The Most Valuable Player on Each MLB Team in 2013
We are quickly approaching the trade deadline in Major League Baseball, and teams need to decide whether they are buyers or sellers. For the buyers, it's about grabbing players who can help their team win now. For the sellers, it's about letting go of their current assets in order to build for the future.
The concept of valuing players was the inspiration for this list.
The qualifying factor here is the player's performance this year, not a lifetime achievement award.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt
Paul Goldschmidt made his first MLB All-Star Game this season after building on a fantastic first full season in the majors in 2012. He currently leads all National League batters with 85 RBI, has already posted a career-high 23 home runs and has a .996 fielding percentage.
A player near the top of his class in both hitting and fielding is certainly worthy of recognition, especially if that player is leading his team toward a possible playoff berth (the D-Backs are currently 54-50, just a half game behind the Dodgers).
Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel
In a season in which the Atlanta Braves have been wracked with injuries (setup man Jonny Venters, catcher Evan Gattis, starting pitcher Tim Hudson) and uneven hitting (hey there, both Upton brothers), Craig Kimbrel has been a much-needed rock out of the bullpen.
He has led the National League in saves for the last two seasons (46 saves in 2011, and 42 in 2012) and has 30 already this year. He also has a career WHIP of .92 for the division-leading Braves.
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
When it comes to deciding which of the overachieving Baltimore Orioles is having the best season, it's tough to go against Manny Machado. The former shortstop is making Gold Glove-quality plays out of position at third base, and he is making a run for Earl Webb's single-season doubles record (67).
However, it would be even harder to argue against Chris Davis, who tied Reggie Jackson's record for most home runs before the All-Star break with 37 and has 97 runs batted in before the month of July is even up.
Also, he's batting .307 and slugging .680. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz
David Ortiz is having his best season since the mid-2000s. In addition to crushing 19 home runs, he's slugging a semi-ridiculous .590. He's reached base over 40 percent of the time so far in 2013, and he is batting .414 for the month of July.
Oh, and he also delivered one of the most powerful moments of the baseball season following the Boston Marathon bombings.
Big Papi can do no wrong in Beantown right now.
Chicago Cubs: Travis Wood
After the Cubs dealt Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees, there really was no other option in terms of valuable players in The Friendly Confines.
Lefty starting pitcher Travis Wood earned his first All-Star bid this season after excelling for a team that typically fails to score runs for him. He is the only Cubs starter with an ERA under 3.00 (2.95), and he has the lowest WHIP out of any Cubs pitcher as well (1.07).
The 6-7 record in his stat line belies the great strides (and bright future) this 26-year-old seems to have.
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale
Chris Sale initially came to the majors as a reliever, but he made his second straight MLB All-Star Game this year at age 24 as a starter. Not only that, but he is indisputably his team's ace. He has a 6-10 record and a 2.69 ERA, the fifth-lowest total of any pitcher in the American League.
Sale also has the third-lowest WHIP of any AL starter (1.01), but perhaps more telling was his second-best WAR (5.3) in that category of participants, trailing only Seattle's Felix Hernandez.
Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
Second baseman Brandon Phillips and right fielder Jay Bruce are both strong and certainly deserving of All-Star bids (even if Bruce didn't actually make the team). Joey Votto, however, is clearly the most important piece to the puzzle.
Votto, who has now established himself as the best first baseman in the National League on a consistent basis, is having another superb campaign.
He is hitting .317 with 72 runs scored. He has the highest OPS (.932) for a team that is on pace to make the playoffs.
Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis
Yup, another first-time All-Star on this list.
Jason Kipnis is leading the Cleveland Indians in batting average (.293), home run total (15), RBI (62) and hits (103).
He also has the best on-base percentage (.373) and batting average that he's ever had, along with more home runs and doubles (25) in a season than he's ever had.
And it's only July.
So, yeah, Jason Kipnis is having a pretty good season. And he's doing it for a team desperately trying to contend with the reigning AL champs for a division title.
Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez is perhaps the best five-tool player in the National League. He is currently hitting .297 with 26 home runs and 67 RBI, good for sixth in the National League.
In addition, Car-Go is in the top 10 among National League players with 19 stolen bases. He also has the highest OPS of any National Leaguer with a .963 mark.
The Rockies are in the top 10 in every major hitting category as a team. Troy Tulowitzki has had another All-Star season, and Michael Cuddyer has the team's best batting average at .328. Gonzalez, however, has been the soul and backbone of this team. For a team near the top of all the hitting categories, he is the player who leads the team individually in those same areas.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera, as ridiculous as this sounds, may be having an even better season than he had last year, when he became the first player to finish the season leading the AL in home runs, RBI and batting average since 1967.
This year, he currently leads the AL in runs scored (78) and walks (63), while also crushing 32 home runs to date, putting him on pace to hit more than the major league-leading 44 he smacked in 2012.
And now, for the categories in which he's leading all major league players this year: batting average (.360), on-base percentage (.455) and OPS (1.127).
You can argue whether he's the AL MVP again this year (good luck arguing against him, though), but Cabrera is indisputably the best hitter in baseball right now.
