2018 MLB Betting: 10 Player Prop Bets That Can Win You Money
Published on March 12, 2018
We can’t quite count the number of days remaining until Opening Day on 2 hands quite yet, but we’re getting close. Spring training was exciting at first because we finally got some live baseball in our lives once again. Of course, that novelty wears off pretty quickly. At this point, spring training feels interminable.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep us entertained as we bide our time until the games start counting for real. There’s no shortage of betting interest in the upcoming campaign, and these days you can easily wager on things like props, implied totals, etc.
Some sites even afford bettors the chance to place wagers on individual player props. Stats are the name of the game when it comes to baseball, so here are a few player-specific props that look like good values as we wait for Opening Day.
Some folks are waiting for Jose Altuve to come back down to earth, but, at this point, it looks like he’s just going to keep on mashing.
Altuve came up as something of a 5’7” novelty act. He was a talent coming out of Venezuela, but he wasn’t a guy cracking any top 100 prospects lists. He got the call to the big leagues for the first time back in 2011 when the Astros were in the thick of baseball’s most aggressive rebuild.
He had some fine years as the Astros annually lost 100+ games, but he really made the leap to superstardom starting in 2014. Despite having never hit better than .290 until then, Altuve busted out and wound up winning the American League batting title with a bloated .341 average.
Some thought that was an anomaly, and the very next season he was down to .313. In the 2 years since, though, he’s gone back up to .336 and .346, respectively.
Considering we have a 4-year sample of this dude just hitting everything in sight, it feels safe to say he’s here to stay. Altuve has recorded 4 consecutive seasons in which he’s collected at least 200 hits, and last season he became the first player since Ichiro to pick up at least 200 hits in 4 straight years. For good measure, Ichiro recorded 10 consecutive seasons with 200+ base knocks.
Interestingly enough, no American League player not named Altuve or Miguel Cabrera has won the honor since 2010.
Can Altuve make it 5 straight seasons with 200+ hits? It’s certainly possible. At first glance, the implied total of 191 ½ here looks incredibly low. He’s breezed by that number consistently, so why can’t he keep it going? Assuming he stays healthy, this looks like one of the easier bets on the board. Hit the over.
First off, Goldschmidt is not a very fun name to type. There are way too many consonants in play here. So, I’m just going to call him Goldy for the duration. Sound good? Splendid.
Goldy has been knocking on the door of the National League MVP award for the last several years, but he has yet to break through. He was very much in the running last year, but voters decided to hand the honor to Giancarlo Stanton despite the fact that Goldy helped the Diamondbacks into an unexpected playoff berth.
He’s also hit at least 30 dongs 3 times in 5 years, including 36 in 2017.
Of course, something we have to consider when trying to predict how the D-Backs’ hitters will fare this season is the installation of a humidor at Chase Field. The team’s brass evidently decided that there was too much offense in games in Arizona, so they have installed a humidor in which to store baseballs ahead of the upcoming season.
Coors Field also has a humidor. While it remains the league’s premier hitting environment, the humidor is expected to have a much more dramatic impact in Arizona. Some smarter than me have suggested that the shift could be as dramatic as to shift Chase from being the league’s second-friendliest hitting environment into a much more neutral hitting venue in general.
Goldy has enough power to where he wasn’t really depending on the friendly confines of Chase Field to supply his homers. He hit 20 homers at home last season, with the other 16 coming on the road. Obviously, that’s a pretty even split.
A couple of well-renowned projection systems (ZiPS and Steamer both have Goldschmidt projected to go deep 31 times in 2018. The humidor is a pretty massive concern here, but I trust Goldy’s power enough to still believe he can eclipse the 30-homer plateau this season. I’ll take the over once again here.
Trevor Story burst onto the scene as a rookie back in 2015. Few outside of Colorado had even heard his name before, but Story quickly took the league by storm. Story hit 6 home runs in the first 4 games of his career, making the game look incredibly easy in the process.
