Labor Day has come and gone and there are just a few games left in the regular season. The minor league season wrap-ups have begun and annual promotions happened weeks ago. The MVP and Cy Young races are about to hit the finish line. Who deserves consideration and who should win? Dave McCullough presents the top contenders for the 2016 NL MVP Award who have very little time left to impress voters and separate themselves from the rest of the field.
The winner of the 2016 NL MVP race is likely to be among the following group of top candidates – however, Washington’s dynamic home run slugging, base stealing infielder-turned-centerfielder Trea Turner isn’t going to force his way into this conversation, no matter how many incredible plays he makes in the last weeks of the season. Candidates below are presented in no particular order – check back later to see who SoSH Baseball predicts will win the award.
Bryce Harper, Right Field, Washington Nationals
Last season’s MVP has missed nearly 30 games with knee and neck injuries in 2016. However, he has battled through those ailments post a .243/.377/445 line over 138 games. Having blasted 24 homers and 22 doubles, the Nationals right fielder has regressed to his previous career norms from the outlandish high-water marks he posted last season (a .330/.460/.649 line with 42 homers and 118 runs scored). His chances this year are greatly diminished not just by injury, but by the presence and impact of teammate and fellow MVP candidate, Daniel Murphy.
Freddie Freeman, First Baseman, Atlanta Braves
The Braves have been putrid this season and will finish last in the NL East when the season concludes later this month. However, like AL candidate Mike Trout, the case for Freeman is quite compelling when you ignore just how bad his team has been. The slugging first baseman celebrated his 27th birthday earlier this month with another hit in the midst of a 22-game hitting streak. Posting a .297/.394/.557 line with 30 homers and 305 total bases, it is hard to imagine where the Braves would be without their best player. I made the case for a player on a losing team for Trout, and the case is no different for Freeman. Voters should completely ignore Atlanta’s terrible record and instead focus on what the first baseman has provided in actual value on the field.
Corey Seager, Shortstop, Los Angeles Dodgers
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the candidacy of the first-place Dodgers’ likely Rookie of the Year winner, Corey Seager. The slick-fielding shortstop has impressed with his ability to gobble up nearly every routine play while making some spectacular stops along the way. He’s been even more impressive at the plate, with a .313/.373/.524 line and 25 homers in his first full season in the majors. He is far-and-away the consensus pick for ROY, and is garnering attention for the MVP because the Dodgers (and MLB’s) best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, missed much of the season with an injury and Seager’s exploits have kept Los Angeles afloat through the dog days of summer and fueled LA’s run to the postseason.
Daniel Murphy, Second Baseman, Washington Nationals
The Nationals are also postseason bound, in large part because of the contributions of their key offseason acquisition, former New York Metropolitan Daniel Murphy. He has provided competent defense and unexpected offense from the keystone position. While with the Mets, Murphy developed a reputation for dependability but has not warranted MVP consideration in his eight years in the big leagues. In fact, he made just one All-Star team before 2016. However, moving to Washington has propelled Murphy to heights he’s never seen before in his career. With a .348/.392/.598 line and 27 homers, Murphy is leading the with 47 doubles. Is an MVP award the way to commemorate this year of the second baseman (as briefly discussed here)?
Kris Bryant, Third Baseman, Chicago Cubs
Last year’s Rookie of the Year hasn’t skipped a beat in his second season, increasing his output in almost every conceivable statistical category this season save one – he is on pace for more than fifty fewer strikeouts – which underlines his improvement. The National League’s best team has depended upon Bryant’s metronomic consistency at the plate as the burly third sacker has paced their offense with 37 homers and 33 doubles en route to a .298/.389/.562 line. More impressively, he has continued to refine his skills at the hot corner and has started 33 games in left field as manager, Joe Maddon, shuffles around his players to rest his regulars in anticipation of postseason baseball.
Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Colorado Rockies
The Rockies slugging third baseman is likely to end up leading the NL in both homers and runs batted in, with 38 and 123 at the time of publication. He’s also played his typical brand of defense, as evidenced by this terrific play. However, he led the league in both offensive categories and made great plays last year, finishing eighth in the MVP race. He’s unlikely to finish much higher this year.
Anthony Rizzo, First Baseman, Chicago Cubs
Bryant’s teammate finished fourth in MVP voting last season and is having a slightly better season this year. But his candidacy is negatively impacted by Bryant’s emergence as the best player on the northside of Chicago, as well as the accomplishments of Freeman, which may have voters questioning who is the most valuable first baseman in the NL.
Justin Turner, Third Baseman, Los Angeles Dodgers
The late bloomer has enjoyed a breakout season for the Dodgers, earning a starting role and helping his teammate Seager keep the Dodgers afloat despite injuries to … well, just about everyone else. However, Turner is unlikely to get more than token consideration given he is clearly behind both Bryant and Arenado statistically.
Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman, Washington Nationals
Rendon, like Turner, is having an excellent season by his own standards and should garner a few votes for both his excellent defense and consistent production at the plate. Like Turner, his candidacy is hurt by the other great players at his position and by his teammates higher up on the list.
Brandon Crawford, Shortstop, San Francisco Giants
Crawford set a major league record earlier this season with a seven-hit game and has helped the Giants keep pace with the Dodgers in the NL West. San Francisco has had a disappointing second-half of the season and it is an even-year, making Crawford’s candidacy a second tier effort at best.