At the end of every season, Major League Baseball gives out two Most Valuable Player awards—one to the top National League player and one to the top American League player. While those players are typically very deserving, I think it would be fun to take a look at all 30 teams in the league and see which player each team can call his most valuable player.
Wade Miley has been an extremely pleasant surprise for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the rookie is getting it done both on the mound and at the plate. The left-handed pitcher is 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA and a fine 2.88 strikeout to walk ratio, and he’s batting an incredible .391 at the plate (9-for-23).
Miley is a strong candidate for the Rookie of the Year this season, and he’s been a blessing, especially with Ian Kennedy (4.32 ERA) and Daniel Hudson (6.06 ERA) uncharacteristically off in 2012.
Runner-Up: Paul Goldschmidt
I went into this thinking Michael Bourn was the team’s MVP this year, and he’s had a phenomenal season at .319 with a career-high six home runs plus 17 stolen bases and great defense in center field.
But considering how poorly the young starting pitchers have performed—Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran, even Jair Jurrjens—Brandon Beachy’s year has been crucial. He is 5-4 with an astounding 1.98 ERA, a mark that leads the National League. Beachy is giving up just 5.7 hits per nine innings for a ridiculous 0.996 WHIP, and while he very likely won’t maintain this rate, he’s certainly the team’s MVP so far.
Runner-Ups: Michael Bourn, Craig KImbrel, Tommy Hanson
Adam Jones earned a much-deserved six-year, $85 million contract extension during the season, and he’s played lights out for the Baltimore Orioles all season. Jones has three walkoff home runs in the 12th inning or later, and he’s on pace to challenge 50 home runs.
Jones is also speedy on the basepaths, he’s a superb defender in center field, and he’s catapulted the Orioles to their best start in years, as they’ve been neck and neck for the AL East lead all season.
Runner-Ups: Jim Johnson, Jason Hammel, Darren O’Day
The Boston Red Sox’s offense has been strange this year. Adrian Gonzalez isn’t producing like normal and neither is Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youklilis. But Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava, Cody Ross, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are playing extremely well compared to expectations, and of course David Ortiz is as consistent as ever.
Big Papi is 36 years old and on just a one-year, $14.58 million deal, but he’s thriving in 2012. Ortiz is hitting .307/.389/.589 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs, which would give him his fifth season of 35 home runs and seventh of 100 runs batted in. His 160 adjusted OPS is the highest he has posted since 2007 as well.
Will Bryan LaHair’s season continue? No way. Is he the MVP of the team so far though? Absolutely.
LaHair has been absolutely phenomenal considering until this point, he’s been nothing more than one of the greatest Quad-A players of this generation. LaHair is hitting .303 with a .577 slugging percentage. He has 12 home runs, which puts him on pace for close to 35, and his 158 adjusted OPS is 34 points higher than the next-best offensive player on the Chicago Cubs.
Runner-Ups: Ryan Dempster, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano
Paul Konerko may be 37 years old, but don’t tell that to him. He’s playing like he’s at least 10 years younger, and if that were the case, I don’t even think I would be able to count all the zeroes he would have on his new contract.
As late as the middle of June, Paul Konerko is still hitting at a .366 clip with a .444 on-base percentage and .605 slugging percentage. His 12 home runs have put him over 400 for the season and he’s on pace to drive in over 100 runs.
I give Konerko the edge over Chris Sale simply because they’re so split in my mind, but Konerko leads in the all-important Wins Above Replacement category, edging out Sale 2.8 to 2.6.
Runner-Ups: Chris Sale, Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy
The first several months of Joey Votto’s 10-year contract have been a smashing success. He’s probably been the MVP of the National League so far, which would be his second such award if he wins it.
Votto is hitting .362/.483/.648 and he leads the NL in doubles (27), walks (50), intentional walks (10), on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.131), and adjusted OPS (200). He has more walks than strikeouts at the plate, and he’s also a very competent fielder, as he’s coming off a Gold Glove award in 2011 and he leads all first basemen in assists this year.
