Examining Josh Donaldson's Case for American League MVP

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Examining Josh Donaldson's Case for American League MVP
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Will Donaldson still be smiling after the voters make their pick?

Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson has emerged as a bona fide American League Most Valuable Player candidate in his first full year in the majors.

Were it not for Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown run, Chris Davis' power surge or Mike Trout's all-around brilliance, Donaldson would be the clear choice for American League MVP.

Some writers, like USA Today's Jorge L. Ortiz, say the A's third baseman stands out over all his competition. 

Unlike Cabrera and Davis, Donaldson can play defense. Trout is a more complete player, but he couldn't carry the Angels to a winning record.

 

Hitting

Donaldson doesn't lead the league in any major category, but he ranks among the top 15 in the AL in nearly everything.

His laundry list of accomplishments: fifth in on-base percentage, seventh in batting average, total bases and OPS, eighth in slugging percentage, ninth in doubles, walks and RBI, 12th in hits, 13th in runs and 20th in home runs.

Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes supply the thunder while Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp set the table, but Donaldson does it all. He would be a quality hitter anywhere in the batting order.

Donaldson's quick success is a far cry from his slow ascent through the minors. He hit .238 in 2010 and .261 in 2011 with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats after coming over in the Rich Harden trade.

When the game comes down to the wire, the A's want Donaldson at the plate. His three walk-off hits lead the team, and he has 14 game-winning RBI despite often batting second in the order.

 

Baserunning

Like Chase Utley in his prime, Donaldson combines decent speed with hustle and excellent baserunning.

With only five stolen bases this season, Donaldson's wheels don't jump off the map. But he digs out every close ground ball, and goes for broke on plays at the plate.

Key example: On September 14 against the Texas Rangers, Donaldson was on first when Brandon Moss ripped a hot ground ball down the right field line.

Donaldson motored around the bases and went full throttle after rounding third. His headfirst slide just beat the throw for the only run in a 1-0 win.

 

Fielding

Freed from the knee-shackling restraints of playing catcher, Donaldson has robbed countless hitters with his sprawing catches in the hot corner.

Then there's his Derek Jeter-esque dive over the tarp at O.Co Coliseum. Donaldson ran about 50 feet and lunged to make the play of the year.

Donnie has the most putouts of any third baseman and the fourth-best defensive rating. He's not a catcher anymore, but he can still take a hit, like when he helped Josh Reddick nail Drew Stubbs.

Among third basemen, only Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado have a better Defensive WAR than Donaldson. 

His 7.9 WAR is third in the majors behind Trout and Andrew McCutchen, per FanGraphsCabrera's 9.0 Offensive WAR is offset by his -1.3 dWAR, and Davis' -1.6 dWAR similarly shrinks his overall mark, per Baseball-Reference.

Donaldson is not spectacular at any area of the game, but he's good at everything. 

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