Starting Nine (Week of May 1st)

April is officially in the books and the division races are taking shape. The AL East looks deep once again while both the AL and NL Central Divisions have some work to do. Here’s this week’s starting nine.

Starting Nine (Week of May 1st)

#9. Minnesota Twins 17-12 (+800/+2000) - Tyler Mahle’s injury could be challenging for a Minnesota team that lacks pitching depth. Byron Buxton is still healthy playing exclusively at DH and the team has to think that Carlos Correa will warm as soon as the weather does the same. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Houston Astros 15-13 (+350/+700) - The Astros had another .500 week at 3-3, including two losses at home to Philadelphia. Still waiting for the champs to heat up. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#7. Texas Rangers 17-11 (+1300/+3000) - The massive risk in signing Jacob deGrom to a long-term deal was his recent injury issues. Right forearm tightness and a stint on the IL have Rangers fans holding their breath. Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#6. Toronto Blue Jays 18-10 (+475/+950) - My preseason pick to win the AL East would be leading three of the other five divisions at the moment. If their pitching holds up, watch out. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#5. Milwaukee Brewers 18-10 (+850/+1900) - The Brewers remain intriguing. They have a starting rotation, when healthy, that can match up with anyone and pop all over the lineup. Can they stay consistent and healthy? Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#4. Baltimore Orioles 19-9 (+3000/+7,000) - The Orioles seem to have this formula down now: discipline at the plate to draw walks, steals, and occasional pop. They have the second-best record in the AL to show for it. Last Week’s Rank: 9th

#3. Pittsburgh Pirates 20-9 (+7,000/+15,000) - The odds say that they have no right to be here but they keep winning with quality pitching and a scrappy lineup. Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#2. Atlanta Braves 18-9 (+260/+500) - They remain the odds on favorites to win it all and why not. They have pitching, young stars, and a solid bullpen. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#1. Tampa Bay Rays 23-6 (+360/+750) - The Rays keep winning and their odds keep dropping. Few teams have mastered the art of doing more with less than this organization. Last Week’s Rank: 1

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

Let’s look at the favorites to win the major awards in MLB as April draws to a close.

Top-five AL MVP Candidates

#1. Shohei Ohtani (+105) - Ohtani remains the front runner, dominating on the mound and starting to heat up at the plate. He has seven bombs and hovers around .300 while dominating on the mound. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Mike Trout (+550) - The Angels’ dominant duo remains the front-runner for the award. Trout is second in total bases and hitting .308. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Adley Rutschman (+1100) - Can the can’t-miss kid win an MVP in his second season? He has a .409 OBP from the catching position for an Orioles team that continues to find ways to win. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#4. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+1200) - The Blue Jays will be in the race all season and Guerrero Jr. will be at the forefront. He’s sixth in batting average but has yet to flash the power that we know is coming. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#5. Randy Arozarena (+5000) - Arozarena jumps into the top five with the injury to Judge. Great odds right now for the former AL ROY. He’s second in batting average and total bases while playing for the first-place Rays. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-five NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna (+300) - He’s second in batting average and tied for first in WAR with 13 steals already for the first-place Braves. The resume looks good so far. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Pete Alonso (+600) - The Mets haven’t gotten off to the same start as last season but Alonso has. He is tied for second in home runs, first in RBI, and first in total bases. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Trea Turner (+1100) - Bryce Harper is likely to return within the next two weeks. Turner will see more pitches to hit soon after. Expect a jump in stats soon. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#4. Mookie Betts (+1100) - Betts remains a betting favorite even as he continues a rather slow start. His versatility and reputation keep him in the top five for now. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#5. Xander Bogaerts (+3000) - Like Arozarena, Bogaerts offers quality odds for an all-star player on a winning team. He has reached base in all 31 games to start his Padres’ career and is hitting .308 with six home runs batting behind Soto and Machado. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Gerrit Cole (+300) - Cole is 5-0 to start the year while critical to a Yankees’ team that has scuffled at the plate. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Shohei Ohtani (+450) - Ohtani remains undefeated at 4-0 with 46 strikeouts in 35 innings of work. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Sonny Gray (+3000) - Gray takes deGrom’s place after deGrom’s trip to the IL. He is 4-0 for the first-place Twins with a league-leading 0.77 ERA. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Zac Gallen (+300) - Gallen has a scoreless innings streak that has now surpassed 28 innings. His K/9 rate is a career-high 12.2. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Spencer Strider (+200) - Strider returns to the hill on Monday after missing starts on Saturday and then Sunday due to weather. The rest will likely help the fireballing righty who leads the NL in WHIP and K/9. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Clayton Kershaw (+2000) - Kershaw seems to have turned back the clock this season. He is 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA and has the best WHIP in the National League at just 0.76. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

*All odds courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

Author Profile
Ben Hayes

Ben has been a sports writer for over 35 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 27+ years. His Twitter handle is @BenHayesWAW