No. 1 Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Stock: Up)
No. 2 Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers (Stock: Up)
I wanted to talk about both Trout and Cabrera together because I am sure this is where most of the debate will come from.
Cabrera is the best pure hitter in baseball, no doubt. He is having a significantly better season than his historic 2012. Few, if any players, can change a game with the bat the way Miggy does.
However, therein lies the problem. Cabrera's only value comes when he is in the batter's box. He is a below-average baserunner and rates as the worst defensive player in the American League this year by UZR (-15.5) and defensive runs saved (-17).
Trout may not quite be at the level of Cabrera with a bat in his hands, but it's certainly a lot closer than some might try to argue. It also helps that Trout can do more than Cabrera. Even though Trout rates as a mediocre defender this year with minus-eight defensive runs saved, his UZR of 3.9 is decent, and he also rates as a well above-average runner with 8.3 baserunning runs above average.
Considering Trout plays a more valuable position than Cabrera, plays it better than Cabrera plays his, and adds more offensive value in a variety of ways, he gets the edge for the MVP.
No. 3 Chris Davis. 1B, Baltimore Orioles
After a stellar first half when he hit .315/.392/.717, Davis has come back down to earth after the All-Star break with a performance more in line with what we should expect moving forward (.253/.358/.527).
The top two players in the AL are locked. Everyone else is just battling for third. Davis still has the edge because his power output is so far beyond what anyone else in the league has done.
No. 4 Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
He got lost in the All-Star shuffle. He gets very little national attention because he plays in the west (and in Oakland). But Josh Donaldson has been the best all-around third baseman in the American League this season.
Manny Machado is an elite defender at the hot corner, but his .298/.326/.447 slash line can't touch Donaldson's .292/.370/.480 mark. Evan Longoria is right behind Machado on defense, but his offensive numbers have taken a dive recently to the point where he's 30 points behind Donaldson in OBP.
Donaldson has had his problems in the second half (.252/.350/.387), but his overall offensive numbers at third base are still as good as anyone in the AL not named Cabrera. He also does it playing in a division with big ballparks that make it difficult to put up numbers (Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles).
No. 5 Robinson Cano. 2B, New York Yankees
Even with 25 home runs, Cano is having his worst slugging season since 2008 with a .508 percentage. That is a testament to how consistently great the Yankees second baseman has been in his career.
What Cano has lost in pop, which isn't much, he's made up for with a better approach at the plate and career-best .383 on-base percentage. The soon-to-be-free agent remains a solid defender at second base with four runs saved.
If the Yankees make it into the postseason, don't be shocked if Cano winds up third in AL MVP voting.
Rising: Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston), Adrian Beltre (Texas), Felix Hernandez (Seattle), Max Scherzer (Detroit)
Falling: Manny Machado (Baltimore), Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay), Dustin Pedroia (Boston)