The American League contest for MVP remains for the taking. Mookie Betts continues to make headway, while Jose Altuve cools off. It appears the three favorites will remain in the conversation up until the final days. In the National League, Kris Bryant remains the frontrunner with Daniel Murphy pleading his case for the title.
Mike Trout, outfield, Los Angeles Angels: .318, 27 home runs, 91 RBIs
Mike Trout has been the best player in Major League Baseball for five years in a row, according to WAR calculations. In many cases, it hasn’t even been close. Trout leads the majors in on-base percentage. Why do voters continue to pass him over? The simple suggestion is boredom. Trout remains invaluable to the Angels, which is by definition exactly what the MVP should be. While statistics serve as a primary voting guideline, it’s obvious style points, and the caliber of clubhouse, has influence as well. If history serves as an indicator, despite the numbers, Trout may be overlooked again.
Mookie Betts, outfield, Boston Red Sox: .317, 31 home runs, 108 RBIs
Betts continues to make his way further into AL MVP chatter. With an impressive .429 batting average over the past seven days, he’s hitting considerably better than his MVP competition. This week, Betts became the first player with 200 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBIs in a season since Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown year in 2012. Betts has hit primarily leadoff or cleanup over the past month. His stock goes up even more given his level of defensive play. Betts also remains the only player of the three top candidates with a playoff team backing his efforts.
Jose Altuve, second base, Houston Astros: .336, 24 home runs, 94 RBIs
In the past week, Altuve has struggled at the plate, averaging .217 and amassing just five runs. This is not to discredit his efforts over the course of the season. He’s holding steady to his .336 AVG. At one point, Altuve’s lead in that column may have carried him, but on a team that most likely won’t see the playoffs, this category alone may not be enough to steal the MVP title from Trout or Betts.
Kris Bryant, third base, Chicago Cubs: .293, 37 home runs, 96 RBIs
The case for Kris Bryant is strong and uncomplicated. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball, and he’s one of the best players on it. His batting line of .296/.390/.566, along with 37 home runs and 33 doubles, do most of the talking for his campaign. While his average has slipped, Bryant is a complete player and remains in the NL top five for on-base percentage. Another stat line working against him is WPA/LI, a column in which Bryant proves to be one of the least-clutch hitters this season. To avoid being caught by the likes of Daniel Murphy or Corey Seager, a strong push at the end would serve Bryant well.
Daniel Murphy, second base, Washington Nationals: .347, 25 home runs, 104 RBIs
Murphy is the best competition for Bryant in the National League MVP race If the title was awarded based on OPS, Murphy would have it in the bag. His line of .347/.391/.596, plus 25 home runs and a league-leading 47 doubles is worth consideration. The reworking of his swing in 2015 has proven successful and helps make him a legitimate MVP candidate. Defensively, the edge belongs solely to Bryant, and it isn’t close. If Murphy continues to progress offensively, he puts himself in the conversation at least, which is more than any other player has done this season.
Corey Seager, shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers: .316, 25 home runs, 69 RBIs
Seager has registered over 1,200 defensive innings at shortstop this season. His batting line is .316/.374/.526, and voters are taking notice. When comparing these numbers to the average MLB shortstop this season, Seager’s are significantly higher. This week, he became only the fifth rookie at age 22 or younger to record 40 plus doubles in addition to more than 25 home runs in a season. To his benefit, Seager’s home field is pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.