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2021 World Series Winner
Los Angeles Dodgers (+350)
There is no secret that the Dodgers have the top team in baseball in 2021. They have depth, starting rotation talent, and improving bullpen depth. If they need another midseason piece to the championship puzzle, Los Angeles has the prospects in their system to fill any possible voids. The top of their starting lineup is explosive while having the firepower to smash a league-high in home runs. Gavin Lux is the next young player to rise to stardom at the major league level. I also like the OVER for team wins.
My dark horse to make a World Series push is Cleveland. They have been a postseason contender in four of their last five seasons. They rely on pitching to win games, and their bucket remains full with developing arms even after the departure of Trevor Bauer. Their offense has some work to do, and the bullpen needs time to develop. If Cleveland makes the playoffs, they will be a dangerous team as long as one of the top pitchers behind Shane Bieber develops into an ace by the end of the season.
Check out Sports Illustrated's MLB writers' Playoff and World Series Predictions.
Chicago White Sox (+850)
The value for the White Sox at +850 is what's most intriguing here. They have what I believe to be the second easiest path to the postseason in the American League behind the Yankees (+550), with a better bullpen and more consistency in their rotation.
And did I mention they have guys like Luis Robert who can make your jaw drop on any given night?
While I loathed ownership's decision to bring back 76-year old "Hall of Fame Baseball Person" Tony La Russa, it's been encouraging to see leaders like Tim Anderson embrace the new regime change.
If they stay confident, and La Russa stays out of the way from letting the White Sox be the best version of themselves, I think all the pieces are there to win it all.
HEDGE PLAY: Minnesota Twins (+2000)
It's a fairly bold strategy to pick a team to win the World Series that has lost 18 consecutive postseason games, but you have to start somewhere, right?
The Twins are likely a playoff team regardless of what happens with the White Sox, but 20/1 odds is criminal for a team this talented. They've finished the past two seasons with a winning percentage above .600 and the Byron Buxton 2020 power surge may be a sign that the 27-year old toolsy center fielder could finally put all the pieces together if he can stay healthy.
Fangraphs projects the Twins to make the playoffs 62.7% of the time. But if the White Sox crash and burn, Minnesota could be in the best position to pounce at very favorable odds.
American League MVP
Shawn Childs: Yordan Alvarez (+4000)
All spring, I had my eye on Shohei Ohtani as the possible value as the AL MVP. His odds have dropped while developing a late March blister on his pitching hand, so I’m pivoting to Houston Astros DH Yordan Alvarez. His bat has Triple Crown upside, a feat only accomplished once since 1967 (Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera in 2012). I’d like to see Alvarez develop into a first base option for the Astros to help his overall perception in the MVP voting (DH-only players tend to get a strike from some voters). With a full season of games, Alvarez looks to be on a path for a 40/120 type year with a favorable batting average. At 40/1, he is well worth the investment at DraftKings.
Ben Heisler: Gleyber Torres (+2500)
I love Shawn's pick of Alvarez at exceptional value of 40/1. Instead, I'll focus on my SI colleague Matt Martell's pick of Torres who sets up as a nice dark horse candidate for 2021.
His swing looks more compact this spring and this is a big season for him as he approaches arbitration eligibility in 2022. He finished strong towards the end of 2020 and should have plenty of opportunities to mash fastballs hitting behind the likes of LeMathieu, Judge, and Stanton in the Bombers' lineup.
Even after a down year in 2020, oddsmakers have him tied for the sixth-lowest odds on the board in the American League. A bounceback season is in store, but perhaps an MVP-caliber one could take place.
National League MVP
Shawn Childs: Juan Soto (+750)
There is almost a dead heat in odds in the National League for the best player. My preseason research screams Fernando Tatis Jr. having the most significant edge in the fantasy market, but I fear he’ll miss some time with an injury. Soto is the best player in baseball. He has a look at the plate of an all-time stud with a great approach. Once his swing path adds some loft, Soto will bat well over .300 while adding a high floor in power. His value in steals is rising, and he stated in early spring training that he wanted to run more. I thought enough of his explosiveness to draft him first overall in two of my high-dollar leagues in Las Vegas.
Ben Heisler: Manny Machado (+2000)
My first inkling was to side towards a revitalized Nolan Arenado in St. Louis, but his splits away from Coors Field have me concerned to get on board at 12/1 odds.
Instead, I'll turn to Machado who enters his third season in San Diego with the most protection and talent he's ever been surrounded with.
