Hanley Ramirez Getty

Smart money on Hanley Ramirez, Jay Bruce in prop bets

26 Comments

Bovada released its player prop bets for the 2014 season on Wednesday, providing odds on the AL and NL MVP and Cy Young races, as well as MLB’s home run leader. Here’s a look at what I consider to be the best bets in each category. Please do note, though, all information here is for entertainment purposes only.

AL MVP

Mike Trout – 5/1
Miguel Cabrera – 6/1
Adrian Beltre – 16/1

This is one spot where I’d seriously think about going with the favorites. I’d say it’s better than 50-50 that Trout or Cabrera will claim the award, and the opportunity is there to bet both and still make some cash. Cabrera, of course, has won two in a row.

Since RBI remains king, Beltre, who has tied for the eighth best odds here, has the best chance to upset them. He’s in position to drive in a ton of runs behind Shin-Soo Choo, Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder in the Texas order.

My favorite sleeper pick doesn’t get listed by Bovada, which probably means he’d get 50:1 odds. That’s Carlos Santana, who is also in position to drive in a whole bunch of runs behind Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis in the Cleveland lineup.

NL MVP

Hanley Ramirez – 25/1
Paul Goldschmidt – 9/1
Jay Bruce – 33/1

Ramirez was the NL’s best hitter in the half-season he was healthy last year, and his Dodgers are the clear favorites in the NL West. I see him making a run at a batting title and hitting about 30 homers. He’s my pick for MVP, long odds or no.

Goldschmidt has the third best odds here behind Andrew McCutchen (6/1) and Joey Votto (7/1). Because, again, RBI is king, I’d say he’s more likely to win than either of those two. However, for it to happen, he’ll need the Diamondbacks to make the postseason.

Bruce is going to have at least one 40-homer, 120-RBI season before he’s done. I doubt he’ll actually be a better player than Votto, but he’s the one of the two more likely to win an MVP, mostly because he gets to hit behind the guy with the .430 OBP.

AL Cy Young

Alex Cobb – 33/1
Justin Verlander – 12/1
Felix Hernandez – 15/1

Bovada and I agree: AL Cy Young is the most wide open of the four major awards. Their top choice here, Yu Darvish, has the highest odds (8/1) of the favorites. I don’t have a real favorite here, either. My projections call for Verlander, Hernandez, Darvish, David Price, Cobb and Chris Sale to all finish with ERAs in the 3.00-3.20 range, with no one lower than that. I’d be tempted to throw a couple of bucks on Cobb, but I’d probably otherwise shy away.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw – 13/2
Madison Bumgarner – 15/1
Stephen Strasburg – 8/1

I’d go with the favorite here: Kershaw seems like he should be closer to 4:1 to repeat, in my opinion. If he doesn’t pitch up to his ability, that might open the door for Bumgarner. One sleeper pick who didn’t get odds from Bovada: Homer Bailey. He’d be really nice at 50:1 or 66:1.

MLB home run leader

Jay Bruce: 25/1
Chris Davis: 8/1
Giancarlo Stanton: 10/1
Justin Upton: 75/1

I have nine guys projected to hit at least 34 homers this season:

39 – Davis
38 – Stanton
37 – Bruce, Fielder
35 – Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Trumbo
34 – Pedro Alvarez, Edwin Encarncion

Bovada has Davis as the favorite at 8/1, followed by Cabrera at 9/1 and Stanton at 10/1. So we line up rather closely here. Bruce at 25/1 seems like the best bet to me: very good HR ballpark, very durable, three straight 30-homer seasons. Trumbo at 20/1 isn’t bad, either.

For a long shot, Upton is rather tempting. I have him at 30 homers, but he’s capable of doing better. Last year, he hit 12 in April alone, and he’s just now entering his age-26 season.

Video: Minor leaguer dives over the wall to rob a home run

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.53.54 AM
Leave a comment

Meanwhile, in Tulsa, Zach Welz of the visiting Arkansas Travelers made a spectacular catch. It was the catch Torii Hunter tried to make on that famous David Ortiz homer in the playoffs a few years back except Welz made it.

Watch as he topples over the wall to come up with the would-be dinger off the bat of Tulsa Drillers first baseman Cody Bellinger:

MLB, MLBPA move to help baseball in Puerto Rico. After hurting baseball in Puerto Rico.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JUNE 30:  A Puerto Rican flag flies from a building a day after the speech Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla gave regarding the government's $72 billion debt on June 30, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The Governor said in his speech that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Getty Images
11 Comments

Yesterday Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union announced that they will play games in Puerto Rico as part of a plan to develop and support baseball on the island. They likewise pledged $5 million for the creation of development programs in Puerto Rico and plan to stage special events there.

