Last week, we looked at the National League Cy Young Award. Today, we're going to get into the American League MVP Award. Let's do this.
Yordan Alvarez, Astros (+1200)
Yordan Alvarez was silly-good last year, and I'm loving him at this +1200 price, which ranks him as the fifth-most likely to win the award.
Alvarez's 2022 numbers were spectacular. He finished with a .427 wOBA that ranked second in baseball behind Aaron Judge (.458 wOBA). Going by his expected wOBA (xwOBA), Yordan's wOBA should've been even higher as his xwOBA was .462 (Judge's was .463). He amassed a 44.2% hard-hit rate -- another mark that trailed only Judge -- and finished with 37 taters along with a triple-slash of .306/.406/.613.
Did I mention Alvarez is going into just his age-26 season?
Yordan's 2022 output would've been good enough to win the MVP in some years. Unfortunately for him, he was in the same league as a guy who hit 62 jacks and another dude who is super good at every aspect of baseball (Shohei Ohtani).
Those two are priced as the favorites to win the 2023 MVP, with Ohtani at +220 and Judge at +700. They're going to be a big hurdle once more -- especially Ohtani, who is going to be very tough to beat for the MVP in any year in which he stays healthy.
Yordan can do it, though. ZiPS projects him to bash 40 homers with a .415 wOBA and 177 wRC+. The wOBA and wRC+ are tops among AL bats.
His current hand ailment is certainly a concern, although it sounds like he still has a good shot to be ready for Opening Day.
Alvarez can have the best-player-on-best-team narrative working for him as he'll be putting up these big numbers on what should be one of MLB's elite teams. Judge could have a really, really good year and still be a decent ways off his 2022 production, which could cause some voters to look elsewhere, and it's possible Ohtani is moved at this year's trade deadline. A trade to the National League would take him out of the AL MVP race.
Byron Buxton, Twins (+4000)
There's a reason a player as talented as Byron Buxton is a +4000 longshot to win the AL MVP -- he can't stay healthy.
Buxton hasn't had more than 382 plate appearances in a season since 2017. But if -- and it's a colossal if -- he can stay healthy, Buxton is capable of putting up MVP numbers.
In 382 plate appearances a year ago, Buxton mashed 28 dongs. He hit 19 homers in 254 plate appearances in 2021. So, over his last 636 plate appearances -- which would be in the ballpark of a full year if his health cooperates -- Buxton has totaled 47 dingers with a .381 wOBA, 42.2% hard-hit rate and 45.6% fly-ball rate.
Buxton unquestionably has an MVP-type ceiling if it all comes together for him, and we can't say that about many guys who are priced in this range.
ZiPS pegs him for 22 home runs and a .370 wOBA over 350 plate appearances. The projection of 350 plate appearances is more than fair. But if Buxton can find a way to stay on the field and amass closer to 600 plate appearances, he can challenge for the MVP.
Bo Bichette, Blue Jays (+7000)
I'm willing to give Bo Bichette a pass on his underwhelming 2022 season, and this +7000 price is very enticing for a player who should be a key cog on a Toronto Blue Jays team that could make a lot of noise this year.
Bichette was pretty meh last year, posting a .347 wOBA, a career-worst mark, along with a 30.9% fly-ball rate. But we've seen Bichette light up the bigs -- especially during a 29-homer, 25-steal effort in 2021 -- and he's fully capable of rebounding in a big way in 2023.
ZiPS forecasts Bichette for a .280/.327/.469 triple-slash line and 26 homers to go with 16 steals. He's been a beacon of health the last two seasons, playing 159 games in each, and Bichette might be able to surpass said ZiPS projections if he makes a leap -- something that isn't out of the question for a player entering his age-26 season.
He -- as well as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+1300) -- could also be a narrative darling if the Jays are able to knock off the New York Yankees in the AL East. Toronto is priced at +200 to win the division, not a huge underdog to the Yankees (+130). And Bichette could also get credit for playing shortstop, a more important defensive position than what some other MVP candidates play.
All in all, I think Bichette is worth a sprinkle at +7000, and I like dropping some coin on Vladdy, too. If the Jays win the AL East, one of these two could be a fixture in the MVP race.