The start of the MLB season is now just hours away with an opening day slate that anyone can get excited about. But before you strap on for some baseball action, you might want to join in on the fun of player prop bets. For those who don't know, you can wager on which players will lead the league in each individual category and I've got my eye on several prop bets including which player will lead the league in home runs, runs batted in, hits, strikeouts and saves.
Without further ado, let's start with the most fun category..
HR Leader: Pete Alonso, Mets (+1200)
For home run leader, not only am I looking at surface level home run numbers but I want to make sure it's backed up by the Statcast power metrics. With that being said, I'm going with one of the favorites in Alonso. Since Alonso made his debut back in 2019, he actually leads all of baseball with 106 homers. He actually led the league with 53 as a rookie in 2019. Alonso's power is legit (as we've seen in the HR derby) and it's supported by Statcast. His 145 barrels are tied for the most over the past three seasons (barrels are the optimal exit velocity and launch angle in terms of producing power).
Also worth considering: Kyle Schwarber, OF, Phillies at +3500 as a longshot bet. Schwarber changed his swing last season and hit 32 homers in just 113 games, a 45-home run pace over a full season. Now he's in Citizens Bank Park with the Phillies, a ballpark that is very conducive to home runs. I'd be interested in a little sprinkle on Schwarber.
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RBI Leader: Jose Abreu, White Sox (+2000)
Last season the Blue Jays had four hitters with 100+ RBI. Their team scored the third-most runs in baseball. So which Blue Jays hitter am I choosing? I'm not. Instead, I'm looking for the next Blue Jays lineup and I believe that will be the Chicago White Sox. You need a stacked lineup that will continue turning over throughout the season and then you have to find the main cog in that lineup. I was shocked to see that Jose Abreu was tied for the seventh-best odds in this category at +2000. Abreu has played seven full seasons in the majors, he has 100+ RBI in six of those. He finished second in RBI last season even in a down year, led the league in this category in the shortened 2020 and was second back in 2019 The White Sox lineup is absolutely loaded, too. He's surrounded by Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Yasmani Grandal and they just acquired AJ Pollock. They just need to stay healthy.
Hits Leader: Trea Turner, Dodgers (+1000)
In a hits leader, I'm looking for somebody who makes a lot of contact, has decent speed, and doesn't walk too much. You might think walks don't matter for this but you need more balls in play. That's why I passed on Freddie Freeman in favor of his teammate Trea Turner who is the odds on favorite at +1000. Turner led baseball in hits last season in just 148 games. His strikeout rate is just 17% and he doesn't walk that much, just a 6.3% walk rate He's also entering a contract year, which we've noticed magically helps players stay on the field more. I don't love taking favorites but this one makes too much sense.
Also worth considering: Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker (+5000) as a longshot. Tucker got off to an awful start last season but from May 1 on he hit .320, which was second best to only Trea Turner during that span. Tucker actually ranked third best in Statcast's expected batting average metric as well. He's a budding superstar and these are just great odds.
Strikeouts Leader: Lucas Giolito, White Sox (+2000)
The pitching categories are a little tougher because there are so many injuries and players that emerge year over year. Somebody who has remained consistent with the strikeouts, though, is Lucas Giolito (I swear I'm not a White Sox fan, I just think they have an awesome team). Giolito checks in at +2000 and since he broke out back in 2019, he has the fifth-most strikeouts in baseball. I look at the names that are just ahead of him during that time: Gerrit Cole is awesome but had some concerns with the sticky stuff last season, Max Scherzer is 37 years old, Robbie Ray is coming off a fantastic Cy Young season but has been very inconsistent in his career, and Aaron Nola has some performance concerns of his own. Giolito has a mid-90s fastball and three pitches he can rely on. His changeup is actually one of the best in baseball. Lastly, with strikeouts, we're looking at swinging strike rate. Giolito's 15.5% mark is fourth among qualified pitchers since 2019.
Saves Leader: Josh Hader, Brewers (+1200) and Liam Hendriks, White Sox (+1000)
Saves are currently the hardest category to predict in baseball. More teams are going with a committee approach. What you're looking for are talented relievers on winning teams and then you're just hoping they stay healthy. The odds on both of these players really caught me by surprise. Liam Hendriks is +1000 and Josh Hader is +1200. Neither ranks in the top-five in terms of odds to lead the league in saves, which doesn't make sense when you consider they're the two best relievers in baseball. Hendriks and Hader ranked first and second among relievers in WAR last season, respectively, They both get tons of strikeouts and are on winning teams. ATC Projections over on Fangraphs have these two names to lead baseball in saves. They're the first two relievers drafted in Fantasy Baseball. Frankly, they should both be co-favorites in this category and you're getting them at tremendous value.