This MLB season has been nothing short of eventful, as most are through the early months. We have seen surprise performances from lesser known guys, some slow starts, plenty of long home runs and highlight reel plays on defense, and even a fantasy football dispute that ended in a Will Smith-esque slap during a batting practice. Should I even be surprised by that at this point? Probably not. The MVP races are obviously a hot debate at this time too, even though the chances of the races looking like this in October are slim to none. Is it still fun to pick the league MVP races in June? Absolutely, so quit raining on the parade. Let’s break down these races and the guys that are battling for the AL and NL MVP at this early point in the season.
AL MVP Candidates:
1. Jose Ramirez
There isn’t a better hitter than Jose Ramirez on planet earth right now. I can’t remember the last time a player reached 50 RBIs so fast. He has contributed a league high 3.0 batter WAR while playing serviceable defense as well. As of the time this is being written, he is batting .299 with 13 home runs and 51 runs batted in. He is running away with the AL MVP award so far in the 2022 season, but some of the guys behind him could catch him if they put together some nice campaigns over the summer.
2. Aaron Judge
Jose Ramirez has been a “bat on ball” expert this season, while Judge has been a “ball in the seats” expert himself. On pace for over 60 home runs, Judge is the premier power bat in the league. His offensive metrics are staggering, but his defensive metrics are surprisingly weak, though he has his fair share of home run robberies and outfield assists with his cannon of an arm. His overall statistics of a .303 batting average, 18 home runs, and 38 RBIs make him a good case for the MVP award if he and the Yankees stay hot over the summer.
3. Mike Trout
Mike Trout is probably the best player we’ve seen in Major League Baseball in a long time, and the best player we’ll see for a while. He is consistently among the league leaders in WAR with his mix of elite offense and defense, even as he enters his thirties. The key for Trout has been staying on the field, which he has done this year. No surprise to find him in the MVP race now that he is healthy. Trout has hit 13 home runs, batted in 28 runs, sports a .302 average, and his 3.0 WAR is tied for second best in the entire MLB. Sit back and enjoy history.
4. Shohei Ohtani
I have a quick message for baseball fans: Quit making what Ohtani is doing seem normal or human. It is not. There has never been a more talented baseball player to walk the earth. His lack of opportunities in the field hurts his WAR, and his batting average is slightly lower than expected, otherwise this would once again be his award with ease. It could end up being back-to-back MVPs for Shohei if he catches fire because no one is more dangerous than Shohei Ohtani when he is seeing beach balls at the plate. As of right now, his .243 batting average, 11 home runs, 32 RBIs, and 7 stolen bases are already great numbers as a batter. Add in his 3.45 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 63 strikeouts and you have an MVP contender. Anyone who disagrees, doesn’t know baseball. Carry on.
5. Rafael Devers
Death, taxes, and Rafael Devers being good at hitting a baseball. That’s guaranteed at this point. His batting WAR is among the league leaders, and he has cleaned up his defense to become a solid third baseman as well. The man simply just hits the baseball. His 11 home runs, 26 runs batted in, and stellar .343 batting average have him rounding out the AL MVP race as of today, and, as the Red Sox heat up, he may continue to climb this board.
NL MVP Candidates:
1. Mookie Betts
To say that Mookie Betts is scorching hot would be an understatement. It seems like he is hitting a home run, making a game saving play in the outfield, or just generally doing some that is out of the skill range of most human beings on a nightly basis. He looks like the Betts we knew in Boston that won the 2018 AL MVP award, and he is my early favorite for the NL award here in 2022. Betts is hitting .298, swatted 15 home runs, and knocked in 33 RBIs this season, he also has a 3.0 WAR and has scored 50 runs at the top of the potent Dodger lineup. He is consistently one of the league’s better defenders. Now that his bat has gotten hot, it’ll be interesting to see if someone can catch Betts for the NL MVP award.
2. Manny Machado
How about Manny Machado? We all knew he had the MVP potential, and we’ve seen him in the race before in years prior, but he is just on another level this year. Without Tatis, the Padres looked to Machado as their biggest producer and he hasn’t disappointed. With a glove that matches the talent of his bat, Machado leads the league in WAR early on. An injury has cost him a little bit of production and keeps him from leading the NL pack thus far, but he is right there. With a .347 batting average, 8 home runs, 28 RBIs, and a league lead in WAR, Machado has all the looks of a serious MVP contender so far in 2022.
3. Paul Goldschmidt
I’m getting flashbacks of Paul Goldschmidt in a Diamondbacks jersey based on his play this year. He has seemingly turned back the clock and decided that he wasn’t done being among the best hitters in the league for a Cardinals team that has needed it to stay near the top of the NL Central division. With a hitting streak now over 20 games, Goldy seems to be right in his element at the plate and no one seems to be able to stop him. A sensational stat line of 11 home runs, 43 RBIs, .352 batting average, and some of the best offensive metrics in the league have Goldschmidt firmly in this MVP race and he doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
4. Nolan Arenado
Nolan Arenado is an absolute two-way beast. The league leader in defensive WAR so far this season has hit a bit of a cold streak with the bat which has caused him to slide down the race a little bit. However, one good series may be all he needs to get the bat going again. The glove is already there, and if he can regain the bat that he showed off for the first few weeks of the season then he could end up holding the NL MVP award when it is all said and done. A batting stat line of 9 home runs, 32 RBIs, and a .270 batting average mixed nicely with his 1.1 defensive WAR has him battling for the NL MVP award early on this season.
5. Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper won this award last year for the second time in his career and he his trying to do it again. His WAR numbers are going to be hurt by him being moved to the DH role because of UCL damage in his throwing elbow. However, don’t be fooled by some of the advanced metrics when looking at Harper’s season at the end. This guy mashes baseballs. He hasn’t hit a super hot streak that some of the other guys on this list have, yet his numbers are still great. He has hit to the tune of a .303 batting average, with 10 home runs, and 32 RBIs.
When he inevitably gets hot, he will climb even higher on this board and the Phillies will climb higher in the NL East standings. As it sits right now, Harper is only 5th in my NL MVP race. The term “only” for this feat tells you all you need to know.