Five Dark Horse 2024 AL MVP Candidates

If you're looking for a dark horse AL MVP candidate this season, here are five players whose odds feel a bit too long.

Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after hitting a double in the third inning against the Texas Rangers during Game One of the Wild Card Series at Tropicana Field.
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 03: Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after hitting a double in the third inning against the Texas Rangers during Game One of the Wild Card Series at Tropicana Field on October 03, 2023 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani — winner of the 2021 and ’23 AL MVP Awards — departed the Junior Circuit this offseason, leaving the Angels to sign with the Dodgers. That means that the AL MVP race will be a real competition once again.

Sure, Aaron Judge edged out Ohtani for the MVP in 2022, but it quite literally took him setting a new single-season AL home run record. Ohtani was capable of leading the sport in home runs and pitching at a Cy Young level, which essentially broke the award. Maybe once out of every five years, someone else would have won the AL MVP. Maybe. But Ohtani was going to be the odds-on favorite every year.

With Ohtani now in the NL, Judge and his new teammate, Juan Soto, are the favorites for the award, followed by Yordan Alvarez and Corey Seager. But if you’re looking for a dark horse candidate to place your money on, here are five candidates whose AL MVP odds (via Bet MGM) feel a bit too long.

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2B Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Age in 2024: 34

2023 Stats: .311/.393/.522, 17 home runs, 51 RBIs, .915 OPS, 4.0 fWAR

Odds: +5000 (BetMGM), 1.3% implied probability

Altuve put up close to a full season’s worth of production in 2023, despite playing just 90 regular season games. He suffered a fractured right thumb in the World Baseball Classic and had a separate injured list stint with a left oblique injury later in the year. Altuve was playing at a pace that would put him in the race to finish runner-up to Ohtani had he been healthy for a full 162 games.

Granted, the -13 defensive runs saved Altuve posted in 735 2/3 innings at second base last season wouldn’t have helped his case. Neither would the fact that he’s seemingly taken on an unfair amount of the burden for Houston’s 2017 sign-stealing scandal. Right or wrong, it’s fair to wonder if Altuve’s association with one of the most notorious teams in MLB history would hurt him with MVP voters — particularly those based in New York — if he were in a close race with another candidate.

Altuve already has one AL MVP (2017) on his resume, along with eight All-Star Game appearances, six Silver Sluggers and three batting titles. As far as many are concerned, he’s already cemented his place in Cooperstown. Still, adding a second MVP would allow Altuve to climb further up the list of the greatest second basemen in MLB history.

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LF Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

Age in 2024: 29

2023 Stats: .254/.364/.425, 23 home runs, 83 RBIs, .789 OPS, 3.3 fWAR

Odds: +8000 (BetMGM), 0.8% implied probability

Arozarena is an All-Star-level player. Between the MLB playoffs, the All-Star Game and the World Baseball Classic, he has shown himself to be one of the greatest showmen the sport has to offer:

Arozarena first burst onto the scene during Tampa Bay’s 2020 run to the World Series. He had one of the greatest Octobers in MLB history, hitting 10 home runs and posting a staggering 1.273 OPS in 20 games. If he could have a six-week stretch anything like that during the regular season, it would put him in the AL MVP race.

In the relatively brief history of the Rays franchise, they haven’t had an MVP. Arozarena probably won’t become the first, but it’s certainly not unfathomable, particularly if he were to lead the Rays to a division title this year in the loaded AL East.

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RHP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

Age in 2024: 33

2023 Stats: 15-4, 209 innings pitched, 2.63 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 5.2 fWAR

Odds: +20000 (BetMGM), 0.3% implied probability

Let’s get this straight: Cole is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and has two ERA titles on his resume, yet his case for MVP is discounted so much that Trevor Story, Steven Kwan and George Springer have shorter AL MVP odds in 2024.

Obviously, it’s rare for a pitcher to win MVP, but it happens occasionally. Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young and MVP in 2014, while Justin Verlander accomplished the feat in 2011. Is Cole — whose career is on a Hall of Fame trajectory — really so unlikely to become the latest pitcher to win an MVP that he should have the same odds as Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino and Anthony Rendon?

No one is going to predict that Cole will win the AL MVP, but he would be a wiser investment than some of those he’s grouped around.

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3B Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

Age in 2024: 30

2023 Stats: .262/.363/.441, 25 home runs, 98 RBIs, .804 OPS, 4.3 fWAR

Odds: +6600 (BetMGM), 1.0% implied probability

Bregman is in a contract year, and while his long-time teammate Altuve recently signed another team-friendly extension, it appears that Houston’s third baseman could be looking for top dollar on the free agent market next winter. Being an AL MVP candidate in his walk year wouldn’t hurt his case.

Bregman has two top-five AL MVP finishes on his resume in 2018 and ’19, finishing as runner-up to Mike Trout in the latter season. Since then, he has been more of an All-Star-type player than an MVP candidate, posting an .804 OPS over the last four seasons.

Perhaps Bregman has just settled into being a very good player, rather than the Hall of Fame-caliber piece he looked to be in 2018 and ’19. But he’ll still only be 30 this season, and as he tries to set himself up for a major payday next winter, his AL MVP odds seem a bit too low.

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LF Evan Carter, Texas Rangers

Age in 2024: 21

2023 Stats: .306/.413/.645, five home runs, 12 RBIs, 1.058 OPS, 1.3 fWAR

Odds: +10000 (BetMGM), 0.6% implied probability

Not since Arozarena has a player had a better entrance to the national stage than Carter, who hit .300 and played excellent defense to help the Texas Rangers win the World Series last fall.

Like Arozarena in 2021, Carter is still eligible to win the AL Rookie of the Year after a tremendous playoff run. And while Jackson Holliday of the Baltimore Orioles is going to enter 2024 as the favorite for the honor, Carter posted a 1.058 OPS and 1.3 fWAR in his first 23 regular-season games last year, so he’s going to have something to say about AL Rookie of the Year.

When you consider that Carter also posted six defensive runs saved in just 174 2/3 regular season innings in 2023, there is little reason to think he couldn’t compete for an MVP one day.

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