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Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees didn't start the season as MVP favorites. But it's easy to see how they got there by mid-June.
Betts and Judge are the favorites to win NL MVP and AL MVP at BetMGM. There are three key factors driving their move up the odds: They're established stars, they play for two of the most famous franchises in sports (in enormous markets, of course) and they've been on fire for weeks.
Both players are far from runaway favorites to win the awards. More than half the season remains, and baseball MVP awards are often taken by the player who gets hot in the final month or two. But it's worth wondering if, even at favorite odds, Judge and Betts are going to remain favorites until they take home those awards.
AL MVP favorite is Aaron Judge
Judge's rise to being the AL MVP favorite isn't surprising. The Yankees are the best team in baseball and Judge is leading MLB in home runs by a significant amount. If the Yankees have MLB's best record and one of their players leads the league in home runs and wins above replacement (WAR) like Judge does, he's going to win MVP. Voters aren't passing on punching a ticket for a New York star in that situation.
Judge was about 20-to-1 before the season started and is now almost even money to win AL MVP. He took over as the favorite this month:
Shohei Ohtani +225
Mike Trout +500
Jose Ramirez +900
Those are the only four AL players at shorter than +1000.
Judge leads baseball with 24 home runs. No other player has more than 18. Judge also leads the AL in runs scored and is hitting .318. Two main obstacles could trip up Judge: His own health, and Ohtani. Judge has a long injury history and that's one reason he wasn't a preseason MVP favorite. Ohtani's ability as a pitcher and hitter makes him the type of player voters could pick every season in his prime; nobody else matches what Ohtani does.
But Judge is the obvious favorite right now and if he and the Yankees continue anywhere near the pace they've been on, it will take a monumental final three-and-a-half months from someone else to beat him.
Mookie Betts leads NL race
Betts has been a superstar for a while. He became one of MLB's best players with the Boston Red Sox, which made him a household name, then moved on to the Dodgers. He has been a star on the West Coast too.
Betts was one of the handful of preseason NL MVP favorites, but then had a quiet April. He followed that up with a scorching 12-homer May. That put him at the top of the NL MVP list.
Manny Machado +400
Paul Goldschmidt +400
Pete Alonso +900
Bryce Harper +900
Machado was hot early in the season, Goldschmidt has been great the past few weeks, Alonso has the New York hype/good team combination going for him and Harper is a superstar and reigning MVP. Betts is the favorite now but that could change quickly.
Betts is a great player, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he did win MVP. He has put himself in good position to win. But there's still a lot of season left for someone to catch him, or Judge in the AL.