Top 5 AL MVP Candidates
Closing in on the halfway point of the MLB season, we look at the top five MVP candidates in the American League. The list can be interchangeable depending on who you ask, but this is my top five as I see it today.
1. Josh Donaldson-3B-Toronto Blue Jays
Notable stats: .314/.369/.581, 17 HR, 44 RBI, 50 R (leads MLB), WAR-3.6
Josh Donaldson has enjoyed the offseason trade that sent him from Oakland to his native Canada, to join the Blue Jays. Hitting in front of Bautista and Encarnacion, Josh has been able to get pitches he can drive and has taken advantage, leading the club in almost all offensive categories (HR, RBI, R, SLG, OPS, H, 2B, G, AB). After a recent slump, the Blue Jays have won seven in-a-row, climbing over the .500 mark sitting third in the AL East at 31-30. Their division is wide open and if the Jays can hang around, Donaldson will be receiving a lot of votes for MVP.
2. Dallas Keuchel-SP-Houston Astros
Notable Stats: 7-2 record, 1.90 ERA, 94.2 IP (leads MLB), .951 WHIP (leads AL), WAR-3.9 (T-1st AL)
Dallas Keuchel has proven to be the ace of the Astros staff, and has been one of the most important reasons the team is in first place in the AL West. With a sub-two ERA and a 65% ground-ball rate, Keuchel keeps the Astros in every game he starts, and provides relief to the bullpen lasting at least seven innings in 9 out of his 13 starts, never pitching less than six innings. His 3.9 WAR is tied with Sonny Gray for first in the AL and trails only Bryce Harper (4.4) for the MLB lead. Keuchel, the reigning Gold Glove award winner in the AL has maintained amazing defense, owning a perfect fielding percentage 1.000% and that should be considered for the MVP award. If the Astros can remain in contention for a division title, Keuchel can be the next Clayton Kershaw winning a batter-dominated award, MVP.
3. Prince Fielder-1B/DH-Texas Rangers
Notable Stats: .354/.411/.541, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 81 H (leads AL), WAR-1.6
Prince Fielder is having a great comeback 2015 season, returning to the Rangers lineup after neck surgery cost him most of his 2014 campaign. Leading the AL in batting and hits, Fielder has been the catalyst for the Rangers as they have begun to climb to the top of the AL West, trailing the Astros by three games. Fielder has rejuvenated is career by increasing his bat speed on inside pitches. The games I have watched Fielder, he has been able to turn on inside pitches in a way I have not seen since his days in Milwaukee. Health is key for Prince, if he can rack up the at-bats his name will be thrown around for MVP consideration.
4. Mike Trout-OF-LA Angels
Notable Stats: .286/.373/.558, 16 HR, 33 RBI, 44 R, WAR-3.6
The reigning MVP has not had the type of season he is capable of, but is still in contention for the award even with non Trout-like numbers. Batting under .300 and lower RBI numbers, I would expect the usual summertime Trout heat up to happen soon. He is a .352 career hitter in the month of June and .320 in July with almost 40 home runs during those months. With the Angels as a team hovering around .500, they will need to put the pressure on the Rangers and Astros in the AL West to remain in contention, but there is a lot of baseball left to play.
5. Nelson Cruz-OF/DH-Seattle Mariners
Notable Stats: .326/.381/.607, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 33 R, WAR-2.7
Nelson Cruz has been the offensive leader to a Mariners lineup that has struggled in 2015. Leading the AL with 18 home runs and a .608 SLG, Cruz is one of the most dominant power hitters in the American League. What is so surprising is Cruz’ batting average, which sits at .326 the highest of his career to-date. He finished above .300 once in his career, back in 2010 with Texas, a season that saw him play in only 108 games. If Cruz can keep his batting average above .300 with the power we have seen he is capable of, then his name should be considered for MVP. The problem for Cruz’ candidacy is the Mariners poor record, sitting in fourth in the AL West at 26-32. The Mariners need to begin to make a run soon, otherwise they will be looking up at the teams ahead of them, failing to catch up.
Who do you think the AL MVP should be? Let me know in the comments below.
Dan Schalk is the Founder of MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @ffsportstalk