After an unusual 2020 campaign, baseball aims to return to relative normalcy in 2021 with a planned 162-game season. Granted, COVID-19 and its related restrictions still have a presence – meaning there’s still a chance for players to miss some time as a result of the virus.
That said, a lot of unknowns have been eliminated compared to last season, and MLB futures wagering on end-of-season honors such as the Cy Young Award once again mostly involve weighing the risks one normally would have pre-2020.
As customary, there’s a formidable leaderboard for the award given to the best pitcher in each league as spring training opens across baseball. The page below looks at the updated Cy Young odds at sportsbooks and highlights some of the favorites, mid-level contenders and potential darkhorse candidates.
MLB Cy Young odds
Best Cy Young betting site(s)
Cy Young Futures Report (Feb. 25)
Odds provided below from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Gerrit Cole, Yankees (+330): A recipient of a pair of second-place votes in 2020, Cole had a strong first season in New York with a 7-3 record, 2.84 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The strikeout rate was once again well north of 30%, and given the run support he should once again benefit from in ’21, there’s every reason to believe he’ll be right in the thick of this race come season’s end should his health cooperate.
Shane Bieber, Indians (+330): The defending champ is unsurprisingly right at the top of the preseason leaderboard alongside Cole after receiving all 30 first-place votes last fall. Bieber’s ascension to elite status didn’t take long, as he accomplished the feat in just his third MLB season after demonstrating year-to-year improvement. Naturally, the one question mark he carries as opposed to Cole is whether he’s capable of posting a Cy Young-caliber effort over the course of a full season. That said, Bieber’s 33-start campaign in 2019 offers plenty of reason for optimism in that regard – the flame-throwing righty posted a 15-8 mark, 3.28 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 259:40 K:BB that season.
Lucas Giolito, White Sox (+500): Giolito has now put together back-to-back strong seasons for the first time in his MLB career, as he followed up a career-best 14-win campaign in 2019 with a 4-3 mark, 3.48 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 2020. The right-hander also posted a second consecutive elite strikeout rate (33.7%), is arguably entering his prime at age 26, and will be supported by an impressive group of young sluggers. However, his occasional issues keeping the ball in the park compared to Cole and Bieber could ultimately keep him behind both pitchers in this race.
AL second-level contenders
Tyler Glasnow, Rays (+1200): The raw talent has always been there for the towering right-hander, and it was seemingly ready to fully blossom in 2020 following Glasnow’s 6-1 record, 1.78 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 12 starts during a 2019 season interrupted by a forearm strain. Glasnow subsequently put in solid work in 2020 with a 5-1 mark and career-high 38.9% strikeout rate, although his ERA climbed to 4.08. Pulling the latter figure down while continuing to miss bats at an elite clip could certainly go a long way toward vaulting Glasnow into serious contention, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s now considered the true ace of the staff following the Blake Snell trade to the Padres.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Blue Jays (+1500): Ryu has a combined 26-10 record, 2.30 ERA and 1.04 WHIP across the 56 starts covering his last three seasons, so the Cy Young pedigree is there on paper. The veteran southpaw also shouldn’t lack for run support this coming season on a loaded Toronto squad that added George Springer to its plethora of young sluggers, and he already garnered the respect of voters last season in the form of four second-place votes. However, Ryu’s not an elite strikeout arm by any stretch, which could ultimately hurt him when measured against the numbers of Cole and Bieber.
Lance Lynn, White Sox (+1600): One of the senior members of the group, Lynn’s career has had a “always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride” quality to it. The right-hander has been a perennial source of double-digit victories during his long career, topping out at 18 wins with the Cardinals back in 2012 and hitting 15 or 16 in three other seasons. However, his ERA perpetually hovers in the 3.00s and his strikeout rate is solid but not elite – obstacles that could certainly affect his candidacy.
Jose Berrios, Twins (+1700): The Twins would undoubtedly love for the undeniably talented right-hander to finally put it all together one of these years, and perhaps 2021 is the long-awaited true breakout season. Berrios has appeared on the cusp before – his 14-8 campaigns in ’17 and ’19 serve as the most prominent examples. But his ERA seems to perpetually flirt with the 4.00 mark and both his control and ability to limit the long ball are serviceable but not upper-tier.
Kenta Maeda, Twins (+2000): Maeda notably received the most second-place votes (18) of any AL arm last season after posting a 6-1 mark and career-best 2.70 ERA for the contending Twins. The right-hander also mustered a career-high 32.3% strikeout rate, but there’s a healthy dose of skepticism considering he’d proven a solid but not upper-echelon pitcher in his prior full MLB seasons.