Houston Astros: Bud Norris
With a record of 35-68, the worst in the major leagues, the player with the most value for the Houston Astros may end up being the player who yields the greatest return in a trade.
Bud Norris leads the Astros in wins (six), earned run average (3.93) and WHIP (1.41).
Most importantly, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports notes, he is drawing interest from several teams, including the Braves and Orioles, who need starting pitching help during the playoff chase. If the Astros could get some prospects in exchange for Norris, they could begin the full-scale rebuilding process that needs to occur for them to sneak back into contention.
Kansas City Royals: Greg Holland
First baseman Eric Hosmer and ace James Shields (who leads the team in strikeouts) were each considered for this entry. However, for a team like the Royals, who don't score as many runs as most other teams (25th in the league), holding on to leads when they get them is critical.
Greg Holland has saved 26 games this year, which adds up to more than half of the Royals' wins so far this season. He also has a ridiculous 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.3 more than his previous career high.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Mike Trout
It doesn't look like a sophomore slump will be an issue for Mike Trout this season. "The Millville Meteor" is building on his AL Rookie of the Year-winning season last year, in which he hit 30 homers, drove in 83 runs and led the majors with 49 stolen bases.
This year, he is leading all American League batters with eight triples, is tied for second in the AL in batting average (with Mauer) at .324. He is tied for eighth in the AL in RBI (65) and is fifth in stolen bases (23).
It's officially time to stop calling Trout the "future" of baseball. He's already the present.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
"Puig-mania" definition: a Cuban import who arrives in May and carries the most disappointing team in baseball to the top of their division in the span of two months. Yasiel Puig's impact on the Dodgers is palpable, and his numbers demonstrate why he will likely be the choice for NL Rookie of the Year.
Puig is currently batting .375 (and that's after cooling off significantly) and slugging .582. In his very first game, he threw out a baserunner trying to get back to first base to end the game—from the warning track. In his second game, he hit two home runs, including a grand slam.
With Puig on the diamond, it finally appears that the Boys in Blue are living up to their considerable potential. And just think what they might become once Matt Kemp starts hitting again—if he can stay healthy.
Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez is a 20-year-old starting pitcher who made the All-Star team this season and has been by far the most pleasant surprise for the bottom-dwelling Miami Marlins. Fernandez leads his team with six wins, a 2.74 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. He's also given up just 78 hits this season.
Pretty good for a pitcher who hadn't pitched in the majors before this season and has only started 19 games in 2013.
Milwaukee Brewers: Jean Segura
At the ripe age of 23, Jean Segura is currently leading the National League in hits with 129. He also earned his first All-Star bid with his combination of great fielding and excellent hitting (his .315 BA and 57 runs scored lead the Brewers).
Despite the loss of Corey Hart and Ryan Braun, Segura gives the Brew Crew and their fans a reason to be hopeful for the future.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
For several of the teams we've mentioned so far, their star this year is a young upstart who has emerged in the last few months. In this case, the star of the year for the Minnesota Twins is also their star of the past decade.
Joe Mauer, the Twins' perennial All-Star catcher, is once again getting it done as an everyday backstop. This season, Mauer is tied for second in the AL in batting average (.324) with Mike Trout, and is second in the number of doubles, with 31. His OPS of .881 is his highest total since his incredible 2009 campaign.
New York Mets: Matt Harvey
The New York Mets will (again) be forced to watch the playoffs from home, but they now have a 24-year-old (in his first full season) to build around.
Matt Harvey started the MLB All-Star Game this year for the National League and has the second-lowest ERA (2.11) of any NL pitcher. He also has eight more strikeouts than Clayton Kershaw, the next closest pitcher in the NL to him in K's.
Harvey is already one of the best pitchers in the game (8-2 record, just 29 walks)—even if people in New York don't know what he looks like.
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
Robinson Cano, already a star and former Home Run Derby champion, is having another excellent offensive season. His 20 home runs before the All-Star break were the most he'd ever hit at the "midpoint" of a season.
Cano leads his team in home runs (21), batting average (.297), RBI (70), OBP (.379) and hits (115). He's also tied for the lead (with DH David Ortiz) in all of MLB with 14 intentional walks.
The batter most feared by opposing pitchers is almost always his team's most valuable player. When that same guy is also a two-time Gold Glove winner, it's not really a contest.
Sorry, Mariano Rivera.
Oakland Athletics: Josh Donaldson
Yes, with 28 saves and a 1.07 WHIP, Australian closer Grant Balfour is having a pretty great season. But Josh Donaldson was the best player to not make the MLB All-Star Game this season. (His misfortune was playing third base in the American League, which is a position stacked with players such as Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria and Manny Machado.)
Donaldson is leading his team with a .299 batting average. He is also hitting a team-leading 16 home runs and has both driven in (61) and scored (52) the most runs of any Athletic. Additionally, his OPS is .870, another Oakland best and 10th in the American League.
Philadelphia Phillies: Cliff Lee
Cliff Lee is the best pitcher on a struggling Phillies team that might be looking to sell him at the deadline.
