MVP Award Candidates in the American League
Less than two weeks remain in the 2019 regular season, and we still have a lot of unanswered questions in the American League. Home-field advantage throughout the postseason is still up for grabs. The New York Yankees health makes it impossible to predict who will be on their postseason roster. The Cleveland Indians are fighting to make the playoffs. Another question yet to be answered is which player will walk away with the 2019 AL MVP Award. Let’s take a look at the top candidates.
Mike Trout Excels On a Losing Team
Some writers believe a player for a losing team should not have a claim to the MVP Award. The award is not for the best player, but for the player that has been most valuable. Mike Trout has been on both sides of that argument. He won the award in 2014 while leading the Los Angeles Angels to the AL West title. Two years later, Trout recaptured the MVP despite playing on an Angels team that won only 74 games. The Angels will post their third consecutive losing season in 2019, but Trout’s numbers are still eye-popping.
Trout leads the AL with 45 home runs and ranks sixth in the league with 104 runs batted in. He leads the AL with a gaudy 1.084 OPS and tops the charts with an 8.8 WAR. The 8-time all-star is also arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball. He will miss the remainder of the season due to injury, but that does not diminish his remarkable numbers or his chances of claiming a third MVP Award.
Leading a Power Surge in Minnesota
The Yankees and Houston Astros were supposed to be at the top of the American League. Their success is no surprise to anyone. The Minnesota Twins, however, have surprised a lot of people. They followed up an unexpected run to the AL Wild Card game in 2017 with a pretty unimpressive 78-84 record last season. They were still young, and their young players still had potential. Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli needed a veteran with a big bat to solidify his lineup, and he found it in Nelson Cruz.
Cruz was a big part of a Texas Rangers team that won AL pennants in 2010 and 2011. He led the league in home runs in 2014, helping the Baltimore Orioles to their first playoff series win in 17 years. The 39-year-old veteran has shown no signs of his age, ranking in the top 10 in both HR and RBI while posting an OPS of .1.010. Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler are all having career years, and Cruz’s presence in the lineup has a lot to do with that. The Twins are closing in on the AL Central title, and making a run at the single-season record for home runs by a team. Nelson Cruz should get more than a token MVP award consideration, and his Twins will be a tough out in the postseason.
Bregman is the Best MVP Award Candidate in Houston
Choosing a leading candidate for MVP on the Astros isn’t easy. Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, and Jose Altuve are all having stellar seasons. Alex Bregman’s season, however, stands out even among his all-star teammates. The two-time all-star is fifth in RBI with 105. He is fifth in the AL with 37 HR and has played a gold glove-caliber third base this season. Even with Carlos Correa suffering through an injury-plagued season, the Astros have not missed a beat. We have to choose one of these guys as an MVP candidate. Bregman has the best numbers and is the best candidate at least among position players.
Pitchers Can’t Win MVP’s
Justin Verlander accomplished a rare feat in 2011. He became on the fourth player in history to win both the Cy Young Award and the MVP in the same season. He may become the first man to ever do it twice this season. Verlander leads the league in wins and ERA and is second to teammate Gerrit Cole in strikeouts. He leads the league with a WHIP of 0.788. That number is good enough for the fourth-best single-season WHIP in the history of the game. Justin Verlander is having a historic year on the mound. He might make more history by becoming the first pitcher to capture a second MVP Award.
DJ Plays The Hits in New York
The Yankees have had more players hurt and more individual stints on the IL than any team in recent memory. They are also vying for the league’s best record. Sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar have been non-factors in 2019, and Aaron Judge has missed nearly 60 games due to injury. Gio Urshela and others have done their best to supply the power those bats would have provided. The engine that has fueled an offense that will score nearly 900 runs this season has been DJ LeMahieu. T
The first-year Yankee is hitting .329, ranking second only to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson in the American League. His 25 home runs represent a career-best. He even leads the club in RBI with 97, hitting almost exclusively out of the leadoff spot. He has 59 multi-hit games, good for the most in the league. If we are to judge which player has truly been “most valuable”, Lemahieu’s name has to be at the top of the list.
The Winner is…..
Nelson Cruz is defying Father Time. Alex Bregman is fast becoming the next Mike Schmidt. Justin Verlander has been as good in 2019 as he was in 2011 and even 2006. Mike Trout is, well, the most talented player of his generation. But DJ LeMaheiu is having the best season of his career. He is having that season for a team riddled with injuries. He kept that team afloat when they were struggling and paced them when they were rolling over the dregs of the American League. That means he has been more valuable than all the great players we’ve discussed. If the author had a vote it would be a vote for DJ LeMahieu.