A few weeks ago, it would have been a lot easier to write our annual MLB midseason futures article. All we needed to do was pencil in the Cubs as World Series champs, note that Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta were runaway Cy Young favorites, and hand Trevor Story the NL Rookie of the Year.
Then disaster struck (from a now-we-have-to-do-actual-work perspective). The Cubs are in a relative tailspin; Kershaw is on the DL; Arrieta looks decidedly human; and Trevor Story – while still jacking some long balls – is striking out an alarming rate and seeing his average drop.
Ugh. Fine. I guess we’ll do some “research” and “analysis.”
Who are the favorites for the MLB’s biggest and best hardware as we head into the All-Star Break? Who’s going to dominate the Midsummer Classic? Who’s The OG sports crew breaks it all down.
Chicago Cubs: 9/1
San Francisco Giants: 9/1
Texas Rangers: 11/1
Baltimore Orioles: 12/1
Cleveland Indians: 12/1
Houston Astros: 12/1
Toronto Blue Jays 25/2
Washington Nationals: 25/2
New York Mets: 16/1
Boston Red Sox: 18/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 20/1
Kansas City Royals: 28/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 33/1
Miami Marlins: 35/1
Seattle Mariners: 35/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 35/1
Detroit Tigers: 40/1
Chicago White Sox: 50/1
New York Yankees: 75/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 125/1
Colorado Rockies: 150/1
Los Angeles Angels: 200/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 200/1
Oakland Athletics: 250/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 300/1
San Diego Padres: 500/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 1000/1
Cincinnati Reds: 2500/1
Minnesota Twins: 2500/1
Atlanta Braves: 5000/1
This isn’t the foregone conclusion everyone thought it was a short time ago. The Cubs have lost seven of their last ten. They don’t even have the best record in the majors anymore. That honor belongs to the Giants, and the Nationals, Rangers, and Indians are hot on their heels. What do all of those teams have in common? Phenomenal pitching. At this point, any one of them could get hot at the right time and go on an October run.
We give the Cubbies and Giants the slight edge, though: the Cubs because they have a record-setting offense to go with their shutdown staff; the Giants because it’s an even-numbered year. JK. The Giants because they have a ton of playoff experience and two of the most dominant arms in the game at the moment (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto). – Alexander P.
As you could guess from the above, there isn’t a lot to separate the most likely World Series matchups at this point, especially given the nature of the AL. The Rangers and Indians have both looked unstoppable at times this year. They’ve also both looked eminently beatable at other points.
Do the Rangers have the pitching and defense to make a run? Do the Indians have the bats? On paper, the Astros have everything necessary and are quickly rebounding from their inexplicably bad start. – Alexander P.
Manny Machado (Orioles): 13/3
His 19 home runs and .321 batting average are only secondary to why Machado deserves this award. His biggest impact is with his glove.
Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): 9/2
The reigning MVP is on fire right now. The “Bringer of Rain” has batted-in 30 runs over his last 30 games and is hitting .407 in that time. His offense hasn’t been the only awe-inspiring aspect of his game, though. He’s been just as good with the glove.
Mark Trumbo (Orioles): 6/1
His 26 home runs currently lead the majors, but he’ll have to increase that pace if he wants to outshine fellow teammate, Manny Machado.
Mookie Betts (Red Sox): 8/1
The Red Sox recent struggles has Betts falling in the MVP-race. He doesn’t hit for Bogaerts’ average, but he has the sexy stats, including 18 home runs.
Robinson Cano (Mariners): 8/1
The rise of the Astros has people forgetting about the season Cano is having. Although, he is getting a lot more help from Nelson Cruz now.
Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays): 12/1
Edwin leads the majors in RBIs with 77, but he’ll need to continue playing more first-base if he wants a shot at being named MVP; only one designated hitter has ever won the award.
Jose Altuve (Houston Astros): 12/1
Altuve’s .346 batting average leads the AL, and no one would ever question his glove. He just lacks the home runs and RBIs to be a serious contender.
– Davis Matthews
Kris Bryant (Cubs): 15/4 [Editor’s note: this article incorrectly listed Bryant’s odds at 2/1 originally.]
