Against All Odds: 3 best bets to beat Shohei Ohtani for AL MVP

With his ability to impact a game both at the plate and on the mound, Shohei Ohtani will be an MVP favorite his entire career. But there are some players who could take the award from him

There has never been a player quite like Shohei Ohtani.

Baseball has never seen a player who could hit an opposite-field grand slam one night, then pitch six innings two days later. Never in the past century has there been someone capable of having more extra-base hits than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a lower ERA than Gerrit Cole, all in the same season.

Ohtani is unique, a dual-threat unlike anything the baseball world has ever seen before. Even Babe Ruth, a star pitcher turned baseball’s greatest slugger, mostly stopped pitching by the time he became a full-time hitter. Ohtani has developed into a global superstar, the face of the game, his image gracing the cover of GQ and Time Magazine.

In 2021, Ohtani fully arrived. He hit 46 home runs, third in the American League, while also having a 3.18 ERA on the mound. MLB had to change the rules just for him, allowing a pitcher to stay in a game as a designated hitter even after being lifted. He was the unanimous choice of baseball writers to be the AL MVP, a testament to his once-in-a-century special talent.

Even after everything he accomplished last year, Ohtani is doing something incredible in 2022: he’s even better. He’s batting .323 with two home runs and a .981 OPS over his last eight games. He hit his first career grand slam on Monday off the Rays’ Calvin Faucher. On Wednesday, he gave up only two hits and one run over six innings despite admitting he didn’t have his best stuff. His ERA over his last four starts stands at 1.13.

“He just competed and gave us a chance to win again today. Again, his schedule is a bit different than everybody else’s. To get through six like that, I thought it was great,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game.

It’s no surprise, then, that Ohtani is once again the clear favorite to win MVP at +200, according to WynnBet. No one is able to help his team more than a player who is, at the same place, one of the best sluggers in the league and the ace of the pitching staff. Voters showed last year that they are in awe of what Ohtani is capable of, and he shows no sign of slowing down.

MLB odds: Who can lift the MVP from Shohei Ohtani’s firm grasp?

If there is one player who could take the MVP away from Ohtani, it’s someone who shares the same clubhouse. At +400, Mike Trout has the second-best odds behind Ohtani.

Rumors that Trout wasn’t the same player, that he had been slowed by injuries over the past year, have proven to be greatly exaggerated. Trout has put the health issues that limited him to just 36 games last season behind him and is proving, once again, that he’s the generation’s best player.

Trout is already a three-time MVP and a certain future first-ballot Hall of Famer. But even he has never put up the numbers he’s showing this year. His 1.188 OPS would be the best of his career. He leads the league in OPS and Weighted Runs Created and is third in home runs behind Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez. Trout and teammate Taylor Ward are so far in front on the OPS+ leaderboard in the AL that the difference between second and third place is the same as third and 21st.

There is one thing missing from Trout’s career resume that already includes every honor there is in to win. The Angels have only made the playoffs once in his career; he’s still yet to win a playoff game. The Angels, though, blessed with the game’s two biggest superstars, are 21-12 so far this season and just a half-game back of the Houston Astros for the AL West lead.

The New York Yankees aren’t looking up to anyone in their division. At 23-8 and winners of 16 of their last 18 games, the Yankees are off to their best start since 2003 and already lead the AL East by 4.5 games.

A big reason for their hot start is a man who could only be described as big, or simply gigantic. Judge has been hitting home runs this season to match his 6-foot-7 stature. His latest came in New York’s 15-7 win over the White Sox on Thursday, a 456-foot blast deep into the left-field bleachers. Judge has eight home runs over his last 15 games and leads the league with 11 on the season. During the Yankees’ 11-game win streak earlier this year, Judge helped propel the club with a .357 average and 1.361 OPS.

Yankees fans might still be bitter over Judge losing out on the 2017 award to Jose Altuve, but he’s making a case that 2022 is his year. He’s currently at +900 odds, fifth-best in the AL, and with the Yankees looking every bit as dangerous and powerful as their great teams of the past, Judge is certain to be in the MVP conversation all season.

The Twins’ Byron Buxton has always possessed the talent to be MVP, but with an asterisk attached to his name: he just can’t seem to stay healthy. Buxton has played more than 90 games in a season just once in his eight-year career. He has missed exactly half of the Twins games over the last four seasons.

But when he does take the field, Buxton is a star. Over his last three seasons, he’s hit 41 home runs in only 121 games, a 55-home run pace over a full season. He’s missed 12 games already this season but still has nine home runs. Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli heaped enormous praise on his center-fielder earlier this season, claiming “Right now, there’s no better player in the world than him.”

Buxton’s talent is like a myth, constantly whispered about but seldom seen because of all those injuries. The baseball world is waking up to just what kind of player he is. He’s currently at +600 odds to win MVP this season, fourth in the AL.

Ohtani. Trout. Judge. Buxton. They’re the star players on three teams on a clear path to the postseason. Individually, they’re the four top bets to be honored as the AL’s best in 2022.

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