The Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated the National League for the better part of a decade. All that dominance finally amounted to a World Series title last fall. LA beat the upstart Tampa Bay Rays in six games to claim the franchise’s first title in over 30 years.
Oddsmakers say the Dodgers are the best bet to do it again this year. LA only seems to have improved this offseason, so there is no reason to think the Dodgers won’t be back in the hunt. Fortunately, they won’t be without competition. The Padres, Braves, and Mets are among the NL teams that have retooled this winter in an attempt to put some heat on the frontrunners.
You will also see the Dodgers well-represented when it comes to early National League MVP favorites. Mookie Betts is the favorite to claim the hardware at +650, but the field is stacked. Juan Soto (+750), Cody Bellinger (+750), and Fernando Tatis Jr. (+800) are all breathing down Mookie’s neck at the top of the preseason leaderboard.
You don’t need us to tell you why those guys are all smart bets to win MVP this year. However, if you’re looking to place bets on the MVP this early, you probably want a little more bang for your buck. The following five players stand out as solid value options to take home the National League’s top individual honor in 2021.
Corey Seager (+1200)
Betts and Bellinger are the headliners when it comes to the Dodger lineup, but don’t overlook Corey Seager. On a team loaded with All-Stars, it was Seager that ultimately emerged as the driving force behind the Dodgers’ title run last fall. Seager claimed World Series MVP honors after an absolutely torrid postseason run at the plate. Seager slashed .328/.425/.746 with eight homers and 20 RBI over the course of LA’s 18 playoff games.
Seager was beset by injuries in 2018 and 2019, so it’s easy to have forgotten that he was once arguably baseball’s brightest young shortstop. Those injuries sapped him of his power for a while, but the power stroke seems to have returned. Seager homered 15 times during the truncated 2020 campaign, which was only four fewer than he hit over the course of 134 games in 2019.
“I don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest.”
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 26, 2021
Seager will also be a free agent at the end of the season. With a potential payday looming, 2021 would be as good a time as ever to win MVP for the first time. At the very least, that could serve as a little extra motivation for him.
He’s still only 26, so his best days are likely still ahead of him. It’s going to be tough for any single player to stand out above the rest when it comes to this loaded Dodgers roster, but I like Seager’s chances of earning some more recognition if he picks up where he left off last fall. Assuming the Dodgers win the NL West again, Seager is as good an MVP bet as anyone else on this team. The +1200 odds give you a little extra upside, too.
Manny Machado (+1800)
As is the case with Seager in LA, Manny Machado may go a little overlooked down in San Diego. Fernando Tatis Jr. is probably the most popular young player in the game right now, and with good reason. However, you can pretty easily argue that Machado, not Tatis, was the Padres’ MVP in 2020.
San Diego made its first playoff appearance since 2006 last year, and it would be a major surprise if the Pads didn’t get back into the postseason in 2021. Machado was fairly underwhelming in his first year with the Padres, but he picked it up last season. The 28-year-old appeared in all 60 regular-season games and finished with a slash line of .304/.370/.580 with 16 homers and 47 RBI.
Machado was one of the game’s most prolific slugging shortstops during his time in Baltimore. Some of the shine may have worn off since coming west, but the Padres have major expectations this season. Machado is right there with Tatis as the most important player in this lineup. If they do ultimately live up to their billing, Machado will have a major role to play.
There is really no reason for the huge gulf in MVP odds between Tatis (+800) and Machado (+1800). Tatis may garner more headlines, but I have more faith in Machado’s ability to remain consistent over the course of 162 games. Take the extra value you get in betting Machado instead and run with it.
Pete Alonso (+3300)
Sensing a theme here yet? Like the Padres, the Mets have earned quite a bit of attention as an up-and-comer with the potential for big things in 2021. New York has been one of the most aggressive teams in the league this offseason. Armed with a new owner willing to spend money, the Mets have quickly put together a compelling roster that looks ready to win right away.
As you may expect, newcomer Francisco Lindor (+1200) has the best MVP odds of any Met. Playing in New York is a lot different than playing in Cleveland, though. We have seen no shortage of athletes come to the Big Apple and struggle under the pressures that come with the bright lights. I don’t expect Lindor to have much trouble with the move, but you never know.
