American League Cy Young Odds: Can Favored Cole Win First Cy?

Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of the American League Wild Card game at Fenway Park on October 05, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts
Image Credit: Winslow Townson/Getty Images

As is the case in the National League, most of the pitchers atop the 2022 American League Cy Young odds board are right-handers. And like the NL, two of the top contenders are responsible for winning the last two AL awards.

Unlike the NL? The unquestioned frontrunner heading into the season doesn’t already have a shiny Cy Young sitting on his mantle. But he does have a fat contract, and with it, a large heap of expectations as the ace of the sport’s most storied franchise.

Props.com continues its comprehensive 2022 Major League Baseball betting preview with a breakdown of the top National League Cy Young candidates.

American League Cy Young Odds

SP/RP Player Team Odds
SP Gerrit Cole New York Yankees +425
SP Shane Bieber Cleveland Guardians +700
SP Robbie Ray Seattle Mariners +900
SP Lucas Giolito Chicago White Sox +1,100
SP Sean Manaea Oakland Athletics +1,400
SP Lance McCullers Jr. Houston Astros +1,400
SP Dylan Cease Chicago White Sox +1,400

Odds via DraftKings and updated as of 9:45 p.m. on March 22.

The Favorite

New York Yankees right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole strides toward the plate while delivering a pitch
Image Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole (+425)

By any measure, Gerrit Cole had an outstanding second season with the New York Yankees in 2021. The veteran right-hander led all American League starters in wins (16) and complete games (2, tied with Oakland’s Sean Manaea), while placing second in strikeouts (243) and WHIP (1.06). The only knock? After posting a sterling 2.73 ERA in the first five months of the season, Cole slumped in September — so much so that, by the time he threw his final regular-season pitch, his ERA was up to 3.23.

That last-month malaise opened the door for Toronto’s Robbie Ray to capture Cy Young honors, with Cole finishing a distant second (tying his best career finish).

Could last year’s final-month slump serve as fuel for Cole in 2022? Time will tell. But it’s difficult to imagine him pitching any better out of the gate than he did last season. From Opening Day to mid-May, Cole went 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, .194 opponents’ batting average, and an absurd 78-3 strikeout-to-walk rate over eight starts. Then in three August outings, Cole went 3-0 with an 0.51 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 24/4 K-BB ratio.

Cole has been a top-five AL Cy Young finalist for four straight years, so it certainly make sense that he’s listed as the preseason betting favorite. And if anyone is “due” to win the honor, it’s 31-year-old Southern California native. Consider: Since 2018, he’s had no peers among AL starters when it comes to ERA (2.85), strikeouts (939), WHIP (0.99), and strikeouts per nine innings (12.7). And he’s been incredibly durable, logging 30-plus starts in four consecutive seasons (excluding the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign).

The Contenders

Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Progressive Field on June 13, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Image Credit: Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Cleveland Guardians RHP Shane Bieber (+700)

Shane Bieber last year came up well short of matching the numbers he put up in his 2020 Cy Young campaign — but that doesn’t mean 2020 was an aberration. At 7-4 with a 3.17 ERA and 134-33 K/BB ratio in 2021, Bieber still had an outstanding season.

When you throw in his eye-popping 2020 numbers — 8-1, 1.63 ERA, 122 Ks, 21 BBs — you get a remarkable 28-start stretch that’s yielded a 15-5 record, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13.2 K/9 rate and an absurd strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 5-to-1.

It would seem the only thing Bieber needs to do to remain in the Cy Young hunt all season is stay healthy for a Guardians team that’s long on pitching talent … but short of prodigious run producers. And the chasm between the two will grow bigger if Cleveland trades José Ramírez — an AL MVP candidate and arguably the best third baseman in baseball — sometime in the next four months.

Seattle Mariners LHP Robbie Ray (+900)

If ever there was a poster child for “taking it to the next level,” it was Robbie Ray in 2021. After going 14-13 with a combined 4.86 ERA for Arizona and Toronto in 2019-2020, the southpaw turned in the best season of his eight-year career, leading all AL pitchers in starts (32), innings (193.1), strikeouts (284), ERA (2.84), and WHIP (1.04). The payoff for that dominating effort: his first Cy Young.