He’s the offensive leader on the NL Central-leading Cubs. Despite it being an individual award, team success is often a big factor. His NL-leading 25 home runs help, too.
Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 9/2
Arenado has 23 home runs this season, and an NL-leading 70 RBIs. The only thing holding him back is Colorado’s mediocre record.
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 5/1
Since 1969, only one pitcher has won the NL MVP. That man was Clayton Kershaw in 2014. His 2016 numbers are right there with what they were in his MVP season.
Daniel Murphy (Nationals): 8/1
It’s hard to argue that he hasn’t been the Nationals’ most valuable player thus far. He has 59 RBIs and an incredible .346 batting average, which leads the NL.
Bryce Harper (Nationals): 17/2
After a slow-start had everyone talking Daniel Murphy, Harper is starting to heat up. Three home runs and six RBIs over his last seven games mean the reigning MVP is back in the conversation.
Anthony Rizzo (Cubs): 15/1
Kris Bryant has been very hot of late, but Rizzo has been much more consistent than his teammate.
Yoenis Cespedes (Mets): 18/1
He’s carried the Mets offensively all season, and currently has them in a Wild Card spot. Yet, he’ll have to shoulder an even heavier load now with Matt Harvey opting for season-ending surgery.
– Davis Matthews
Danny Salazar (Indians): 2/1
Cleveland has its pitchers to thank for their AL Central-leading 51 wins, and Salazar has been the standout of the group. His 2.36 ERA leads the AL.
Chris Sale (White Sox): 5/2
He’s been one of the best pitchers in the AL over the last four seasons, but has always been outdone in the Cy Young race. His 14 wins lead the majors, but he’ll need to close the ERA gap with Salazar if he wants to take home his first Cy Young.
Cole Hamels (Rangers): 6/1
The Rangers’ 53 wins lead the AL and they can thank Hamels for keeping the rotation strong. His 2.93 ERA has him tied with Sale for third in the AL.
Steven Wright (Red Sox): 8/1
Who would’ve thought the Red Sox best starting pitcher at this point of the season would be Steven Wright? His WHIP may not be that great, but his 2.68 ERA is second to only Salazar.
Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays): 10/1
Not to take anything away from Sanchez, but had Marco Estrada not gone on the 15-day DL, he would occupy this spot, mostly because of the suggested “innings-limit” the Jays have imposed on Sanchez. If he continues pitching this well, though, there’s no way Toronto can put him in the bullpen.
– Davis Matthews
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 5/4
For explanation, look to his odds for the MVP.
Jake Arrieta (Cubs): 4/1
He’s the ace of arguably the best staff in the league, but his 2.33 ERA would look a lot better if Kershaw weren’t around.
Madison Bumgarner (Giants): 7/1
He may not be among the leaders in wins, but his 2.09 ERA and 1.02 WHIP have him right in the thick of the race.
Johnny Cueto (Giants): 9/1
He’s looking like his 2014-self, who was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young award.
Stephen Strasburg (Nationals): 9/1
Although his 2.71 ERA does not place him in the top-ten of the NL, he has yet to lose a game this year.
– Davis Matthews
Michael Fulmer (Tigers): 3/4
In the 13 games he has started this season, he has posted a 2.11 ERA, and a 9-2 record. If he continues at this pace, he will pitch his name into the Cy Young race too.
Nomar Mazara (Rangers): 4/1
Mazara’s 36 RBIs is sixth on the AL-leading Rangers, and he’s cemented himself as an everyday player.
Dae-Ho Lee (Mariners):
He leads AL rookies with 37 RBIs, and has done it in only 63 games.
– Davis Matthews
Trevor Story (Rockies): 5/6
Story’s 21 home runs and 55 RBIs lead all rookies; who played shortstop before him again?
Aledmys Diaz (Cardinals): 4/1
He’s hitting .319 as the everyday shortstop for a very good team. He needs to close the home run gap to have a shot though.
Kenta Maeda (Dodgers): 8/1
His season has been very up-and-down, but he is the second-best pitcher on a playoff team. That’ll get him some votes.
