MLB Betting Guide 2023: Odds, betting picks for World Series, AL & NL MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young awards, more

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With the 2023 MLB season’s first pitch slated for 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 30, baseball-related wagers have been flowing into sportsbooks now that 37 states have legalized sports betting. Most are betting on opening-day winners on the run line or moneyline, but a ton of bettors enjoy making their predictions on MLB awards, pennants, and World Series champions via the futures market. There’s no better time to run the gauntlet of best bets, value plays, and long shots to get you ready for the season.

After Japan’s riveting run to the World Baseball Classic championship, the baseball world has once again been abuzz for Shohei Ohtani. Not surprisingly, the Angels superstar is a +200 favorite to win his second American League MVP award despite reigning AL home run king Aaron Judge (+500) usurping the award last year. Amazingly, Ohtani is also +1000 to win the AL Cy Young.

Ohtani for MVP seems like the easiest plus-odds future bet you can make in baseball, but plenty of awards races and pennant chases look like total crapshoots. Parity is alive and well in America’s pastime, and the majority of divisions in both leagues look like they could be up in the air between two or three clubs. Take a look at how closely set the lines are for some of BetMGM’s division futures:

Division Favorite 2nd-shortest odds 3rd-shortest odds
AL Central Guardians (+125) Twins (+200) White Sox (+250)
AL East Yankees (+115) Blue Jays (+190) Rays (+350)
AL West Astros (-190) Mariners (+300) Angels (+800)
NL Central Cardinals (-125) Brewers (+160) Cubs (+600)
NL East Braves (+110) Mets (+170) Phillies (+300)
NL West Dodgers (-120) Padres (+115) Giants (+1200)

With all but three of the divisional contenders yielding plus odds, that’s a juicy-looking menu of pennant futures. This table suggests that the 2023 season is up for grabs, and the fact that six different MLB teams have shorter than +1000 odds to win the World Series only reinforces that notion.

2023 FANTASY RANKINGS & DOLLAR VALUES:
Cs | 1Bs2Bs | 3Bs | SSs | OFs | SPs | RPs | Top 300

That’s great for baseball, and it’s even better for bettors (excuse the homonym), and with new batter and pitch clocks, pickoff rules, and defensive shift governance enacted, America’s OG favorite sport could be in for a tremendous comeback season. 

2023 FANTASY SLEEPERS & VALUES:
Cs | 1Bs2Bs | 3Bs | SSs | OFs | SPs | RPs

So, let’s jump into all the futures odds across the board, and make our best bets, value wagers, and favorite long shots for the 2023 MLB awards, pennant races, and World Series champions. Good luck, happy wagering, and enjoy opening day! 

MLB Futures 2023 Best Bets: World Series champion

(Showing top 18 on BetMGM)

Team Odds
Astros +600
Braves +750
Yankees +800
Dodgers +800
Mets +900
Padres +900
Blue Jays +1200
Phillies +1600
Mariners +1800
Cardinals +2000
Rays +2000
Guardians +2500
Brewers +3500
Twins +3500
White Sox +3500
Angels +4000
Giants +5000
Rangers +5000

Best Bet: Mets or Padres (both +900)

We love both these squads from top to bottom, even with Mets closer Edwin Diaz out for the season with a torn patellar tendon and a handful of injury concerns across San Diego’s pitching staff. We’re still talking about two of the most potent offenses with dominating top-end rotational pieces. If I absolutely had to pick one of the two, I’d lean toward the Mets. Their offense gets better and better each year, and now they have Justin Verlander joining Max Scherzer atop the rotation. Even without Diaz, they still have Adam Ottavino and David Robertson leading a fairly deep bullpen. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this all-in team makes another splash before the trade deadline. You would get plenty of value if you spread out $100 of World Series futures betting 60/40 in favor of the Mets and Padres. Then you get a $600 payout if the Mets bring Queens its first title since 1986 and a $400 payout if Manny Machado and company bring San Diego its first in MLB history.

Another strong World Series future bet to make: National League team to win World Series (-115)

With the Astros losing Verlander and the Yankees and Guardians both banged up, it’s easy to make the argument that the 2023 World Series winners will be represented by an NL club. The Braves (+750), Dodgers (+800), Mets (+900), and Padres (+900) represent four of the six teams with the shortest odds to win it all, so you’re already getting plenty of value in the -115 line here.

Best Value: Blue Jays (+1200)

The Blue Jays seem to be overlooked by oddsmakers and baseball fans in general, probably because they got swept 2-0 by the Mariners in the 2022 AL wild-card round. However, Toronto remains stacked and got a lot better over the offseason. The addition of veteran Brandon Belt as the likely cleanup hitter behind George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. should be quietly huge, while Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho are obvious upgrades over Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Add Chris Bassitt to a rotation that already featured Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, and we’re doing a chef’s kiss thinking about this team’s potential. 

