The MLB pennant chases are heating up, meaning it’s time to make some predictions as to how the awards races will shake down. The AL MVP is a close, compelling race that features several players having comparably remarkable seasons for successful teams. Here’s a look at some of the favorites.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (.291/.368/.562; 27 HR)
Trout has enjoyed one of the most prolific starts to a career that baseball has ever seen, finishing second in MVP voting twice (despite being worth more WAR than the winner in both season) before the age of 23. Aside from being an outstanding hitter, Trout’s speed allows him to cover tremendous ground in the outfield and has led to nearly 100 career stolen bases in just under three seasons. The Angels’ resurgence has put Trout in prime position to capture his first AL MVP award.
Cano has finished in the top six in MVP voting for each of the last four seasons, earning a 10-year, $240 million deal to leave the Yankees for the Mariners this last offseason. After getting off to a slow start, Cano has regained the form that made him the most valuable second baseman in baseball. Cano brings the defensive prowess of an elite middle infielder, but what sets him aside is his ability to hit for power – the former Yankee has posted a slugging percentage over .500 for five straight seasons.
3. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (.320/.375/.500; 17 HR)
Believe it or not, Beltre has played his way to being a near-sure Hall-of-Famer. In 17 seasons, Beltre has compiled over 2,500 hits, nearly 400 HRs, and four gold gloves (although he has likely played well enough to earn twice as many). His career WAR of 76.2 is higher than Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, and Johnny Bench, among others. How does this set him up for consideration this year? Though the Rangers are stuck at the bottom of the division, Beltre continues to get it done at the age of 35 – his 2014 WAR of 5.4 is third highest in the AL. He continues to be one of the top defensive third basemen in the league – just, for crying out loud, don’t touch the poor guy’s head.
4. Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (.283/.358/.443; 13 HR; 29 2B)
The surprising Royals are doing their best to run away from the Tigers in the AL Central, and much of it falls on the shoulders of Gordon. KC’s three-time gold-glove winner in left field was touted as the next George Brett when he entered the league in 2007 as the top-ranked prospect in baseball. However, Gordon took a few years to live up to the billing. Since his breakout season in 2011, Gordon has hit for power in addition to being one of the top-ranked defensive outfielders in baseball – and the Royals are finally reaping the benefits.
5. Josh Donaldson, Oakland A’s (.250/.337/.462; 25 HR)
Since converting from catcher to third base before last season, Donaldson has staked his claim as the best defensive third baseman in baseball. His range is unparalelled, his glove is like a vacuum, and his nose for the spectacular play is unmatched. Oh, yeah – he’s also one of the most feared hitters in baseball. He’s already surpassed his previous career high of 24 home runs, set last year. His average has seen a dip since last year, but the power numbers remain and his spectacular performance on defense make him worth the second-most WAR in the AL, following only Mike Trout. The A’s success this season make him a prime candidate to earn the award that is often given to the best player from the best team.