Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson And The Complete MVP Ballot For Each League

by Rocco Constantino | Posted on Sunday, September 13th, 2015
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Andrew McCutchen

With three weeks left in the regular season, the pennant races are starting to be settled.  The National League playoff teams are pretty well decided, barring a historical collapse.  In the American League, the Kansas City Royals have run away with the Central and the Toronto Blue Jays should be in the playoffs either as the East champions or as a Wild Card.

While many of the playoff berths are being claimed, the race for each league’s MVP is starting to shape up as well.

Josh Donaldson has surpassed Mike Trout and any other contender and Bryce Harper‘s candidacy continues to fade with the Washington Nationals collapse.  The final three weeks will not only determine who wins the award in each league, but also how voters will select the top ten candidates on their ballots.

For those unfamiliar with how the voting works, one voter from each of the 30 MLB markets gets to cast a ballot with their top 10 MVP players, in order.  That creates some interesting situations and unlikely players getting recognized in the MVP race.  For instance, Trout was the unanimous winner last year in the AL, garnering all 30 votes and 420 points.  However, did you know that players like Greg Holland, Kyle Seager and Howie Kendrick also got some love?

In the National League, Clayton Kershaw got 18 of the 30 first place votes to capture the MVP in addition to his Cy Young Award.  That made a lot of headlines.  What didn’t gain any press was that Denard Span, Lucas Duda, Devin Mesorasco and Josh Harrison also received votes.

This year, fans are familiar with the top of the MVP list, but how should the rest of the ballot fill out?  There is plenty of room for all of the top candidates as well as some under-the-radar players as well.

Here’s how the ballot should fill out with three weeks left in the season:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

For much of the season, national press seemed to be fighting the fact that Donaldson, or anybody else, could surpass Trout, who still remains the most gifted player in the game.  There is no more debate in this race.  Donaldson has been the American League’s best player this year and the way the Jays and Kansas City Royals are each playing, the Jays could have the league’s best record.  Donaldson wins this race in a landslide.

2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

Trout is having a “down” season, yet still has insane numbers.  With three more homers, he’ll set a new career high and his 7.6 WAR is nothing to sneeze at.  However, with the Angels hovering around .500 and Trout on track to post non-eye-popping numbers in runs, RBI and batting average, it’s just not enough for him to overtake Donaldson.

3. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals

There are many worthy candidates in the second tier, so team success starts to come into play here.  The Royals have the best record in the AL coming into the stretch and Cain has been the team’s best all-around player.  A terrific defensive outfielder, Cain also sports a .314 batting average, set a career high with 16 homers and has stolen 27 bases.

4. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

When all is said and done, Bautista should top 40 home runs with over 110 runs and RBIs.  Incredibly, those would be the second best numbers on his team.  His presence in the lineup helps Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion put up the numbers they do.  He’s on track to top a .900 OPS for the second straight year.  Bautista is the veteran leader of the Jays and Donaldson’s season should not diminish Bautista’s importance to the team.

5. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

Keuchel is getting a lot of attention as the Cy Young Award leader, but he really should be in the MVP talk as well.  The 27-year-old lefty has come into his own this year and leads the AL in wins (17), ERA (2.22) and innings pitched (206).  Besides Collin McHughwho has an ERA hovering near 4.00, no other Astros starter has more than five wins.  Take Keuchel out of the Astros rotation, and they are nowhere near a playoff team.  That is the definition of value.

6. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

With Trout’s defensive metrics sagging a bit this year, the debate about who is the best two-way player in the AL is between Cain and Machado.  Machado is a candidate for the Platinum Glove once again this year and has boosted his offensive output dramatically.  He has doubled his career high in home runs and should approach 100 RBIs and runs scored.  The Orioles have faded fast and if they continue to slide, Machado could fall in the voting too.  However, there has to be room on this list for perhaps the best two-way player in the league.

7. Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers

Fielder has slowed down over the summer as the Rangers have mounted a furious push for a Wild Card berth, but his production through the season’s first four months can’t be overlooked.  As the Rangers were struggling to develop any kind of consistent play, Fielder kept them afloat with a .330 batting average through August 1.  The dependable Fielder put up solid numbers through that date, including 50 runs, 59 RBIs, 15 homers and a .902 OPS.  The Rangers stood just 50-51 on August 1 but a 22-14 stretch has them pushing the Astros hard for the AL West title.  Fielder is only batting .239 over that time, but without him in the first 100 games, the Rangers wouldn’t be in this position.

8. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

Cruz’s incredible season may not be getting the recognition it deserves as the Mariners are one of the great disappointments in baseball this season.  The slugger leads the AL with 41 homers (a new career high) and a .593 slugging percentage.  He has done this while hitting .311, which is nearly .040 points above his career average.  Cruz and Donaldson are the only players in the top 10 in all three Triple Crown categories, which is why he gets a vote here despite the Mariners poor season.

9. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Cabrera is only going to play in about 120 games this year, but that shouldn’t hold him back from appearing on some MVP Ballots.  He currently leads the AL in batting average, on base percentage and OPS.  His .349 average is nearly .030 points higher than anyone else.

10. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

While the Astros offense is predicated on the long ball, Altuve remains the spark plug and leader of the unit.  Altuve leads the AL with 172 hits and 37 stolen bases while providing veteran leadership to the young Astros despite being just 25 years old.  Altuve and Evan Gattis are the only Astros with over 100 hits and he has struck out just 58 times this season.

