2023 NL Cy Young odds and best bets: Can Verlander repeat in a new league?

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Justin Verlander of the Mets is an NL Cy Young favorite
New York Mets baseball pitcher Justin Verlander attends a news conference at Citi Field, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022, in New York. The team introduced Verlander after they agreed to a $86.7 million, two-year contract. It’s part of an offseason spending spree in which the Mets have committed $476.7 million on seven free agents. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Spring Training games are starting this weekend as the 2023 MLB season kicks off. We’ve started our pre-season awards discussion by looking at the best value bets for the World Series, the best bets for the AL MVP and NL MVP, and our AL Cy Young picks, so today we’ll turn to the NL Cy Young. 

Last year, Sandy Alcantara won the award, taking all 30 first-place votes. Alcantara posted an MLB-leading 228.2 innings pitched and finished with a 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 14 wins for the Miami Marlins. The innings total and consequential boost in overall strikeouts were a big reason he topped Max Fried (14 wins, 2.48 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) and Julio Urias (17 wins, 2.16 ERA, 0.96 WHIP). 

Justin Verlander will be looking to become just the sixth player ever to win a Cy Young in both leagues after capturing the AL Cy Young last year as a member of the Houston Astros. The only pitchers to win Cy Youngs in both leagues are his teammate Max Scherzer, Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Roy Halladay. That would certainly be some rarified air. 



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2023 NL Cy Young Odds

Player Team Odds to win
Sandy Alcantara Marlins +450
Corbin Burnes Brewers +550
Justin Verlander Mets +600
Max Scherzer Mets +800
Spencer Strider Braves +950
Max Fried Braves +1000
Aaron Nola Phillies +1200
Zack Wheeler Phillies +1200
Zac Gallen Diamondbacks +1500
Joe Musgrove Padres +1900
Brandon Woodruff Brewers +1900

Odds courtesy of Draftkings Sportsbook, click here to see up-to-date odds. 


Before we dive into the favorites, can we talk about the fact that seven of the top eight names here all pitch in the NL East? The Mets, Braves, and Phillies each have two pitchers who are in the top eight in Cy Young contention, which is just a ridiculous fact when you also think about the lineups these teams have. This division is going to be chaos this year. 

Sandy Alcantara (+450) is an easy fade for me. I know he won it last year, but so many things went right for him. For starters, Alcantara is an accumulator. He is not a high strikeout pitcher, so his strikeout value comes because he can throw 200+ innings. However, it’s incredibly risky to bet on that because one IL stint that drops his total down to 170-180 innings impacts his final line way more than it would for a pitcher like Verlander and a particular Braves starter we’ll mention later. 

Second, Alcantara is a high groundball pitcher, with a groundball rate of 53.4% in back-to-back years. Now that the MLB has banned the shift, we’re going to see a lot more groundballs go for hits. When you pair that with the fact that the Marlins drastically downgraded their middle infield defense when they shipped shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Dodgers, I think we’re going to see a lot more hits off Alcantara this year, which is going to drive up his ratios.

On a bad team, he needs a perfect season to win this award again, and I just can’t see it happening. 

Corbin Burnes (+550) is a much better bet, in my opinion. His floor is incredibly high since he’s put together a sub 3.00 ERA, sub 1.00 WHIP, and 10.8 K/9 or better in three straight seasons. He should pitch around 180 innings or more for Milwaukee, which will allow him to get to 200 strikeouts (he’s had over 230 each of the last two seasons). He had one bad month last year, registering a 4.81 ERA and just 9.36 K/9 in August, but he also faced the Dodgers twice and the Cardinals once in that month. He’s elite and safe and those are two things we love to bet on. 

Justin Verlander (+600) returned from Tommy John surgery to go 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA in 28 starts with the Astros. He led the AL in wins, ERA, WHIP (0.83), opponents’ OPS (.497), and opponents’ batting average (.186). He suppressed hard contact at an elite rate and is now pitching in a great pitcher’s park in New York. All the signs point to another incredibly solid season for Verlander. 

However, he’s also about to turn 40 years old and should see a bit of natural home run regression since he allowed just 12 home runs last year despite allowing 28 or more in each of the two seasons beforehand. The Mets will also likely be cautious with him and Scherzer as they prepare for a postseason run, so all of those things leave me a little more likely to bet on Burnes. 

Corbin Burnes is a favorite to win the NL Cy Young
Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


The concern for Max Scherzer (+800) isn’t his ability but his health. Scherzer was great in his first season for the Mets, pitching to a .29 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. However, he only threw 145.1 innings and his strikeout dipped from 12.69 K/9 in 2019 and 11.84 K/9 in 2021 to just 10.71 K/9. Part of that could be due to multiple back injuries as Scherzer’s last 180-inning season was in 2018. Given all of that, I find it hard to bet on Scherzer with these odds because I’m not sure he’ll have the innings total to push for the NL Cy Young. 

On the opposite end of the age spectrum is Spencer Strider (+950), who took the game by storm in his rookie season, and for good reason. Strider is really good. He had an absurd 13.81 K/9 n in nearly 132 innings. His success was on the back of the four-seam fastball that sits at 98 mph and routinely hit triple digits and a slider that is one of the best pitches in baseball with a 24% swinging strike rate, which is beyond elite.

However, there are two concerns with Strider. For one, he really only uses two pitches which has made pitchers unreliable in the past, and he has a smaller frame and throws exceptionally hard, which puts a lot of strain on his body. His 2022 season was impacted by an oblique injury and I’m not sure he can throw more than 170 innings in a season, which could cap his NL Cy Young upside. However, if you believe he can push over 180 innings then this could be a great bet since he has the skills to match anybody. 

Dark Horse

Zack Wheeler (+1200) is a decent bet at these odds but like Alcantara, his value is in his volume. He’s one of the few pitchers in baseball who can go past 200 innings in a season, hitting 213 in 2021 and 195 in 2019. When he was healthy last year, he was phenomenal, posting a 1.95 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP, across 114 frames. However, he was roughed up in April, after a late start to the season, and in August. A good sign for Wheeler’s health this year is that he was throwing in the high 90s in both of his World Series starts, so maybe we get 190 innings of greatness again. 

My final dark horse is Brandon Woodruff (+1900).  He is one of my favorite bets this year because everybody will see his season-long numbers and be only mildly impressed. However, Woodruff battled Raynaud’s disease in the early part of last season and lost feeling in his pitching hand, which is, obviously, highly impactful when it comes to throwing a baseball Yet, after May 9th, Woodruff posted a  2.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and a 31% strikeout rate across 124 frames. That’s NL Cy Young worthy. 

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Brandon Woodruff is an NL Cy Young candidate
May 21, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) delivers against the Washington Nationals in the first inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports