MLB Odds: Three 2023 Long-Shot Cy Young Award Picks For Each League

Is Chris Sale bound for a huge bounce back?


Mar 28, 2023

Full disclosure: This exercise — trying to pinpoint a few long-shot Cy Young Award candidates — did not go well for us ahead of the 2022 MLB season.

Last season, we circled Frankie Montas, Eduardo Rodríguez and John Means as three American League pitchers with odds of 30-1 or longer who could maybe represent decent betting value to win the Cy Young. In the National League, Sean Manaea, Charlie Morton and Trevor Rogers all got what amounted to be the kiss of death.

Means made just two starts. The other five combined to go 31-43 with a 4.56 ERA. Not exactly great.

All that means, though, is we’re due in 2023 after learning our lesson(s). So, here are six more pitchers — three in each league — who might(?) represent betting value as 30-1 or deeper long shots to win their respective Cy Young Award this season.

(All odds from FanDuel Sportsbook)

Lucas Giolito (+5000)
In the three seasons preceding 2022, Giolito finished sixth, seventh and 11th in Cy Young voting. He then had his worst season since 2018 when he allowed more earned runs than anyone in baseball. It has been a mixed bag, to say the least. There’s not a lot to get excited about looking back on 2022, either, as his underlying numbers were horrendous save for a decent strikeout rate. Giolito blamed his struggles on mechanical flaws stemming from adding 20 pounds of muscle. It sounds like nutrition and flexibility were priorities this winter. Giolito’s career track makes him hard to predict, but there’s some value here in a wide-open race on a guy at 50-1 who opened at 10-1 just a year ago.

Nestor Cortes (+5500)
Of all starters to log at least 200 total innings, only three pitchers — Max Scherzer, Julio Urías and Alek Manoah — have a better ERA since the start of 2021 than Cortes. A deeper dive suggests a little bit of luck, but the Yankees southpaw had a tremendous season in 2022 with a 12-4 record and 159 ERA+ (league average: 100) in a career-high 158 1/3 innings. He’s one of the Yankees’ only halfway-healthy starters entering 2023, so he’ll probably be called on to log even more innings this season. The injuries around him might give a bit of a narrative bump, too, especially if Gerrit Cole gets hurt or doesn’t pitch to the levels expected. The New York lineup remains elite, too, so expect him to post quite a few wins. A 60-1 number at DraftKings Sportsbook to lead the majors in wins might be worth a sprinkle.

Chris Sale (+8000)
The last time Sale was anything resembling healthy was 2021 when he made his return from Tommy John surgery. He looked like the Sale of old, striking out 52 in 42 2/3 innings of work with a 149 ERA+. That optimism quickly became a memory amid a 2022 season from hell in which Sale logged just 5 2/3 innings. The most encouraging takeaway from his return to the bump this spring was, well, that he was back on the bump. He appears to have no limitations or issues, and he was hitting 96 mph on the radar gun, even while working solely from the stretch. The secondary stuff showed promise, with the slider looking vintage and some hope regarding the changeup. Sale is also a quick worker, so he shouldn’t be adversely affected by the new rules. The health is a massive question mark, but a return to anything resembling his prime — where he finished sixth or better for Cy Young voting in seven straight seasons — gives this inflated number a little value. Oh, and keep your eye on Nick Pivetta in Boston, too.

Joe Musgrove (+3500)
Might not be the greatest value here, with Musgrove set to miss a couple of starts, at least, while continuing recovery from a freak weight-room injury. But if he hits the ground running, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take a big step in 2023 (no toe pun intended). He’s a horse, logging at least 170 innings in the last three full seasons, and he’s a big-time strike-thrower, too. He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but he’s among MLB’s best when it comes to limiting hard contact, a skill that could play up even more with the new rules. The Padres also might be baseball’s best team, so his win-loss record should reflect as much come September.

Hunter Greene (+5000)
Greene went 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA last season and still was good for 1.6 wins above replacement. That’s largely because he struck out a lot of dudes, 164 in 125 2/3 innings, to be exact. The stuff is incredibly filthy, but he hasn’t been able to fully harness it yet, and he plays on an atrocious team. However, he’s just 23 years old, and this thing could click at any point. If and when it happens, the 50-1 odds are going to be a thing of yesterday, so this is a buy low while you still can situation with the hope he takes off in 2023. With a fastball that consistently hits 100-plus mph, there’s always the chance it happens.

Clayton Kershaw (+6000)
What if Kershaw is still really good? The workload probably gets in the way of it becoming a true reality, but 60-1 for a generational talent is hard to ignore. Even more so given Kershaw’s 2022 performance where his 2.51 expected ERA was his best since 2017 — when he finished second in Cy Young voting. His advanced numbers were brilliant; Kershaw ranked in the 93rd percentile of barrel percentage while also sitting in the 93rd percentile for walk rate. That’s basically Max Fried. Again, he probably won’t log enough innings to really contend, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him push the sun back up into the sky for at least one more season.

Thumbnail photo via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images

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