The American League Most Valuable Player race took an unfortunate turn over the weekend when the Angels ruled transcendent center fielder Mike Trout out for the rest of the season. The out-of-contention Angels have nothing to left to play for, but the final couple weeks of the year could have helped Trout, a future Hall of Famer, bolster his MVP case. The 28-year-old has already won the award twice (arguably not enough times considering his brilliance to this point), and he looked like the favorite to take home the honors again this season before a foot injury took him down. Trout could still end up as the AL MVP, but given that he’s on a bad team and hasn’t played since Sept. 7, it’s increasingly likely a challenger will rise up and win it.
If we’re to believe Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement, 10 American League hitters have been worth at least 5.0 fWAR this year. Trout’s easily in first place, having racked up 8.6 fWAR, while Astros third baseman Alex Bregman’s next at 7.4. Underrated Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien (6.6) is one of three players thereafter who have bettered the 6.0 mark, with Red Sox right fielder/reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts (6.3) and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (6.2) filling out the group. Beyond them, there’s Astros outfielder George Springer, A’s third baseman Matt Chapman, Red Sox third bagger Rafael Devers, Yankees utilityman DJ LeMahieu and White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada with 5.0 fWAR.
There are also six starting pitchers in the bunch with 5.0 or more fWAR – the Astros’ Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, the Rangers’ Lance Lynn, the Rays’ Charlie Morton, the Indians’ Shane Bieber and the White Sox’s Lucas Giolito – for what it’s worth. However, it’s incredibly difficult for a pitcher to earn MVP honors. Verlander pulled it off back in 2011, but he was the first hurler since 1992 to do so. It’s improbable he or any other pitcher will accomplish the feat this year. Likewise, it’s difficult to imagine a player on a non-contender (Trout aside) earning the MVP this year. That may well rule out anyone from the two Sox-wearing teams.
By process of elimination, the MVP race might come down to Trout, Bregman, Semien, Springer (though it’s tough to see him winning when teammate Bregman has clearly been the more valuable player), Chapman (who’d likely lose votes to Semien) and LeMahieu.
Of course, it’s highly doubtful the voters will make the decision largely by the polarizing WAR stat, and understandably so. There will be plenty who place the most value on the dominance of Trout despite his team’s fecklessness. Others will give the nod to Bregman, who has been on an absolute tear in the season’s second half (the same goes for Semien, by the way). Meanwhile, LeMahieu has thrived as a multi-positional player in the game’s biggest market after joining the Yankees last offseason on what now looks like a bargain contract of two years and $24MM.
The Yankees and Astros are heading to the playoffs as elite teams, which could help their MVP contenders’ causes. The A’s are also likely on their way, so the same applies to their prospective MVPs. All said, it’ll be an interesting final couple weeks of the regular season as all of the above vie for the award. As of now, which player do you think should win?
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