In 2019, Corbin Burnes went 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA in 32 games (four starts). That same year, Robbie Ray went 12-5 with a 4.34 ERA, his third-highest ERA in a season to that point. So what do those two players have in common? They went on to win the 2021 Cy Young Awards in the next full season.
Burnes and Ray are great examples of how one can cash in a big payday in the Major League Baseball futures market. When yours truly accurately predicted Shane Bieber’s Cy Young campaign of 2020, he was only starting his third season in the league and had never finished higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting.
Predicting each league’s Cy Young winner seems like a daunting task, but it is worth the thrill of tracking your bets and your players’ performances all season long, with the hopes of a big payout awaiting at season’s end.
Here are our predictions for the 2022 American League and National League Cy Young winners. (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook).
American League Cy Young Winner: Lance McCullers Jr. (+1400)
This season, Lance McCullers Jr. will not even be the most talked-about pitcher on his own staff, as the main focus will be on Justin Verlander’s return in 2022. However, the uncertainty of what the Astros will get out of Verlander as he returns from Tommy John surgery opens up more doors for McCullers Jr. to make a name for himself and establish a Cy Young resume.
McCullers Jr. is coming off a 13-5 campaign where he pitched to a 3.16 ERA. He led the league in hits per nine innings (6.8) and home runs per nine innings (0.7), and keeping the ball in the ballpark is especially important with today’s launch angle philosophy. We have also seen Cy Young voters be enamored with high strikeout totals, and McCullers Jr. checks that box too, as he ranked fourth in the American League with a 10.3 K/9 ratio last season.
The Astros are likely to be the class of the AL West again, which means McCullers Jr. has a path to an impressive win-loss record. Last year was his first where he received Cy Young votes, as he finished seventh. If he can cut down on his 76 walks from last season (which also led the league), he could be in for a career year.
National League Cy Young Winner: Zack Wheeler (+1000)
Zack Wheeler did not receive a single Cy Young vote in his first five seasons with the Mets (2013-2019), but he has resurrected his career in his two-year stint in Philadelphia. Wheeler finished 12th in the Cy Young voting in 2020 and second last year, with many believing he was deserving of last year’s award. There was no more valuable pitcher to their team in 2021, as Wheeler’s 7.6 WAR was almost a full point higher than any other pitcher in either league. If Wheeler comes close to matching the production he provided last year, he should get the sentimental nod from voters who believe he was snubbed last year.
Wheeler went 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA last season. Because of Philadelphia’s porous bullpen, Wheeler was asked to be an innings eater, leading the league in innings pitched (213.1), strikeouts (247), and batters faced (849). Wheeler’s FIP, WHIP, H9, BB9, SO9, and SO/W were all career-bests, and he even earned some MVP votes for his impressive campaign.
Philadelphia’s offense should be one of the most potent in the National League and provide Wheeler with plenty of run support. That should help his win/loss record, which is likely the biggest thing that kept him from winning the Cy Young last year.
Wheeler has made at least 29 starts during the previous three full seasons, so durability should not be a concern. And while teammates like DeGrom/Scherzer and Burnes/Woodruff/Peralta could all steal votes from each other, Wheeler has separated himself from Aaron Nola as the clear ace of the Phillies staff.
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