MLB betting: Is Oneil Cruz a good bet for NL Rookie of the Year?

The National League Rookie of the Year race has been wide open through the first two and a half months of the MLB season. Seiya Suzuki, MacKenzie Gore and Nolan Gorman have spent the majority of the time near the top of the betting odds, but an intriguing name has recently been added to the picture.

Over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates called up shortstop Oneil Cruz. He sparkled in his first action of the season, going 2-for-5 with four RBIs at the plate while also recording the hardest tracked throw by an infielder this season in the field. Cruz is currently +600 to win NL Rookie of the Year, the fourth best odds on the board.

Cruz comes with a lot of hype

Oneil Cruz is currently ranked as the 22nd best prospect in baseball. At 6-foot-7, he's the tallest shortstop in major league history. He has tremendous power and athleticism. He runs well and has a cannon for an arm. The tools are all there and that's why his arrival has been met with such excitement and hype.

Cruz opened the season as the betting favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year at +300. However, he spent the first two and a half months of the season in the minor leagues as the Pirates decided he "needed more seasoning" which is nothing but a buttoned-up way of saying they wanted to manipulate his service time. Nevertheless, he's now here and it's hard to imagine him going back down.

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 20:  Oneil Cruz #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on against the Chicago Cubs during the game at PNC Park on June 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Oneil Cruz was electric in his first MLB game of 2022. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

For a lot of awards in most sports, missing 2.5 months would make winning the award nearly impossible. However, rookie of the year in baseball might be one of the few exceptions. Cruz still has three and a half months and nearly 100 games to make an impression. By the time the end of September rolls around, the months of April and May are a blur. A lot of the other favorites in the betting market either came up later on or have missed time.

Cruz has all of the tools and is regarded as one of baseball's top prospects. We saw what he is capable of in his season debut on Monday. He played two games last year and went 3-for-9 with a home run and three RBIs. Cruz is probably the most intriguing rookie in the NL, and +600 odds still offer a good enough of an opportunity to buy in.

Other NL rookies in the picture

If Cruz wants to win the NL Rookie of the Year award, he'll need to hold off some other impressive youngsters. Here are some other rookies near the top of the betting odds for the award:

  • MacKenzie Gore: The Padres' starting pitcher is the current betting favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year at +350. He started his season by posting a 1.50 ERA through his first nine appearances. However, he's given up 14 earned runs over 6.1 innings in his last two starts to balloon his ERA up to 3.64. It'll be interesting to see if Gore could right the ship quickly or if he's already hitting one of those "rookie walls."

  • Spencer Strider: Strider opened the season in the Braves' bullpen, but he's transitioned to the starting rotation over the last few weeks. On the season, Strider has a 2.45 ERA with 68 strikeouts over 44 innings pitched. Strider is +400 to win the rookie of the year award.

  • Michael Harris: Right around Memorial Day, the Braves recalled Michael Harris to try and replace the injured Eddie Rosario. Harris has been lights out, batting .346 with a .949 OPS over 22 games to begin his career. The Atlanta outfielder is +500 to win NL Rookie of the Year.

  • Nolan Gorman: The Cardinals called up Nolan Gorman in May, and for the first few weeks, he was tearing the baseball up, batting .387 with a 1.150 OPS in May. However, June has been a different story for Gorman as he's hitting just .172. Overall, he's got a .247 average and .750 OPS through 28 games, but the trend line isn't going the direction he would want it to. Gorman is +800 to win NL Rookie of the Year.

  • Brendan Donovan: Another Cardinals' rookie is also in the race, as Brendan Donovan is batting .313 through 48 games for St. Louis. His power numbers aren't there, as he has just one home run, but his .420 on-base percentage and his ability to play basically any position in the field has made him an extremely valuable player. Donovan is 13-to-1 to win the award.

  • Seiya Suzuki: As a 27-year old rookie, Suzuki started off red-hot by batting .279 in April with a .934 OPS. In May, those numbers dropped to .211 and .616 respectively. June has been completely lost, as Suzuki hasn't played since May 26th due to an injured finger. Suzuki has received more bets and money than any other player in this market, but those bettors can't be feeling great. Suzuki is 14-to-1 to win the NL Rookie of the Year.

  • Jack Suwinski: Joining Oneil Cruz as a Pirates' rookie, Suwinski leads all rookies with 11 home runs. He hit three home runs on Sunday, including a walk-off. Suwinski is batting just .230, but the power numbers are impressive. Suwinski is 15-to-1 to win the award.