With baseball's Opening Day just under two weeks away it's a good time to take a look at some futures worth grabbing a piece of before the stats start counting for real in April. Here are two American League player award futures that I've personally locked in already (odds courtesy DraftKings).
Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays, +2000
Of course, Bichette was overshadowed by another MVP candidate on his own team last year with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turning in a phenomenal sophomore campaign. However, Bichette's stellar season shouldn't be ignored. He came within one home run and five stolen bases of a 30-30 season. Perhaps most impressively of all, he appeared in 159 of 162 games for the Blue Jays. That's the sort of durability we're looking for in an MVP candidate. Noting that Bichette had posted .571 and .512 slugging percentages in more limited action in 2019 and 2020, respectively, I'm expecting a step forward in that department this year after he recorded a .484 SLG% last season. In general, I believe Bichette is in line to improve on his extra-base power, which would obviously go a long way toward building on the 29 home runs and 102 runs batted in he delivered in 2021. The Blue Jays as a whole figure to be improved offensively with the additions of Matt Chapman (who is in line for a bounce-back season at the dish) and Ramel Tapia (a recent trade acquisition from the Rockies) and that obviously improves Bichette's run-scoring and producing potential as well.
A.L. Rookie of the Year
Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners, +750
I've been high on Rodriguez for years' now, even if he has yet to make his big league debut. It's only a matter of time before he cracks a spot on the Mariners roster - quite possibly in time for Opening Day given how he's been performing in Spring Training action. In High-A and Double-A ball last season, J-Rod hit .347 with 13 home runs and 47 RBI in 74 games. He also added 21 steals. He's shown remarkable improvement in his two years in the minors and all indications are that he's ready for the jump to the majors in 2022, likely sooner rather than later. There are obviously a number of budding young stars in the American League with Bobby Witt Jr. of the Royals leading the list (he's the favorite to win Rookie of the Year). I'm not sure if anyone has as much potential upside as Rodriguez though. He's already 4-for-11 at the dish this Spring, with a home run, four RBI and a stolen base. That's just the tip of the iceberg and I believe we're being offered incredible value before the hype train really gets rolling in April and May.