• Eric Cohen

By Eric Cohen

How weird is it that we’re in mid-July and we haven’t seen live Major League Baseball since

March? Of all the weirdness the coronavirus has brought to sports, this has to be near the top

of my list. With the exception of 1994, Summer has always meant baseball…when the

temperature becomes unbearable outside here in Arizona, stay at home and turn on the TV –

some game will be on seemingly always.

With the abbreviated season set to begin on July 23 rd , here are a few value plays where the

unpredictability of the baseball season may benefit us, the better.

Odds according to Bovada.lv

AL Cy Young: Though I like his teammate Shane Bieber (+550) a bit better, Mike Clevenger

(+1000) has the goods to contend for a Cy Young during this shortened season. Last year in only

21 starts, Clevenger went 13-4 with a 2.71 ERA, displaying elite punchout ability with 169

strikeouts in 126 innings. This year Cleveland faces bottom feeders Kansas City and Detroit a

combined 21 times so he’ll have ample opportunities to face weaker lineups. If he can improve

upon his already impressive 12.07 K/9 ratio from 2019, here’s a sneaky Cy Young pick at

double-digit odds.

AL MVP: Mike Trout’s comments regarding his status this season seem murky so taking him at

+110 to win AL MVP doesn’t seem like a smart bet. A lot of keen baseball eyes are watching the

low budget Tampa Bay Rays, who have a dynamic pitching staff and hungry young hitters. The

best of those hitters is outfielder Austin Meadows (+3300), who despite only playing in 138

games in 2019, swatted 33 homers and drove in 89 runs with a .291 batting average. If the Rays

are to make the playoffs again, Meadows will be relied on to lead them…and I love the value at

33-1.

NL ROY: In a short season, this one looks to be a true crapshoot. But I’m going to take two shots

here: Cardinals OF Dylan Carlson (+850) and Padres LHP MacKenzie Gore (+1100). Both very

well might not make their opening day rosters but I would expect both players to make their

debuts before August 15 th . In 126 games between AA and AAA in 2019, Carlson smashed 26

HRs, stole 20 bases, and hit nearly .300. Gore posted a 9-2 record with a 1.69 ERA in 20 starts

between A and AA…so while it’s a major assumption to believe he can succeed in the Majors

right away, the Padres have shown a recent track record of their prospects having immediate

success.

AL Hits Leader: Quick trivia question – can you name the top two Major League Baseball hits

leaders in 2019 off the top of your head? Nope, neither could I. Whit Merrifield (206, Royals)

and Rafael Devers (201, Red Sox) led the way. And did you know that Merrifield also led the


league in hits in 2018? Both Merrifield and Devers are co-3 rd choices to lead the AL, not even

the entire league, this season at +1400!! Sign me up for shares of both!

MLB RBIs: Always an unpredictable category with the last two leaders having been Anthony

Rendon (2019) and J.D. Martinez (2018). So let’s take another two shots with a couple of young

left-handed hitting stars: Juan Soto (+1400) and Yordan Alvarez (+2500). Soto is a legitimate NL

MVP candidate after driving in 110 in 150 Nationals games last season…and with 2019 RBI

leader Rendon gone, there should be more opportunity for Soto to clear the bases when at bat.

Alvarez, having won the AL’s Rookie of the Year unanimously in 2019, drove in 78 runs in only

313 at-bats! With the likes of Springer, Bregman, and Altuve hitting directly in front of him,

there’s no reason he shouldn’t thrive and flirt with 55+ RBIs hitting cleanup for a loaded Astros

squad.


Eric Cohen is co-host of The Daily Blender (M-F 3-6pm) on 1580 The

Fanatic in Phoenix.