Top World Series MVP Candidates Ahead of the Fall Classic
Major League Baseball’s postseason can make stars out of the ordinary, and it can also legitimize existing ones.
This year's postseason is no exception, as it has already produced wonderful storylines for the likes of Daniel Murphy, Alcides Escobar and the New York Mets starting pitchers. With the World Series starting Tuesday night, those angles could continue to develop, or give way to new players to perform in the spotlight when the Mets and Kansas City Royals meet in the Fall Classic.
The World Series MVP trophy has been scattered between superstar players like Madison Bumgarner and David Ortiz as well as players with lesser reputations like Edgar Renteria and David Eckstein. Based on big names and recent postseason performances, choosing who could win the award in 2015 can be a somewhat accurate exercise.
Here is a look at which players in the World Series have the best chances to be forever known as its MVP, starting with the least-likely candidate, though that is hardly a negative.
8. Alcides Escobar
The Kansas City Royals shortstop and part-time leadoff man has always had a reputation as a light hitter with the talent to be a top-end defender, but that narrative has done some shifting during the playoffs with Escobar’s surprising offensive outburst.
He is going into the World Series with a .386/.408/.545 slash line and .954 OPS. He hit .478 with a 1.134 OPS in the American League Championship Series and set a postseason record by getting a leadoff hit in the first four games of the series, joining Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia as the only leadoff hitters to have at least 10 hits and five RBI in league championship history. That production earned Escobar ALCS MVP honors.
"For me it's a surprise," Escobar told reporters about being named series MVP.
It would be something of a surprise to see Escobar win the award in the World Series as well, but considering his hot stretch, it is not out of the question.
7. Yoenis Cespedes
Cespedes became the catalyst to the New York Mets’ surge to the top of the National League East in the final two months of the regular season. He was so good for most of that time that he even gained some support for being named the NL MVP.
The star outfielder, traded to the Mets from the Detroit Tigers in July, has not been as productive during the playoffs. He is hitting .265/.286/.471 with a double and two home runs, but there is nothing to say that he can’t pick up his production for a week and help lead the Mets to a World Series title.
Cespedes has been dealing with a sore shoulder and received a cortisone shot Thursday, but he is expected to be fine by Tuesday.
As long as he is healthy, it is reasonable to think Cespedes can have a superstar-like series and win himself an MVP, even if it won’t be one for the regular season.
6. Johnny Cueto
At the time of the blockbuster trade that sent Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds to the Royals, the team believed he was going to be the kind of ace that could be considered a reasonable lock for a World Series MVP award if the team made it that deep into the postseason.
However, now that they have reached the championship round, Cueto’s recent performances do not liken him to winning the award. However, we all know he is capable and has the stuff to give the Royals a couple of gems in the Fall Classic.
Cueto finished the regular season with a 6.49 ERA in his last nine starts. He has a 7.88 ERA in three postseason outings, and while one of his turns was good—eight innings of two-run ball in the division series against the Houston Astros—he was a mess in his only start of the ALCS. In that game, the Toronto Blue Jays tagged him for eight runs in two-plus innings.
The fact that it cannot be assumed Cueto will be named the Game 1 starter when manager Ned Yost makes his announcement Tuesday is a clear sign of his stock dropping. Still, it only takes a couple of rebound starts to earn this kind of honor.
5. Jacob DeGrom
The Mets are in the enviable position of being able to choose which capable ace to start in Game 1, and they bypassed Jacob deGrom to give the ball to Matt Harvey, pushing the second-year pro to Game 2.
That means deGrom will get no more than two starts in the World Series, but because he put up a 2.54 ERA in the regular season and has allowed a total of four runs in three postseason starts, he is easily capable of stealing the spotlight back for himself and earning the MVP trophy. The Mets are slightly concerned with deGrom’s workload and fatigue, so they gave him the extra day of rest.
“The one thing we’re looking at with Jake, the last couple of times out it looks like he can use some time,” Mets manager Terry Collins told Mike Puma of the New York Post Friday.
4. Lorenzo Cain
Cain is no stranger to postseason MVP awards. He won the honor in last year’s ALCS with a 1.255 OPS, but this year he has been just good, not great.
No matter, though. Cain plays top-notch defense in center field and has the baserunning prowess to change a series, like when he scored from first base on a single for the series-clinching run in the ALCS.
“If Cain’s not running hard that play doesn’t happen,” Royals Hall of Famer George Brett told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. “So give Lorenzo a lot of credit. He plays the game the right way. He hustles.”
Cain is hitting .275/.375/.375 in Kansas City’s 11 postseason games this month, but he showed last postseason how hot he is capable of getting. Knowing that, the odds of Cain winning the World Series honor are strong, despite his so-so playoff production to this point.
3. Daniel Murphy
Murphy has put up the kind of postseason power display designated for the game’s star power hitters, not a guy with 62 career home runs in more than 900 games.
His seven home runs in the Mets’ first two series, including one in six consecutive games leading into the World Series, comprise the kind of improbable feat that can earn a non-superstar player hefty postseason recognition. Murphy already received the NLCS MVP award after hitting .529 against the Chicago Cubs, and his free-agent stock has gotten a massive boost as a result.
“Obviously, he’s not going to be as hot as he’s been in the postseason, but he plays positions where his power plays well,” an American League GM told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “There are teams like the Dodgers and Yankees who need a second baseman. Others, like the Angels, need a third baseman, where he also plays. He’s going to be sought-after and get a five-year deal at around $75 million. Maybe more.”
Because Murphy’s power binge is so unlikely and might not continue through the World Series, he checks in as only the third-likeliest player to earn the MVP award. Then again, hitting six home runs in six consecutive games seemed completely unrealistic before he did it.
2. Eric Hosmer
In just his second postseason, Hosmer has already put himself in elite company.
His 23 career postseason RBI are tied with Royals Hall of Famer George Brett for the most in franchise history, and it is also the second-highest total for a player before his 26th birthday. Only Albert Pujols drove in more runs during the playoffs before turning 26.
Hosmer has not been all that impressive this postseason. He is entering the World Series hitting .222/.234/.311 with one home run, 10 strikeouts and one walk. However, he is the team’s cleanup hitter and is coming off arguably the best regular season of his career. He is as capable as anyone of breaking out in a major, award-winning way in this series.
1. Matt Harvey
For all of the late-season drama Harvey and his agent, Scott Boras, created for the Mets because of his innings limitations, it could all be easily forgotten through this World Series.
Harvey was a somewhat surprising choice to start Game 1, considering rotation mate Jacob deGrom has a 1.80 ERA in these playoffs. But because of fatigue concerns and how the rotation lined up, Harvey was the call for Mets manager Terry Collins. When Collins asked Harvey if he was ready for such a huge stage, the ace did not flinch.
“Damn right,” Harvey told Collins, per Seth Berkman of the New York Times.
Harvey could start two games and possibly make a relief appearance if the series goes long enough and his services are needed. If he does get more than one start—his second start would come in Game 5—Harvey has the talent to shut down the Royals twice and guide the Mets to the championship.
He has allowed five total runs, four earned, in his two postseason starts for a 2.84 ERA in 12.2 innings. The thing is, though, Harvey is actually a better pitcher than he’s shown in those two starts. If he proves that in the World Series, he can walk away with the MVP honor and make all that innings-limit madness a distant memory.