Runner-Ups: Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce
There are a handful of players you could pick from the Cleveland Indians. Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera make up a fine underrated middle infield tandem, Michael Brantley is now working on a 21-game hitting streak, Derek Lowe has been the pitching staff’s ace, and Chris Perez is perfect on 20 save opportunities as a closer since blowing his first one.
I’ll go Kipnis though. He’s batting .282 with 10 stolen bases and 15 steals, which gives him a real shot at going 30-30 or at least 25-25 from the second base position, a feat that has been accomplished just five times in AL history. Kipnis is also a good fielder, and he ranks third in the American League with a .989 fielding percentage.
Runner-Ups: Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Derek Lowe, Chris Perez
The Colorado Rockies have had an absolutely dreadful pitching staff, which eliminates anyone from that group. Carlos Gonzalez has been tearing it up on offense, which is fortunate, because otherwise they might not have won a game all year.
Gonzalez is batting .322 with 16 home runs and nine steals in nine attempts, which gives him a .610 slugging percentage, .992 OPS, and 148 adjusted OPS.
Runner-Ups: Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki
The baton has officially been passed from Roy Halladay to Justin Verlander for the title of The Game’s Best Pitcher. Verlander is just 5-4 but don’t let that fool you; he has a 2.69 ERA to go with a league-leading 103 strikeouts in 101.2 innings. He’s averaging 7.26 innings per start and three times he’s gone the distance.
Verlander’s success has been so important with usual solid starters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello struggling mightily, at the tune of a 5.76 and 5.18 ERA.
Runner-Ups: Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson
The Houston Astros are getting fine contributions from their young middle infielders, and Jose Altuve’s has been the most impressive thus far. He’s hitting .324 at the age of 22. Altuve has 11 stolen bases and a 127 adjusted OPS, and he’s leading the team in hits, doubles, and total bases.
This award would have gone to Wandy Rodriguez, but his 7.17 ERA and .358 opponents batting average allowed in his last four starts shot his numbers back up to normal.
Runner-Ups: Jed Lowrie, Wandy Rodriguez
Once rated as high as the second overall prospect in the game according to Baseball America, Mike Moustakas is proving his worth in 2012. As the starting third baseman, he is hitting just .264 but with enough power (nine home runs) to give him a .466 slugging percentage and .801 OPS.
On defense, Moustakas rates as the best infielder in the entire game, per FanGraphs. That gives Moustakas a total WAR of 2.3 this year, tops of any third baseman in the league.
Runner-Ups: Billy Butler, Jonathan Broxton
Before the season, I would have figured this award would go to Albert Pujols. He’s really turned it around recently but it’s not enough to make up for his slow start. The real MVP of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim though is Mike Trout, arguably the greatest 20-year-old ever to put on a major league uniform (until Bryce Harper has his 20th birthday).
Since being called up from the minor leagues, Trout is hitting .341/.401/.541 with 10 doubles, three triples, and six home runs. He’s scored 35 runs in just 42 games, he’s leading the American League with 16 stolen bases, and the Angels are 26-16 with him on the 25-man roster. Even better, Trout is hitting an unbelievable .431 thus far in June.
Runner-Ups: Jered Weaver, Mark Trumbo, C.J. Wilson, Scott Downs, Ernesto Frieri
Matt Kemp may have taken over as the game’s best player, but he’s missed enough time this season due to injury that I have to give the award to Clayton Kershaw.
Through 13 starts, Kershaw has a 5-3 record to go with a fantastic 2.65 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 88.1 innings pitched. He’s allowing just 6.8 hits per nine innings, which comes out to a 0.996 WHIP. Kershaw has pitched a quality start in nine of his first 13 starts on the mound, and four times he hasn’t given up a single run.
Runner-Ups: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, Chris Capuano
The amount of raw power Giancarlo Stanton possesses at just the age of 22 is absolutely frightening for me as a Philadelphia Phillies fan. Stanton leads the team with 18 doubles and 14 home runs, as well as a .553 slugging percentage, .914 OPS, and 139 adjusted OPS.
