Starting Nine (Week of July 24th)

Major League Baseball is well into the second half and we start the week with some classic interleague rivalries including the North Side vs. the South Side in Chicago and the Subway Series in New York. With just over a week before the deadline, let’s take a look at our latest Starting Nine.

Starting Nine (Week of July 24th)

#9. Boston Red Sox 53-47 (+3000/+8000) - Boston edges out the Giants and Twins for the 9th spot as they remain perhaps the most intriguing team heading to the trade deadline. Trevor Story is close to returning and so is starter Garrett Whitlock. The Red Sox could be both buyers and sellers at the deadline and strengthen both their farm system and the major league roster. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Toronto 55-45 (+750/+1600) - Vlad Guerrero is starting to heat up which is not a good sign for the American League. Toronto could use some bullpen help at the deadline, however, as Romero’s recent troubles are a bit concerning. Last Week’s Rank: 9th

#7. Milwaukee Brewers 55-45 (+1000/+2200) - Milwaukee has established itself as the team to beat in the NL Central Division but they’ll need healthy returns from Woodruff and Ashby to be a true playoff threat. Last Week’s Rank: 7th

#6. Houston Astros 56-44 (+400/+800) - The Astros are a playoff team. We can table that discussion. Are they a championship team? Talk to me after the trade deadline. Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#5. Tampa Bay Rays 61-42 (+310/+650) - I think the weekend series with Baltimore should have opened some eyes around the league. The Rays continue to drop in our Starting Nine and they look like a team that may have played over their head early on. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#4. Texas Rangers 59-41 (+500/+1100) - The Rangers got a wake-up call this weekend in losing two of three games to the Dodgers. This team has the offense but pitching help is necessary. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#3. Los Angeles Dodgers 57-41 (+230/+475) - The Dodgers were bounced in the playoffs last year without the kind of quality starting pitching depth that we are used to seeing. If Julio Urias continues to struggle, will the Dodgers make a major play for one of the Mets’ two former Cy Young winners? Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#2. Baltimore Orioles 61-38 (+650/+1600) - The O’s remain in the #2 spot as they take over the #1 spot in the AL after winning three of four from the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend. Can the O’s hang on if the Blue Jays, Yankees, or even Red Sox make significant moves at the deadline? Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#1. Atlanta Braves 64-34 (+160/+340) - The Braves started the week slowly with two losses in three games against the lowly White Sox at home but rebounded nicely to take two of three from NL Central Division-leading Milwaukee. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the forward-thinking Braves as the trade deadline approaches. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

Let’s look at the favorites to win the major awards in MLB at the halfway point of the season.

Top-five AL MVP Candidates

#1. Shohei Ohtani (-1000) - Ohtani is the MVP at this point. If this were a race, he’d have a two-lap lead and only a complete wipeout would cause any concern. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Kyle Tucker (+3,000) - Tucker’s three-home run night in Oakland was a nice signature game to move him up the ranks. His numbers should jump a bit more with the return of Alvarez to protect him in the lineup. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#3. Corey Seager (+2200) - Ohtani’s season will always dwarf anyone in the field but, save for injury, Seager would be the clear #2 choice. Unfortunately, when it comes to Seager, he’s rarely saved from injury. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#4. Wander Franco (+3500) - The more the Rays sink will greatly impact Franco’s place on this list. He could be surpassed next week if the Rays continue to falter and other stars emerge. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#5. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+9000) - The MLB Home Run Hitting Contest champion replaces teammate Bichette on the list this week. His bat has heated up since the All-Star Break and so have the Jays. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

Top-five NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (-550) - While he is not quite lapping the field, it is pretty close for Acuna as the season heads toward August. His combination of power, speed, and defense has made this a historic season for the Braves right fielder. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Freddie Freeman (+700) - Freeman trails Acuna in WAR, is tied with him in total bases, and is just a point behind him in average. Defensively, however, he is not as impactful as Acuna making him a distant second. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#3. Mookie Betts (+1200) - Hard to choose between Freeman and Betts for second behind Acuna. Do you prefer the more dynamic, defensive wizardry of Betts or the steady play of Freeman? Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#4. Corbin Carroll (+5000) - Carroll’s candidacy will take a hit as the D-Backs continue to struggle. He is still having a dominant year and is the focal point of the team’s offense as a rookie. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#5. Juan Soto (+6000) - Will Soto be on the move again at this year’s trade deadline? The Padres have said no, but they may be tempted if the price is right. Soto’s power numbers are on the rise and he could greatly impact a potential playoff team. Philadelphia quickly comes to mind. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Gerrit Cole (+180) - Cole’s odds dropped again this week as the field of viable Cy Young candidates continues to thin in the American League. He is tops in WAR and second in strikeouts. A healthy finish could very well be all he needs in a year without a truly dominant starting pitcher in the American League. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Framber Valdez (+350) - Valdez’s odds rose this week as he continues to struggle a bit with an ankle injury. He should be in plenty of high-leverage starts down the stretch for the surging Astros so he remains a viable threat for his first Cy Young award. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Kevin Gausman (+550) - Like his teammate Vlad Guerrero in the MVP race, Gausman could become a favorite for the Cy Young if he gets hot and the Jays move up the standings. This current line is very tempting to jump on. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Blake Snell (+400) - Snell checks nearly all the boxes as a Cy Young candidate despite having just six wins this season. He could also be traded to a playoff contender at the deadline which will only bolster his candidacy. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#2. Logan Webb (+1200) - Webb was roughed up in his last outing but he has otherwise been a model of consistency this season. He could go on a run and make this current number an absolute steal in a wide-open NL Cy Young field. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#3. Spencer Strider (+250) - Strider has some of the sexy numbers on his side: wins, strikeouts, and WHIP but has a slightly elevated ERA and a lower WAR. He does pitch for the best team in baseball, which should help him add to those numbers down the stretch. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

*All odds courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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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.