Best Long Shot: Cardinals (+2000)

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We wouldn’t touch anybody beyond the +2000 range, so you’ll have to settle for the Cards as our long-shot pick. The veteran hitting and defense on this team led by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado will always give St. Louis a chance. Willson Contreras helps immensely both behind home plate and in the batter’s box, and prospects Lars Nootbar and Jordan Walker could push this squad over the edge of contention if they flourish in their first full seasons in the bigs. We also low-key love the potential of this starting rotation if Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright stay healthy for the majority of the season. 

Best Bet to Win AL Central: Twins (+200)

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The Twins have an underrated starting rotation led by Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Pablo Lopez, not to mention plenty of pop with Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and company. If they can stay healthy, this is a team that can absolutely make some noise in a year we project as a down one for Cleveland. No AL Central squad will make a run to the ALCS, but we at least like the value you’ll be getting with Minnesota to win the division at +200. 

Best Bet to Win AL East: Blue Jays (+190)

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See also: Best value to win the World Series. The Yankees have plenty of question marks and injury concerns in their rotation, so the Jays or Rays (+350) represent the clear value plays in this divisional betting race. You’re getting a solid rotation and a lethal lineup at +190 if you go with our neighbors to the north. 

Best Bet to Win AL West: Astros (-190)

Sometimes you just have to go with the chalk. The Mariners (+300) are at least intriguing — and plenty of Ohtani and Trout fans will be making blind-faith Angels bets (+800) — but the Astros remain the studs of this division in just about every roster department. The loss of Verlander is big, but Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are still one of the better 1-2 rotational punches in the majors and this lineup has very few holes. Don’t sleep on the reigning champs!

Best Bet to Win NL Central: Cardinals (-125)

There are reasons why the Astros and Cardinals enter the season with minus odds to win their divisions. First, they are dominant in just about every facet of their roster constructs. Second, they play in the least competitive divisions in the majors. The Brewers (+160) aren’t a terrible bet, but your best bet is to back Arenado, Goldschmidt, and company or just stay away from this divisional race altogether. 

Best Bet to Win NL East: Mets (+170)

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Mets fans were disappointed yet again last season when they limped into the wild card and then got eliminated by the Padres 2-1 in the best-of-three opening-round match. With Verlander and Scherzer and an all-in mentality, we have to think that New York will gun for a top-two seed this season to avoid the wild card altogether. This bet feels volatile given the parity in the NL East, as Atlanta and Philly could just as easily go on a midseason rampage and run away with the divisional crown, while the age and health of Scherzer and Verlander will always be in the back of bettors’ minds. If we’re making a bet here, it will be on the Mets, but we will likely abstain from wagering on this division. 

Best Bet to Win NL West: Padres (+115)

People seem to forget a few things about these Padres. For one, Manny Machado just finished top five in MVP voting for the fourth time, and judging by his spring training numbers he’s not slowing down in 2023. Secondly, Fernando Tatis Jr. rejoins the club after his PED suspension in April — not May, June, or July. He’ll make an impact almost immediately, especially with the number of new rules that benefit his style of play. Oh, and Juan Soto is among the NL’s perennial favorites to win MVP, making for a 1-2-3 punch of MVP-caliber players who can dominate the game in a number of different ways. Not to be left out, San Diego still has a pitching staff that includes Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and closer Josh Hader. Mix these collective factors in with the fact that the Dodgers have the least depth they have had in years, and you have a recipe for the Padres winning the NL West crown. 

Best Bet to Win AL Cy Young: Alek Manoah, Blue Jays (+900)

I love coupling my Blue Jays futures bets with Manoah taking down Cy Young. He finished third in voting in his 2022 sophomore season after registering a 2.24 ERA and 0.99 WHIP to go along with 180 strikeouts in 196.2 innings. If he can crack 200 innings this season and get his strikeout rate closer to the 27.7-percent rate he reached in his rookie campaign, the big man should be in contention until the end of the year. If you’re like us and love the odds Toronto will make some noise this season, you’re probably a fan of Manoah or teammate Kevin Gausman (+1600) here. 

Best Value to Win AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber, Guardians and Shane McClanahan, Rays (both +1200)

Both of these pitchers should be considered perennial Cy Young contenders at this point, yet they’re yielding +1200? We’ll take it. These guys finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in Cy Young voting last year, and both looked dominant all spring, so you’d be getting a ton of value if you wagered a little bit on both aces. If I had to pick one, I might lean toward McClanahan, as he pitched more innings last year and plays for what I believe to be the more likely playoff team.

