Handicapping the AL MVP Race
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We’re almost at the midway point in the MLB regular season, and we’ve witnessed some incredible action in the American League so far. The “Triple-A” Yankees have hit a home run in 29 straight games, and are in first place in the AL East. The Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays currently hold Wild Card spots. At the halfway point, let’s breakdown some of the top AL MVP candidates.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight years, Mike Trout is really good at baseball. He has been in the top two in MVP voting for all but one of his seven full seasons, and in that one season, he only played in 114 games and still ended up fourth (2017). Currently leading the AL in walks, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS, Trout has quietly (for him anyway) been one of the best hitters in the league while still being on pace to be walked 140 times. The Angels have only made the playoffs with Trout once, in 2014. They are only 3.5 games back from a Wild Card spot at the moment, but Trout has still won MVP when the Angels have missed the playoffs once before, and is on pace to do it again.
Current Hypothetical Odds: -300
Jorge Polanco, SS, Minnesota Twins
In a year where we’re on pace for a record number of home runs, Polanco has found other ways to contribute for a Twins team that leads the AL Central by 8.5 games. Of his 101 hits, 39 of them have been for extra bases, with only 11 of them being homers. He also has a higher OBP and batting average than any other qualified player on his team, and it isn’t close. Whether or not the breakout player of the American League will be able to do enough to challenge Trout remains to be seen.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +650
Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros
The Astros have had some tough luck with injuries over the past month, but Bregman and his power at the plate have helped keep Houston on top of the AL West. Not only is he on pace for 44 home runs and 104 RBI, but his BB/K ratio of 1.28 is the best in the majors, and he has only struck out 46 times in 352 plate appearances. Bregman made his first All-Star team and came in fifth in MVP voting last season, and he is doing enough to finish even higher this time around. Michael Brantley is another Astros name to watch here.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +1000
Joey Gallo, OF, Texas Rangers
Yes, the same Joey Gallo who still has more career home runs than singles (107 to 100) takes a spot on our list. His season batting average of .279 is a big improvement over his .213 career mark so far, his slugging percentage would lead the American League if he hadn’t been injured (he doesn’t currently qualify), and his OPS would be second only behind Mike Trout. Gallo still has one more home run than single this season (19 to 18), but his improved ability to make contact with the ball, along with some defensive improvements in the outfield, puts him here. If only he could cut back on the strikeouts a little more.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +1500
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, New York Yankees
Yankees fans probably started laughing when we talked about Houston’s injury problems, as they know all about that. Injuries to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Miguel Andujar have opened a path for LeMahieu to become a serious MVP contender. He leads the American League in batting average and total hits, and is 10th in the majors in WAR. Even after leaving hitter heaven Coors Field, LeMahieu still has around the same home BA that he did last season. One of the best free agent signings, the Yankees team MVP could end up being AL MVP also.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +5000
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox struggles may be overshadowing the great season Bogaerts has been having so far. He sits top ten in slugging percentage, total hits, and OPS; and top-five in RBI, OBP, and extra-base hits. Boston currently sits third in the AL East; nine games behind the Yankees, but only one game back from a Wild Card spot. They will likely need to make the playoffs for Bogaerts to garner serious consideration, but that shouldn’t take anything away from his great first half of the season.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +6500
Austin Meadows, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Think the Pirates regret the Chris Archer trade yet? While Tyler Glasnow is a Cy Young candidate, Austin Meadows has gotten some mentions as an MVP candidate after he got hot to start the season. While he has cooled off a bit over the past month, Meadows is still top ten in the American League in OPS and slugging percentage to go with his .300 batting average. It doesn’t help that 25 of his 63 games played have been at DH; a position that hasn’t won an MVP since Don Baylor in 1979.
Current Hypothetical Odds: +15000
Also Considered: Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
At this point, the award is Trout’s to lose. So far, it has taken a Miguel Cabrera Triple Crown (which almost happened in two straight seasons), Josh Donaldson breaking the Blue Jays record for WAR in a season, and Mookie Betts joining the 30-30 club with a .346 average and becoming the first American League player to win a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and MVP in the same season, in order to keep Trout from winning the award. It seems highly unlikely anyone will have that kind of year, meaning Trout is once again the smartest choice.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports, AP Photo
Another great job Brian…
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