We’ve come full circle, back to the MVP race. For last week’s Rookie of the Year review, click here. For the Cy Young race, click here. The number in brackets represents a player’s standing in my last rankings.
As could be expected this early in the season, there has been a major shuffle in contenders for the MVP race. The AL race features two newcomers while Troy Tulowitzki remains the sole survivor in the NL.
AL – Other Contenders Emerge as Trout Flounders,
1. (2.) Jose Bautista, RF, TOR: .297/.435/.552, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 37 R, 41 BB
Coming off two injury plagued seasons, Bautista is now fully healthy and clearly hasn’t lost a step in his age 33 season. His 41 walks and .988 OPS lead the American League, with his on-base percentage sitting a thousandth of a percent behind league leader Shin-Soo Choo. Despite missing 114 games in 2012 and 2013, Bautista’s 164 home runs since 2010 are the most of any big leaguer. His consistency has been a big part in the Jays’ position atop the AL East, and he looks like the clear favorite for this award.
2. (3.) Josh Donaldson, 3B, OAK: .276/.366/.508, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 39 R
Josh Donaldson is the epitome of the Oakland A’s ideology. An overlooked, underappreciated player with who draws walks, plays stellar defense and hits with a bit of pop. Donaldson’s bat and glove led the A’s to a first place finish last season, and this year has been much of the same. He sits second in the majors in WAR (with 3.7) and is tied with Troy Tulowitzki for the lead in defensive WAR with 1.5. He’s not flashy and his numbers don’t exactly pop off the page, but he does everything extremely well and is a superstar in his own right. He finished fourth in MVP voting last year, and seems poised to beat that place thus far.
3. (-) Brian Dozier, 2B, MIN: .257/.370/.469, 11 HR, 25 RBI, 41 R, 12 SB
Brian Dozier very quietly put up a nice season for the Twins last year. He only hit .244, but he smacked 18 home runs and stole 14 bases while playing very good defense. Still, no one expected this kind of improvement from the 27-year-old second baseman. He’s on a 30-30 pace and his 30 walks, leading to his .370 OBP, more than make up for his low average. He also strangely has just 4 doubles and no triples, despite both his speed and home run total, suggestion he is due for a correction. He has been among the best players in the American League so far, but whether he can keep it up is another question.
4. (1.) Mike Trout, CF, LAA: .270/.361/.511, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 29 R, 5 SB
Mike Trout is batting a pathetic .186/.296/.369 since the calendar flipped to May. His brilliance in April has kept him from falling off this list entirely, but another week or so of this and he certainly will. His defense remains elite, and he is tied for the AL lead in triples (with 4), but he has hit just one homer and stolen just two bases all month. Even more concerning has been his drop in plate discipline, having drawn just 25 walks this year after leading the league with 110 in 2013 and his significant spike in strikeouts, as he now leads the league with 56. He survived a weak April last season and still put up a more-than-MVP-worthy season so I wouldn’t bet against him, but he needs to turn it around soon.
5. (-) Victor Martinez, DH, DET: .327/.380/.606, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 23 R
While I dislike the idea of a primary DH winning an MVP award, that slash line is too pretty to ignore. Indeed, Martinez’s non-existent defense is the only thing keeping him below Dozier and Trout on this list. Despite all the games he’s logged as a catcher and missing the entire 2012 season to a knee injury, the 35-year-old is absolutely raking. If he keeps up his torrid pace, I’ll be hard-pressed to keeping him down this low.
Off the list:
(4.) Alexei Ramirez, SS, CWS
(5.) Jose Abreu, 1B, CWS
NL – Tulowitzki Just Keeps Going
1. (1.) Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL: .380/.484/.733, 13 HR, 35 RBI, 44 R
Amazingly, Tulowitzki has been even better in May than he was in his ridiculous April. His video game stats and breathtaking defense have made him hands down the best player in the majors this season. In addition to the bold-faced numbers above, Tulo also leads the league in OPS+ (212) and Total Bases with 110 and has 30 walks against just 24 strikeouts. Thanks to hitter-haven Coors Field, Tulo is hitting an unbelievable .521/.600/.959 at home. Still, even with such an extreme split, Tulo has been the best player in baseball. If he can stay healthy, no small task for the oft-injured shortstop, there seems little reason why he couldn’t lead the rankings for this award all season.
2. (-) Giancarlo Stanton, RF, MIA: .309/.402/.586, 12 HR, 45 RBI, 33 R
Like Bautista, Stanton is coming off an injury plagued two seasons. And, like Bautista, Stanton has been raking much like he has since his 2010 debut. Stanton, however, is about 9 years younger and his legendary power has been with him his entire career. Hitting in a young and exciting Marlins offense, the 24-year-old slugger has powered his team to second place in the NL East. He’s been no slouch with the glove either, as his 1.1 defensive WAR has him third in the league. Like Tulo, his potential is limited only by his ability to stay on the field.
3. (-) Yasiel Puig, RF, LAD: .331/.423/.607, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 25 R, 4 SB
Equal parts brilliant and maddening, astonishing and erratic, Puig is perhaps the most exciting player in baseball. Whether it’s mammoth home runs and unbelievable throws, or hilariously stupid baserunning blunders, Yasiel Puig is as entertaining as he is talented. His overall defense has been poor and his baserunning even worse (he’s just 4-for-7 in steals this year after a brutal 11-for-19 showing last year), but his bat has been monstrous and his cannon of an arm has had him throw out his share. Most importantly, he has made some big adjustments at the plate, drawing far more walks while striking out less. That is a scary combination for one of the most talented players in the majors.
4. (-) Andrew McCutchen, CF, PIT: .319/.442/.488, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 23 R, 7 SB, 36 BB
McCutchen’s counting stats leave much to be desired, but his support cast is underwhelming and his league-leading 36 walks help offset his power drought. With fellow outfielder Starling Marte heating up and the impending promotion of top prospect Gregory Polanco, the dread-locked centrefielder’s production should only get better. That’s saying a lot for a man who’s been among the NL’s best players over the last three seasons, but at age 27 McCutchen has shown no signs of slowing down.
5. (-) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI: .315/.366/.553, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 35 R, 62 H, 20 2B
Last year’s runner up is at it again. Despite a modest dip in power, speed and walks, Goldschmidt is raking, leading the NL in hits and the majors in doubles. The struggles of the basement-dwelling D-Backs’ have been no fault of his. Again, however, he finds himself trailing McCutchen as his 70 point advantage in slugging is off-set by his 80 point deficit in on-base, with the Pirates’ centrefielder playing a much more important position.
Off the list:
(2) Charlie Blackmon, CF, COL
(3) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD
(4) Chase Utley, 2B, PHI
(5) Justin Upton, LF, ATL
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