We are only a few days away from the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star break and it is time to look at the MVP race in the American League. I am aware there is half a season to be played but what is more fun than evaluating the top-5 MVP candidates at the season’s half-way point. It appears this is the year that things will change. Many would default to Miguel Cabrera as a leading candidate but currently he does not even crack the top-5 in my opinion. Is he having another solid year? Of course, but he plays minor fiddle to the Angels Mike Trout and four others at this point in the 2014 season. My current top-5 does not include a list of all the usual suspects, which is refreshing to me to say the least. Here is the breakdown.
On The Radar:
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Cabrera is having a solid season but his placement on this list is as much respect for others as well as his return to earth. For the first time in a long time he is outside the top-5 in runs, home runs, and batting average. He is still solid hitting .308 with 14 home runs, 69 RBI, 54 runs scored and a .903 OPS. His is a liability in the field so that hurts his stock.
Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Martinez is a DH and I reserve the right to only include one DH in the top-5, a spot held by another player. He had an incredible May hitting .372 with power. Overall, he is hitting .328 on the year with 21 home runs, 55 RBI and 45 runs scored. He stays on the radar and all things are subject to change as the season flushes out.
The Mid-SeasonTop-5 Rankings
5 – Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Last season I talked about how Josh Donaldson was snubbed from the All-Star game. This year it appears the error, while not forgotten, has been rectified with his addition to his first mid-summer classic. He also finished 2013 in the not Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout discussion for AL MVP. He is the starting third baseman for the league’s best team and is handling it with ease. While he is having a couple of glove issues it should be noted that the dimensions he is forced to play in at home can punish many a talented corner infielder. A slow June has dropped him on my list but being third in run scored (58), sixth in home runs (19), and sixth in RBI (62) keeps him in the top-5.
4 – Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
What can be said, he is the American League leading vote getter for the 2014 MLB All-Star game. At the almost half-way point on the year he is hitting .296, with 17 home runs, 51 RBI, 56 runs scored and even stole three bases. One thing that goes unsaid a lot with power hitters is their propensity to strike out. However, Bautista has more walks (60) then strikeouts (54) which should be seen as the impressive stat that it is. That is one of the reasons he leads the American League in on-base-percentage at .419. He did see a decline in June only hitting one home run and batting .286 which impacted his position on this list. He does lead all American League right fielders in assists with eight.
3 – Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
He defected from Cuba and signed a six-year, $68M deal with the Chicago White Sox. That deal appears to be a steal for the organization. In his rookie season he has also been selected as a reserve for the 2014 edition of the MLB All-Star game. Despite a short stint on the disabled list, the rookie is tied for the American League lead in home runs (27) and slugging (.616). He is also third in RBI (69), fourth in OPS (.941). As a rookie he is also carrying a .995 fielding percentage good for sixth in the American League at his position. Abreu also appears to be getting better as the months roll over. In June he hit 10 home runs, drove in 22 and hit an impressive .313.
2 – Nelson Cruz, Baltimore Orioles
The number two spot for many should belong to the Tigers Miguel Cabrera, the Athletics Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays Jose Bautista, or even the White Sox Jose Abreu. While all have merit and not one of those players is have a bad season, the reality is that Nelson Cruz is doing big things for the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles. He is currently leading or tied for the American League in RBI (71) and home runs (27) while maintaining a .290 batting average. He is also fifth in slugging and sixth in OPS. As a DH he has been able to stay healthy this season which undoubtedly has helped his performance. The Orioles took a gamble on a player tainted by performance enhancing drugs issues. That gamble, at least to date, has paid off tenfold.
1 – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Before the season began, I had predicted that Mike Trout would win the 2014 American League MVP award (not a huge stretch) and there is no reason to change his rank at the half-way point. The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year and two-time runner up in the MVP race has cemented himself as the favorite heading into the mid-summer classic. He currently leads the American League in OPS (1.005) and is fifth in triples (5). Overall, Trout is hitting .308 with 58 runs scored, 20 home runs, 63 RBI and 10 stolen bases without being caught.
In June, Trout his .361 with 10 doubles, seven home runs, 21 RBI, scored 20 runs and stole five bases. He also has a solid glove and great range. Playing center field those are qualities that cannot be understated. To date in 2014, Trout is first in Wins above Replacement and is arguably the best young talent while positioning him to be the best all-around player in the game. At his age, while looking back over the last two seasons he should only get better thus separating himself from the pack. At this point it is his award to lose.