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Smart money on Hanley Ramirez, Jay Bruce in prop bets

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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.

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.