We are past Labor Day, which means that Major League Baseball season is winding down. This is the time of the season where every game counts, both for individual player awards and playoff spots. At this point, we can clearly see the candidates for the National League MVP award and the American League MVP award. In terms of the AL MVP, there are many great players in Kyle Tucker of the Houston Astros, Corey Seager of the Texas Rangers and Randy Arozarena of the Rays. However, no one quite compares to Shohei Ohtani and what he has accomplished this season as both a monster hitter and pitcher. As of Sept. 6, Ohtani is hitting .304 with 44 home runs and 95 RBIs. Additionally, his ERA is 3.14, so that basically ends that discussion on the AL MVP favorite and Ohtani looks to win his second MVP award in the last three years. On the other hand, the NL MVP race is much more competitive. So let’s take a deeper dive on the NL MVP candidates.
Ronald Acuña Jr. – Atlanta Braves
Acuña Jr. has been the front runner of this race since the start of the season. He has shown immense amounts of power and speed as he chases a 40-40 season. He could also potentially reach 30-70 or maybe even a long shot 30-80. Anything is possible when it comes to Acuña Jr, who has been unstoppable this season. He leads the NL in runs, hits, stolen bases, and OBP, and is second in fWAR and OPS. Acuña Jr. has a chance to do something that no baseball player has ever done in a single season: finish with 30 home runs, 70 steals, a .300/.400/.500 line, 130 runs scored, 200 hits and 40 doubles, all while striking out less than 100 times. Acuña Jr. has been consistent all season and has never seen a dull moment this year. In all the odds, Acuña Jr. is the definite favorite but there are also many other talented guys in the National League who could take the MVP award at the end of the season.
Mookie Betts – Los Angeles Dodgers
Betts has exploded in the second half of the season and has been able to provide the Dodgers with tons of versatility and steadiness. The Dodgers have moved him around the diamond from center field, to second base, and even shortstop, and he has been elite in every one of those defensive positions. In fact, he has saved more runs at second base (six runs) than in right field (two) despite almost 300 less innings than at his name-made position. On offense, he is another candidate gearing towards a 40-homer, 40-double season. Betts leads the NL in fWAR, slugging, OPS and wRC+. His offensive run in August has put him up to third in OBP and fifth in batting average. He has absolutely exploded in the second half of the season and he is now batting a whopping .314. Betts could potentially join Frank Robinson to be the second player in the majors to win MVP awards in both the American and National League. However, Acuña Jr. is the biggest thing in his way and he is fighting against the clock until the regular season comes to a close.
Freddie Freeman – Los Angeles Dodgers
Freeman is always in these MVP-type conversations. In any other year, his stats would put him way ahead as the clear frontrunner. Unfortunately for Freeman, talent levels this year in the NL are just immaculate, which gives him tons of competition. Freeman is likely to finish with a 55-double season and has a chance to post the MLB’s first 60-double season in 87 years. He leads the majors in extra-base hits with 78, is second in the NKin batting average and OBP and third in total bases, hits, runs, OPS and fWAR. Additionally, Freeman has 25 home runs and has a career-high of 17 steals on 18 attempts. He is the type of player that can do it all and is definitely MVP material with his skill and captain-like mentality for Los Angeles. Freeman is having himself a historic season, but with the production of stars Betts and Acuña Jr. above him, it’s very possible that he falls short of this season’s NL MVP award.
Matt Olson – Atlanta Braves
The Braves lineup is filled with power from top to bottom, but Olson has to be the one of, if not the top guy leading the way. This season, Olson has emerged to be one of the league’s biggest power hitters. He averages a home run for every 11.7 at bats and leads the NL in isolated power with .315. Olson is the NL’s home run leader and sits comfortably at the top of the entire league’s RBI leaderboard with 114 total. He is having a career high season for himself in these statistical categories, but he’s also second in the NL in slugging, third for walks, fourth in OPS, runs and total bases. Atlanta has a deep and talented lineup, unlike any other in the majors, but Olson has been one of the most productive out of all the Braves and they would not be the same without him. He’s very consistent at first base and has added so much to Atlanta. This might not exactly be Olson’s year to be crowned MVP with the other candidates, but his talents should not go unnoticed in this season’s voting.
Other candidates: Luis Arráez ( Miami Marlins), Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies), Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs)
At the end of the season, only one of these players can come out at the top of the NL MVP race. Talent fills both the National League and the American League but only two of them can be named the most valuable. Ohtani is a lock to win the AL MVP but the NL MVP is still up in the air. A heavy majority of the odds for the NL MVP award points to the Braves superstar right fielder Acuña Jr. and it’s hard to think that it could be anyone else, but we will just have to wait to see who gets the crown in the end.