He wound up with 10 homers in April before slowing down considerably. He wound up suffering a season-ending injury in July, but still finished his rookie campaign with 27 dingers. He didn’t get off to such a hot start in his sophomore campaign, and he struggled tremendously for much of the year.
Story hit just .167 in April of 2017, but his performance at the plate progressed as the year went on. The power wasn’t as consistent as it was during his rookie year, but he still finished with 24 dongs in 145 games.
Entering his third season, I expect Story to continue to show better discipline at the plate. He still strikes out a ton, though, and he’s the rare true outcome shortstop. It also helps that he’ll play half of his games in baseball’s most favorable venue for power.
I don’t expect some massive breakout campaign, but there is reason to believe the Rockies’ shortstop can put together his finest campaign to date. I’ll continue my streak of optimism here and say that Story tops 25 ½ homers in 2018.
Dee Gordon missed a huge chunk of time for a PED suspension in 2016, but he came back and put together a very strong 2017 campaign in Miami. It was arguably the best season of his career. The former All-Star slashed .308/.341/.375 with 201 hits in 695 plate appearances.
There aren’t many hitters in baseball with as little power as Gordon. He hit just 2 homers last year, and his career-high for any season is 4. Moving from Miami to Seattle may help that a little, but Gordon is still going to do most of his damage keeping the ball in the ballpark.
Gordon’s speed obviously helps his hit totals. He’s able to turn what should be routine grounders into singles fairly often, which can’t be said for many players in the league. Gordon had 22 infield hits last season, which was tied for 8th in the league. Altuve led baseball with 30 such hits.
Gordon will be learning a new position with the Mariners, but I’d still expect the speedster to hit high in the order. Obviously, the more plate appearances, the more likely he’s going to be to rack up hits. Gordon has played at least 100 games 3 times in his career to this point. In those seasons, he’s recorded 176, 205 and 201 hits.
167 ½ looks like a pretty low projection for a guy that has breezed past that number in his healthy seasons. ZiPS has Gordon projected for 177 base knocks in ‘18. That’ll do.
Hey, look, I’m taking the over again.
Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball, so it makes sense that he checks in with the highest over/under for wins of any pitcher on the board. We can debate the validity of wins for pitchers at this point (they’re dumb), but that’s neither here nor there.
Let’s look at Kershaw’s track record. The 3-time NL Cy Young winner has won 18, 12, 16, 21, 16, 14, 21 and 13 games since 2010. When he’s healthy, Kershaw wins games.
Of course, his health is no guarantee. Kershaw has been battling nagging back problems for the last few seasons, and we know how back issues have a way of lingering for a long time. Kershaw has looked fine in spring training to this point, and here’s hoping he can stay healthy throughout the season.
Unfortunately, I just don’t trust him to do so. Kershaw last topped the 30-start mark in 2015, meaning he’s been sidelined at some point by injuries in 3 of the last 4 years. He’s still young – he turns 30 this month – and he still managed to win 18 games last year despite making just 27 starts.
Dave Roberts is aggressive in using his bullpen, which limits his starters’ ability to pitch deep into games. That’s typically an exception for Kershaw, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dodgers take a conservative approach with their prized lefty this season.
Marcell Ozuna was one of many Marlins to be shipped out of South Beach once Derek Jeter’s ownership group took over. Miami is once again stripping it down and starting from the bottom, despite the fact that they actually had plenty of viable talent on the roster. Don’t ever change, Marlins.
Giancarlo Stanton smacked 59 homers last year and took home National League MVP honors as a result. Ozuna is not nearly as well-known as his former bash brother, but he’s quietly become one of the league’s premier sluggers. Ozuna hit a career-high 37 home runs of his own last year and earned his second consecutive All-Star nod.
