By: Ross Sutton
In my opinion, the National League has a much more compelling MVP race than the American League, where Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez look to be the two favorites. For the National League though, there is an extremely close race between guys like Javier Baez, Nolan Arenado, and Freddie Freeman, so I’m going to break down the case for each guy winning the NL MVP Award this season.
Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs):
Javy Baez is one of the most electrifying players in the league, as he has a certain flare to his game where he can do something incredible at any moment, whether it is on offense or defense. Baez has been playing elite, Gold Glove caliber defense his entire career, but his offensive game has taken a step up this season. So far in 2018, Baez is hitting .300 with a .922 OPS, along with 25 homers, 88 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. Baez has already set new career highs in home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases, so it is pretty clear that he has taken his offensive game to the next level. If Baez can keep up this efficiency at the plate, he will hit over .300 for the first time in his career. Not only is Javy making an impact at the plate, but he has been a wizard on defense, making a spectacular play almost every night, including this one from the other night against the Royals (Baez also hit a home run and a triple in this game). You’ll notice that Baez is playing third on this play, showcasing his versatility on the diamond. Baez has been asked to play second, shortstop, third, and even first so far this season, as many of the Cubs star infielders have been forced to miss time due to injuries. This versatility only strengthens Baez’s case for the NL MVP.
Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies):
Since 2015, Nolan Arenado has been one of the best players in all of major league baseball, consistently hitting around .300 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. So far this season, Arenado has a .306 batting average with 29 home runs and 81 RBIs, so Arenado has not shown any signs of slowing down this year compared to years past. The crazy numbers over the last few seasons and another typical Arenado season this year makes the Rockies stud third baseman a top candidate for the NL MVP Award. Much like Baez, Arenado plays world class defense, as he has won the Gold Glove at third every year in his career, which is pretty unbelievable. In case you don’t believe me, here is a highlight reel of some sick plays by Arenado. If Arenado won the NL MVP Award this year, it would likely be partially due to the fact that he has been overlooked in the MVP race in years past, only finishing as high as fourth in the final vote.
Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves):
Much like Arenado, Freddie Freeman has been one of the best and most consistent players in the league over the last few seasons. So far in 2018, Freeman is hitting .315 with 18 home runs, and 69 RBIs. These numbers don’t quite jump off the screen like the numbers of Baez or Arenado do, but Freeman has been one of the biggest cogs in the Braves lineup this year, where they are in the middle of a divisional race with the Phillies and (kind of) Nationals. Freeman’s MVP case is similar to Arenado’s in the sense that if he won it would likely be because of lack of recognition in previous MVP votes. Also like the other candidates I mentioned, Freeman also plays great defense, as he has been a mainstay for the Braves at first base for years. I think Freeman needs to have a big final two months of the season with lots of homers in order to close the gap in the MVP race, as his power numbers are not very special right now. It would also be huge for Freeman’s MVP case if the Braves topped the Phillies and won the NL East.
Overall, I think Nolan Arenado is the pick right now for the NL MVP Award, as he is probably the best defensive player on the planet and also puts up insane offensive numbers year in and year out. There is still almost two months left though, so maybe Baez, Freeman or others can play well enough to edge out Arenado for MVP.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
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