| 1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers|
| 2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels|
| 3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays|
| 4. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles|
| 5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners|
No, this is not a case of deja vu all over again. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout brought forth one of the great MVP debates in history last season, and it could easily happen again, though right now Cabrera is the leader in the clubhouse and Trout will have to play catch-up.
It is a testament to how off-the-charts great Cabrera has been offensively this year that he is still my pick for MVP, because his defense, which was dreadful last year, has actually gotten worse this year. He has cost the Tigers nine runs at third base and his UZR of -9.6 is last among AL position players.
But for all the bad he brings with the glove, Cabrera is so far ahead of everyone else offensively, it is scary. He leads the AL with a .364 average, 33 points ahead of Chris Davis. His on-base percentage of .454 is first by 47 points over David Ortiz. The gap between Cabrera and Ortiz is greater than the gap between Ortiz and Prince Fielder, whose .362 on-base percentage is 20th in the AL.
Cabrera's weighted on base average (wOBA) is .470, tops in the AL. As good as Chris Davis has been in the first half, his overall numbers don't come close to touching what Cabrera has done. Cabrera has increased his walk rate by nearly four percent this year, suggesting he might be able to sustain this performance all year.
(Since it will come up, Davis just misses the list because I see some regression coming because he has already struck out 92 times in 305 at-bats. But the vast improvements he has made in walking and making contact could prove me wrong.)
Trout remains the best all-around player in baseball. No one adds more value with the bat, on the bases and in the field than the Angels' outfielder. He is quickly climbing back into the MVP conversation, but still has work to do to catch Cabrera.
Plus, while a very gifted defensive player, for whatever reason the metrics don't like Trout this year. He has cost the Angels 13 runs with the glove, though his UZR suggests he still has average range. Perhaps this is just a one-year anomaly, since they say you don't get a really strong gauge on a player's defensive prowess until after three years.
Evan Longoria fell off the MVP radar coming into this season because of an injury-plagued 2012, but I think if there is one player who can catch Cabrera in the MVP race this year, it will be the Rays' third baseman.
For starters, with the exception of Manny Machado, there hasn't been a better defensive third baseman in baseball. He has saved five runs and has a UZR of 10.7 already this season.
With the bat, Longoria is having his best season. He is currently fourth in weighted runs created plus (150) and seventh in wOBA (.385). If that offensive performance holds, combined with the defense he provides, this is a top-two-to-three MVP candidate, easily.
Machado is on a record doubles pace this season and is the best defensive player in baseball not named Andrelton Simmons at the moment. He has put himself right in the Trout/Bryce Harper conversation with a .320/.350/.484 line as a 20-year-old in his first full season.
I do worry that Machado's .372 BABIP is unsustainable, but at the same time, when you are as good with the glove as he is and potentially could hit 60 doubles with a .290/.330/.470 line, that will keep you in the MVP conversation.
Felix Hernandez will absolutely warrant some MVP votes if his current pace holds up, as will Yu Darvish if one or two other position players regress in the second half of the season.