Best Long-Shot to Win AL Cy Young: George Kirby, Mariners (+4000)

Kirby enjoyed a fantastic rookie season, going 8-5 for Seattle while posting a 3.39 ERA and striking out 133 batters in 130 innings. If he can ramp up his volume stats and get his WHIP down a bit, he could enter the Cy Young conversation in no time. Another value we also like here is underrated Twins hurler Joe Ryan (+5000). 

Best Bet to Win NL Cy Young: Sandy Alcantara (+500)

It may be a boring pick, but there’s nothing boring about Alcantara’s dominance. He’s simply the best, and he’s young enough to love his chances of repeating in a league filled with older-age and/or injury-prone aces. It’s not often you find a guy who can give you an MLB-leading 228 innings and a 2.28 ERA (not to mention 0.98 WHIP and 207 strikeouts). Don’t overthink this one. 

Best Value Play to Win NL Cy Young: Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks (+1400)

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Gallen appeared to have put all the pieces together last season, going 12-4 for an otherwise-brutal D-backs team and registering a 2.54 ERA to go with an NL-best 0.91 WHIP and MLB-best 5.9 hits per nine innings. If he’s healthy, there are few pitchers we’d take above Gallen, but that’s a big “if.” Last season was the first in his four-year campaign in which he reached even 122 innings. He wound up with 184 IP, and it translated to 192 strikeouts and the fifth-most votes in the NL Cy Young race. A 200-inning campaign could launch him all the way up to first in the arms race. 

Best Long Shot to Win NL Cy Young: Nick Lodolo, Reds (+4000)

We’ve seen great pitchers for crap teams win Cy Young awards plenty of times in the past, so we’re not shying away from the ceiling that Lodolo presents. Cy Young voters love strikeouts, so he will turn heads if he can top the nearly 30-percent strikeout rate and 11.4 K/9 he logged in his stellar rookie season. Don’t put more than a five-spot on him — this is more of a Cy Young lottery ticket — but how much fun would it be if it hit!?

Best Bet and Value to Win AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani (+200)

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We’ll come right out and say it: you should not be making any AL MVP bet except for Shohei Ohtani. You can argue yourself into Mike Trout or reigning MVP Aaron Judge or Julio Rodriguez all you want, but the only reason Ohtani got usurped for the award last year was because Judge made MLB history with his AL-record 62 home runs and MLB-best 133 runs, 131 RBIs, .425 OBP, .686 SLG, and 1.111 OPS. That’s not replicable, but Ohtani’s dominance in the batter’s box, on the base paths, and on the mound is. The Japanese sensation has won the award once, so don’t worry about voter fatigue.

Best Bet to Win NL MVP: Manny Machado, Padres (+1200)

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Machado placed runner-up in 2022 NL MVP voting, the fourth time in his career he finished top five. On top of that, he hit the cover off the ball all spring. The Padres will be even better this year with nearly a full season of Fernando Tatis Jr., and they could take over the NL West with the Dodgers looking their least powerful in recent memory. If all goes well and he can stay as consistently dominant as he was last season, Machado has a great chance of taking down his first MVP. 

Best Value Play to Win NL MVP: Matt Olson, Braves (+2500)

Olson’s power numbers were solid in his first year as a Brave, but his average (.240) and high strikeout rate (24.3) kept him well below MVP consideration. Well, he looks poised to make even more noise in his second year in the ATL, as he led all of spring training in home runs. We love the odds we’re getting here at +2500. 

Best Long Shot to Win NL MVP: Oneil Cruz, Pirates (+6600)

Oneil Cruz

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Cruz hit 17 homers and stole 10 bags in a half a season last year, and he’s a realistic bet to go 30-30 this year. In fact, we’ve seen some bold predictions columns across the industry that have him finishing 40-40. That would certainly merit MVP consideration. 

Best Bets to Win AL and NL Rookie of the Year: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles (+250) and Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks (+400)

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Henderson and Carroll are the only names on my AL and NL Rookie of the Year betting slips. They’re legit power-speed combos with 30-30 upside, and they’re also pretty good defenders. We’re not saying these are Ohtani-like races, but we love these guys to win ROY. Sometimes the chalk is worth taking.

Best Value Play to Win NL Rookie of the Year: Kodai Senga, Mets (+800)

Senga is the only guy I see making any kind of run at the top ROY spot in either league, as he’s a proven stud with many years of dominating form in Japan. If you can’t see yourself going chalk on a futures race, the 30-year-old lefty makes for an intriguing value play as a fall-back option. 

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