New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano did not start the season swinging a powerful bat. In fact, he hit just one home run in his first 119 plate appearances.
Since then, he's hit 19 home runs in 215 plate appearances while batting over .340. He's on pace to have the best season of his career, which is saying something.
In the meantime, the Yankees, as always, have been winning baseball games. That makes Cano one of the American League's top MVP candidates.
But he's not the man to beat for the MVP in the American League. That honor belonged to Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones the last two weeks, and it belongs to a new player this week.
Here's a look at this week's rankings.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Last Week: No. 5
David Ortiz just barely made it into the top five of my MVP rankings last week. I gave him the edge over Mark Trumbo on the grounds that the Red Sox have needed Ortiz's production more than the Los Angeles Angels have needed Trumbo's production.
Right now, I'm feeling pretty good about moving Ortiz into the top five.
All he did last week was hit .320 with three home runs, posting a 1.219 OPS. Though they probably should have swept the Mariners up in Seattle, the Red Sox still managed to go 4-3 for the week. Ortiz himself clinched the fourth win with a sac fly in extras on Sunday.
Ortiz is now hitting .302/.390/.607 on the season with 21 home runs and 54 RBI. He ranks in the top 10 in the American League in homers, RBI, slugging percentage, walks and so on. His .997 OPS ranks second behind Josh Hamilton.
If Ortiz stays on his current pace, he's going to hit over 40 home runs for the first time since he hit a Boston-record 54 home runs in 2006. Not bad for a guy who we all thought was washed up a couple years ago.
I noted this last week, but it's worth reiterating that Ortiz's and Trumbo's numbers are remarkably similar. The tell-all stat is their weighted on-base averages (see FanGraphs for definition), where Trumbo has the slightest of advantages.
His wOBA is .412, while Ortiz's is .410.
It's close, but Ortiz gets the edge over Trumbo for a top-five spot for the same reason as last week. He means more to the Red Sox than Trumbo means to the Angels.
But don't worry, Angels fans. One of your guys is on this list—and high in the running to boot.
Last Week: No. 1
Yes, Adam Jones has taken quite the tumble this week. If it makes you Orioles fans feel any better, it's not entirely his fault.
Jones had a decent week last week, hitting .333 with four doubles. He finished the week strong with three straight multi-hit games.
Nonetheless, the Orioles continued to struggle, losing five of six to drop to 42-36 on the season. They enter the week with a half-game lead over the Red Sox for second place in the AL East.
Baltimore's latest slide happens to coincide with a power outage from Jones. He's hit just one home run in his last 17 games, 10 of which resulted in losses for the Orioles. In that same span, he's racked up just three RBI.
Jones is still having a good season, mind you. He's hitting .302/.345/.556 with 19 home runs, 42 RBI and 11 stolen bases—and he's played generally good defense in the outfield.
Nobody should be surprised to hear that he ranks fifth in the AL in WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Jones is down a few spots this week because space needed to be made for a couple other players. Also, he hasn't been doing much to help the Orioles win ballgames recently.
Judging from the way his season has gone, this should change very soon.
Last Week: No. 4
Josh Hamilton looked much more like himself over the last seven days, blasting three home runs and driving in nine to help the Rangers win five of their seven games.
In fact, Hamilton hit as many home runs last week as he had in 23 games prior to last week.
Hamilton's numbers are shadows of what they once were, but they're still strong. He's hitting .314/.381/.643 on the season with an AL-best 1.023 OPS.
He also still leads the league with 73 RBI, and his 25 home runs rank second behind Jose Bautista.
According to FanGraphs, Hamilton ranks third in the AL in WAR at 3.6 and first in wOBA at .421. It's been a while since he was at his best in early-to-mid May, but he's still had a better offensive season than anyone in the AL to this point.
I gave Hamilton the edge over Jones for the No. 3 spot on this list partially because of that, and partially because the Rangers are winning ballgames. They lead all of baseball with 50 wins and an absurd plus-100 run differential.
The Rangers have plenty of other studs, but no player has meant more to them than Hamilton. He's the best player on baseball's best team.
Last Week: No. 3
Robinson Cano entered last week on a tear, and he proceeded to get even hotter as the week went along.
All told, Cano hit .414 in the seven games the Yankees played last week, with four home runs and 10 RBI. Six of his 12 hits went for extra bases, and the Yankees only lost two games all week.
For the season, Cano is now batting .310/.371/.591 with 20 home runs and 46 RBI. He's on pace to hit over 40 home runs, and he should start picking up more and more RBI as he starts collecting more hits with runners in scoring position.
He's currently batting .176 in such situations, and that number is an improvement from where it was a couple weeks ago.
One thing that shouldn't be overlooked is Cano's defense. Per FanGraphs, he has a UZR of 4.6 and a DRS (defensive runs saved) of plus-six. These numbers make him one of the best defensive second basemen in the AL.
Put it all together, and you get a player with a 4.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs. That ranks second in the American League.
A lot of Yankees players are overrated, but not Cano. He's the best player on the Yankees by a significant margin, and he'd be the best player on just about any other team as well.
Last Week: No. 2
Just when you think Mike Trout can't get any better, he goes out and gets better.
This was very much the case last week, which saw Trout hit .345 with a pair of home runs—both of which came in key situations.
Oh, and Trout also made the best catch any of us are going to see for awhile. His robbery of J.J. Hardy in Baltimore last week was a thing of beauty.
It's ridiculous how good Trout's season numbers are. He's leading the AL in hitting at .339, and he also leads the league with 22 stolen bases. He has his OPS up to .938, which ranks seventh in the AL.
Per FanGraphs, Trout's wOBA is .415, which ranks second behind Josh Hamilton. The advanced defensive metrics tell us what our eyes have already told us: Trout is a superior defensive outfielder.
All told, you get a player with a WAR of 4.3—tops in the American League.
Granted, Trout hasn't been in the league all year, as the Angels didn't call him up in late April. But since they called him up, they're 38-21.
That's no accident. If the season ended today, Trout would be the American League MVP.
5. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox
Steady as she goes.
4. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
Up a spot this week, and a candidate to keep rising.
3. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
Up one. All he has to do now is find a way to be better than Mike Trout. Good luck with that.
2. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout rocks, you guys.
1. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
Down a few spots, but still hanging in there.
Note: Feel free to check out last week's rankings.
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