Houston Astros' Yordan Alvarez
Houston Astros' Yordan Alvarez bats during a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

FOUR MLB HITTERS BETS I LIKE FOR 2022

Mike Shara

There’re still a few days left before the season starts to get your Futures bets in at their current number. There have been quite a few key starting pitchers’ injuries already (deGrom, Miley, Castillo, Sale, Baz) but there haven’t been many hitters going down thus far – at least not in the Spring. Fernando Tatis Jr. injured himself on his motorcycle this winter and Ronald Acuna is still recovering from his ACL tear last season, but by and large the big names have stayed healthy thus far in March. Let’s see what bets look good at this point for all these healthy hitters.

MOST STOLEN BASES
Myles Straw, Cleveland +1500 at PointsBet

Straw ‘only’ stole 30 bases last season in 564 at-bats, so why would I be betting on him leading the league in 2022? Firstly, remember that Starling Marte led the majors last year with just 47, so it’s not like it’s an impossible mountain for him to climb. He also was only caught 6 times, so he won’t blow many of his chances. His speed is in the 99th percentile in all of MLB and this year he will be leading off for a Cleveland team that’s going to have a hard time scoring runs. They’re going to need him to get extra bags wherever and whenever he can. In the first half of last season, he batted eighth for an Astros lineup that most certainly did NOT need him taking chances on the bases. His on-base percentage once he got to the Guardians was .362 – not quite elite but very good. He’s turning 27 this year and finally has a solidified role on a team that needs his skills. Those are all factors that point to him being the most disruptive player on the bases in MLB this year.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP
Francisco Lindor, NY Mets +2800 at DraftKings

Having Fernando Tatis Jr and Ronald Acuna Jr out with injuries at the season’s start opens the N.L. MVP award up for grabs much more than it might have otherwise been. Make no mistake – Juan Soto is a favorite now for sure, but the Nationals will be bad and there are a lot of voters who won’t vote for a player on a last place team. On the other hand, the Mets have made big upgrades this winter and are among the favorites in the N.L. to contend. If they play well (though losing deGrom already isn’t a great start) and Lindor returns to being the player he typically had been before his disastrous first season in Queen’s, he’ll be a big reason. He’s crushing the ball this spring, batting .400 and with 4 home runs already and seems much more at ease. Guys who win in New York get extra attention. Attention-getters get MVP votes and so do redemption stories. Lindor looks like a good bet for both of those things to happen in 2022, especially at those odds.

AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP
Byron Buxton, Minnesota +4000 at PointsBet

The American League field looks like a tougher one for an underdog to emerge from. There’s Shohei Ohtani – who has to win if he just repeats what he did last year, Vladimir Guerrero Jr – who might already be the league’s most feared hitter, and a healthy Mike Trout, who will have a better team surrounding him this year. Yes, Buxton has been hurt frequently, but before his hand was broken by a pitch last year, he was absolutely crushing the ball, batting .369/.409/.767 in mid-June. His defense and baserunning are elite – which could separate him from other contenders – and the Twins almost have to have a better season this year. I know we keep saying ‘this could be the year’ for Buck every year, but there’s a reason for that. He’s too good to be out of the MVP discussion every year. At some point his injury luck will turn and he’ll dominate for a full season. Those odds make it worth betting this is the year.

MOST HOME RUNS
Yordan Alvarez, Houston +2500 at Caesar’s

He only hit 33 last year, but as the year wore on, he continued to get better and hit the ball further and harder as he continued to get stronger from knee woes that had bedeviled him the previous two seasons (check out his second half power index, barrel rate and expected batting average). He’s just going to be 25 this season and is still growing into his skills. Plus, advanced statistics show that he was actually unlucky last year with his Batted Ball percentages. His expected home run number was actually in the mid-40’s, given his high ratings in all those batting/power advanced metrics.  He’ll be called on to carry more weight this year with Carlos Correa gone, but he’s learning to go the other way for those cheap Crawford Box home runs during home games. If a few more of those go over the fence for him, he could be the MLB’s only 50 HR guy this year.

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