The weeks are winding down for players across MLB to make a final push in their MVP campaigns. The NL appears to have a top candidate with a couple to add for conversation pieces. The AL remains heavily debated, which could be largely because the top two contenders both play for teams we most likely won’t see in the postseason. An MVP hasn’t been selected from a non-playoff team in 13 years.
Mike Trout, outfield, Los Angeles Angels: .319, 27 home runs, 89 RBIs
Trout’s numbers held steady this week (9.3 WAR and 122 RC). He remains a topic of AL MVP chatter as analysts question whether he could be passed up for the award again this year. It seems impossible given his AL-leading wOBA, wRC, OBP, OPS and WAR, but there are experts (and amateurs) looking to make a case against him. Many like to point out his defensive productivity as a weakness, but with offensive production at this level, it’s more than compensated for.
Jose Altuve, second base, Houston Astros: .340, 24 home runs, 94 RBIs
Altuve, in dominating fashion, is almost a shoe-in for his third league batting title in four years. He has surpassed multiple career highs this season, including homeruns, RBI and walks. Altuve leads the AL in hits and batting average. His fielding has been reliable throughout the season. To contrast all of that, Altuve’s hitting over the last 19 games is .195/.232/.390, per NBC Sports. In this time, the Astros have nearly eliminated themselves from wild card contention.
Mookie Betts, outfield, Boston Red Sox: .311, 30 home runs, 104 RBIs
Betts’ WAR of 8.0 is second only to Mike Trout in the AL. His value is largely driven by defensive play. Betts’ making his way into MVP talk comes as a result of lacking productivity from his competitors. He maintains a three-home-run lead over Trout and in doing that became only the 10th player to hit 30 home runs have at least 20 stolen bases. This year, he’s the first and only player to achieve this.
Kris Bryant, third base, Chicago Cubs: .297, 37 home runs, 94 RBIs
Like Trout, Bryant leads the AL in some major batting statistics: home runs, runs scored, wRC+ and WAR. Bryant has been a versatile defensive asset for the Cubs, having played six positions this season. This leads to his WAR, the highest in the NL (7.1) per ESPN. He contributes virtually everywhere. His numbers, versatility and well-rounded play make him a NL MVP favorite.
Corey Seager, shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers: .319, 25 home runs, 69 RBIs
Seager was projected to be a good player for the Dodgers this year. Many would argue he has been great. Predicted to obtain a +3 WAR, he far exceeded those expectations and looks to end the year slightly more valuable than anticipated with a +8 WAR. It is significant to point out that the next-best-hitting shortstop in the NL sits 26 points behind Seager. An interesting factor that could be weighed into the debate between Bryant vs. Seager is while Bryant’s leadoff hitters have an OBP of .379, Seager’s sit at .331. This puts Bryant at an advantage in a few statistical categories given he’s coming to the plate with men on base 47 percent of the time.
Daniel Murphy, second base, Washington Nationals: .347, 25 home runs, 102 RBIs
Murphy’s average puts him atop the NL charts. He is in a 10-game hit streak, comprised of six doubles and four RBIs. Although his batting average flirted with .400 at the beginning of the season, it has since leveled off. Given this, he is still 45 points above his career average. Murphy has maintained an impressive slugging percentage (.598) and OPS (.990). Defense remains his downside, but his offensive play over the next few weeks could carry him further into the NL MVP debate.