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The curious case of Shohei Ohtani’s betting odds to win NL MVP

A full-time designated hitter has never won an MVP award in MLB. Oddsmakers expect Shohei Ohtani to change that this season.

The Japanese two-way star, who isn’t expected to pitch this year as he recovers from right elbow surgery, supplanted Dodgers teammate Mookie Betts last week as the favorite to be the National League MVP.

Ohtani became the odds-on -120 favorite at the Westgate SuperBook to win the award in his first season with the Dodgers after Betts suffered a fractured left hand June 16 that’s expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks. Betts is now a 100-1 long shot.

Ohtani won his second American League MVP award in three years last season after starring as a designated hitter (.304 batting average, 44 home runs, 95 RBIs) and starting pitcher (10-5 record, 3.14 ERA) for the Angels.

“It’s kind of a weird situation with Ohtani, because typically DH’s don’t get voted for MVP,” SuperBook baseball oddsmaker Randy Blum said. “But I think they will vote for him as a DH if he has the numbers, because they’ll say he normally pitches.

“But, on the other hand, there might be a little bit of Ohtani fatigue at this point because when he pitches, he’s going to be a huge (MVP) favorite every time. I feel like the voters might be looking for a reason to vote for somebody else.”

Betts was the +125 favorite at the SuperBook before his injury, while Ohtani was among the favorites at +450.

Phillies first baseman and two-time NL MVP Bryce Harper, a Las Vegas High School and College of Southern Nevada product, is the only other player with single-digit odds at +175.

Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman is the 10-1 third choice, followed by Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. at 12-1 and Braves designated hitter Marcell Ozuna at 16-1.

“I would keep my eye on Bryce Harper. He’s really coming on,” Blum said. “Some of the guys in the 10-1 to 16-1 mix really have an opportunity to win if they can put together a good second half.”

Ohtani entered Monday leading the majors in batting average at .321 to go along with 23 home runs, 57 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Ozuna, another full-time designated hitter, was hitting .314 with 21 homers and 64 RBI for injury-depleted Atlanta.

“If Marcell Ozuna played the field, he’d absolutely be the favorite right now. But he’s a DH so it all comes back to, ‘Are they going to vote for a DH?’” Blum said. “I feel like they’re kind of softening on that stance now that the DH is in both leagues and you have a guy like Ohtani, who’s kind of forcing their hand a little bit to consider it.”

NBA draft

Zaccharie Risacher has replaced fellow Frenchman Alex Sarr as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft when the first round takes place Wednesday. Risacher is the -250 favorite at Caesars Sportsbook to be the first pick, which belongs to the Atlanta Hawks. Connecticut center Donovan Clingan is the +160 second choice and Sarr is the 8-1 third favorite.

Purdue big man Zach Edey and Southern California product Bronny James, son of Lakers star LeBron James, are each 250-1. Caesars also has posted an over-under on Bronny James’ draft position. The total is 41½, with over a -160 favorite.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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