Josh Hamilton, a Llama, and Other Early MVP Possibilities
They don't vote on the MVP award on April 18, and for good reason. With just 11 games in the book per team, we haven't seen much more than random blips of performance; by one measure, Josh Willingham is the most valuable hitter in the league, and we can be pretty sure that won't last and some of the more established candidates will take their places at the top of the pile. Still, at least a couple of these guys will still be around in October to take the hardware hand-off from Justin Verlander.
With last night's 3-for-5, five-RBI performance, Josh Hamilton raised his season rates to .413/.404/.804. Note the abnormality there; he has yet to take a walk, so his on-base percentage is lower than his batting average. You can't complain about that with this kind of production.
It's strange to see the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East standings, but their 7-4 record somehow tops the division by half a game. Wieters is a big reason why. Last season he broke out with a .262/.328/.450, Gold Glove performance that marked him as an excellent defensive catcher with solid offense for the position.
Now, at .333/.442/.694, he's hitting the way his minor league stats and pre-draft reputation with scouts would have predicted.
This is a llama. Call him Bruce. Bruce the Llama doesn't have very good stats, because he hasn't played yet. Even if he had played, he would have hit .000/.000/.000 because he cannot grip a bat. However, it's early in the season and he might learn. Right now, Robert Andino is hitting .325/.357/.475. Robinson Cano is hitting .239/.327/.348; it's just too soon to count out the llama.
One way to know it's early is that a guy who hit .216 over the last three seasons is chasing .400. With last night's 3-for-4 against the Blue Jays, Carlos Pena is hitting .390/.490/.707 and Joe Maddon's decision to bat him second looks like a stroke of genius.
In his rookie season, Austin Jackson hit .364 in April. Last year, he hit .181. Now he's back and is, at least for the moment, leading the Tigers in overall offense. Everyone has focused on Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, but when you combine Jackson's defensive abilities with this level of hitting you have a valuable player indeed.
You can't discount last year's winner, not when he's leading the league in innings pitched and strikeouts has yet to allow a home run. Other possibilities: Josh Willingham, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Ian Kinsler.