh Donaldson +2,000
Matt Chapman +2,500
DJ LeMahieu +2,500
Anthony Rendon +3,000
Rafeal Devers +3,000
Gerritt Cole +3,000
Marcus Semien +3,000

THE FAVORITE

Mike Trout +125

Trout is the best player in the game and has already won three AL MVP awards despite being just 28 years old. Trout is coming off a season where he had 45 home runs, 104 RBI, 110 runs and an on base percentage of .438 in just 134 games. He has now either won or been the runner-up for the league MVP award in seven of the last eight seasons (and he finished fourth in the other year).

The Angels might finally be good enough to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014 and the addition of Anthony Rendon should give Trout protection in the lineup. Even so, having him at a +125 favorite before the season even begins is absolutely wild. There has got be better value on the board.

SHARP MONEY

Gleyber Torres +1,200

Torres is soaring up odds boards and has pulled even with teammate Aaron Judge who was the AL MVP runner-up in 2017. It seems weird to say about a guy that is coming off a 38 home run campaign but the 23-year-old Venezuelen looks primed for a breakout year.

Torres absolutely tore it up in the postseason, jacking three homers and five doubles in nine games. He needs to become more patient at the plate and cut down on his strikeouts but the sky is the limit for Torres and batting third behind Judge and DJ LeMahieu and in front of Giancarlo Stanton (who is just three years removed from his own MVP award) should do wonders.

BEST VALUE BET

Marcus Semien +3,000

Semien has improved in every year with the A’s culminating in a 2019 season which saw him finish third for the AL MVP Award after clubbing 33 home runs and 43 doubles while scoring 123 runs and posting a WAR of 8.1, fourth-best in the majors.

Semien really excelled down the stretch last season. Over the months of August and September he slashed .313/.398/.645 with 16 homers, 16 doubles, 40 RBI and 43 runs in 52 games. He has also vastly improved his defense going from one of the worst fielding shortstops in the majors to a Gold Glove candidate that finished third in the league in the SABR Defensive Index among shortstops in 2019 .

The A’s should be pretty good once again this year and the rest of the world will be rooting for them to topple the Astros in the AL West. To top it all off Semien is set to be a free agent after the 2020 season and we all know how motivating a contract year can be.

ODDS TO WIN NL MVP

Player Odds to win NL MVP (as of March 23)
Ronald Acuna Jr +550
Mookie Betts +600
Christian Yelich +700
Jaun Soto +900
Cody Bellinger +900
Fernando Tatis Jr +1,000
Bryce Harper +1,400
Nolan Arenado +1,600
Ketel Marte +1,600
Javier Baez +2,000
Freddie Freeman +2,000
Eugenio Suarez +2,500
Pete Alonso +2,500
Kris Bryant +2,500
Manny Machado +2,500
Paul Goldschmidt +2,500
Trevor Story +2,500

THE FAVORITE

Ronald Acuna Jr. +550

Acuna has one of the sweetest swings in baseball and hit .280 while drilling 41 homers and stealing 37 bases as a 21-year-old last season. He could be in for an even bigger year and the Braves should be in for another strong season.

The NL MVP looks like it will be a wide-open battle between a slew of baseball’s top superstars and being able to wager on the favorite at +550 is certainly solid value.

SHARP MONEY

Mookie Betts +600

One of the biggest offseason moves was Betts being traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers in February. As soon as Betts was traded to L.A. he moved from being a strong MVP favorite in the range of +1000 to one of the top leading candidates in the NL. At some books he is now the betting favorite with odds as high as +350.

One of the best five-tool players in the majors, Betts won the AL MVP in 2018 after leading the AL in batting average (.346), slugging (.640) and runs (129). He once again led the league in runs last season with 132 while batting .295 and hitting 29 home runs. Betts should have plenty of protection with this Dodgers lineup, although his Red Sox teammates like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D Martinez weren’t exactly chopped liver.

That said, Betts and the Dodgers will have sky-high expectations and it might be difficult for him to show his impact on the team when they’re coming off a 106-win season without him. Also, there can be an adjustment period while players get used to a new environment and the postponed season certainly doesn’t help that.

BEST VALUE BET

Cody Bellinger +900

Bellinger had a simply amazing season in 2019, leading the majors with a WAR of 9 in just his third season in the majors. He batted .305 with 47 dingers, 115 RBI and 121 runs and also impressed in the outfield picking up his first Gold Glove thanks to a .990 fielding percentage and ten assists from right field. He’s still just 24 years old and just starting to tap into his vast potential.

As we mentioned above, the Dodgers should have another terrific season and being able to grab the reigning MVP in the prime of his career at +900 is an absolute steal.

UNDERSTANDING MLB MVP ODDS

Most sportsbooks will display odds in the American format as listed above. When Trout ran away with the MVP award in 2019 his odds had a minus (-) sign ahead of the number for a large part of the season.

  • Mike Trout -1,000

That means that a bettor in August had to wager $1000 to win $100 by betting on Trout to win MVP. Although this year’s race hasn’t even begun yet, some books already have Trout with odds as high as -125.

  • Ronald Acuna +550

With Acuna’s current odds, a bettor stands to profit $550 for every $100 wagered on him.

If American odds aren’t your thing, simply use a tool like our odds converter to switch the odds to decimal or fractional format. Most online sportsbooks also give you the option to change the odds format that you see.

HOW TO BET FUTURES ODDS

Futures betting is different than betting on an individual game because you need to consider the long haul as opposed to a single event. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when betting futures odds.

Change your strategy at different points in the season

While some futures bets must be placed before the season begins and are then removed off the board (such as team win totals), other wagers will change odds as the season goes on.

If you are wagering money on a futures bet with changing odds keep in mind that there is less variance at the beginning of the season (when more players and teams are still in contention) and more variance as the season goes on (when teams and players at the top separate themselves from those at the bottom).

In the preseason and beginning of the season, betting on dark horses can prove very profitable. But as the season continues, expect to see odds tighten around the favorites. At that point it becomes wise to focus on the players near the top of the odds board and betting big underdogs is practically like giving your money away.

Look for value with underdogs

While the bigger names tend to be strong favorites, there are also live long shots that can provide tremendous value. Look at younger players on the verge of breaking out, or guys that have already been playing at a high level but could take the next step now that they are in an ideal situation with a new team, coach or system.

Other players that can give a great payout are established stars coming off under-performing years due to injuries or other factors. If you’re lucky you might be able to catch them in a bounce-back year.

Follow the narrative

When placing futures bets on individual awards, keep in mind that voters, not a scoreboard are often the deciding factor. Voters can be influenced by a variety of factors, including media coverage and public opinion. Consider what the media narrative is for a particular season and which players they seem to be rooting for and against.

For example in Lebron James’ first season in Miami he was viewed as a villain or heel by the media and Derrick Rose who ended up winning MVP was the perfect foil for that. When Ron Dayne won the Heisman trophy back in 1999 it was viewed by many as a well-deserved reward for his entire career at Wisconsin.

Research historical trends

Historical trends, especially recent ones, can give you a good idea of which way voters tend to lean.

The NBA MVP for example, almost always goes to a player on the best or second-best regular season team in the league. While the Heisman trophy is almost exclusively given to a quarterback or running back – and over the last couple of decades has been overwhelmingly handed out to QBs.

Identifying those trends is a good way to separate the true contenders from the pretenders.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.