MLB Futures Betting: 3 Best Bets for the AL Cy Young Award

The baseball season starts on Thursday, making these next few days the last window before Opening Day to get in some MLB betting via the robust futures market at FanDuel Sportsbook.

In recent weeks, we've looked at some bets to target in the awards markets for the National League Cy Young, American League MVP and National League MVP. Next up is the AL Cy Young Award, so let's get to it.

Shane McClanahan, Rays (+1600)

Shane McClanahan was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season, and there's every reason to expect him to have a similar campaign in 2023.

Last year, McClanahan led all starters in xFIP (2.60), and he was top four in the American League in strikeout rate (30.3%), strikeout-minus-walk rate (24.3%) and SIERA (2.82) en route to a 12-8 record and 2.54 ERA. All of that led to a sixth-place finish in the 2022 AL Cy Young voting.

Even if McClanahan just repeats those numbers, he's going to be in the Cy Young mix and is easy to like at this +1600 price, which places him as the 10th favorite. But it's certainly possible that McClanahan, who is entering his age-26 season, improves on his 2022 output. He's already shown the ability to take a step forward, lowering his SIERA by nearly a run from 2021 to 2022 (3.62 to 2.82).

ZiPS and Steamer are mostly aligned when it comes to McClanahan's rate stats for 2023. Steamer has him at a 28.8% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate along with a 2.97 FIP and 4.0 WAR. Among AL starters, that FIP ranks second (behind only Jacob deGrom) while the WAR is fourth.

In short, McClanahan's numbers should be there, and he will likely get the chance to pitch in big games down the stretch for a Tampa Bay Rays team that's priced at -190 to make the playoffs, which only helps his case in the narrative department.

Cristian Javier, Astros (+2100)

Cristian Javier was excellent last year, and he could be a narrative darling this season as the Houston Astros look for an ace to replace the departed Justin Verlander.

Javier can fill that role.

He finished 2022 with a 3.14 SIERA, 38.2% strikeout rate and 13.8% swinging-strike rate. He gave up a lot of fly balls and a few too many walks, which is scary, but Javier allowed just a 29.7% hard-hit rate and missed enough bats to more than compensate for his 56.9% fly-ball rate and 8.9% walk rate.

Like McClanahan, Javier is going into his age-26 season, so his 2022 numbers might not be his ceiling. Steamer has him projected for a 28.5% strikeout rate, although it also forecasts him for a good-not-great 3.90 xFIP, which checks in just 21st among AL starters, with the walks and high fly-ball rate dinging him.

But I think Javier is capable of taking another step forward in 2023, and we know the Astros will be really good again this year, with Houston priced as the favorite to win it all (+600), so he'll have chances to get wins and be in the headlines. If Javier takes the vacated mantle of Astros ace and runs with it, he could have a lot of Cy Young momentum by the end of the season.

You can say the same for Framber Valdez, who is starting on Opening Day and is +2000 to win the award. Valdez is a quality bet, too.

Chris Sale, Red Sox (+8000)

Chris Sale is a total wild card. Dude has barely pitched since 2019. But if you're looking for a long shot to throw some coin on, Sale isn't a bad dart throw.

It's tough to know what we can reasonably expect from Sale in 2023. He missed all of 2020, logged 42 2/3 frames in 2021 and threw 5 2/3 innings last year. This will be his age-34 campaign, and the days of Sale being an elite hurler might very well be a thing of the past.

However, projection models are fairly bullish on him. Steamer sees Sale generating a 28.3% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate, 3.24 FIP and 2.9 WAR. The FIP ranks 7th among AL starters while the 2.9 WAR is 13th. ZiPS has him at a 29.1% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. Maybe the best part about Steamer's projection is that it has Sale amassing 147 innings.

If Sale can stay healthy -- obviously a massive if -- his rate-stats projections are pretty nice. He could have narratives working in his favor, too, if -- after basically a three-year hiatus -- he is a key reason why the Boston Red Sox, who are +310 underdogs to make the playoffs, contend in the AL East.

All in all, I don't mind taking a shot on Sale at +8000.