Ozuna hit plenty of home runs despite playing half of his games at Marlins Park. The move to Busch Stadium isn’t much of an upgrade, but it’s an upgrade nevertheless. We saw last season what kind of power Ozuna is capable of producing in a full season. He’s still only 27, so it’s safe to assume that he hasn’t even reached his athletic peak yet.
This number just looks too low for a player with Ozuna’s pop. Take the over on 28 ½ home runs.
Aaron Judge took the league by storm last year, hitting a rookie record 52 homers for the Yankees. What can he do for an encore?
Yankee Stadium is one of the best parks in baseball for hitting home runs, and Judge made it look like a bandbox routinely last season. The Yankees may well set a new major league record for homers by a team this year.
That said, it’s tough to imagine everything going right for Judge the way it did last season. He’s still going to hit a boatload of dingers, but expecting him to top 50 again is a dangerous game.
Pitchers started to exploit Judge’s weaknesses in the playoffs. He struck out a whopping 27 times in New York’s 2 playoff series, which set an MLB record. There’s no reason to expect pitchers to ease up, and it’s easy to see a sophomore slump on the horizon for Mr. Judge.
36 ½ looks low. I’m tempted to take the over, but I really have no idea what to expect from him in 2018. I’ll take the cautious route here and roll with the under on 36.5 jacks for Judge.
Judge and Stanton justifiably stole most of the headlines last season, and with good reason. Still, we can’t forget the insane power surge we saw from JD Martinez over the second half of the season. After being traded from the Tigers to the Diamondbacks, Martinez hit 29 homers in 62 games. That’s…a lot. He also tied a record with 4 home runs in one game against the Dodgers.
Martinez was one of the many free agents available for a while this winter before eventually inking a deal to join the Red Sox. Given the concerns with the humidor in Arizona, the move to Boston should be a favorable one as far as Martinez’s power is concerned.
Fenway Park is one of the best hitters’ parks in the league, especially for those that swing it from the right side of the plate. JD should be able to pick up right where he left off in the power department.
Frankly, the 34 ½ number is egregiously low. If he stays healthy, we saw last season that this guy has legitimate 50-homer upside. I expect Martinez to take Boston by storm and coast past 34 ½ longballs.
Mike Trout missed well over a month last season and was still a factor in the American League MVP race. The award eventually went to Jose Altuve, but the fact that Trout continued to put up gargantuan numbers despite missing significant time is a testament to his true greatness. He’s the best player in baseball, and it isn’t even close.
In 114 games last year, Trout slashed .306/.442/.629 with 33 homers, 72 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases. His .306 average was one of the lower marks of his career.
If Trout is able to log a fully healthy season, 166 ½ hits is a low projection. Trout played in at least 139 games from 2012 through 2016. His hit totals in each of those years were 182, 190, 173, 172 and 173. His overall hit totals have declined a bit since he added more power to his game, but he’s still elite in all facets of the game.
I sound like a broken record here, I know. I suppose I’m just an optimist. I expect Trout to be right in the thick of the MVP race again, and I think he goes over on 166 ½ base hits.
Noah Syndergaard looked primed for an enormous 2017 campaign before an injury kept him sidelined for almost the entire year. If his early spring training numbers are any indication, he’s feeling healthy now. Syndergaard was routinely hitting 100 miles an hour on the radar gun in his first start of the spring.
Expecting Mets pitchers to stay healthy for a full season is a dangerous game. It feels as though a handful of these guys go down with a variety of maladies every single year. Thor could always be bitten by the injury bug again, but hopefully, he’s able to make his full complement of starts.
He’s only topped 30 starts once in his career, but he didn’t appear in the big leagues until 2015, so we’re not working with some huge sample size. In 31 starts in ‘16, Thor racked up 14 wins against 9 losses.
I think the Mets are going to surprise some people this year. They obviously need their starters to stay upright in order to do so, but New York has enough talent to challenge the Nationals atop the AL East. Syndergaard showed his massive potential when we did actually get to see him pitch last year, and he’s a Cy Young-caliber pitcher when healthy.