Cole Ragans Cy Young Odds Are a Steal for Bettors

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Cole Ragans has gone through surgeries, a trade, and added a pitch since being drafted in the first round in 2016. Even with limited Major League experience, he is looked at as an Ace in 2024.

Ragans enters this season with the eighth-best odds to win his first career Cy Young. At +1800, it could look like a steal by the All-Star break. After appearing in 17 games as a reliever for the Texas Rangers in 2023, the 6’4 phenom was flipped to Kansas City for Aroldis Chapman.

With Ragans slated as the opening day starter for ‘24, it could end up being the best trade this franchise has ever made

Cole Ragans Cy Young Odds Are a Huge Value

After the trade, Ragans spent a short time in Omaha with the Royals AAA affiliate where he decided to pick up a slider to help him against lefties and slowly began to see the pitch become a part of his now five-pitch repertoire.

By using his changeup more against righties and his new slider against lefties, he saw his fastball become much more effective than in 2022, and his Texas FIP of 5.27 turned into a 2.49 with Kansas City.

Weirdly, the southpaw is still much more effective against righties than lefties (a big reason why adding the slider to his game was essential) but with the new slider, he has seen vast improvement across the board. We would expect to see his slider usage stay over 25% against lefties with how effective it was, and due to how highly the league is now valuing effective sliders and “sweepers.” Do not be mistaken though, this is a true slider with much more vertical movement than horizontal.

If you take a look at Ragans' Baseball Savant page, you can see his offspeed pitches are up there with the top of the league but his fastball was considered under league average last year.

Even though it was about half the sample size, his 2022 fastball was much worse, showing how much working with the Royals pitching department has helped him with all of his pitches, including that fastball. Ragans' fastball has impressed this spring, getting up to 99 MPH, so another increase in his fastball effectiveness can be fully expected in 2024. 

Between the minors and the majors last season, Ragans only threw 124 innings, a number he will have to increase by a large margin if he wants to win Cy Young in his first career full season as an MLB starter. Corbin Burnes won the award in 2021 with just 167 innings and his staggering 12.6 K/9, but many (Including myself) would argue Zach Wheeler deserved the award.

Still, there is a precedent of someone under 170 innings winning the award. Fangraphs projects Ragans to throw 165 innings, right under that threshold. This Royals team isn't expected to be a World Series contender, but one thing this team can take pride in is its bullpen. With that being said, Matt Quantro could be quick to pull the 26-year-old who has already had two Tommy Johns, limiting his innings even if he makes 30+ starts.

Two Tommy John surgeries sound scary, but the list of players who have done it continues to grow and includes top arms like Nathan Eovaldi, who had a top-five Cy Young finish after his second surgery. Collecting innings with his history will be the biggest hurdle for Ragans to clear in his quest to bring the first Cy Young back to Kansas City since Zack Greinke in 2009.

At +1800, Ragans is a great value entering the season and could be the most profitable his odds are for years to come. If that's not juicy enough for you, Tanner Bibee at +7500 is someone who could be dominant if he can locate a little better this season. Further, Corbin Burnes at +800 is a safe bet. With one Cy Young already under his belt and pitching in a contract year, he has a great shot at playing on a talented Orioles team.

If the you want to bet on the NL Cy Young, I'd be lying if I said it was smart to bet anyone other than Spencer Strider at +450. If you are a value chaser, Freddy Peralta at +3000 is intriguing as well.

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