An All-Star once again, Lee has 131 strikeouts and a 10-4 record for a team that has failed to score runs for its pitchers for most of 2013 (just ask Cole Hamels). Lee is also fourth in the NL in innings pitched, with 144.2 frames under his belt so far this season.
As the Phils become sellers, there's a possibility Lee could be on the move once again, as noted by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, especially if Philadelphia and Texas can't make a deal for third baseman Michael Young.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Grilli
The Pittsburgh Pirates will almost certainly have their first winning season since 1992, and it's because a few players are having fantastic seasons. Team star Andrew McCutchen is batting .301 and leads the team in OPS with a total of .865.
The real star, however, has been closer Jason Grilli. After bouncing around different teams in a variety of roles, Grilli has found a home in the Pirates bullpen. He's saved 30 games in 31 opportunities, has a 2.34 ERA and has walked just 10 batters in over 42 innings of work.
The Pirates are hoping he can get healthy again soon following a forearm injury that landed him on the 15-day DL.
For more information about Grilli and his sudden ascendance (as well as the stellar play of setup man and Red Sox castoff Mark Melancon), check out Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Michael Sanserino's story about Grilli in Sports Illustrated. It will warm your heart.
San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera
The Padres (47-58) are definitely going to be sellers within the next few days, but one player they will hold on to is their standout shortstop. Cabrera leads the team with a .282 batting average, and leads the National League with 36 stolen bases. The 26-year-old also led the NL in swipes last year with 44.
Cabrera also leads the Padres in runs scored (51) and hits (99). The Friars should definitely have their eyes looking toward the future, but their future would be a lot brighter if Cabrera remains in San Diego.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
With a pitching staff that includes Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, it's a little surprising that a position player would be picked for the Giants. However, in a year where not a lot has gone right for the defending world champs, their backstop has (once again) been a rock.
After winning the NL MVP award last season, Buster Posey is once again one of the best batters in the National League, hitting .311 with 14 home runs and 59 runs batted in. He is also sixth in the NL in OPS (.900) and has the third-best fielding percentage of any starting catcher in the majors.
If the Giants have any hopes of climbing back into contention, they'll need to ride Posey and provide him with some additional offensive backup. He is an MVP, but he can't carry a whole team on his shoulders.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez made yet another All-Star Game this season, his fifth in a row. He leads the AL with 153.2 innings pitched with a borderline-unfair 2.34 ERA.
For a team that has endured a lot of upheaval and disappointment over the past few years, Hernandez has been its one true constant. This season, he has an 11-4 record and a WAR of 5.3.
The best American League pitcher certainly should be considered his team's best player.
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter
The St. Louis Cardinals have the second-best team batting average in the majors. Four of the Cardinals' major league-leading six All-Stars are position players, including Allen Craig (third in the NL in batting average), Carlos Beltran (leads the Cards with 19 home runs) and Yadier Molina (has the highest batting average in the NL at .335).
This was certainly the toughest choice on this list, especially considering the season that team ace Adam Wainwright is having (13-6, 2.51 ERA).
Ultimately, I went with Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals' scrappy, do-it-all second baseman. Another first-time All-Star, he has the fifth-highest batting average of any National league player (.321). Carpenter leads the NL with 32 doubles and has scored the most runs (79) out of any major leaguer.
In addition to his batting prowess, Carpenter has the fifth-highest fielding percentage among NL second basemen.
Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore
Matt Moore was most experts' preseason pick before last year to win Rookie of the Year. But while he showed a lot of promise, he wasn't exactly dominant, going 11-11 with a 3.81 earned run average.
It turns out the pundits were only a year off with the accolades. With young ace David Price spending a good chunk of the first half of the season on the disabled list, Moore is doing his best ace impression. Earning his first career All-Star bid at age 24, he currently is among league leaders with 14 wins.
With Price now healthy, the Rays are making a push for the playoffs. At this pace, Moore may end up being their most important pitcher in October.
Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish
For a team that's been known for its hitting over the past decade (Ivan Rodriguez, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, etc.), Yu Darvish has become a bona fide ace for the Texas Rangers. Darvish has been as good as advertised since coming over from Japan last spring.
In 2013, he is 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA and a league-leading 172 strikeouts. Also, he has only given up 89 hits all season. By comparison, King Felix has surrendered 135.
Toronto Blue Jays: Brett Cecil
At age 27, relief pitcher Brett Cecil has already appeared in 45 games this season, more than double the games he's appeared in in all but one of his previous seasons. That's pretty good for a player whose season still has two months to go.
In 2010, Cecil posted a 4.22 ERA, his career best until this year. So far in 2013, he has a 2.57 ERA to go along with a 4-1 record. He, like Matt Moore, was also a first-time All-Star.
Washington Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman leads his team in most of the relevant hitting categories, but he may not even be the best Zimmerman on the Nationals. Jordan Zimmermann is currently 12-6 with a 3.19 earned run average.
Zimmermann also has the lowest WHIP (1.04) of any Nats starting pitcher so far this season, including fellow All-Star Gio Gonzalez.
Between Zimmermann, Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg, the Nats have a young rotation to build around for years to come.