With the Major League Baseball season heading down the home stretch, the playoff races are heating up. Coinciding with the run for the post season are battles for individual honors, including Most Valuable Player. Generally, the MVP comes from a contending team and this year is no exception.
Here are the top five candidates for the National League MVP. The criteria used to rank candidates are team record and individual statistical categories such as runs, home runs, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
Although pitchers can sometimes earn MVP honors, it’s rare since they have the Cy Young Award, so positions players are the clear focus in this discussion.
Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have the best record in the National League and a commanding 18-game lead over the Diamondbacks in their division. Much of this has to do with an offense that leads the league in runs scored and home runs.
Cody Bellinger leads the way ranking first in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS, third in runs scored and seventh in runs batted in.
With 44 home runs, Bellinger has a chance of becoming the first Dodgers player to ever hit 50 home runs in a season, which would surpass Shawn Green’s club mark of 49 in 2001.
Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
On top in the NL East by 6 ½ games over the Washington Nationals, the Atlanta Braves have the second-best record in the league and are well on their way to a divisional title.
Atlanta ranks second behind the Dodgers in home runs and runs scored and are led by veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman, who in his tenth season is having a career year.
He has hit 38 home runs and has knocked in 114 runs, both career highs. Freeman’s RBI total ranks first in the NL and he’s third in runs scored, fifth in home runs, third in slugging percentage and OPS.
Anthony Rendon – Washington Nationals
After a slow start, the Nationals picked up the pace and have positioned themselves nicely for a wild card spot in the National League.
An offense that is ranked third in runs scored and second in batting average have played a key role. The top offensive threat has been Anthony Rendon.
His consistent hitting of .300 with mid 20’s home runs the last couple of seasons has elevated this year into MVP consideration. He’s batting .338 with 32 home runs and 112 RBI, all career highs for the seven-year veteran.
Leaguewide, he’s first in batting average, second in RBI, third in doubles and fourth in runs scored.
Christian Yelich – Milwaukee Brewers
Winner of the MVP last season, Yelich was off to a torrid start during the first half, on pace to set home run records.
The Brewers, along with Yelich have tailed off somewhat. In fact, Milwaukee is on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. As for Yelich, he’s still put up numbers worthy of consideration.
He’s belted a career-best 43 home runs, second in the NL behind Bellinger. Yelich has singlehandedly carried the Brewers with his league-leading on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
Unfortunately playing for a team that likely will fall short of the playoffs hinders Yelich’s chances.
Ronald Acuna Jr. – Atlanta Braves
Clearly a longshot to win the award, particularly when top candidate Freddie Freeman is on the same team, Acuna’s production is worthy of some recognition.
He was NL Rookie of the Year last season after hitting 26 home runs and a .293 average in 111 games. An All-Star this season, Acuna already has 36 home runs and leads the league in runs scored and stolen bases.
Finishing 12th in the MVP voting last season, there’s reason to believe more significant recognition this season with an MVP award not far in the future for this 21-year old sensation.
Putting it all together, the clear favorite is Bellinger. Should he earn the honor, it would be the first NL MVP won by a Dodger since Clayton Kershaw in 2014 and first position player since Kirk Gibson in 1988.
Should Freeman get hot and overtake Bellinger in some categories and the Braves advance further in the playoffs, Freeman could get the nod. If he does, he would become the first Braves player since Chipper Jones in 1999.