2024 MLB Futures Check-In Part 1

Aaron Judge & Shohei Ohtani
Los Angeles, CA - July 19: American League All-Star outfielders Aaron Judge, right, along with American League All-Star Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels line up before an MLB All-Star baseball game against the National League All-Stars at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe we’re 40% of the way through the season. At this point, we have enough data to make educated guesses about our futures. We have World Series picks, division winners, win totals, season-long player props, and player award futures. With about 30 units invested, it’s important to keep an eye on these.

I’ll grade each on a scale of 1-5, measuring the likelihood that each one hits. One is the bet with almost no shot of hitting, and five is very likely. These will be graded using Fangraphs projection models. If you disagree with my confidence ratings, add what you like and project the P/L independently.

These picks are available on BetMGM. Use code “JUSTBASEBALL” for a first-bet offer of up to $1500.

I’ll do another update after the All-Star break. I’ll list them by the amount of units bet on each.

Miami Marlins Under 78.5 Wins (+100) Risk 5 Units (MAX PLAY)

This was the biggest bet I’ve ever made, and we are off to a fantastic start. The Marlins’ record is 22-43, the second-worst in Major League Baseball. They are a staggering 23 games out of the division lead and are projected to go 67-95. They’ve already traded their best hitter, Luis Arraez, and they have been public about tearing the team down even further. They have 97 games left this season, so they would have to go 57-40 the rest of the way to go over this. I do not see that happening, nor does any projection system. I feel good about a five unit win here.

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Confidence: 5/5

Tampa Bay Rays Over 83.5 Wins (-105) (Risk 2.1 U), Rays To Make Playoffs (+130) (Risk 1 U), Rays to Win AL East (+700) (Risk 0.5 U)

The win total is still within reach, but the playoffs are starting to get out of reach. The Rays have been dismantled with injuries, but still, this team has not met my expectations. They currently sit with a 31-34 record, but projection systems are bullish on their potential the rest of the way. Depending on your system, they are projected anywhere between 80-85 wins. The most common projection has them at 83-79. Based on projections, and the team getting healthier, I’d put the odds they go over near 50/50.

Making the playoffs will be challenging. Fangraphs has them at a 17.4% chance (+460 implied odds). That’s a far cry from the +130 wager I put in. They can make the playoffs, but it’s unlikely. In terms of winning the division, I cannot see a world in which they overtake the Yankees or the Orioles. We have a solid chance at the win total, but if they don’t go over, this will be a 3.6-unit loss.

Win Total Confidence: 2.5/5

Playoffs Confidence: 1.5/5

Division Confidence: 1/5

Cleveland Guardians Over 78 Wins (-110) (Risk 2.2 Units) Guardians to Win Division (+400) (Risk 1 Unit)

The Guardians are playing great baseball, and considering they hold a five-game lead over the Royals, it’s doubtful that they will sell at the deadline. This is not a team that usually buys, but at least we can project that this current iteration of the Guardians will look the same at the end of the season.

The Guardians are 42-22 with a run differential of +90. They beat good teams, going 15-8 against teams over .500 this season. You can argue that they are a top-five team this season. They are projected to win anywhere from 89-93 games this season. They would have to go 36-62 the rest of the way to go under this win total, something I do not see happening.

In terms of the division, they are anywhere from -135 to -150 to win the AL Central. The Royals are projected to finish between 84 and 88 games, so on the low and high end of the Guardians, projections have the Guardians winning the division. However, it’s no lock, as a five-game lead can evaporate in weeks. All in all, we are definitely on the right track to making six units on the Guardians

Win Total Confidence: 5/5

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Division Confidence: 3.5/5

Houston Astros Over 91.5 Wins (-110) (Risk 2.2 Units), Astros World Series (+850) (Risk 1 Unit)

Loss. Loser. Destroyed. Sad. Angry. Upset.

The Astros are 30-36, and I can’t believe it. I thought the back end of the bullpen would be an all-time trio… LOL. I felt that this could be the deepest lineup in baseball… nope. I thought the rotation would be one of the best in the American League… but it’s not even close.

The Astros are projected to win anywhere from 82 to 85 games. Based on projections, the win total isn’t technically out of reach, but I can’t see it happening. The Astros would have to go 62-34 the rest of the way to finish with 92 wins. That’s a .645 winning percentage pace, which is behind what the Guardians are doing right now. I still think they have the talent to finish with 92 wins, but they have had this talent the entire year and are six games under .500. This next month will impact whether they sell off valuable pieces at the deadline.