AL notable longshots
Jesus Luzardo, Athletics (+3500): Montas’ rotation mate, Luzardo, could just as well be the more viable darkhorse candidate between the two – although it may be a year early for the precocious left-hander. Luzardo appears to have all the makings of a potential multi-season Cy Young winner, and the talk as spring training begins is he’s rediscovered the breaking ball that gave him excellent results during his first taste of the bigs in 2019. Still just 23, Luzardo already has an 18-win season on his resume from his time at Double-A Midland in 2018, and it seems like just a matter of time before he figures out big-league bats consistently.
Corey Kluber, Yankees (+4000): Kluber is one of the more intriguing members of this group, considering his past body of work and the fact he’s coming off shoulder surgery that limited his 2020 Rangers tenure to just one start. Already a two-time Cy Young winner, Kluber undoubtedly had what it took to garner this honor at one point, but his last dominant showing was back in 2018 (20-7).
Dallas Keuchel, White Sox (+4000): The 2015 AL winner courtesy of a 20-win campaign, Keuchel had quite a resurgence in the Windy City last season with a 6-2 record and career bests in ERA (1.99) and WHIP (1.09). As with several other players in this field, there are some questions about whether he can come close to replicating last year’s short-season numbers at age 33, especially considering he hasn’t logged a full workload since 2018.
Frankie Montas, Athletics (+4500): Montas comes into 2021 primed to prove he’s much more the 2019 version of himself than that of last season. The right-hander managed just a 3-5 record, bloated 5.60 ERA and 1.51 WHIP across his 11 starts while seeing his control deteriorate to the tune of nearly four walks per nine innings and a 1.7 HR/9. Montas looked like an ace in the making two seasons ago with 9-2 record, 2.63 ERA and 26.1% strikeout rate, so a longshot wager at this price on him rediscovering his form may not be the most far-fetched idea.
Zack Greinke, Astros (+4500): Greinke took home this award in what seems like a lifetime ago (2009), and he did it with a good-but-not-great 16-8 record for the Royals that season. However, the bar is higher these days with pitchers like Cole and Bieber at the top of the heap. Not that Greinke may not have what it takes to still work his way firmly into the conversation. The 37-year-old just posted the second-best win total (18) of his career two seasons ago and should get plenty of offensive support despite the departure of Springer to the Blue Jays this offseason.
Jacob deGrom, Mets (+380): With Noah Syndergaard missing the entire 2020 season due to his recovery from Tommy John surgery, deGrom posted a 4-2 record, 2.38 ERA and 0.96 WHIP – impressive figures he complemented with a career-best 38.2% strikeout rate. The veteran also generated a 22.0% swinging strike rate that served as a new high-water mark and he is the favorite to dethrone Trevor Bauer – who interrupted deGrom’s two-year reign as NL Cy Young winner. The fact that the Mets lineup is also positively loaded certainly works in his favor, although seeing him nearly double up Bauer’s odds is somewhat surprising.
Trevor Bauer, Dodgers (+700): Speaking of the outspoken right-hander, his seven-figure deal with the Dodgers ensures he’ll be even more a subject of conversation than usual. Bauer earned the windfall with a career-best showing in Cincinnati last season, when he posted a 1.73 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 35.3% strikeout rate on his way to the 2020 NL award. The size of Bauer’s deal and his multi-season history as an elite strikeout pitcher certainly help support his current second-place slotting on the leaderboard – while the fact he’ll be backed up by the Dodgers’ collection of powerful bats helps his cause as well.
Max Scherzer, Nationals (+1000): Scherzer is still warranting a top-five placing in the NL Cy Young market at age 36, despite a 2020 season where he was a tad more hittable than usual. The hard-throwing right-hander’s 3.74 ERA was his highest since 2012, while his 1.38 WHIP was actually a career-worst figure. However, those numbers were far from poor and simply indicative of how long Mad Max has been a dominant figure. Scherzer still posted a strikeout rate north of 30% last season, and given his intense competitive nature, he could be in contention for the fourth Cy Young award of his storied career.
Walker Buehler, Dodgers (+1000): Buehler had just one decision in eight starts last season, but he posted a solid 3.44 ERA and impressive 0.95 WHIP across 36.2 innings. Those numbers come on the heels of a 14-4 record, 3.26 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 2019 that seemed to have Buehler on the precipice of a breakout had it not been for the abbreviated nature of the 2020 campaign. As with Bauer, the combination of Buehler’s talent and that of the Dodgers as a whole should keep him in the thick of the Cy Young race provided he’s blessed with good health.