Pete Alonso, Corey Dickerson, and Two Dissimilar Power Outages https://t.co/3aPZfBxR56
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) February 26, 2021
Futures betting is all about getting leverage. If Lindor struggles to live up to his lofty expectations, the Mets’ playoff hopes wouldn’t necessarily be doomed. Baseball is a team game, after all. Pete Alonso scuffled a little last season, but don’t forget that he smashed 53 homers as a rookie just two years ago. Alonso hit .260/.358/.583 with 53 bombs and 120 RBI in one of the most prolific rookie seasons we’ve ever seen back in 2019. He’s a good enough all-around hitter to carry this lineup if need be.
The Mets are leaning heavily on Alonso in the middle of the lineup. Lindor is great, but Alonso may ultimately be the difference between a playoff berth and another disappointing season in Queens. I think the Mets can give the Braves a real run in the NL East race, especially if Alonso bounces back from a subpar 2020.
You can do worse than taking a flier on the Polar Bear’s current +3300 NL MVP odds. He finished seventh in the voting as a rookie, even with the Mets missing the postseason that year. Playing in the nation’s biggest media market doesn’t hurt his chances, either.
Marcell Ozuna (+4000)
Marcell Ozuna took a while to sign, but he’ll be returning to Atlanta for a second season after hitting the free-agent market this winter. Ozuna may not have gotten the contract he thought he would at the beginning of free agency, but he should be happy to come back to the Braves.
All he did last year was quietly put together one of the best offensive seasons we’ve seen in a while. The 30-year-old slashed .338/.431/.636 with 18 homers and 56 RBI. Teammates Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. understandably got most of the attention, but Ozuna was easily one of the most productive hitters in all of baseball. It’s a bit ridiculous that he finished just sixth in NL MVP voting.
I certainly don’t expect Ozuna to hit .338 again. He’s had a great career, but hitting for average has never been a huge strength. Ozuna is a career .276 hitter, and he hit just .241 in St. Louis two years ago. I think the small 60-game sample likely boosted his numbers a bit, but he still absolutely rakes.
Perhaps Ozuna could benefit from the voter fatigue angle, too. Freeman won MVP last year, which makes it somewhat unlikely that he goes back-to-back. We haven’t seen a player win two straight NL MVP awards since Albert Pujols in 2008-09. Ozuna’s numbers were comparable to Freeman’s in just about every statistical category last season.
If he does it again this year, perhaps Ozuna garners a little more MVP buzz. I’m a little bearish on the Braves’ betting value in the division, but Ozuna shouldn’t be all the way down at +4000. This is a good buy-low opportunity on one of the game’s most underrated hitters.
Eugenio Suarez (+5000)
The Reds may have gotten worse on paper this winter with the departure of Trevor Bauer, but the NL Central is still wide-open. Without a clear frontrunner in the division, who’s to say Cincinnati can’t get themselves back into the race? Pitching will be a question mark, but the offense should be able to do all sorts of damage.
The Reds have one of the beefiest lineups in the National League. Between Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas, Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, and Jesse Winker, there’s a lot to like here. This offense underperformed relative to expectations last season, but I wouldn’t expect more of the same this season.
Eugenio Suárez said he’s lost about 15 pounds during the offseason. He concentrated on diet, no more arepas, no more beer
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) February 24, 2021
Suarez was one of the hitters that struggled. He still hit 15 homers in 58 games, but his .202 average was well below his career .261 mark. Just two years ago, he hit .271/.358/.572 with a whopping 49 dingers and 103 batted in. As is the case with Ozuna, Suarez is a legitimately great hitter that often gets lost in the shuffle when people discuss the best players at his position in the game. Third base has no shortage of talent, but I’d put Suarez up there with anyone else.
If the Reds can challenge the Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs for Central supremacy, Suarez’s MVP odds will only improve from where they are now. The current +5000 number offers you quite a bit of upside. If you’re shopping in the bargain aisle, why not take a stab at the Reds’ slugging third baseman?
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …