Aaron Judge favored to win AL MVP after scorching start to MLB season

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Before the season, Aaron Judge declined an extension with the Yankees and bet on himself ahead of free agency. Others who bet on him could be in for a big payday, too.

The New York slugger is now the favorite to win this year's AL MVP, dealing at a short +125 at Barstool Sportsbook. He's ahead of Angels teammates and former MVP winners Mike Trout (+325) and Shohei Ohtani (+400), the only other players priced at 10-1 or shorter to win the award.

It's hard to argue with oddsmakers - or with Judge's decision to hold out - with the Yankees star posting a .315/.385/.685 slash line through the first two months of the season. Judge has always possessed immense power, but he's taken that to new heights in 2022, pacing all qualified batters in slugging, OPS (1.070), and home runs (22) through 53 games.

He's also not showing any signs of slowing. Entering Wednesday, Judge had hit a homer in five of his last eight games, and his performance Tuesday was the 10th time he's earned at least three RBIs in a contest this campaign. It's not as if he's getting lucky, either. His 62.8% hard-hit rate ranks second in MLB, while his elite barrel rate (25.9%) leads all qualified batters.

However, as we know from seasons past, two months is just a slice within a larger 162-game sample. Here are the current odds to win AL MVP and a few other names to watch:

PLAYER ODDS
Aaron Judge +125
Mike Trout +325
Shohei Ohtani +400
Jose Ramirez +1100
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. +1800
Rafael Devers +2100
Yordan Alvarez +2500
Byron Buxton +4500
Luis Robert +5000
Wander Franco +5500
Giancarlo Stanton +7000
Jose Altuve +8000
Xander Bogaerts +8000
Tim Anderson +10000
Bo Bichette +10000
Alex Bregman +10000
George Springer +10000
Jose Abreu +10000
Kyle Tucker +10000
Ty France +10000
Anthony Rizzo +10000
J.D. Martinez +12000
Corey Seager +12000
Trevor Story +12000
Salvador Perez +15000
Taylor Ward +15000
Michael Brantley +20000
Carlos Correa +20000
Austin Meadows +20000
Anthony Rendon +20000
Marcus Semien +20000
Randy Arozarena +20000
Joey Gallo +25000
Eloy Jimenez +25000
DJ LeMahieu +25000
Brandon Lowe +25000
Trey Mancini +25000
Javier Baez +30000
Matt Chapman +30000
Josh Donaldson +30000
Yasmani Grandal +30000
Max Kepler +30000
Yoan Moncada +30000
Jeimer Candelario +30000
Mitch Haniger +30000

Jose Ramirez, Guardians (+1100)

We'd be talking a lot more about the eye-popping stat line that Ramirez has tallied through the first two months of the season if it weren't for the power-crazed run that we've seen from Judge and a few other sluggers.

The longtime Guardians star has posted a stellar 14.4% walk rate while striking out a mere 7.2% of the time - best among qualified batters. That ridiculous split has helped Ramirez post the third-best fWAR (3.0) in the AL behind Judge (3.4) and Rafael Devers (3.3), even with a batting average (.280) below his contemporaries.

He still has an AL-best 53 RBIs on the year, and he's already hit an MLB-best four triples, so the power is there for Ramirez to make a run down the stretch. He's finished in the top three in MVP voting in four of the last five years. Don't be surprised when he's in the mix again in October.

Rafael Devers, Red Sox (+2100)

As mentioned above, Devers' value on the field is just a tick below Judge's per advanced metrics, and he's been the superior defensive player through the first two months of the season. So why is he dealing at such a discount?

Sure, voters love the long ball, but Devers still ranks seventh in the AL in home runs (12) and fourth in slugging (.603). Where he's really excelled is as a contact hitter. The Red Sox star ranks third in the AL in batting average (.342) and leads all of baseball in hits (80), doubles (23), and total bases (141).

Those numbers don't jump off the page for MVP voters, nor will Boston's 29-27 record entering Wednesday. Yet this is clearly an individual award - Ohtani won unanimously in 2021 despite the Angels posting a losing record - and Devers has been as impressive as any individual this year.

Yordan Alvarez, Astros (+2500)

If anyone can threaten Judge's reign as baseball's ultimate power king, it's Alvarez. He actually leads MLB in hard-hit rate (64.2%) and expected slugging percentage (.788), per Statcast.

That's translated into a whopping 95 hard-hit balls and 27 barrels for the Astros slugger, with 17 leaving the park as of Wednesday. That's still a notch behind Judge (22), though Alvarez is drawing more walks and striking out less than the Yankees star. Alvarez also has a much lower BABIP (.267) to support his box-score metrics.

Positive regression could be on his side down the stretch, and he has the power to compete with Judge in the relevant areas that voters tend to favor at season's end. Health is always a concern for Alvarez - and Judge, for that matter - but at this price, it's well worth the wager.

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at cjackson.cowart@thescore.com.

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Aaron Judge favored to win AL MVP after scorching start to MLB season
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