Only about one-third of the MLB season remains, but several awards races remain wide open. Among them: both NL MVP and Cy Young. The 2021 NL awards odds reflect the uncertainty with handfuls of players in legitimate contention.
Elite performers Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jacob deGrom find themselves on the shelf with injury. Fellow longtime top-three MVP favorite Ronald Acuna Jr. is even worse off, done for the year.
How have all of the injuries changed the markets? Which players could emerge to cash futures tickets by getting hot down the stretch? We break it down below with odds tables that show the best available price for each player among legal sportsbooks in your state.
2021 NL MVP Odds Still Favor Injured Tatis Jr.
Tatis Jr. has generously spotted the field about 30 games this year, give or take. Despite going down twice with shoulder injuries, Tatis Jr. still leads the NL position players with 4.5 WAR. The projections have him finishing atop the board with 6.1 WAR, albeit narrowly.
Everything points to a very tight race, but the markets have tabbed Tatis Jr. as the frontrunner at .
Perhaps recent good news has influenced his standing. The latest reports say he’s likely to return soon in an outfield role to ease the pressure on his shoulder. Frankly, given his defense at shortstop, that might be ideal for everyone involved.
Still, given Tatis Jr.’s struggles with his shoulder, there’s no guarantee he’s able to stay on the field and rack up more numbers. The door remains cracked and several players can surpass him.
Harper, The Dodgers, Or Someone Else?
His biggest threat according to the market (and the author): Bryce Harper. The 2015 winner projects to finish behind no less than three Dodgers (Max Muncy, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts) in terms of WAR.
Yet, he has a couple of things going for him. For one, which Dodgers deserves the most credit? Voters may have a tough time answering that question.
For another, Harper figures to have the best narrative behind him. He’s slashing an outrageous .370/.516/.740 since the All-Star Break with a 222 wRC+. That powered the Phillies from also-ran to top of the NL East. FanGraphs now projects them to take the division, albeit with 86 wins.
In a crowded field, the story that Harper caught fire in the second half to lead his team to the playoffs might carry weight with voters.
Defending winner Freddie Freeman () is the only other player with a reasonable chance. However, he should finish way below the rest of these guys in WAR and may suffer from some voter fatigue after winning last year.
As for the longshots, Kris Bryant () could be the most interesting name. His rest-of-season projections (~1 WAR) doesn’t excite, but if he catches fire and finishes around 5 WAR with the Giants as the top seed, he has a shot in an unexciting field.
In a pure race for WAR, an NL hurler actually looks fairly likely to take the crown this year. However, history shows pitchers have a tough time snagging MVP hardware. Instead, they’ll concern themselves with…
Cy Young Award: Former Favorite deGrom Now A Longshot
Jacob deGrom appeared to have a stranglehold on the his third Cy in four years, the next chapter in one of the most impressive runs in pitching history. The NL Cy Young markets became a boring afterthought with deGrom listed around -1000 at the peak of his destruction this year.
And make no mistake, one can only use the most powerful superlatives when describing deGrom’s 2021. He reached a staggering degree of dominance, pitching like an elite reliever except doing it seven innings at a time. Even the notoriously conservative computer projections believe he has a true talent of ~2 ERA. He’s by far the best starting pitcher in the world.
But, perhaps his insane velocity jumps have finally caught up to him. He went on the injured list in early July with the always ominous forearm tightness and experience a setback in his journey back to the mound. A September return looks like the best-case scenario.
Amazingly enough, he still ranks second in fWAR, but he has effectively dropped out of the race and off the 2021 NL awards odds. That -1000 has become .
Who will take the throne?
Wheeler Emerges As Favorite
Zack Wheeler has put together one of the quietest WAR-leading seasons in recent memory.
In his second season in Philly, the former sixth overall pick has finally turned his evident talent into excellent results. Always a hard-thrower with a great slider, Wheeler has increased the use of said slider and finally owns an elite 29 K% to go with his usual low-walk, heavy-grounder skills.
The result: 5.6 WAR. Along with Harper, he has powered the Phillies to a long-awaited potential playoff berth.
It took some time for the markets to really take notice, but after an 11 K complete game shutout against the Mets, he’s now .
Brewers, NL West Arms Chasing
Like MVP, the NL Cy Young chase still features plenty of legitimate contenders.
Corbin Burnes looks like the most intriguing of the candidates. He’s knotted with deGrom at 4.9 fWAR and has actually been better than Wheeler on a rate basis this year (2.39 ERA, 1.66 FIP). He has some deGrom-like peripherals, in fact, boasting a better K% and lower BB% than Wheeler.
Burnes faces a couple of obstacles that have him listed at . He lags more than 40 IP behind Wheeler, so his accumulating stats suffered. Furthermore, like the MVP hopefuls in L.A., Burnes may split votes with fellow short-list candidate Brandon Woodruff ().
The NL West has unsurprisingly produced more than its share of contenders as well:
- Walker Buehler ()
- Kevin Gausman ()
- Max Scherzer ()
The markets have Buehler as the top threat to Wheeler in 2021 NL awards odds. He suffers in the fWAR charts due to comparatively lower strikeouts and reliance on contact management, though he does better in bWAR. A Dodgers surge into first would greatly aid his cause. The Giants remain four games up.
Gausman and Scherzer just haven’t been quite as strong as the other contenders. Scherzer’s status as a traded player could work against him, but it could also work for him if dominates down the stretch and voters perceive him as the difference in a first-place finish.