Sneaky MVP Players to Watch
Although Opening Day is in the rearview mirror, and it’s still early in the season. There’s still plenty of excitement, drama, and action to come over the next two months. Along the way, there will be certain players who far exceed expectations. In contrast, there will be other players who fall short of those expectations and disappoint.
That doesn’t mean that those players didn’t have a successful season. Instead, it just means something might have derailed their season such as injury or just simply an off-year. For the players that far exceed expectations, there’s the possibility that some could enter the conversation for the Most Valuable Player Award.
Here are three sneaky MVP candidates for both the National and American League.
1. Ketel Marte (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Last season, Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Ketel Marte came one hit shy of winning the NL batting title. Now, that he’s in his age-26 season, there’s a good chance that he could replicate the success he demonstrated at the plate last season. If you recall, Marte earned his first All-Star nod last year and finished fourth overall in the NL MVP Award voting. Combine that with his ability to get on-base (.389 OBP over 144 games) and his Runs Above Average (RAA) (56) from 2019, there’s a good chance that Marte turns some heads once again and makes some serious noise in the desert.
2. Eugenio Suarez (Cincinnati Reds)
Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez is one of the most underrated players in baseball. Although Suarez recorded a career-high 189 strikeouts over 159 games last year, he did post a .572 slugging percentage along with an Isolated Power (ISO) value of .301. In addition, you can’t forget about the 49 home runs he slugged either. At 29 years old, Suarez is right in the midst of his prime and now has more support in the lineup, increasing his chances of doing even more offensive damage this year. With a 60-game season on tap, that could certainly benefit him as well.
3. J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies)
When you look around baseball, Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto is the cream of the crop at his position. He does a superb job of demonstrating his outstanding defensive abilities behind the plate every game and has the bat to back that up. Last year, the 29-year old catcher had a Caught Stealing Percentage (CS%) of 47% compared to the league average of 26%. Combine that with the 25 home runs and 83 RBI he had over 145 games and you have a special catcher. In his final year before free agency, Realmuto might feel extra motivated to show the rest of baseball who he truly is.
1. Joey Gallo (Texas Rangers)
Texas Rangers right fielder Joey Gallo aka “Pico de Gallo” is a tremendous athlete and player. If Gallo didn’t have to have right wrist surgery last year which derailed his season in July, then he arguably could have won the AL MVP Award. Over 70 games, he hit .253/.389/.598 with 22 home runs, 49 RBI, and 52 walks. In addition, he posted a 3.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) value and was really the force in the Rangers batting order. If Gallo is able to stay healthy this year, watch out because the power came around last season and it’s likely to only increase moving forward.
2. Yasmani Grandal (Chicago White Sox)
After signing a four-year, $73 million dollar contract with the Chicago White Sox this past offseason, catcher Yasmani Grandal could be an impactful player on the Southside. Over his career, Grandal has always been one of the more underrated catchers in baseball. However, last season he earned his second career All-Star nod and finished 15th overall in NL MVP voting. If he is able to take his success in high leverage situations (.307/.371/.594 in those situations in 2019) to the Southside, then there might be plenty of moments where Grandal comes up big further supporting his case to be named AL MVP.
3. Matt Chapman (Oakland Athletics)
Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman is a star in the making. Last year, Chapman finished sixth overall in AL MVP voting, but it feels like he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Over 156 games last year, Chapman hit 36 home runs, 102 RBI, and had a Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) of .354. In addition, he has a tremendous glove to back up that offensive success as demonstrated by the 34 Defensive Runs Saved that he recorded in 2019. If the Athletics are going to contend, Matt Chapman will be a big reason why and will have written a terrific narrative to support his case to be crowned AL MVP.
In the end, it’s a 60-game season and no one really knows what to expect. While Game One is behind all thirty teams, there are still plenty of surprises to come. The six players mentioned above are all talented in their own ways and could very easily enter the MVP conversation. Now, only time will tell what ends up happening and who ends up providing the most impact to their team on this list.
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