Fangraphs still gives the Astros a 3.6% chance of winning the World Series. Those implied odds would be +2700. So, you’re saying there’s a chance on both? Technically, yes, but I’m grading it as a 3.2-unit loss

Win Total Confidence: 1.5/5

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World Series Confidence: 1/5

CJ Abrams Over 37.5 Stolen Bases (-110) (Risk 2.2 Units), CJ Abrams MLB Stolen Base Leader (+1200) (Risk 0.5 Units)

According to Twitter trolls, CJ Abrams turned into Barry Bonds this year and hasn’t stolen a base. I get tagged in CJ Abram’s content daily, and by the reactions, you’d think he still needs to attempt a stolen base. While the power has certainly increased, he has ten stolen bases. I also warned everyone that Abrams may start slow, as that’s been the trend in his career.

Abram’s second half will be the appointment television. He barely played in 2022, but in the second half, he stole six of his seven total bases. He stole 14 bases in the first half of last season, then stole 33 bases in the second half. As long as he finishes with 14 in the first half, which he still has time to do so, we are in a good spot. Projection systems for stolen bases are rarely accurate, as some have him over 40, and some have him in the low 30s. As long as he’s healthy, I still think he’s going over this.

Something that does concern me is he’s been caught five times already. He was only caught four times all of last season. As the Nationals grow farther from contention, you’ll see Abrams run wild. I still feel confident in the over, but to lead the league, we need a miracle. I’m projecting 1.5 units of profit from these two plays.

Stolen Bases Total Confidence: 3.5/5

Stolen Bases Leader Confidence: 1/5

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Oakland A’s Over 57 Wins (-110) (Risk 2.2 Units)

How about them A’s! Even though they’ve lost seven of their last ten games, they sit with a 26-41 record. Are they good? Not really. Are they going over the lowest win total ever? It’s almost in the bag.

Projection systems have the A’s winning between 67 and 71 games. To fall under this, the A’s would have to go 30-65 the rest of the way. They will undoubtedly sell at the deadline, as Brent Rooker and Mason Miller, among other team veterans, seem out the door. To go under, they’d have to post a winning percentage of .315, which would be nearly 40 points worse than the Rockies or Marlins. Even if the A’s do sell, I don’t see a monumental collapse coming, nor does any projection system.

If not as if we are just on pace, we are well ahead. At the low end, we have a ten-game buffer. I won’t call it a 5/5, as you never honestly know what the A’s will do, but I project a two-unit win on the A’s.

Win Total Confidence: 4.5/5

Michael Harris Over 154.5 Hits (-120) (Risk 1.5 Units) Michael Harris MLB Hits Leader (+5000) (Risk 0.2 Units)

Hits projection models are much more accurate than stolen base projections. They are not perfect, but they are worth looking at. It’s crazy; the average forecast is 154.5 after adding all seven of them. We are literally on pace for this exact line. Vegas, am I right? They have some excellent linemakers over there.

Here’s why I’m optimistic rather than pessimistic. Similar to Abrams, Harris has been a second-half player. In 2022, he had 49 hits in the first half and 74 in the second. 2023 he had 59 hits in the first half, with 89 in the second. Now, he has 61 hits and a .248 batting average, and he’s on pace to be near this number.

Beyond the second-half trend, his current numbers imply positive regression. His .274 xBA would tell us that, as would a .317 xwOBA compared to .285 wOBA. He’s still hitting the ball hard; it’s just unlucky. Outside of injury, I’m confident we will go over. I doubt he will lead the league in hits, but we get a good shot at 1.05 units worth of profit here.

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Hits Total Confidence: 4/5

Hits Leader Confidence: 1/5

Aaron Judge MLB Home Run Leader (+400) (Risk 1.5 Units)

It’s easy to celebrate after one of the best months of the 21st century. He’s sitting with 24 home runs, four more than second-place Gunnar Henderson. Based on projections, he’s projected to lead MLB by 10+ this year.

He’s underperforming his advanced metrics. His xSLG is .756, while his actual slugging percentage is .703. His wOBA is .472 with an xwOBA of .483. He has a 63.1% Hard-Hit rate, which is higher than he posted in 2022 when he hit 62 home runs. He has a real shot at 60 home runs if he stays healthy.

Barring injury, I feel great about this one. However, he does have a lengthy injury history, so the confidence can never be 5/5. I’ll project a six-unit win, but this is no guarantee. He’s currently -175 to lead Major League Baseball in home runs, with second-place Gunnar Henderson at +800.

HR Leader Confidence: 4/5

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Zac Gallen Under 194.5 Strikeouts (-115) (Risk 1.5 Units)

Before Gallen got hurt, projection systems had him finishing on average with 189 strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched since May 30th and is not very close to returning. The last report we got was he threw a falt-ground session on Saturday, and has not started throwing off a mound yet. My guess is it will be 3-4 weeks before we see him back in action.

