The 2023 MLB season is just around the corner, and we’re finishing up our awards previews. So far we’ve looked at, the best value bets for the World Series, the AL MVP, the NL MVP, the AL Cy Young, the NL Cy Young, and the AL Rookie of the Year. Today we’ll finish up with the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Last year, Michael Harris II won the award, taking 22 of a possible 30 first-place votes with his Braves teammate Spencer Strider getting the other eight first-place votes. Harris, who played in 114 games for the Braves as a mid-season call-up, hit .297 with 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in an impressive year. His late-season surge was enough to overcome Strider, who was an early favorite after going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings split between the bullpen and rotation.
It was the first time teammates have finished first and second in the Rookie of the Year balloting since former Braves teammates Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman in 2011.
Despite not making his debut until May 28th, Harris led all NL rookies with a 5.3 bWAR, while St. Louis Cardinals’ Brendan Donovan, who finished third in the voting, ranked second with a 4.1 bWAR. “To get the award [that is named after] Jackie, it means a lot because he paved the way for players like me,” Harris said. “Just to be able to have an award named after him and actually win it … I don’t know. I can’t even put it into words.”
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2023 NL Rookie of the Year Odds
|Player||POS||Team||Odds to win|
|Elly De La Cruz||SS||Reds||+1500|
Odds courtesy of BetMGM Sportsbook
Corbin Carroll (+380) is the clear favorite for NL Rookie of the Year after holding his own during his big league debut last year, hitting .260 with four home runs, 13 runs scored, 14 RBI, and two stolen bases in 32 games with Arizona. That’s even more impressive considering he missed most of the 2021 season with shoulder surgery but posted a 1.035 OPS between Double- and Triple-A before his call-up.
He’s potentially the fastest player in all of baseball, so he’ll likely post gaudy stolen base totals with the new rules, and he did hit 24 homers in 93 Minor League games in 2022, so he has some pop. Given that he should play every day for Arizona, he’s a great bet for this award.
However, he is also battling a player with a tremendous amount of helium in Jordan Walker (+500), who is on fire in Spring Training and forcing his way onto the Cardinals roster. The 21st pick in the 2020 MLB draft has a 1.429 OPS through 21 at-bats this spring, with a .429 on-base percentage, 1.000 slugging percentage, and three home runs. While he was drafted as a third baseman, he’s set to play the outfield in St. Louis given that Nolan Arenado as the hot corner locked down.
The playing time is the only concern for Walker since St. Louis does have a crowded outfield. However, if he continues to hit, he will remain in the lineup. Given that he hit 19 home runs and stole 22 bases in 119 minor league games last year, he has the ability to make an impact all over the box score, which would be enticing to voters.
Kodai Senga (+900) is in contention for NL Rookie of the Year despite being a veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan for 11 years. Senga signed a five-year deal with the Mets this offseason and has impressed this spring, routinely hitting the high-90s with his fastball and showcasing a lethal “ghost fork” that has made hitters, including Jordan Walker, look foolish.
Given that Senga has been a professional for over a decade, I’m less worried about his ability to adapt to the MLB level of competition than I am about rookies in their early 20s. I think a bet on Senga here makes a ton of sense since he’s already showcased the skills to be a potentially dominant pitcher.
Ezequiel Tovar (+1100) is another intriguing longer-odds bet since he’s expected to begin the season as the Rockies’ starting shortstop. He did miss most of last season with a groin injury, but, like Carroll, he showed tremendous skills when he returned, slashing .319/.387/.540 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 71 games. His elite defense at shortstop will likely keep him on the field and his home park should help his offensive numbers, which makes Tovar a sneaky pick.
The Mets find themselves with two dark horse picks here.
Francisco Alvarez (+1800) is the bigger name option, but he’s unlikely to start the year with the Mets as they hope to get him to improve his defense behind the plate. Alvarez has the power to make an immediate impact in the NL Rookie of the Year race when he is called up, but I don’t love him as an option because I think he will always split time with Tomas Nido or Omar Narvaez behind the plate. The new MLB rules have put extra emphasis on catchers to throw out runners and gameplan with pitchers to work around the pitch clock, and I believe that will make it tougher on younger catchers, especially ones like Alvarez who need some work behind the plate.
Brett Baty (+1900) could be a better bet since there is a chance he wins the third base job for the Mets. While New York will likely give starts to Eduardo Escobar early in the season, Baty can hit for contact and power and has a strong arm for the position. That profile makes him a strong contender to take the job from Escobar and the Mets’ lack of steady options at designated hitter means Escobar could slide there if he’s playing well.