*) . . . . . Last year, Trea Turner was chosen to be the National League’s hit leader and we honestly were right. Before we start rubbing our shoulders and congratulating ourselves, Bo Bichette wasn’t on our radar.
We knew of his talent and that he would play in the league sooner or later, but we wouldn’t say that we had predicted that. We’re determined to do better this year. Let’s look at four players from each league and see if they can win the hit crown.
Three names from each league Vegas believes has a chance, and then one long shot in the AL or NL. This is where you could look geniuses, or just wish people forgot that we even floated it.
Best Value Bets in the American League
Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox (+1000)
It’s never fun to pick the odds-on favorite, but he’s the favorite for a reason. Since he was a Silver Slugger, finished seventh in MVP voting in 2020, and was named to his first All Star team in 2021._
The White Sox superstar had 163 hits in 123 games – had he stayed mostly healthy and played in even 150 games, that would have put him on pace for 199 hits, which would have been good enough to bring home the crown.
The good news for us in this race is Anderson doesn’t like to walk much – he has just 49 free passes in his last 1290 plate appearances over the past three seasons. Anderson has hit. 309 or better in all of those seasons and now that he has more protection down the lineup than ever, this feels like a great opportunity for him to take that final step to stardom.
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays (+1200)
It’s probably too late to buy stock – or at least you’re not getting it at the optimal price – but now is the last chance to get in on the Wander Franco hype train. The 21-year-old superstar finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2021 and did so while only playing in 70 games.
Franco continued to blossom as the year went on and was never better than he was in the postseason – going 7-of-19 with two home runs as the Red Sox topped the Rays. Franco has the potential to be a five-tool player. His premier element is his hit tools, both for power and contact. The Rays inked the young phenom to an 11-year, $182 milion deal (which might as well be one billion dollars considering the Rays never sign anybody for more than 10 million per year, much less for more than a decade). We like Franco’s prospects as much as the Blue Jays (Bichette Jr. and Guerrero Jr.) but we have slightly better odds of Franco signing.
Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (+1600)
In 2021, Devers’ batting average was down more than 30 points from his career-best in 2019. Yet, he still hit a career-high 38 home runs and 113 RBIs, so he was more than productive even if the average took a dip. We expect this to increase. 300 capabilities, and if that’s the case, given he sees around 700 plate appearances per year, there’s no reason to think he won’t be in the 190-200 hit range. If there’s one thing we’re concerned about, it’s that he’s becoming more disciplined at the plate – his on-base percentage is now 65-70 points better than his average when in years past it was only 45-50 points better. But Devers’ odds don’t even put him in the top 10, which gives us solid value and that’s what this is all about.
Long shot: Jose Ramirez, SS, Cleveland Guardians (+3000)
Jose Ramirez doesn’t quite have the same protection in his lineup as some of these other guys, but that has never mattered before – the Guardians’ shortstop is a certified professional hitter.
He hasn’t scored more than he played in a single season since 2017,, but this is our long shot and we are betting on the potential. Ramirez had 36 home runs last year – three short of his career high – so he can clearly still swing it. Also, there’s the chance he gets dealt in the middle of the season and goes to an even better situation, so at a 30:1 payout, it’s worth seeing if Ramirez can find his All-Star form again.
Best Value Bets in the National League
Trea Turner, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (+1200)
Not all bets have to be cute or sexy. You can bet that the man has proven he is capable of it and will do it again. Trea Turner is the one.
Turner led the league in batting average with a 328 batting average last season, on his way to an MLB-high 198 hits. He went four games in 2021 without recording a hit, and never again did that three consecutive times throughout the season. This consistency can be achieved by taking another shot.
Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves (+1600)
This is exactly the type of player we’re looking for. He has a high contact rate and low strikeouts. However, he isn’t an extreme power threat, though he does have pop, so he will be frequently being pitched around. Ozzie Albies is simply one of the best players in baseball. The Braves second baseman hit 30 home runs and drove in 106 runs last year and finished 23rd in total hits. In 2019, he was fifth in hits and first in the National League. He has the pedigree, so we’re betting on his return to this form.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals (+1800)
Perennially underappreciated by those who don’t get to see him play on a daily basis, Paul Goldschmidt continues to do nothing but hit.
Goldschmidt finished seven in hits in the MLB last season with 177 – his fifth time in the past nine years he’s had more than 170 hits in a season. He did so while his average dipped ever so slightly to .294. It would have been at. 304 – like in the abbreviated 2020 season – that would be much closer to the 190 range, which would’ve been the top 2 last year. It is a good deal.
Longshot: Bryan Reynolds, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (+2800)
Yes, it’s hard to believe we’re talking about something affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a positive light, yet here we are. Bryan Reynolds is one the three newcomers to the Pirates organization. His odds of success would be higher if Reynolds were more popular.
In two seasons, (2019 Reynolds and 2021) Reynolds both hit. 314 and . 302 respectively and last year racked up 169 hits – good for a tie for 13th in all of the majors.
Reynolds had a BABIP of. 345 last year (it was . 387 in 2019) so had he had the same fortune last year as he did his rookie season, he would have led the majors in hits. We like this sneaky longshot quite a bit.