Less than four weeks remain in the 2016 Major League Baseball season, so the majority of the season has already been played. There’s still plenty more to go, though, and at this point of the calendar, it’s fun to discuss how the individual awards races are going to shape up. Let’s do exactly that and examine the AL MVP race.
Before we dive in, let’s point out that our awards power rankings posts are not our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. These are intended to be a snapshot of where things stand at the moment, and we’re making subjective judgments on how the vote would turn out based upon recent historical voting tendencies.
On that latter point, we know that winning matters and making the playoffs — or at least contending — usually matters quite a bit to voters. Even if you disagree, that’s just how it goes with voting for the MVP. Now let’s jump in to the junior circuit …
Altuve has long since ceased being perceived as some sort of diminutive novelty act. He’s now one of the best players in all of baseball. At this writing, Altuve is batting .346/.409/.557 with 22 homers and 27 stolen bases in 34 attempts. As well, Altuve leads the AL in batting and hits, and he’s got 55 walks against 63 strikeouts. In case you need more, he’s also played in all but one of the Houston Astros ‘ games, and he’s spent more than 1,100 defensive innings at second base. That’s a total package of value right there. The Astros may indeed miss the postseason, but they’ll at least remain in contention until deep into September.
Speaking of undersized sluggers, the 5-foot-9 Betts owns an OPS+ of 133 for the AL’s best offense. He’s also one of the best defensive right fielders in baseball, and he’s stolen 21 bases in 24 attempts while taking the extra base a remarkable 59 percent of the time. In terms of volume, Betts leads the majors with 319 total bases and is on pace for 85 extra-base hits. Right now, Betts’ Boston Red Sox are in line for the playoff berth.
When it comes to overall value, Trout’s probably been the best player in all of baseball. Again. That said, voters have a puzzling habit of rewarding or penalizing MVP candidates based on the quality of their teammates. In Trout’s case, the fact that he’s playing for a bad team very much works against him. As far as what’s under his control, Trout leads the majors in OBP (.443) and OPS+ (180) while tallying 27 homers, 23 steals, and 95 walks. Let’s also not forget he capably mans center field and almost never misses a game.
Donaldson is of course the reigning AL MVP, and this year he’s put up even better numbers at the plate. Check out a comparison of his 2015 offensive outputs to his 2016 season thus far …
Very similar, as you can see. The big difference is Donaldson’s significant OBP spike — a spike that leads an improvement in OPS+. So even after you take into account the increased offensive levels of 2016, Donaldson’s still been more productive this year. Once you weight OBP properly (it’s more important than SLG, the other component of OPS and OPS+), that’s even more the case. He’s still a standout defender at the hot corner, and the Jays are very much in the mix for a second straight AL East title.
Lindor, the Cleveland shortstop, is one of the most valuable defenders in all of baseball. Adding to his case is the fact that he’s also a very strong hitter by positional standards. This season, Lindor in 587 plate appearances has batted .319/.364/.460, while the average big-league shortstop has a line of .264/.319/.408. Lindor also has to his credit 14 homers and 16 stolen bases, and he leads the majors in sac flies.
Machado is one of the top defensive third basemen in baseball, and this season he’s hitting .304/.356/.560 (137 OPS+) with 33 homers. He also ranks second in AL in doubles and second in total bases. Adding to his overall value is the fact that Machado has logged almost 400 innings at shortstop. The Baltimore Orioles are below .500 since the break, but if they rally and make the postseason then Machado’s support will surely grow.
Yes, Ortiz is a DH who adds negative value on the bases, but what a season he’s having at the plate. In 530 plate appearances, Ortiz owns a slash line of .318/.406/.625 with 31 homers and an MLB-leading 44 doubles. He also paces the bigs in SLG and OPS. No primary DH has ever won the MVP award (Don Baylor came the closest in 1979, with 65 of 162 game at DH), so that’s surely working against Ortiz. What’s working for Ortiz, besides his excellent offensive numbers, is the fact that this is his final season. Voters should be immune to such considerations, but perhaps some aren’t.
Cano’s rebound season in Seattle is turning out to be one of his best from a power standpoint. He’s as durable as ever (he’s on pace to play in at least 156 games for the 10th straight season), and he’s running an OPS+ of 140. As for his aforementioned power bestowals, his 32 homers is one short of his career high. He’s an everyday, all day second baseman who’s batting .305/.354/.535 while playing his home games in run-suppressing Safeco. The M’s look like longshots to make the postseason, but Cano will still get some down-ballot support — as he should.
No, Dozier’s not going to win the MVP while toiling for the worst team in baseball, but he’s a middle infielder who ranks second in the AL in home runs and almost certainly will become the second player in franchise history to hit 40 or more bombs in a season. Dozier’s also ran the bases well this season while playing in all but five of his team’s games this season.
Martinez lost significant time to an elbow fracture this season, but when healthy he’s put up a robust line of .317/.382/.573 with 20 homers and 31 doubles in 96 games. Since returning from injury in early August, he’s batted .383/.435/.683. Helping his longshot MVP cause is that his post-injury surge has coincided with the Detroit Tigers ‘ march back into the AL playoff race.
Others: Adrian Beltre , Texas Rangers ; Zach Britton , Orioles; Miguel Cabrera , Tigers; Carlos Correa , Astros; Cole Hamels , Rangers; Ian Kinsler , Tigers; Corey Kluber , Cleveland Indians ; Chris Sale , Chicago White Sox ; Gary Sanchez , New York Yankees ; Kyle Seager , Seattle Mariners
Source: CBS Sports / AL MVP Power Rankings: Jose Altuve leading crowded race toward finish line