Stanton hit 34 home runs last year as a 21-year-old and he’s likely going to better that mark in 2012 with a significantly higher batting average as well.
Runner-Ups: Hanley Ramirez
Ryan Braun may very well win a second straight league MVP award this season, as he’s having another monster season. Braun is at .314/.391/.602 and his 19 home runs are tied for the league lead. Braun is a complete player, and with 11 stolen bases already this season, Braun has an outside shot at a 30-30 season and a strong chance at a 25-25 season.
Braun slightly overshadows Zach Greinke because he’s been on such a hot streak as of late: Braun has hit home runs in three straight games and he’s at just a shade over .400 with five home runs in his last eight games.
Runner-Ups: Zach Greinke, Jonathan Lucroy
No one really stands out too much on the Minnesota Twins. The team has to be counting down the days until Justin Morneau’s contract is done, and I imagine they have to be extremely worried that Joe Mauer can hold up through his deal.
Josh Willingham takes this one almost by default. It’s not as if he isn’t having a good season, because his 11 home runs put him on pace for close to 30, and his .980 is a phenomenal total. But of the 30 teams, he’s got to be the worst MVP or at least near the bottom.
Runner-Ups: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Scott Diamond, Trevor Plouffe
It’s tough to decide the MVP award between David Wright and R.A. Dickey, who has been dominating this season courtesy of the game’s best knuckleball. When in doubt though, I go with the hitter, because I feel they impact the game more.
Wright is batting .358 with eight home runs and seven stolen bases, and he will likely have his third 20-20 season after the year. Wright’s .583 slugging percentage, 1.042 OPS, and 188 adjusted OPS are career-bests, and he’s helped to soften the loss of both Ike Davis and Jason Bay as productive hitters.
Runner-Ups: R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Kirk Nieuwenhuis
There are a handful of players that could be picked for the New York Yankees, but I went with Robinson Cano because I think he’s the best all-around performer on the team.
Cano is hitting near .300 with 21 doubles and 11 home runs, numbers that put him on pace for about 50 and 25. Cano’s .871 OPS is leading the team and he’s a good defensive second baseman who has generated 2.8 WAR for his Yankees.
Runner-Ups: Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia
The Oakland Athletics acquired Josh Reddick in the offseason, and he’s had a terrific year as a power hitter for the A’s, especially considering how much the other regulars have stalled at the plate. Kurt Suzuki is hitting .230 with no home runs. Daric Barton is at .198 and in Triple-A. Jemile Weeks was supposed to be a breakout player and he’s at just .222 with two home runs. Even Coco Crisp is under the Mendoza line.
So Reddick has been huge, as he’s batting .272 with 11 doubles, 15 home runs, 33 RBIs, and six steals in six attempts. Reddick has a .876 OPS, over 50 points higher than any other regular on the team.
Runner-Ups: Brandon McCarthy, Jarrod Parker
The story of the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies—among shoddy bullpen outings, a lack of ninth-inning comebacks, and subpar hitting with men on base—has been the absence of star players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
But Carlos Ruiz has helped to lessen the blow some, as Ruiz has hit so well that he’s moved into the cleanup spot in the lineup. Ruiz is hitting .361/.419/.578 with a .996 OPS that ranks fourth in the National League. Ruiz entered the season with a career-high in home runs of just nine, and he’s already at eight with 34 RBIs in ’12. Ruiz is also playing near-flawless defense behind the plate, where his .998 fielding percentage ranks him second-best in the league among backstoppers.
Runner-Ups: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon
Is there a better five-tool player in the National League than Andrew McCutchen? If so, I’d like to meet him and see him play.
McCutchen—who recently signed a new six-year, $51.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates—is hitting .322 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 241 plate appearances, plus 12 stolen bases. He’s a legitimate 30-30 threat with an outside chance of approaching 40-40, and he’s a great defensive center fielder as well who has helped the Pirates see first place in the NL Central as late as June.
Runner-Up: James McDonald
Last year, the San Francisco Giants traded away one of their top young prospects to acquire the rights to Carlos Beltran, but they didn’t even re-sign him. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals inked him to a modest two-year contract, and they’re reaping the benefits every day.