NL second-level contenders
Aaron Nola, Phillies (+1200): Nola churned out a combined 41 wins during the 2017-19 seasons, so the talent is certainly there for the type of numbers that could warrant the right-hander serious consideration. Nola was impressive last season as well with a career-high 33.5% strikeout rate, and he’ll once again be front and center as the ace of the staff in what should be a highly competitive NL East.
Yu Darvish, Padres (+1200): Darvish looked like he was trending in the wrong direction after his first season in Chicago in 2018, but the veteran bounced back with an 8-3 record, 2.01 ERA and 0.96 WHIP across 12 starts in 2020. Chicago promptly shipped him to the Padres this offseason as part of a multi-player deal, meaning he’ll have a chance to prove the career-best figures he posted in walk rate (4.7%) and home-run prevention (0.6 HR/9) aren’t a fluke in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park during many of his starts.
Jack Flaherty, Cardinals (+1300): Flaherty entered 2020 looking to build on a 2019 season where he’d posted an encouraging 11-8 record, 2.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP that seemed to have him on the verge of a breakout. Flaherty was still impressive by most standards during the abbreviated season. Yet, the latter pair of figures rose to 4.91 and 1.21, respectively – largely as a result of a disastrous outing versus the Brewers where he allowed nine earned runs across three innings. That hiccup aside, there’s no reason to think Flaherty can’t get the train back on track in ’21, although whether he can do it to a Cy Young level remains to be seen.
Luis Castillo, Reds (+1500): Much like his AL counterpart Berrios, Castillo seemingly has the stuff to be elite but hasn’t quite put it all together yet. The right-hander has an electric upper 90s fastball and produced a 15-win season in 2019, however, and even his 4-6 record in 2020 was accompanied by a 3.21 ERA. Whether he’ll reliably get the run support he needs from an inconsistent Reds lineup may be the biggest question attached to his candidacy.
Blake Snell, Padres (+2000): There will be plenty of eyes on Snell after his move from the AL champion Rays following an impressive 2020 season. The left-hander bounced back nicely from a so-so 2019 to post a 4-2 record and 3.24 ERA, looking more like the dominant pitcher who’d produced a 21-win effort in 2018 that earned him AL Cy Young honors. Like Darvish, Snell will have Petco Park as an asset in many of his starts this season, giving him a reasonable shot of adding the NL version of the award to his trophy case.
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (+2000): Strasburg made just two 2020 starts before getting shut down with a hand issue that eventually required surgery. He’s reportedly fully healthy entering spring training, and it’s worth remembering he’d put together a career-best 18 wins in 2019 that earned him six second-place votes that year. Naturally, Strasburg could be overshadowed by his rotation mate Scherzer and have some rustiness to overcome early, but his current price seems have those factors built in.
NL notable longshots
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (+2500): One can never forgot about Kershaw, a three-time winner, when considering Cy Young candidates, especially since he’s showing no signs of slowing down and should have a championship-caliber team around him once again. The crafty southpaw left no doubt he has plenty left in the tank after a 6-2 record, 2.16 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 2020, and he should be right in the heart of the race again in 2021.
Sonny Gray, Reds (+3500): Gray headed into the 2020 season with three straight double-digit win campaigns and proceeded to have a solid year (5-3, 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP). He also missed bats at a career-best rate (11.6 K/9, 30.6 K%), and he’ll now be challenged to repeat or exceed those feats while once again frequently toeing the rubber at the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
Zack Wheeler, Phillies (+5500): Wheeler proved a prudent free agent investment for the Phillies in the shortened 2020 campaign, given his career-low 2.92 ERA and 4-2 record. He’ll now look to generate that caliber of performance over his first full season in Philadelphia, a task that could prove an uphill battle with teams like the Braves and his former Mets squad sporting some intimidating lineups within the division. Wheeler proved he was a solid No. 3-type starter during his time in the Big Apple, but he’s now out to demonstrate his worthiness as a virtual co-ace of the staff alongside Nola.