The press release about this made mention of Puerto Rico’s undeniably outstanding baseball tradition. What it did not mention is that, in the view of many, Major League Baseball itself harmed that tradition significantly when it decided to subject Puerto Rican players to the draft in 1990. A move that the MLBPA signed off on too, of course. Indeed, there’s a pretty strong argument that, if it were not for MLB and the MLBPA’s own acts, there would be no need to “develop and support” baseball in Puerto Rico like this at all.

An exploration of this can be read in this 2012 article from The New York Times. The article (and many, many others like it which have been written over the years) notes the sharp decline of Puerto Rico’s professional and amateur baseball leagues and observes that the once steady flow of players making their way from the island to the major leagues being reduced to a trickle.* (see update below) Why?

No one here disputes the diminished stature of baseball in Puerto Rico, and most agree on the culprit: Major League Baseball’s decision, in 1990, to include Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, in its first-year player draft. This means Puerto Rican players must wait until they have completed high school to sign a professional contract, and then they are going up against players from the United States and Canada in the draft.

Perhaps more important, major league teams have less incentive to cultivate talent in Puerto Rico because those players may end up with another team through the draft.

Sandy Alderson is quoted in that article dismissing the notion that the draft was to blame, but even his dodge is couched in basic economic incentives. He claims that, hey, there is stuff that is more financially lucrative for people to do in Puerto Rico than play baseball now. Well, sure. I’d just like him to explain how radically reducing the amount of money a kid can get from playing baseball due to taking away his right to sign with the highest bidder and by utterly killing the incentives for clubs to invest in developing players doesn’t enter into that calculus. Alderson doesn’t explain that one.

No matter what Major League Baseball might say on the record about all of this now, the fact remains that no one spent the past 26 years building academies in Puerto Rico like they have in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. No one has an incentive to turn a 12-year-old with promise into a 16-year-old prospect like they do in those countries because there is no longer any way for a teenager to sign for life-changing money like they can elsewhere. The draft has saved Major League Baseball hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to Puerto Rican players over the past 26 years and it has reduced the number of prospects who may push high-salaried MLBPA members out of work, but has done tremendous damage to the baseball tradition to which Major League Baseball and the MLBPA now pay lip service.

I’m glad that MLB and the MLBPA are doing something about baseball in Puerto Rico. But $5 million over the course of four or five years, which is what this plan involves, a couple of games (if they’re even played), doesn’t even represent a fraction of the damage that the league and the union inflicted when they imposed the draft.

UPDATE: A couple of people who know a hell of a lot about this stuff have pushed back against my post on Twitter:

Marcano has written a book about the excesses and abuses involved in the development of baseball talent in Latin America. He is 100% right about this and, to the extent my writing above made it sound like I was endorsing the model in place in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic on its own terms, I want to be clear that I am not. There is a lot of bad stuff that goes on there and for every kids signing a million dollar bonus, there are hundreds who find themselves at a professional dead end or far, far worse.

That said: Major League Baseball has no problem exploiting that system in those countries and its move to impose the draft in Puerto Rico was not born of some principled stand against those excesses. It was to be a foothold for an international draft which is primarily about cost savings. It would be quite possible to have a system in place that both (a) protects kids from abuses; but (b) provides the sorts of financial incentives to make baseball a worthwhile pursuit for those with the talent to play it.

Also:

Cooper, the managing editor of Baseball America, so he knows of what he speaks, notes that from 1987-1990, before the draft was imposed, 19 Puerto Ricans made their Major League debut. From 2000-03, 23 made their debuts. From 2013-16, 22 made their debuts.

That certainly blows my above comment about “reducing the flow of players to the majors to a trickle” out of the water. That said, Major League Baseball’s move yesterday was not just about the pipeline to the majors. It’s about baseball overall in Puerto Rico. Those numbers reflecting that the top eschelon of talent is still making it to the majors are undeniable, but the Times article from 2012 talks about the erosion of amateur leagues, Puerto Rico’s diminished standing in international tournaments and the reduction in size of the Puerto Rican winter league.

So, OK, I’ll walk back my comments about just how much the imposition of the draft in 1990 damaged baseball in Puerto Rico, but I maintain that it’s hard to argue that it did not do some damage.