At the best of times, picking who will win the American League MVP is tough. You have a perennial favorite and a whole heap of top hitters around him that could win. Throw in a couple of ace starters that are setting remarkable benchmarks and it gets tougher still. Then, a team goes and trades for last year's National League MVP and suddenly it is impossible to call. Deciding where to put your money this year becomes an absolute minefield. Let's start by looking at the available odds on the players and see if there is value to be had anywhere.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 4/1, +400
The two-time MVP missed serious game time for the first time in his major league career in 2017 thanks to a thumb injury. Of course, that didn't slow his bat down much and despite playing just 114 games he finished the year with 33 homers, 22 steals, and the best wRC+ of his career (181).
Due to Trout's lack of playing time he finished outside the top two in MVP voting for the first time in his career, but his odds are the shortest for a reason. If he plays 150+ games in 2018, there is every chance he wins a third MVP.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros: 9/1, +900
The 2017 winner had a special campaign last year. He paired a ridiculous average with a second consecutive year of 20+ homers and 30+ steals and stellar defense. He was the total package last year, and that power is now looking like it is here to stay. Altuve's problem is that he is on a loaded team that features a lot of other MVP candidates and he will have a tough job standing out from the crowd if that power dips or the average slides back toward .320.
Carlos Correa, Houston Astros: 12/1, +1,200
Speaking of a loaded team, the third-favorite is Altuve's middle-infield buddy Carlos Correa. At just 23, Correa is entering his fourth year in the Majors, and mashed a ridiculous 24 homers in 109 games last year. If he stays healthy and can pair a .300+ average with 35+ homers and good defense at shortstop then it is almost impossible for him to not get the MVP.
Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: 14/1, +1,400
Here we are then, the reigning National League MVP, the newest Yankee, and the tower of power that is Giancarlo Stanton.
At age 28, he is coming off his first 150+ game season, and boy was it good. Stanton smashed 59 homers, registered 132 RBI, and racked up a ridiculous .281/.376/.631 slash line. The move to the American League may take some early production away from Stanton as he gets used to new pitchers and stadiums, but he will see days off from the outfield thanks to the DH, and perhaps, most importantly of all, he goes from a home stadium that was death to the long ball to one that is homer-friendly.
60+ homers is not out of the question, and if that happens it is almost impossible to deny him the AL MVP award.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees: 25/1, +2,500
Speaking of Yankee sluggers, no one burst onto the scene quite like Aaron Judge last year. The massive rookie outfielder was an immediate power sensation and wailed on pitchers throughout the year. His first half was truly ridiculous, posting 33 homers and a .312/.440/.725 slash line. He looked like a lock for MVP, but then a post-break slump took hold and dragged his production way down.
While he rebounded in September, it was too little too late, but in 2018 he looks like a good bet for MVP. Adding Stanton to the lineup makes it harder for opposing pitchers to avoid Judge's bat and gives him a better shot at improved runs/RBI. Judge's glove plays better than most people think in the outfield as well. At 25/1 his odds are very intriguing.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians & Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox: 66/1, +6,600
The two best pitchers in the American League have the same odds, and they are very long for a reason. It takes an impressive season from a pitcher and no clear favorite among the hitters. It is rare for a pitcher to win the American League MVP, with just Dennis Eckersley and Justin Verlander taking the crown since 1992. But with Clayton Kershaw winning the National League MVP in 2014 the idea of a pitcher winning is not insane.
Kluber won the American League Cy Young last year with a monumental 18 wins, 2.25 ERA, 265 strikeouts and a 0.87 WHIP. Sale was his main competition with a mind-boggling 308 strikeouts and a 2.90 ERA. Both are brilliant, and both have a shot at breaking the 20-win barrier, and if they do that with a sub-2.40 ERA and a ton of K's they will certainly be tough to beat in the MVP race.
Mike Trout is the man for a reason. He is an elite fielder, and one of the best in the majors at the plate, but +400 gives you very little value for money.
The best combination of odds and talent is Aaron Judge, but if he only manages to blast one more homer than Stanton does that really count as an MVP? Plus, there are worries about another slump in mid-summer. Some of those worries were eased by Judge saying he wouldn't be doing the Home Run Derby again, but you'd still be right to feel nervous.
I don't think there is great value anywhere, but maybe the most fun place to put your money is on Giancarlo Stanton, and in the end, I'm all for massive home runs and fun.