Beltran has been arguably the best free agent signee of the offseason, as his 19 home runs are leading the National League. Even at age 35, Beltran can still hit with the best of them, and he’s helped to soften the loss of seeing Albert Pujols go to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Runner-Ups: Yadier Molina, Lance Lynn
Regardless of how well Carlos Quentin is playing, I’m not giving him the MVP when he’s accumulated fewer than 50 plate appearances.
Chase Headley is hitting .272 and he draws enough walks to give him a very impressive .381 on-base percentage. Headley’s seven home runs and eight steals are a testament to his well-rounded power and speed combination, and Headley will likely reach 20-20 in 2012. He’s got more hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks, and a higher OPS than anyone else on the team, and that’s pretty good evidence that he deserves the MVP award.
Runner-Up: Edinson Volquez
I don’t think the San Francisco Giants were expecting this kind of production when they signed Melky Cabrera to a one-year deal, although Cabrera’s stellar 2011 season with the Kansas City Royals (201 hits, 44 doubles, 18 home runs, 20 stolen bases, .305 batting average) went largely unnoticed.
Still, Cabrera has responded even better in 2012, as he’s at a league-high .367 batting average with a .945 OPS that stands exactly 200 points above his career average. In addition to leading the NL in average, Cabrera is tops in hits (91) and triples (7), and he’s going to command a large contract in the offseason if he wants to stay with the Giants.
The reason Cabrera beats out all the starting pitchers, namely Matt Cain, for the MVP is that so many of the pitchers are having great seasons (Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, even Barry Zito, plus pretty much the entire bullpen) that I think Cabrera’s value to the offense is greater than Cain’s to the pitching staff.
Runner-Ups: Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo
Felix Hernandez hasn’t quite been the pitcher he’s been the past several years, but still he’s been the best player on a Seattle Mariners team with a miserable offense. Hernandez is 4-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 13 starts, and he’s struck out 84 hitters in 87.2 innings pitched.
Hernandez hasn’t been as good lately—he started the year with a 1.89 ERA and 3.64 strikeout to walk ratio in his first seven starts, and has followed it up with a 1-5 mark, 6.37 ERA, and 2.20 strikeout to walk ratio in his last six starts. Still, there really isn’t much to pick from on the Mariners.
Runner-Ups: Kyle Seagar, Jason Vargas
David Price doesn’t get talked about enough but he’s a borderline top-10 pitcher in the game. He’s having another fabulous year, at 8-4 with a 3.01 ERA in 13 starts. Price is striking out 8.4 hitters per nine innings and he has a terrific 2.60 strikeout to walk ratio.
Price also gets the award because Evan Longoria has missed extensive time due to injury.
Runner-Ups: Matthew Joyce, Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson
Josh Hamilton has really cooled down from his record-breaking start, but he’s still hitting .335/.395/.683 and leading the league with 22 home runs, 62 RBIs, as well as in slugging percentage, OPS (1.077), total bases (157), and intentional walks (7).
Hamilton has the defensive versatility to play any of the three outfield positions, and he’s a free agent after the season who is going to get a huge contract in the offseason.
Runner-Ups: Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, Joe Nathan
I’m not really sure what to make of Edwin Encarnacion’s year. I can’t see him keeping it up, but as of now, Encarnacion has been the MVP of the Toronto Blue Jays.
He’s hitting .281 with tremendous power numbers—17 home runs, a .561 slugging percentage, and a .909 OPS.
Runner-Ups: Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow
You could make a case for several players on the Washington Nationals. Bryce Harper has been playing remarkably well since he was called up to the major leagues, but he hasn’t had the same impact as either Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez. Strasburg is probably the best young pitcher in baseball, and Gonzalez is having an extremely efficient season, and his hit rate has hovered just over 5.0 all season.
Strasburg was the first pitcher in the game to reach 100 strikeouts, and he’s 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and an incredible 100 K’s in just 77 innings pitched.
Runner-Ups: Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper