Here’s The Game Day’s MLB betting analysis and tips on 2021 MLB SP Strikeout Futures Bet. Kev Mahserejian offers his favorite sleeper strikeout leader bet picks by fading the public and the top aces and targeting his favorite arms who’ll induce plenty of swings and misses.
Read our comprehensive 2021 MLB Preseason Bet Guide for our best recommendations for 2021 MLB futures bets.
2021 MLB SP Strikeout Futures Bet: Odds
- Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees (+450)
- Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (+500)
- Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians (+650)
- Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers (+800)
- Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox (+800)
- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (+1000)
- Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres (+1200)
- Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies (+2000)
- Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (+2000)
- Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres (+2000)
- Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (+2000)
- Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (+2500)
- Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays (+2500)
- Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (+2500)
- Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays (+2500)
- Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (+3000)
- German Marquez, Colorado Rockies (+3000)
- Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins(+3000)
- Carlos Carrasco, New York Mets (+3000)
- Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks (+3000)
Odds per PointsBet, current as of Sunday, March 21, at noon ET.
Season-long bets like this are not too difficult to rationalize. You are betting not only a player capable of amassing plenty of strikeouts per game but also one that is going to provide enough innings for those strikeouts to be worthwhile. This means - injury-prone or older pitchers are automatically dinged due to the fact that age is a cruel mistress despite what longevity may suggest.
Of course, the best indicator of being capable of doing something is having done it in the past but you have to consider HOW far into the past we are talking. Just because, say, Clayton Kershaw is still pitching at a high level, it does not mean that it would ever be viable to bet on him completing this task given recent history.
The following bets fill the criteria of being relatively young and having a high enough recent strikeout rate along with innings pitched. Also, with the NL removing the DH again, there is definitely some favoritism to be had with their pitching down below.
2021 SP Strikeout Leader Bet Picks
Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds (+2000)
Luis Castillo is so, so good, and my favorite bet not only based on his youth and talent but also, the division he plays in. The NL Central is a joke and filled with plenty of strikeout-heavy offenses. Obviously, the 2020 season was extremely flukey but we can look at the division from just a macro-level and see that all 5 teams were in the top-12 in K% versus right-handed pitching. The level of pitching in this division definitely has a hand in this statistic but Castillo is one of the higher-end starters who can keep those Ks rolling in 2020.
Castillo’s strikeout rate has increased incrementally since 2018 from 23.3%->28.9%-30.5%. While it is foolish to just assume that due to this trend, his K% will continue to increase, there are other factors in his growth as a starter that should be noted. Across this period from 2018-2020, Castillo has increased his GB/FB ratio which correlated to a decrease in HR/9. He has lowered opponents’ launch angle which has lead to subsequently lower average exit velocity as well.
Castillo is getting better in more ways than one each year and with this development, comes a ceiling that may be untapped. He has every factor you want in a good bet.
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies (+2000)
Aaron Nola is a tank. He has pitched at least 200 innings in 2 of the past 3 seasons. The only reason he didn’t last year was obviously because of the shortened season. His last injury suffered was a sprained UCL in 2016 which is not ideal but so far removed now in 2021 that it is an afterthought.
Nola was 13th in innings pitched in 2020 but 5th in strikeouts. He saw a MASSIVE jump in K%. From 2017-2019, Nola’s K% floated between 26.6% and 27%. Then, in 2020, 33.2%. While it is fair to be skeptical of a jump like this without some jump in velocity across his pitches, he did re-work his pitch mix to include more changeups than ever with fewer 4-seam fastballs and cutters.
The only cause for concern with Nola is having to pitch against a potent NL East that features Nationals, Mets, and Braves offenses which were all in the bottom half of the league in K% versus RHP. The Mets and Braves were 2nd and 3rd respectively versus RHP in wRC+. Those matchups are not going to be easy and a case can be made the Nationals improved significantly enough in the additions of Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to cause problems for RHP as well.
Yes, Nola is good enough to be considered matchup-proof, but when making futures bets like this, you have to consider the margins like this that could skew things if his innings are marginally affected relative to the other leading strikeout getters.
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (+2500)
Similar to Castillo, Flaherty has the advantage of playing in the NL Central. However, the four NL Central teams that the Cardinals face, are top-8 in K% versus RHP. While the divisional matchups may be more favorable, Flaherty is a step below Castillo as a starter, making him a less appealing bet.
Nevertheless, Flaherty is still very skilled and last year did not do him justice.
The Cardinals’ season was a mess due to COVID and he (along with the rest of STL) had the start of his season messed up after a two-and-half delay. He only pitched in 6 innings or more twice in 2020 and one of those starts was the only one he had prior to the delay.
Flaherty is just 25-years old and has had multiple sub-3.50 ERA seasons in the MLB already. He finished 13th in total strikeouts in 2019 with the 19th-most innings pitched! He is the clear ace of a decent Cardinals’ rotation that will require him pitching every 5 days to compete despite an improved offense and defense with the addition of Nolan Arenado and the expanded role of super-rookie Dylan Carlson.
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