As of right now, he’s projected 160 strikeouts. He has 60 strikeouts this season in 57.2 innings, suitable for a 9.38 K/9. At this pace, he would need to throw about 125 more innings. That’s about 21 starts at six innings per start. He should be out of time when he returns. That’s also assuming he goes back to his career averages and doesn’t get hurt again for the rest of the year. I’m projecting this as a 1.3 unit win.

Strikeouts Confidence: 4.5/5

Yoshinobu Yamamoto ROY (+175) (Risk 1 Unit) CY Young (+1300) (Risk 0.2 Units)

Yamamoto is currently third in the NL in Rookie of the Year Odds at +350. His odds since the preseason have doubled, but he’s still in the thick of the race. He’s +2000 to win the CY Young, tied for the eighth-best odds. He’s coming off his best start of the year, a seven-inning shutout performance of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

Yamamoto has been fantastic this season, posting a 3.00 ERA with a 28.3% strikeout rate and a 5.5% walk rate. His underlying metrics do not point to any negative regression, and he has become more comfortable state-side; I expect him to continue improving. He’s coming off his best start of the year, a seven-inning shutout performance of the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. His ERA in June is not 0.69.

Imanaga and Skenes are both fantastic, and it makes sense that they may be a step ahead. At this point, it’s Imanaga’s to lose, but it should be noted that his xERA is 3.08, just a tad shy of Yamamoto’s.

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I still have hope for this one, but I will project it as a 1.2-unit loss. We’d go with the field if you told me to take Yamamoto for ROY or the field. This will be a fun one to track until the end.

ROY Confidence: 2.5/5

CY Young Confidence: 1.5/5

Arizona Diamondbacks Over 83.5 Wins (-115) (Risk 1.15 Units)

Depending on the projection system you use, the high end is 83 wins, and the low end is 78 wins. Arizona is 31-35 right now and would have to go 53-43 the rest of the way to finish with 84 wins.

I think we are in trouble here. On the one hand, we expect Gallen to return and Corbin Carroll and Jordan Montgomery to start performing like their career averages. On the flip side, they are 23rd in starter ERA and 26th in bullpen ERA. They have a good offense, posting the 12th-best OPS, but they can’t hold leads.

I am still determining what this team will do at the deadline. After going to the World Series, can they rationalize selling? Will they be a buyer? I’m not sure even the Diamondbacks know what they will do.

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I’ll project this as a 1.15 unit loss, but it’s not out of reach.

Win Total Confidence: 2/5

Milwaukee Brewers NL Central Winner (+800) (Risk 1 Unit)

I’m hesitant to start jumping for joy, but I have to be honest: this one feels good. We stayed away from the win total because I thought this team would hit the high-end projection or bottom out and sell. They are hitting that high-end projection right now, and it’s fun to watch.

They are 38-27. They have a 6.5 game lead over the division and none of the other teams have a record over .500. They are -160 right now to win the division.

This team is also getting back Devin Williams at some point to help bolster an already fantastic bullpen. They have been a top-ten offense all year, and while the rotation has been mediocre, this team knows how to win regular-season games.

Based on their competition, I think they win the division. It’s still up in the air, but they are the best team, and every projection model has them comfortably winning it. I project this as an eight-unit win, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see it lose—another fun one to follow.

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Division Winner Confidence: 4/5

Projected Profit: +21.70 Units (A lot can change)

Player Awards and Longshots

The rest are half-unit plays or lower. Most of them are long shots, but some have a real shot. We are still 40% of the way through the season, so it doesn’t make sense to project out winners yet, but you can be the judge. I put a * next to the players with a worse line than they did in the preseason. Ultimately, the player awards look like a swing and a miss, but we have some that look good.

Spencer Strider CY Young (+525) Risk 0.5 Units – Current Odds: N/A (Injured)

Kyle Tucker RBI Leader (+2500) Risk 0.5 Units – Market Taken Off Board

Julio Rodriguez MVP (+1000) Risk 0.5 Units – Current Odds: +12500

Corbin Carroll MVP (+2200) Risk 0.5 Units – Current Odds: +20000

Grayson Rodriguez CY Young (+2500) Risk 0.25 Units – Current Odds: +4000

Junior Caminero ROY (+1600) Risk 0.2 Units – Current Odds: +12500

Yordan Alvarez MVP (+1100) Risk 0.2 Units – Current Odds: +10000

*Tyler Glasnow CY Young (+2000) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: +700

*Tarik Skubal CY Young (+1000) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: +130

*Cole Ragans CY Young (+1800) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: +1100

Parker Meadows ROY (+2300) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: Kicked off board lmao

Nolan Schanuel ROY (+3500) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: +20000

Adley Rutschman MVP (+2500) Risk 0.1 Units – Current Odds: +6600