David Price, Dodgers (+7000): Much like Kluber in the AL, Price is a proven commodity that’s nevertheless saddled with some ambiguity in 2021. The big left-hander opted out of the 2020 season as a means of COVID-19 prevention, so it’s conceivable he’s both very well rested and rusty to open the new season. Price has 20 and 19-win seasons on his career resume and was the AL’s 2012 winner as a member of the Rays, and he garnered 16 wins as recently as 2018. At age 35 but fresh from a year off, Price is certainly a longshot, but an interesting candidate to track nonetheless.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets (+8000): Speaking of pitchers long on both talent and uncertainty, Syndergaard fits the bill perfectly. His odds here may actually not be long enough when factoring in he’s not slated to pitch until approximately June as he completes his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard’s combined 23-12 record between the ’18 and ’19 seasons and above-average ability to keep the ball in the park support the notion of “Thor” eventually taking the leap into greatness, but it would presumably take some fittingly “mythical” numbers over a condensed 2021 for him to pull the sizable upset.
How to bet on the Cy Young
Placing an MLB futures bet on the AL or NL Cy Young award is all about mixing risk with reward. Your bet of choice will need to stay healthy and approach both 30 starts and 200 innings in a normal 162-game season. This is made more complicated by needing to target pitchers likely to rack up more than 200 strikeouts.
Preseason odds are assigned based on past pitcher and team success, and they’ll be regularly updated throughout the season based on current performance, as well as the public’s betting action. The favorites, as seen above, generally are the aces of teams expected to get to the MLB Playoffs. Getting top value means bettors need to correctly predict who’ll be the best pitcher on the team that will best exceed their expectations.
As mentioned earlier, many teams are stocked with two or even three “aces” in their starting five. This means that come voting season these pitchers will be sharing, or splitting, votes among themselves. It’s wise to target the more proven commodities on these teams, as they’re viewed as the de facto No. 1 option by those who aren’t true fans of the team.
The odds are best before the season, and they’ll become less and less profitable as the favorites emerge mid-way through the season. Bieber, who won last season’s AL Cy Young Award, opened with +330 odds at FanDuel for this season. This would return a profit of $330 on a $100 bet if he were to go back-to-back.
Where can I bet on the Cy Young Award?
To access these odds, head to the primary MLB/Baseball tab at your online book of choice. From there, select Futures from a drop-down menu and proceed to Player Futures or Awards. The American and National League Cy Young contenders will be displayed on separate lists or charts. The betting options will include all pitchers (starters and relievers) the books view as viable Cy Young candidates. Emerging contenders will be added throughout the year and injured or struggling pitchers may be dropped from the options.
How the Cy Young Award is decided
As discussed above, players from the same team often need to split votes. This is because the Cy Young voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are chosen from each MLB city. The local BBWAA chapter chairman of each city recommends two beat writers from daily newspapers, magazines or select websites. Writers from National League cities then vote for the NL Cy Young award and writers from American League cities vote for the AL Cy Young award.
Each writer is able to submit a ballot of five players for the Cy Young award. These ballots must be submitted prior to the start of the postseason and votes are then tallied based on a points system. A first-place vote is worth 7 points. Second-place is 4 points, third is 3 points, fourth is 2 points and a fifth-place vote is worth a single point.
Unlike with the MVP awards being open to the writer/voter’s interpretation of what Most Valuable Player may mean, the Cy Young simply goes to the best pitcher from either league. To be regarded as a top contender, pitchers must remain relatively healthy all season, and reach the desired statistical milestones of each voter.
The most hotly-debated issue when it comes to who’s worth a vote is “pitcher wins”. Some writers will discredit a hurler for finishing with a win-loss record below .500, or at least below another comparable pitcher. Others base their vote(s) purely on more individual pitcher statistics such as ERA, xFIP, and strikeout and walk rates.
Cy Young betting history: recent winners
|Year||AL Winner||Odds||NL Winner||Odds|
|2020||Shane Bieber (CLE)||+1200||Trevor Bauer (CIN)||+2000|
|2019||Justin Verlander (HOU)||+1500||Jacob deGrom (NYM)||+350|
|2018||Blake Snell (TB)||+10000||Jacob deGrom (NYM)||+2500|
|2017||Corey Kluber (CLE)||+4000||Max Scherzer (WAS)||+350|
|2016||Rick Porcello (BOS)||+20000||Max Scherzer (WAS)||+10000|
|2015||Dallas Keuchel (HOU)||+15000||Jake Arrieta (CHC)||+4000|
|2014||Corey Kluber (CLE)||N/A||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||+500|
|2013||Max Scherzer (DET)||+2000||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||+600|
|2012||David Price (TB)||+700||R.A. Dickey (NYM)||N/A|
|2011||Justin Verlander (DET)||+1000||Clayton Kershaw (LAD)||+1500|
|2010||Felix Hernandez (SEA)||+500||Roy Halladay (PHI)||+250|