A look at the junior circuit’s MVP race
When putting together MVP rankings, I generally do take into account the success of a player’s team. I mean the award is supposed to go to the Most Valuable Players, right. There is no better way to measure one’s value than through the wins and losses. Every now and then however, a player puts together such a special season that it deserves to be recognized despite the shortcomings of his team. This is the case in the American League this season where I currently list Mike Trout as the favorite for MVP.
The Angels are currently one game under .500 and play in the same division as the Houston Astros, which makes postseason baseball unlikely in Anaheim. Normally that would relegate any Angels player to honorable mention on my list. Things are a bit different this year, however, with Trout putting up otherworldly numbers, and no other AL hitter really challenging him for title of league’s best.
His 28 homeruns, 67 RBI’s, and 71 runs has him on pace to shatter his career bests in all three categories, while his .453 OBP would be second highest single-season mark. That’s saying a lot for a guy who already has two MVP trophies above his fireplace. Trout still plays above-average defense and has also thrown in eight stolen bases for good measure. If his team can stay in the Wild Card race, and if no one else on this list steps up with a crazy second half, then Trout should take home his third such award.
After some internal debate I settled on Bregman as my No. 2 guy. For starters, his statistics are worthy of inclusion as he has accumulated 23 homers, 58 RBI’s and 61 runs. He also sports a .393 OBP, and his 3.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is second only to Trout’s amazing 6.2 in the AL. Furthermore, his team is in first place, which is good for a 12.5 game lead on Trout’s Angels. While his individual statistics are not quite on-par with those of Trout, he is still the best player on a really good team. That usually keeps you in the MVP race. If Trout falters, or keeps losing games, Bregman could swoop in for the hardware.
LeMahieu was Bregman’s main competition for the second spot in my eyes. He has led the charge for an AL East leading Yankees club that has endured significant injuries to nearly all of its biggest stars. The former Colorado infielder has proven that he is not just a product of Coors Field, hitting .336/.383/.518 with 12 homeruns, 65 RBI’s and 65 runs. As the Bronx Bombers continue to integrate Didi Gregorious, Aaron Judge and other studs back into the lineup, LeMahieu may get lost in the shuffle a bit. But where would the Yanks be without him right now? I don’t expect him to be here in the end, but what a tremendous first half he has enjoyed.
Quietly, the Oakland A’s have enjoyed a really good first half, entering the All-Star break nine games above .500. Team President Billy Beane deserves credit for putting together a deep roster that features several two-way talents. No Athletic exemplifies this more than Matt Chapman. He has become a highlight reel mainstay at third base exhibiting unrivaled defensive wizardry. He’s also been pretty good with the bat having hit 21 home runs to go with 52 RBI’s and 59 runs. While that Oakland roster is deep, I don’t think Chapman will have to split votes with teammates the way others on this list may have too (Bregman/Springer for example).
I am a huge believer in the WAR stat as it seems to factor in almost any way that a player can positively impact his team. Bogaerts’ 3.7 WAR is good for third in the AL which is actually higher than LeMahieu and Chapman. He plays shortstop, which is a premium defensive position, and his team should be involved in the postseason race which will keep him relevant. At only 26 years old, Bogaerts is in the midst of a career year and may only be getting better. His 17 homers, 65 RBI’s, 67 runs and .384 OBP have him on pace to set all new career high marks.