Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

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Corbin Carroll MVP? Early examination of the odds

 Scanning through preseason betting odds is a truly entertaining way for me to spend my time. Juan Soto is the favorite at +600, meaning that he has probably around a 10% chance at the award (the break even rate is 14%, but I'm assuming there is a lot of juice here). Second place is Mookie Betts at +800, and then Fernando Tatis Jr., despite being sidelined until April 20th because the MLB is not based, is third at +1200. I believe that Tatis should probably be the favorite every year until he dies, but I understand why he isn't this year. For one, he won't be playing shortstop; the lack of defensive opportunities diminishes his chances of racking up a really high war. For another, he won't be active for all 162 games. This is arguably not a huge deal for a guy like Tatis, who would probably get injured at some point anyways and could use the lessened workload. My concern for him is rust, but still, at +1200 I think that is an easy bet. He is far and away the best player in the national league when he is actually on the field, so he should certainly win over 8% of the time in this economy. This isn't about Tatis, though.

This is about Corbin Carroll. The Diamondbacks rookie is +40000 to win MVP, meaning that he would have to win once every 400 years in a theoretical simulation in order to break even. In comparison, Ryan McMahon of the Colorado Rockies is +25000. So is Nick Madrigal. And Miguel Rojas. I digress.

Carroll was, in my opinion, last year's top prospect when he was called up. All he did was rake, as he hit something like 260/330/500 with truly excellent defense and baserunning. A lot of his offensive success was due to his fantastic speed, and the batted ball data isn't as promising, but that isn't really too important to me at this stage. The solid production he posted in his limited debut is just a launching pad for a true age 23 breakout that could shock the league.

I'm not saying that Carroll should be one of the favorites to win the award. Obviously there is not a huge record of success for rookies in the award; only two have won it, with one being Fred Lynn in 1975, and the other being Ichiro in 2001. I would point out that the sample is really small, and the voting is way different now than it was back then. A breakout rookie in the olden days was likely to be completely ignored by reporters, but things are obviously changing. Voting is becoming more and more objective as sabermetrics brainwash the average MVP voter. If the voting were done today, I don't see how Mike Trout's excellent 2012 rookie season doesn't take home MVP honors. Even though Aaron Judge didn't really deserve MVP in 2017 due to his atrocious clutch performance, he still probably wins it if the voting is done today.

There are also rookies that very certainly could have won if the context allowed for it. Albert Pujols' 2001 rookie campaign could have definitely taken home some hardware in weaker years, but he had to deal with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa at their peaks. The only player at that level in the national league right now for me is Tatis, but he is obviously a massive wild card this year. Obviously guys like Soto and maybe Mookie or Acuna could ascend to that level in a fringe scenario, but the point is that the field is relatively weak at the moment. Corey Seager finished third in his ROY campaign in 2016, although that was a fairly weak field and he wasn't a genuine threat to supplant Kris Bryant for the award. Fernando Tatis Jr., if his fielding was more refined, could have definitely won the 2019 award had he stayed healthy and led the Padres to a wild card spot (this is something of a fantasy world stretch for me, but like, it's certainly conceivable). Carroll is already a super refined fielder, and already put up 112 plate appearances under his belt, so he is more of a super rookie than a rookie. He is also 22, which is older for a rookie of his caliber, which should be to his advantage. 

Carroll could have a superstar level season on an up and coming team in a relatively weak NL. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the pitch clock will allow Carroll to steal as many bases as he wants. Imagine if the exciting rookie hitting 330/400/550 while playing elite center field defense also has 100 stolen bases? (again, this is a bit of a fantasy and it assumes that the shift ban and the pitch clock significantly boost offense) That is an MVP right there, a perfect storm. For 400 to 1 odds, that is one of the easiest bets you can make. I currently have $5 on it, and I might throw down just a bit more because of how juicy it is. 

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