There are only 2 weeks left of the MLB regular season! The Cleveland Indians are the only team to clinch their division and only the Red Sox have clinched a playoff spot outside of the Indians. Thus, giving us some excitement coming down the stretch.
The AL is less intriguing with only Cleveland, Boston, New York, Houston, Oakland, and Seattle jockeying for position in their divisions and pushing to get the final wild card spot. The NL, however, has a little more diversity in the standings with everyone just waiting to see who pulls ahead down the stretch.
Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Colorado, and Arizona all have a chance at making the playoffs or being eliminated in the coming days. The tight group of NL contenders isn’t uniquely identifiable with the pennant races as another couple of races have yet to be determined as well. Mainly, the NL MVP race is proving to be just as exciting down the stretch with a strong number of contenders who seek to catapult their clubs into the postseason. Who will take home the crown as the NL’s Most Valuable Player?
Freddie Freeman or Nick Markakis?
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Freeman has been a Braves staple since becoming a full-time starter in 2011. Many times he’s been derailed from the MVP race after sustaining injuries that cost him multiple games. Most recently in 2017 his MVP season and career year were derailed with an inside pitch that broke Freeman’s wrist and derailed the momentum of the season. Freeman has been able to stay healthy in 2018 and posted a career high in Hits with 176 to go along with 20+ HR, .300+ Avg, and a WAR at 5.6. His numbers don’t jump out at you but his healthy presence in the middle of the lineup offers value to the guys around him.
One product of Freeman’s presence is Nick Markakis, who’s having a career year in 2018 for the Braves. The additions of Acuna Jr and Albies to the lineup have created a perplexing situation for opposing pitchers when facing the Braves lineup and Markakis adds to the problem they face. Nick has 179 hits, 42 doubles, 14 HR, 92 RBI, .307 AVG, and a 3.0 WAR. Markakis started the final year of his contract with doubt of a return and being the weak link in the outfield and in 2018 he’s rewritten the script about his production and may just end up staying around for a little while longer after his incredible season.
Both Markakis and Freeman lead the NL in Hits with Markakis leading the NL in doubles also. Having both guys healthy and in the middle of the lineup has been the solid foundation for other guys to thrive at the plate. Their value for the Braves has been extraordinary in turning around a 72 win team into potential division winners.
(Photo by Aaron Gash / AP)
The Milwaukee Brewers opened up their pockets this past offseason with the signing of Lorenzo Cain and a few other pieces but no move has been bigger to their success than trading for Christian Yelich. Yelich hit his 2nd cycle of the season last night, something that hasn’t been done since Aaron Hill in 2012 and he’s only the 4th player in MLB history with the others happening in the 19th Century (Tip O’Neil in 1887 and John Reilly in 1883).
Outside of historic milestones, Yelich has a career high in HR, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. In the NL, he’s 3rd in Runs Scored (102), 5th in Hits (170), 7th in RBI (93), Tied-1st in AVG (.318), 1st in SLG (.570), and has a WAR of 5.7. The Brewers offense ranks in the middle of pack in the MLB and it’s fair to assume that without Yelich their offensive production might have them out of the playoff race. Value-wise, Yelich makes 7 million this season before his contract goes up and to get a career year out of a guy who makes less than Freeman and Markakis is pretty valuable.
Nolan Arenado vs Trevor Story
(April 4, 2016 – Source: Norm Hall/Getty Images North America)
It’s hard not to be impressed by what Trevor Story has been able to do in his 3rd season in the majors. His line of 81 R, 164 H, 40 Doubles, 5 Triples, 33 HR, 102 RBI, 26 SB, .288 BA, .550 SLG, and 4.7 WAR is damn near the best all-around stat line in baseball, much less the National League. Many people were concerned when the Rockies traded Troy Tulowitzki in 2015 but it’s obvious the Rockies knew what they had with Trevor Story. Story and Arenado feed off each other in the heart of the Rockies lineup and one of the main reasons the Rockies are poised to make the playoffs this season.
The Rockies are near the top of the NL in almost every batting category and one of the main offensive factors is Nolan Arenado. Arenado comes with many accolades, 3 time All Star, 5 time Gold Glove winner, and 3 time Silver Slugger Award Winner, but has yet to win the MVP. This might be the year for Arenado to add MVP to the trophy case as he’s the main cog in the machine that moves the offensive power Rockies into the playoffs. In the NL he’s 2nd in HR (34), 3rd in RBI (101), 6th in Runs (96), 3rd in OPS (.934), he’s batting .297, and has a 5.3 WAR.
Just like the Braves’ MVP candidates, the Rockies’ guys thrive off each other. Both Arenado and Story are having extraordinary seasons and to single out one over the other would be very difficult. From a numbers standpoint, Story would be the clear option but with Arenado’s fielding and clubhouse leadership bringing more to the table than Story, I’d have to give the edge to Nolan.
Who will win?
Other candidates might be deserving of being mentioned in this category and sure there may be some pitchers dominating and doing everything they can to push their teams into the playoffs. However, when it comes to being the Most Valuable Player, I like everyday position players as my MVPs (It’s why I don’t like J.D. Martinez for the AL MVP).
It’ll be interesting to monitor how all 5 of these guys finish the season just like the pennant races, this race may come down to the final day, but as of now it’s between Freeman and Arenado in my book.
**Baseball-Reference was used for stat lines
***MLB Standings and Sortable Stats were used at MLB.com