There are but two weeks left of baseball to be played in the regular season and we’ve got some fun team races. Of course, the individual races are fun to watch as well and the AL MVP is one of the several awards that is far from determined. So let’s look.
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 matters even more in MVP voting as people subjectively determine what “value” means to them. It seems that the majority of fans and media believe “value” means helping the team make the playoffs, so that’s our jumping off point for the leader.
The Boston Red Sox holding on to win the AL East seems like a decent bet, and if that happens, Mookie Betts probably wins the AL MVP. As noted, “value” for many, many people is tied to team performance, and of the AL division leaders, Betts is far and away the best player this season.
Betts adds positive value both on defense and the basepaths while being a centerpiece for baseball’s best offense (he’s hit mostly leadoff or cleanup with a few stints in the three-hole). An all-around stat-sheet stuffer, Betts ranks in the top 10 in the AL in average, runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBI, steals, times on base, extra-base hits, total bases and WAR. He’s even tough to strikeout, with just 80 punchouts in 678 plate appearances.
|AVG/OBP/SLG: .318/.436/.554||HR: 27||SB: 26|
The best player in baseball is lapping the field in WAR, but his team sucks. If he finishes second again, that will be four second-place finishes and an MVP win all before his age-25 season. Mike Trout leads the majors in on-base percentage. He’s third in the AL in average, fourth in slugging, first in OPS+, third in runs and fifth in steals.
Given how poorly set up the Los Angeles Angels are to compete any time soon and how crazy they would be to trade him, it seems we’re going to be stuck debating how “valuable” Trout is every season. Anyone who says he’s not the best all-around player in baseball is ignorant to the subject, but many believe he can’t win MVP on a bad team. Many others will argue that he’s the most valuable because he’s the best. So on and on the debate rages.
|AVG/OBP/SLG: .337/.397/.545||HR: 24||SB: 27|
Jose Altuve is going to lead the league in hits and average (again), but it looks like his team is going to miss the playoffs and he’s faltered down the stretch. See?
Through Aug, 20: .366/.429/.581
Since Aug. 20: .204/.239/.379
The diminutive Altuve is still having an unbelievable season, has a legit shot to win the MVP and is one of the most fun players to watch, but when the race is this close — I think the top five here all have a chance to win — voters will start to nitpick. Finishing this slowly will likely hurt Altuve.
Will the AL East champion end up with the MVP? It seems possible, especially if one of the candidates here gets stupid-hot in the last two weeks en route to a title. Josh Donaldson would, of course, be a repeat winner. We’d have to go all the way back to Miguel Cabrera in 2012-13 to find another repeat AL MVP. Wow, so long ago.
Seriously, though, Donaldson is not having as good a season as last year and he’s been bad in September. He’s not in the conversation for first right now, but two weeks can change a lot.
To reiterate the point, if the Baltimore Orioles win the AL East on the strength of a hot Manny Machado finish, he might end up winning the MVP. One of the best defenders in all of baseball, Machado actually should get a bump for moving to shortstop to help cover for a J.J. Hardy injury for a bit.
Machado will likely end up north of .300 with at least 40 doubles, 40 homers and 100 RBI. Where did those steals go, though? He had 20 last year and has zero this year.
I’ll weigh in here and say that there’s no doubt in my mind David Ortiz is going to finish way too high in this vote based upon sentimentality. Make no mistake, he’s having an outstanding final year at the plate, but he provides no value on defense or on the bases. In order to justify voting for Ortiz, one wouldn’t just have to believe that he’s the best offensive player in the AL, one would have to believe that his lead in being the best is so significant as to offset the lack of help elsewhere. Considering the defensive and baserunning prowess possessed by the five names above, Ortiz shouldn’t finish higher than this because, no, the gap in offense isn’t huge.
The Texas Rangers are a good bet to finish with the best record in the AL, so you know they’ll have someone in the conversation. And it’s the elder statesman: Adrian Beltre . While still flashing some above-average leather at the hot corner, Beltre is hitting .295/.353/.512 with 30 homers and 98 RBI.
Some old-school voters like intangibles such as leadership and being one of the most respected voices in the clubhouse in baseball. Beltre has that stuff, too.
He has 40 home runs and leads the league in RBI while playing for a contender. He’ll get some down-ballot love, especially if the Jays can take the AL East.
The Cleveland Indians are set to take the AL Central for the first time since 2007, so they’ll surely have a player get some traction and it’s going to be superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor . He’s an exceptional defender, is hitting .310 and doing so with power (28 doubles, three triples, 14 homers) and speed (18 steals).
Have we started to take Miguel Cabrera’s offensive chops for granted? He’s hitting the most quiet .309/.387/.545 I’ve ever seen. Throw his middle-of-the-order power for a contender and let’s also consider his steadying presence through the J.D. Martinez injury and Justin Upton struggles. Surely Miggy gets his fair share of 6th-10th place votes.
Others in the mix for down-ballot votes: Zach Britton , Brian Dozier , Kyle Seager , Robinson Cano , Nelson Cruz , Ian Kinsler , Xander Bogaerts , Mark Trumbo and Gary Sanchez (I’m actually joking, but this made me think — some New York writer is gonna throw him a 10th place vote, right?).
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / AL MVP Power Rankings: Red Sox’ Mookie Betts jumps ahead of the pack