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Handicapping the NL 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 National League so far. The Los Angeles Dodgers look to be a safe bet to return to the World Series for a third consecutive season, but teams like the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs are still lurking. With that in mind, let’s breakdown the top NL MVP candidates from the first half of the regular season.

The Favorites

Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Cody Bellinger, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

There seems to be little doubt that Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger are the top two candidates for NL MVP. They hold the top two spots in batting average, slugging percentage, total runs created, and OPS; while also being top five in RBI, total hits, and home runs. Statistics wise, there is very little separating them at the moment.

While Yelich does have the pedigree of being the reigning MVP, you can also note he has been forced to do more for his team. As far as team success, Bellinger and the Dodgers have the best record in baseball and seem to be coasting to another NL West title. The Brewers are still only one game back off the Cubs in the NL Central, but they are still well behind Los Angeles’ 55-26 record. Based on current form, however, there is no wrong vote here.

Hypothetical Current Odds: Yelich: +175, Bellinger +200

The Field

Josh Bell, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates

If the MLB had an award for the most improved player, Josh Bell would be a solid candidate. He leads the National League in extra base hits and is already closing in on his career-high in home runs. His fielding could be slightly better, as he ranks ninth among NL first baseman in fielding percentage, but if his bat continues to stay hot, he could sneak his way into the top tier of MVP candidates.

Hypothetical Current Odds: +900

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves

Yelich and Bellinger lead a lot of statistical categories, but guess who’s right behind them (with the exception of home runs, where Nolan Arenado ranks 12th)?  Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman just edge out their respective teammates Charlie Blackmon and Ronald Acuna Jr for the spots on this list.

Hypothetical Current Odds: +1500 each

The Longshots

Pete Alonso, 1B, New York Mets

The rookie is currently on pace for 54 home runs and 122 RBI on the season, which could steal him some votes. He is also on pace for 12 errors, with just a .989 fielding percentage. The New York Mets need something to feel good about though, right?

Current Hypothetical Odds: +6000

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

Quietly having a great season, Anthony Rendon leads all MLB third basemen in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and doubles. He is also fourth in MLB in wOBA; behind Yelich, Bellinger, and Mike Trout. It was thought he would get more recognition, considering Bryce Harper left for Philadelphia, but Rendon has still flown under the radar. Here’s to hoping he gets his first All-Star nod this year, and if he leads Washington to the playoffs, who knows?

Current Hypothetical Odds: + 10000

Hyun-Jin Ryu, P, Los Angeles Dodgers

Even though we’ve already seen two pitchers win MVP awards in this decade (Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw), it’s still an incredibly rare feat. Hyun-Jin Ryu has a 9-1 record so far, with 90 strikeouts, six walks, seven home runs given up, a 1.27 ERA, and a WHIP that sits at .0.84. While it’s unreasonable to expect him to retain the same level of play, his outstanding half-season puts him on the edge of MVP consideration. If he does keep it up, he could just win it.

Current Hypothetical Odds: +20000

Barring injuries, it will likely be a two-horse race between Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger for the MVP crown. At the moment, my money would be on Yelich. The batting stats are so similar, but Yelich has been more consistent, while Bellinger has tapered off just a little bit after his blistering start. Along with that, Yelich could have the potential for more meaningful at-bats at the end of the season. As for the team, the Dodgers currently with a 13-game lead in their division, and could eventually decide to rest some key players.

Featured Image: Dylan Buell, Getty Images

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