Fernando Tatis is a stud, but like Shawn, I still have concerns he may miss time with injuries. Plus, now the pressure is on him to deliver with a massive 14-year contract extension. Machado, on the other hand, can settle in as he enters the middle of his long-term deal and just play.
Oh, and he also underwent corrective laser eye surgery during the offseason, so those baseballs should look like beach balls when he steps to the plate.
American League Cy Young
Shawn Childs: Gerrit Cole (+350)
Wins are such an essential factor for a pitcher to contend for a Cy Young Award. The Yankees are the favorite to win the most games in the American League, and Cole has the best chance in baseball to win 20 or more games. He’ll be at the top of the league in strikeouts with an impactful ERA and WHIP. His odds are low, but Cole only has two other competitors (Shane Beiber and Lucas Gioloto) to beat him for this award.
Ben Heisler: Dylan Bundy (+4000)
I won't talk anyone out of fading Gerrit Cole, and Shane Bieber repeating at +400 won't shock anyone either. But if you're looking to take a chance on a high upside arm outside the two-horse race at the top, consider Angels SP Dylan Bundy at 40/1 odds.
The one time top pick of the Baltimore Orioles is entering his free agent year and has already gotten his velocity back to his peak levels before the season has even started.
Bundy was named the Opening Day starter for the Halos after a solid 2020 campaign where he finished with the highest K/9 and lowest BB/9 ratio of his career; finishing as a 2.0 WAR player in his 11 games started. A solid start to the year could get his confidence going and your eyes lighting up with dollar signs.
National League CY Young
Shawn Childs: Chris Paddack (+6000)
Paddack is one of my predictions for 2021 breakout pitcher, but his arm has taken on some water in his last two appearances in March (12 runs and 13 baserunners over four innings). He came into the majors with stellar command and a high ceiling. At 60-1, Paddack screams value in the NL Cy Young battle. The Padres are a rising team, and Paddack will be a big part of their success. His next step is adding a swing-and-miss breaking pitch while regaining his four-seam fastball command in the strike zone.
Ben Heisler: Jacob deGrom (+425)
He's the most consistent stud on the bump every five days who doesn't get hurt and is now throwing 102 MPH in SPRING TRAINING!
I'll eat the chalk here, especially after he just missed out on his third straight Cy Young last season.
American League Rookie of the Year
Shawn Childs: Michael Kopech (+2500)
When reviewing the AL options in this category, I was surprised to see Kopech listed as a possible winner. After missing two seasons, he’ll start the year in the bullpen, with Chicago expected to limit his innings. Kopech brings a top-tier fastball with the arsenal to be elite with improvement in his command. I expect him to be in the starting rotation for the White Sox in early May with a target of about 140 innings.
Ben Heisler: Jarred Kelenic (+1000)
Randy Arozarena was on another level in the postseason, but adjustments will be made after a fairly large sample and I expect him, like many young talented big leaguers to struggle.
Kelenic should be given every opportunity on a rebuilding Mariners team to start his service time and make an immediate impact as a multi plus-tool player with speed, a terrific arm and ability to drive the ball (very good Statcast hard contact rate).
Kelenic also has taken by far and away the most sharp money over at DraftKings Sportsbook with 29% of the total handle, compared to just 13% of the bets.
National League Rookie of the Year
Shawn Childs: Ian Anderson (+750)
As much as I love Sixto Sanchez's upside in 2021, my vote for the National League ROY goes to Anderson. He gains an edge by being on a path to have an entire season of starts while playing for a high-scoring team. His changeup is electric while offering a high strikeout rate. Anderson will have an elite ceiling once he gets his walk rate under control.
Ben Heisler: Adbert Alzolay (+3000)
Once again, the guru stole my thunder with Ian Anderson, so I'll throw in an under-the-radar name with terrific stuff that will be asked to deliver in the Cubs starting rotation this year.
Alzolay may have the best true "stuff" amongst Cubs starters, striking out one out of every three hitters he faced last year. His fastball sits 94-96 and mixes in a wipeout slider, a curveball and changeup.
Where I think he takes a step in the right direction is the confidence of not being shuttled between the big league and alternate site. He has several veterans at his disposal with excellent command in Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies to learn from, along with former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Alzolay even beat out Alec Mills, who threw a no-hitter as the number five starter.
It's certainly a risk, but we're talking about rookies in baseball here!
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