Earlier this year it seemed as if we might not get any baseball at all. The owners and players seemingly were never on the same page, the season was being pushed back weeks at a time and hope was bleak for a 2022 season. Sports news and media outlets everywhere were burying the league, a sport that was already losing fans is now enduring a dreaded lockout.
Thankfully, mid-March both sides came to an agreement, and players reported to spring training very soon thereafter. Now, here we are, roughly a fifth of the way into the season and boy are we getting some big time performances.
It’s never too early to think about awards, because well, it’s fun. Will a healthy Mike Trout win yet another MVP? What about big-time Bryce Harper, can he repeat? Here are the top names to keep an eye out for in the MVP race.
Shoehei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
ShoTime is still the odds on favorite to capture his second-straight most valuable player award, and for good reason. There’s never been a player like him in baseball before, sorry Babe, and there very may well not be one again.
Let’s start with what he does at the plate. He’s currently on pace for a second straight season of 30 plus home runs and 100 plus RBI’s.
He has started a little slower at the plate compared to last year, but that could be due to all the work he’s putting in on the mound. Despite that, his wRC+ is still 16 points higher than league average at 116.
Now, where Ohtani is shining this season is on the mound. He’s currently sporting a 2.78 ERA with an even more impressive 2.08 xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching, estimates a pitcher’s performance based solely on events within his control – strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches, and fly balls allowed.). What’s more impressive is his 12.80 K/9 with a dueling 1.95 BB/9. Just sparkling.
Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres
Staying out West for this one but switching over to the National League, what a start Manny Machado is off to. The former Orioles superstar has had a very underrated tenure in the Golden State.
I can’t wrap my head around Machado’s .371 batting average this season, and what’s more impressive is that his BABIP is well over .400. That’s just madness. Not to mention his wRC+ is nearly double the league average.
Oh, and he’s yet to make an error this season. One of the most well rounded players in the sport.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
If not for Ohtani, Aaron Judge would be the runaway favorite for AL MVP in my opinion. Judge plays on one of the best teams in all of baseball, which like it or not certainly factors into MVP voting.
He plays an incredible Right Field, and has looked like a natural in Center Field when the Yanks put Giancarlo Stanton in right. Despite where he plays in the field, he does it flawlessly, with no errors on the season. He’s batting over .300, and has already knocked out double digit home runs.
The thing standing in the way of Judge winning an MVP award, is himself. While he’s on an incredible year so far, he hasn’t had a season with 100 RBI’s since his rookie year of 2017.
The last time a batter won the AL MVP with a batting average under .300 and less than 100 RBI’s was Zoilo Versalles in 1965. So history isn’t necessarily on his side.
Nolan Arenado – Seems to be much more comfortable in his second year in St Louis. Seemingly always in and around the MVP race but can’t get over the hump. His defense is always top notch and his power at the plate is always there.
Francisco Lindor – If the Mets renaissance continues, Lindor would be a big part of it. If he can get back to the player he was in Cleveland batting around .280 and smacking 30 home runs, he could bring the award home.
Mike Trout – If he’s healthy, he’s one of the best players in the world. A full season of Trout will always be at the top of the MVP race considerations.