Hard as it is to believe, we’re about set to begin the second half of the 2023 MLB season. Throw out those pleas to small sample sizes; it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and see who’s really ready to make a run towards the postseason — and postseason awards. The NL Cy Young landscape has shifted quite a bit since mid-June — Clayton Kershaw went down with a shoulder injury, Marcus Stroman fell off, Spencer Strider looks to be righting the ship— and the futures market has responded accordingly.
Updated NL Cy Young odds as of July 13
Zac Gallen +200 Spencer Strider +300 Clayton Kershaw +400
Blake Snell +950 Logan Webb +1500 Marcus Stroman +1700
Justin Steele +1700 Zack Wheeler +2200 Mitch Keller +2200
Jesus Luzardo +2200 Bryce Elder +7000 Merrill Kelly +8000
NL Cy Young race: Takeaways and best bets
Blake Snell, San Diego Padres
With 11 more shutout innings (including a whopping 18 Ks) to start July, Snell’s odds have shot up to +950 — and that’s still probably not enough. Gallen is a workhorse, but he’s been prone to cold stretches and can’t match Snell’s strikeout upside. Strider can, but unless he can kick the home run bug, his ERA will likely remain too inflated to take home the trophy. Clayton Kershaw’s health and workload remain real question marks.
Snell, meanwhile, has been the best pitcher in baseball since the calendar flipped to June, with a 0.64 ERA, 71 strikeouts and a .436 OPS allowed over his last 42 innings. If the season started on June 1, he’d be the prohibitive favorite, but you can still get him at the fourth-shortest odds — with some 2.5 months remaining to pad his stats. If the Padres continue to flounder, the free-agent-to-be will likely land on a contender and remain in the public eye. If San Diego rebounds enough to avoid selling, well, that’s also good news for Snell. His past inconsistency is keeping his price lower than it should be, but we’ve seen him piece together runs like this before — just look at his last Cy Young campaign — and he’s a great bet here.
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies
Every time Wheeler looks like he’s turned a corner, he puts up another blah start to pour cold water on his candidacy. Still, I’m resolved to go down with this ship. His odds, and his underlying numbers, are too good not to: The Phillies righty has a 2.83 FIP well below his 4.03 ERA, and his K rate, walk rate and xERA are all elite. The problem has been bad luck, whether in the form of strand rate or BABIP, things that we know will normalize over a large-enough sample. Maybe that doesn’t happen for Wheeler this year, or maybe it doesn’t happen in time, but at +2200, I’m willing to take the gamble. We’ve seen what the upside looks like (six innings, one run, four hits, seven Ks against the D-backs; 12 Ks in eight shutout innings against the Braves) when it does.