MLB Milestone Odds: Will Aaron Judge Reach 300 Career Home Runs in 2024?

Aaron Judge needs 43 home runs to reach 300 for his career, and you better believe there are betting markets available for that particular plateau, among others. Let's look at several milestone wagers to target before the 2024 MLB season.

Feb 21, 2024 • 11:31 ET • 4 min read
Aaron Judge New York Yankees MLB
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Spring training is here and Opening Day for the 2024 MLB season is just around the corner. As we wait for game action to get underway, we can take a look at MLB futures and whet our betting appetites by targeting some player-specific milestones.

MLB odds are available in a variety of milestone markets, including career home runs and strikeouts for the likes of Aaron Judge and Justin Verlander, among others.

Let's break down some of these odds and determine if there's appropriate betting value in one direction or the other before making your MLB picks.

All odds courtesy of DraftKings.

Will Aaron Judge hit his 300th career HR?

Yes No
Will Judge hit 300th HR in 2024? -140 +110

New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has hit 257 home runs in 835 career games. He has some of the most prodigious power in baseball history, and that's not an exaggeration. He hit 62 home runs in 2022 to set the new single-season mark in the American League. As a rookie, Judge hit 52 and nearly earned AL MVP because of it in 2017.

So, 43 should be a no-brainer, right? Not so fast.

Judge's biggest bugaboo is durability. He has exceeded 140 games played just three times in six years (not counting the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign) and can almost be counted on to make at least one stint on the injured list in a given season. Depending on the injury, it could sap his power even after returning to the lineup. And last season, Judge was limited to five games between June and July, finishing the season at 106 games, the second-fewest in that six-year run.

Also, hitting 43 home runs is HARD. In the last 10 full MLB seasons (2013-2023 minus 2020), a 43-homer season has been accomplished 27 times, so fewer than three players a year reach this plateau.

I say all this because it's important to recognize the potential impediments facing Judge. However, this is a manageable task if he's even mostly healthy. Despite being limited to 106 games last year, Judge still hit 37 bombs, buoyed largely by the 19 (!) he hit between April and May before the weather really started to become hitter-friendly.

Yankee Stadium is known for being a launching pad, but Judge actually hit more long balls on the road in 2023. No park can contain him. And with Juan Soto now part of the Yankees roster, it's harder for opposing teams to justify pitching around Judge. 

Most projections have Judge hitting between 45 and 48 home runs while playing 140+ games. ZiPS is the lone dissenter at FanGraphs, projecting 40 due to an expected 128 games. 

Finally, with "no" only being listed at +110, I'd rather not roll the dice on a power outage or fully embrace the injury-plagued narrative unless I get more of a return. 

My best bet: Aaron Judge to reach 300 career home runs - Yes (-140 at DraftKings)

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Will Justin Verlander record his 3,500th career strikeout?

Yes No
Will Verlander reach 3,500 Ks in 2024? +260 -340

Justin Verlander is on the fast track to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer, thanks in large part to accumulating 3,342 strikeouts across 3,325 1/3 innings over parts of 18 seasons. So why aren't books bullish on his chances to rack up another 178?

For one, pitchers simply aren't throwing 200 innings with as much regularity these days. Verlander used to be able to hit that number in his sleep, logging at least 200 frames in 12 of 13 seasons between 2007 and 2019. He also eclipsed the required amount of strikeouts to reach this new milestone in nine of those 13 seasons.

Since 2019, Verlander has dealt with a pandemic-shortened season and Tommy John surgery to go along with the ravages of time that go along with reaching 40 years of age. Verlander just turned 41, and it's hard to bank on sustained major-league success for any player, not just pitchers, after 40. 

Pair those more general elements with the specific issue that Verlander recently said he's a couple of weeks behind schedule due to a shoulder issue, and it makes sense why the odds are shying away from him. 

But maybe we can exploit this inherent doubt into profit. The way I see it, your choice is either to bet Yes or not bet at all with the No listed at -340. If Verlander is even a month behind schedule, or the Houston Astros take a cautious approach with the veteran hurler to ensure his extended availability in the latter part of the season, we can still anticipate roughly five starts per month, which would have him take the mound 25 times after April. If he averages six innings per start, that brings him to 150 on the year.

That is a conservative estimate. He hasn't been shut down from throwing, and he even said his arm was feeling good after a bullpen session a few days after proclaiming he was behind schedule. Verlander said the "hiccup" in his shoulder has resolved itself, so there's reasonable hope that he won't miss much, if any, time to open the season.

Even if he does play a full season, he still only recorded 144 strikeouts in 162 1/3 innings in 2023, which would not be enough. However, he saw his strikeout rate tick back up after being traded back to the Astros from the Mets at the deadline. While it's difficult to trust a pitcher in his 40s, Verlander in Houston has been an exception, and at +240 there is value in a speculative sprinkle on him to once again defy age.