– Davis Matthews
Jeff Bannister (Rangers): 5/2
Who would’ve expected this from the Texas Rangers this year? I’m sure at least Bannister did.
Terry Francona (Indians): 10/3
It’s too bad the Cavaliers already snapped the title-drought, because Francona has this ball-club playing some great baseball.
Buck Showalter (Orioles): 5/1
The Orioles are barely holding onto the AL East right now, but if they can hold off the Blue Jays, Buck will be a front-runner for the Manager of the Year.
– Davis Matthews
Bruce Bochy (Giants): 5/3
The Giants have overtaken the Cubs for the best winning-percentage in the majors, and, subsequently, Bochy has done the same to Joe Maddon.
Joe Maddon (Cubs): 11/6
The reigning NL Manager of the Year has seen him team stall out a little over the last couple of weeks. There is still lots of baseball to play though.
Dusty Baker (Nationals): 4/1
Someone has finally squeezed some of the potential out of this roster.
– Davis Matthews
American League: 10/11
National League: 11/10
When both teams are stacked to the ceiling with talent and homefield advantage doesn’t really exist, what really separates the two? In this case, it’s two players: Mike Trout and David Ortiz. Trout has only one speed: game. Never turning it off has led to him winning two straight All-Star Game MVP’s. As for Big Papi, his farewell tour should provide some “win one for the Gipper” motivation for a game that is otherwise lacking any. – Walter Chesterfield
Mike Trout (Angels): 4/1
David Ortiz (Red Sox): 5/1
Bryce Harper (Nationals): 10/1
Wil Myers (Padres): 12/1
Manny Machado (Orioles): 14/1
Nolan Arenado (Rockies): 14/1
Jose Altuve (Astros): 16/1
Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins): 4/1
Mark Trumbo (Orioles): 5/1
Todd Frazier (White Sox): 6/1
Adam Duvall (Reds): 7/1
Wil Myers (Padres): 8/1
Corey Seager (Dodgers): 17/2
Robinson Cano (Mariners): 9/1
Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies): 9/1
Giancarlo Stanton – destroyer of baseballs – is the favorite thanks to the new format that actually rewards hitting parked cars (or over 475 ft to be exact). Still, the head-to-head format means anything can happen if an opponent gets hot, so the event is just about as wide open as they come. Frazier and Cano are the only two that have previously won a derby, though everyone but Myers, Seager, and Duvall has appeared in at least one. – Walter Chesterfield
Bryan Price (Reds): 7/2
Mike Scioscia (Angels): 11/2
Bob Melvin (Athletics): 7/1
Chip Hale (Diamondbacks): 8/1
Kevin Cash (Rays): 9/1
A couple managers hearing whispers of their own job security have guided their teams back to respectability, specifically Brad Ausmus (Tigers) and Robin Ventura (White Sox). The bench bosses whose teams haven’t gotten off the mat will see their names here. Price hasn’t had much to work with in Cincinnati, but also hasn’t really shown any reason to be trusted, compiling a .420 win percentage over two and a half seasons.
Scioscia was hired to be the Angels manager before Y2K, but as great as his run has been, L.A. has been an utter disappointment these past few years. This season may finally be the excuse to let him go. – Walter Chesterfield
Nine players have already been suspended for PED use this season, including Dee Gordon (Marlins), Marlon Byrd (Indians), Chris Colabello (Blue Jays), and, most recently, Alec Asher (Phillies). You’d think the rate at which players are getting caught would motivate guys to, y’know, stop taking PEDs. But it hasn’t … and it won’t, not when roster spots (and, in turn, cash-money) are at stake. – Alexander P.
C’mon, big leaguers. Actually, c’mon athletes in general. Actually, c’mon humanity as a whole. Jose Reyes, Hector Olivera, Aroldis Chapman: all three have been suspended for domestic violence issues in the last 12 months. While I’d like to say I have faith in the general goodness of people, baseball players included, I just can’t anymore.
The Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang is currently under investigation for sexual assault. – Alexander P.
Featured photo: bengrey (flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.
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