The Next 10 (in no particular order):

David Price, Blue Jays; Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians; Alex Rodriguez, Yankees; Mark Teixeira, Yankees; Albert Pujols, Angels; Wade Davis, Royals; Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s; Chris Davis, Orioles; Kendrys Morales, Royals; Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Just a reminder, this is not called the “Player of the Year” award.  That is why McCutchen should be catapulted above Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto.  McCutchen’s scorching play over the season’s final three months has enabled him to pass those three, who have had incredible seasons, but play for disappointing teams.  Since June 1, McCutchen has batted .311 and the Pirates have gone 59-29 over that time.  Cutch is batting .395 with runners in scoring position with two outs and .293 in late and close situations.  Throw in exemplary defense, and there’s your NL MVP.

2. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

Harper has had the best season of anyone in the majors, and frankly, it isn’t really close.  Everyone is familiar with the numbers and if you took him off the Nationals, this team would probably be the Miami Marlins.   However, his numbers are outweighed by the fact that the Nationals are the most disappointing team in baseball and Harper’s power vanished when the team needed him most.  Over a 43 game stretch when the Nats turned a two game lead into a six game deficit in the standings.  Harper had just four home runs and 15 RBIs during that stretch. For the season, he has hit .225 with two outs and runners in scoring position and .203 in late and close situations.  Woof.

3. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Goldschmidt is on the short list when discussing the best all-around players in the game and his 2015 season has been terrific as expected.  He should top 100 runs and RBI and 30 home runs by season’s end.  In addition, Goldy plays tremendous defense, has stolen 21 bases and his 26 intentional walks is nearly double that of his closest competitor.  He’s a sublime player and if he was on a winner, he might have enough to leapfrog to the top of the class.

4. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

There are so many outstanding candidates in the National League that team performance has to weight mightily when splitting hairs.  Rizzo gets the nod over Buster Posey, Nolan Arenado and Joey Votto who are doing amazing things with their teams, but will be home watching the playoffs this year.  Rizzo is the leader of a young and exciting youth movement in Chicago and while he may not have the raw numbers of some players listed below him, his value as a leader for the Baby Cubs is undeniable.

5. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

It’s a shame that the Giants have been fading in the pennant race because what Posey is doing in San Fran deserves recognition.  He has played more first base this year, but his offensive performance as a catcher is so far and above anyone else at the position that he gives the Giants a weapon that no other team in the NL enjoys.  Posey has an outside shot at passing Harper for the NL batting title (he currently sits just .006 behind Harper at .327) and has struck out just 48 times in 549 plate appearances.

6. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets

Cespedes’ historic stretch since joining the Mets has spurred a debate as to whether a trade-deadline acquisition could in fact be a league MVP.  In a season where there are so many incredible candidates, Cespedes’ lack of games played as a Met will rightly hold him back from winning the award.  However, his clutch performance and otherworldly play in all aspects of the game should land him his share of recognition.  His simple presence has transformed the Mets from a laughing stock on offense to a legitimate World Series contender.  He’s been the best player in the sport during the season’s most important games.  It’s just not enough to merit top-five MVP consideration.

7. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Yes, Votto is dominating all of the advanced metric stats that the SABR community loves.  Votto is also playing for a team that could finish upwards of 30 games under .500.  His .315 average, 27 homers, 72 RBIs and 1.018 OPS are very good, but in order to rank at the top of this list in a season when there are so many great candidates, there has to be some translation from individual success to team success.  The category that Votto is most dominant is walks, of which his 127 leads the league.  That’s great, but not enough to boost a player on a last place team into the top five of the MVP race.

8. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

Another fantastic player on an awful team, Arenado is one of the great young superstars in the game.  He’s a Gold Glove defender who leads the league with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs who also doesn’t strike out too often.  Put him on a playoff team and he’s clearly near the top of the MVP discussion.

9. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

Greinke is having a historic season for the Dodgers and the fact that his ERA is 1.68 this late in the season is simply mind-boggling, as is his 0.856 WHIP.  He’s the slam-dunk Cy Young Award leader right now, but it’s a tough season for any pitchers to gain recognition in the MVP race.

10. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs

When all is said and done, Arrieta could end the season well over 20 wins with an ERA around 2.00.  In an era where 20 game winners are nearly extinct, the fact that Arrieta could come close to 25 wins is shocking.  Like Keuchel in the AL, Arrieta’s season is so far ahead of any of his rotation-mates that he merits serious recognition in the MVP race.  After Arrieta’s 19 wins, Jon Lester is second on the team with nine.

The Next 10 (in no particular order):

A.J. Pollock, Diamondbacks; Curtis Granderson, Mets; Jeurys Familia, Mets; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals; Jason Heyward, Cardinals; Mark Melancon, Pirates; Kris Bryant, Cubs; Yadier Molina, Cardinals; Francisco Cervelli, Pirates

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Rocco Constantino
About the Author

Rocco is the author of 50 Moments That Defined Major League Baseball (Available on Amazon now!) and former Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He is also a die hard Mets fan going back to the awful early 80's and ready for the revival. D2 NCAA softball coach and athletics administrator. Follow Rocco on Twitter @mlb100years.







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