My best bet: Justin Verlander to reach 3,500 strikeouts - Yes (+240 at DraftKings)

Will Freddie Freeman hit his 350th career HR in 2024?

Yes No
Will Freeman hit 350th HR in 2024? +175 -215

Freddie Freeman is not a prototypical homer-heavy first baseman. The Los Angeles Dodgers veteran is more of a contact machine who can run into some extra power by virtue of how frequently he puts the bat on the ball. 

The Dodgers also do not need Freeman to hit home runs, especially after the acquisition of designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, who can slug enough for the two of them. Still, Freeman isn't some slap-hitting utility player.

Freeman has swatted 321 home runs for his career, meaning he'll need just 29 to reach 350. He hit exactly 29 last year and cleared 30 three times as a member of the Atlanta Braves. 

Projections across the board have him falling shy with most models expecting 26 and none are going higher.

Durability is in Freeman's favor, though. Since his first full season in 2011, he's played in at least 145 games 10 times. Since 2018, he has missed a grand total of 11 games. However, despite playing 159 games in 2022, his debut with Los Angeles, he managed only 21 long balls. When he played a full 162 in 2018 with Atlanta, he hit just 23. There is a lot of variance in his results, making it difficult to fully embrace his chances.

Ultimately, I probably fade this pick entirely but would lean Yes at a lower unit total simply because he's going to be taking the field every single day.

My best bet: Freddie Freeman to reach 350 home runs - Yes (+175 at DraftKings)

Will Mike Trout hit his 400th career home run in 2024?

Header 1 Yes No
Will Trout hit 400th HR in 2024? +125 -155

Like with Judge and Verlander, health will be a major concern for Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout entering 2024. He's 32 and has missed so much time in recent years. Granted, he's been generally elite when he's on the field, but you almost always have to factor a lengthy IL stint into his calculus nowadays. And it isn't a recent development, either.

Since playing 159 games in 2016 — the year he won his second of three MVP awards — he hasn't played in more than 140 in a single season, a span of six seasons (not counting 2020's shortened campaign). 

So, you can almost count on him missing 20 games as a best-case scenario. The most generous of projections have him at 146 while more conservative estimates expect 126. He has 368 home runs and needs 32 to reach this milestone. 

Every projection, whether it's 126 games played or 146, forecasts at least that many dingers. However, ZiPS remains an outlier, projecting only 89 games and 21 home runs. Essentially, if Trout repeats 2023 — or 2021 — he's not going to do it. But even if you're not confident about him staying on the field, his injuries have more eroded his aggression on the basepaths than his home-run stroke. Despite being limited to 119 games in 2022, for instance, he hit 40 home runs. He hit 18 in 82, half a season, which put him on pace to hit roughly 36 had he not fractured his hand on a fluke foul ball.

I fully expected to hammer No on this bet, but unless Trout's season goes completely off the rails or his skills with the bat have dipped more drastically than anyone anticipates, it's got to be a Yes once again. It might be a sweat, especially if he gets hurt early, but we don't appreciate just how good Trout is anymore — and he's only nine months older than Judge!

My best bet: Mike Trout to reach 400 career home runs - Yes (+125 at DraftKings)

Will Nolan Arenado hit his 350th career HR in 2024?

Yes No
Will Arenado hit 350th HR in 2024? -120 -110

Spoiler alert: "Yes" gets a clean sweep.

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado, like much of the team, had a down season in 2023 and he still hit 26 home runs, one more than he needs in 2024 to reach 350 for his career. Most projection models like him to clear 25, by a narrow margin, with The BAT X and ZiPS sitting as his primary doubters at 23 and 21, respectively.

ZiPS, as we've seen, is very conservative with its projections. And there is a legitimate concern that, at 32, he's starting to slow down. But, Arenado critics also didn't like his move from Colorado to St. Louis from a speculative production standpoint thanks to ballpark factors, but he responded by going yard 34 times in his first year with the Cardinals before adding 30 more in 2022.

Past production is not predictive, but Arenado didn't see a dip in hard-hit percentage, per Baseball-Savant. His barrel rate dropped a little from 2022 but was actually up from 2021, and his average exit velocity of 88.8 mph was pretty close to his career average of 89.3.

The clear issue for Arenado was a severe uptick in ground balls. While you can still survive with a 38.8% ground-ball rate and a 16.9-degree launch angle when playing your home games at Coors Field, that won't translate well anywhere else when it comes to hitting bombs. 

Still, one bad season is not an appropriate sample size. And while you can't attach too much value to "best shape of your life" and "motivated after a bad year" narratives, Arenado is checking off both of these boxes early, and last year was just so far off anything else he's done of late. Some minor corrections and he should easily sail past 25 homers and hit the 350 milestone.

My best bet: Nolan Arenado to reach 350 career HRs - Yes (-120 at DraftKings)

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