Of course, now that he’s bolted a bona fide playoff contender in Toronto for Seattle — which has the longest ongoing playoff drought in professional sports — everyone is asking the same question: Can Ray build off the momentum of 2021, or will he prove to be a one-hit wonder who parlayed his Cy Young into a five-year, $115 million free-agent deal?

Well, Ray has one thing working in his favor: He’s moving from a hitter’s park in Toronto to Seattle’s T-Mobile Park (nay, Safeco Field), which ranked as the fifth-friendliest ballpark for pitchers last season. On the flip side, Ray has never posted sub-3.00 ERA campaigns in back-to-back seasons.

Chicago White Sox RHP Lucas Giolito (+1,100)

Giolito racked up 11 wins, 31 starts, 201 strikeouts, and a 1.10 WHIP last year. And yet, he merely finished 11th in Cy Young voting, most likely the byproduct of not living up to his massive preseason expectations. Fast forward to the present: Big things are still expected for the 27-year-old Giolito, but he’s no longer perceived as the Next Big Thing in AL pitching circles.

In fact, that mantle — at least among White Sox pitchers — might now be reserved for Dylan Cease (more on him momentarily). Then again, the reduced pressure of being The Man on the South Side might work to Giolito’s advantage. If he can duplicate the cumulative 2.48 ERA and 11.1 K/9 rate he’s produced over the past three seasons, he’ll certainly remain in Cy Young contention.

The Dark Horses

Dylan Cease #84 of the Chicago White Sox on the field prior to game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros at Guaranteed Rate Field on October 10, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois
Image Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Chicago White Sox RHP Dylan Cease (+1,400)

Dylan Cease (13-7, 3.91 era, 1.25 WHIP in 2021) might not possess the star power of Cole, Bieber, Ray, Giolito, or Verlander (who, by the way, boasts +1,600 Cy Young odds at DraftKings after missing all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery). But Cease has the requisite youth, stamina, and velocity to flirt with 275-plus strikeouts in 2022.

Last year, Cease posted 226 strikeouts and an AL-best 12.3 K/9 ratio. Not bad for a guy who entered the season with all of 26 MLB starts. It also doesn’t hurt that Cease pitches for the talent-rich White Sox, the biggest postseason lock among AL contenders.

Oakland Athletics LHP Sean Manaea (+1,400)

Sean Manaea represents an uncomfortable pick among the handful of main contenders in American League Cy Young odds market. As the season approaches, the southpaw is headlining the Athletics’ rotation. But with Oakland in full-on fire sale mode, Manaea also is a near-lock to be dealt sometime between … right this second and the MLB trade deadline.

And therein lies the Cy Young betting dilemma: There’s no guarantee that Manaea (11-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 194/41 K-BB in 2021) will land in a better situation — at least in terms of ballpark friendliness. And covering the last 50 years, only one pitcher (Rick Sutcliffe in 1984) has captured Cy Young honors after being traded post-Opening Day. Of course, if he’s dealt to a contending club like the Yankees, White Sox, Dodgers, Brewers, or Astros, Manaea will instantly become a candidate for 17-20 wins.

In other words, Manaea might be the Schrödinger’s Cat of AL pitchers this season: His Cy Young prospects are at the same time promising … and discouraging .

Houston Astros RHP Lance McCullers Jr., (+1,400)

On paper, Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5, 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 185 strikeouts in 2021) seems like a great breakout candidate for 2022. He’s 28 years old and anchoring one of the best rotations in baseball. However, the Astros’ co-ace (along with Justin Verlander, if healthy) has no shot of winning the analytics-driven Cy Young if he repeats last year’s 76 walks in 162.1 innings.

Thing is, even though he posted the most walks of any AL starter last year, McCullers isn’t inordinately wild — he never issued more than four free passes in any of his 28 starts in 2021. If he can better harness his control, the sky’s the limit — and he’d quickly jump from “dark horse” to “contender” in the 2022 American League Cy Young odds market.