MLB Starting Nine (Week of March 19th)

It feels just like old times. Remember when we used to wake up at 6:00 AM and watch Opening Day live from South Korea? Oh well, at least baseball is back! The LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres kick off the season in the first-ever Seoul Series in South Korea. Since the season is about to start, here is the first installment of the MLB Starting Nine:

Starting Nine (Week of March 19th)

#9. Chicago Cubs (+1500/+2800) - The Bellinger signing late in the spring helps to fortify a roster full of solid left/right platoons. The Cubs should be highly competitive in what will be a weaker Central Division with the Cardinals and Brewers taking a step back.

#8. Seattle Mariners (+900/+1900) - The Mariners built a better lineup around Julio Rodriguez this season with Polanco at second base and Mitch Garver at DH. They also can lean on one of the best rotations in baseball, spearheaded by Luis Castillo. The rotation will keep them in it, the bats can push them toward the playoffs.

#7. New York Yankees (+500/+1100) - The Yankees may have averted disaster when they announced that Gerrit Cole’s elbow injury wasn’t season-ending. There remain several question marks in the rotation including Rodon and rookie Will Warren, who will likely start the season in the rotation. The lineup looks good on paper but LeMahieu is already hurt and you can pencil in Judge and Stanton for at least 60 games missed combined.

#6. Houston Astros (+370/+750) - The sportsbooks still like the Astros based on their odds but part of me wonders if this is the year they take a step back. Starters Justin Verlander and Jose Urquidy will start the year on IL and fellow starters Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia aren’t due back til midsummer. Offensively, can Jeremy Pena finally have that breakout year to add more punch to their lineup?

#5. Texas Rangers (+700/+1500) - Why are the defending champs just fifth in our first ratings of the season? Well, the Rangers have seemingly passed on Jordan Montgomery, and starters Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and the recently signed Tyler Mahle will all be out until the summer with various injuries. They might take a while to gel but they still have a dangerous everyday lineup.

#4. Philadelphia Phillies (+750/+1400) - The Phillies decided to run it back again this season after resigning both Wheeler and Nola to head the top of their rotation. Can they finally get over the hump this season after last year’s disappointing loss in the NLCS?

#3. Baltimore Orioles (+550/+1100) - The Orioles made some moves this offseason, the highlight being the addition of Corbin Burnes as a true ace. Keep an eye on hard-throwing Grayson Rodriguez to make the leap as well as the team’s #2 starter this season.

#2. Atlanta Braves (+240/+450) - Like the Dodgers, the Braves were knocked out in the NLDS thanks to subpar pitching. They quickly addressed that with their trade for Chris Sale. While Sale is no longer a #1 starter, he gives them the best #4 starter in the game. They return essentially the same starting lineup that pounded pitching all season in 2023.

#1. Los Angeles Dodgers (+180/+350) - After a quiet offseason following their 2022 early playoff exit, the Dodgers went all in this season. If they had just signed Ohtani, it would have been a successful offseason. To add Glasnow, Yamamoto, and Paxton to a rotation that needed an upgrade makes them the World Series favorites.

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

When the season kicks off, we will update our MVP list week by week. Without any games played as of yet, here are the top five MVP candidates by odds for each league.


  1. Aaron Judge - +550

  2. Juan Soto - +600

  3. Yordan Alvarez - +800

  4. Julio Rodriguez - +1000

  5. Corey Seager - +1000

Soto and Rodriguez are the most intriguing of these top five. Soto is playing on a one-year deal and that short porch in right field should add to his power totals. Rodriguez is arguably the best young player in the AL and has more talent around him this year that could bolster his overall numbers.


  1. Ronald Acuna Jr. - +500

  2. Mookie Betts - +650

  3. Shohei Ohtani - +750

  4. Fernando Tatis Jr- +1000

  5. Bryce Harper - +1000

The final two of this list catch my eye. Tatis Jr. is as talented as any player in the game and could replicate the kind of season Acuna had last year in home runs and steals. Harper is, well he’s Bryce Harper. He’s healthy and ready to roll this season. This guy was born to play in Philadelphia.

AL/NL Cy Young Candidates:

I will also keep a running Cy Young tracker this season. Here are the top five candidates in each league heading into the season based on odds.

American League Cy Young Favorites

  1. Kevin Gausman - +650

  2. Corbin Burnes - +800

  3. Framber Valdez - +800

  4. Tarik Skubal - +900

  5. Luis Castillo - +1000

Gausman looked to have a good shot at the award last season before fading late in the season. Of this list, I like Burnes and Valdez best. Burnes is pitching in what has become a true pitcher’s park in Baltimore and Valdez has his chance this year to be the true bell-cow of the Astros’ rotation.

National League Cy Young Favorites

  1. Spencer Strider - +450

  2. Zach Wheeler - +800

  3. Logan Webb - +950

  4. Yoshinomu Yamamoto - +1000

  5. Zac Gallen - +1200

Strider is the most likely to leap this year with the best stuff among this group. I think Yamamoto will show early with most teams being unfamiliar with him but he will have difficulty maintaining it all season. Webb is intriguing now that he has recently signed Blake Snell, last year’s NL Cy Young winner, backing him up in the rotation.

*All odds courtesy of

Author Profile
Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.