Unstoppable sluggers lead latest MVP poll

June 18th, 2024

If the MLB season is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, the same can be said for the MVP races in each league. Hot starts, or cold ones, offer no guarantees for how things will shake out for players when the winners are revealed.

Just as there are ups and downs with teams in playoff races, there are likely to be ebbs and flows for MVP candidates, with one name leaping ahead of another as the various seasonal storylines unfold. That's good to keep in mind with the results of our latest MVP poll, which features a new name leading each league's race – and, in both cases, it's a runaway.

Still, the results in both races leave plenty of room for new leaders to emerge. In a survey of 42 MLB.com experts, 16 players received at least one MVP vote in the National League, while 10 received at least one in the American League.

Players received vote points on a 5-4-3-2-1 scale – five points for a first-place vote, four points for a second-place vote and so on. Here are the results.

All stats are through Sunday.


1. Aaron Judge, Yankees (38 first-place votes)

After not ranking in our first MVP poll while he scuffled in April, Judge debuted on the list in May and now has surged to the front of the pack. But that can happen when you hit the ball insanely hard and lead your league in nearly every major offensive category.

Judge's 62.5 percent hard-hit rate is in baseball's top 1 percent, as is his 96.7 mph average exit velocity. That's again proven to be an excellent recipe for hits -- and extra-base hits in particular.

Since May 1, Judge has hit .372 with 20 homers, 46 RBIs and a 1.388 OPS, which has made everyone forget that sluggish April. It's been even scarier since May 15: .393 with a 1.476 OPS.

Judge is now tops in baseball in bWAR (5.1), homers (26), RBIs (64), slugging (.686), walks (57) and OPS (1.110), and he's even on pace to reach the rare 400 total bases mark for the season.

As we saw in 2022, when Judge set a new AL record with 62 homers and won his first MVP Award, provided he stays healthy, he definitely has the stuff to keep this going for a while.

2. Juan Soto, Yankees (four first-place votes)

Soto led our MVP polls in April and May thanks to a scorching start, but it's not like he's hit a cold spell – which goes to show just how hot his Yankees teammate has been.

Soto still leads MLB in on-base percentage and is second behind Judge in OPS (1.025), and he's still among the AL leaders in homers (18) and RBIs (55). He's hit .343 so far in June and has a 1.224 OPS for the month. That's most definitely still MVP-level stuff.

All the preseason fantasies about what a Soto-Judge combo might look like at the top of the New York lineup have proven true at a level that perhaps even the most passionate and hopeful Yankees fans never saw coming.

3. Gunnar Henderson, Orioles

Henderson has established himself as one of the game's top shortstops on both sides of the ball. The 23-year-old has pop, on-base skills, speed and high defensive value, all things we look for in MVP candidates.

He's second in baseball with 22 homers, ranks third in the AL in slugging (.588) and runs (56), and is fourth in the league in OPS (.957). And his 5.0 bWAR is second in baseball behind only Judge.

Henderson also ranks among the game's best in hard-hit rate (98th percentile), average exit velocity (97th percentile) and bat speed (96th percentile). All in all, he's quite a formidable presence at the top of an Orioles lineup that's full of formidable presences.

4. Bobby Witt Jr., Royals

Witt has been in the MVP conversation all season, and he only seems to be getting better.

Since May 21, he's batting .385 with a 1.039 OPS, which has pushed him into the AL lead for hits (96) and the MLB lead for runs (59), and has him third in baseball in total bases (162). These totals have been helped by Witt's elite sprint speed (MLB's 100th percentile), which gives him the ability to both steal bases and take extra bases. To wit (Witt?): His 21 steals are second-most in the AL. He's also tied for second in MLB in triples (seven) and his 19 doubles are tied for third in the AL.

On defense, the shortstop is tied for the lead among all MLB position players with 11 Outs Above Average and is also tied for the lead with eight runs prevented. Oh, yeah: Witt is also on pace to drive in more than 100 runs and has an outside shot at a second straight 30-30 season – he's on pace for 24 homers and 47 stolen bases – which is always good for an MVP case.

5. José Ramírez, Guardians

This marks Ramírez's first appearance in the MVP rankings in 2024, but he's plenty deserving of consideration. He's been steadily, almost quietly, putting together another strong season in Cleveland as the Guardians have built a surprising lead in the AL Central.

Ramírez doesn't lead the league in any major categories, though he does show up in the top five in homers (18), RBIs (62) and runs (51), and in the top 10 in slugging (.534), OPS (.864), runs created (47) and total bases (141), which are all pretty darn important categories when discussing potential MVPs.

Every now and then, a player finds himself with an MVP after plugging along all season with strong and consistent production, even if he doesn't get a lot of fanfare. Ramírez could be that guy in 2024.

Others receiving votes: Kyle Tucker (Astros), Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Adley Rutschman (Orioles), Salvador Perez (Royals), Tarik Skubal (Tigers)


1. Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers (25 first-place votes)

Is anyone really surprised that Ohtani's found his way to the top of this list? It's almost become the most predictable thing in baseball when the ever-amazing Ohtani plays a full and healthy season.

With teammate Mookie Betts now out for a while with a hand fracture, the door is wide open for Ohtani to make a run at his third MVP Award – and become just the second player to win the award in each league (joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson). Not only that, but Ohtani would become the 15th player in MLB history win an MVP Award in consecutive seasons.

While Ohtani is merely among the NL leaders in popular categories such as home runs (19), batting average (.309), OPS (.976) and bWAR (3.5), he actually leads in three key ones: runs scored (53), runs created (66) and total bases (165). What does that mean? Basically, it means he's on base a lot and making things happen, which are major components to winning baseball – and MVP Awards. He's been one of the Dodgers' most consistent bats all season – his average hasn't been below .300 since April 5 – and he's on pace for his first 30-30 season, with a shot at 40-40 if he picks up the pace with stolen bases.

Ohtani has shown over and over again that he's capable of sustained hot streaks that leave even his teammates in awe. If he goes on one of those heaters in the next couple of months, the MVP Award could be his to lose.

2. Bryce Harper, Phillies (nine first-place votes)

Harper is another player who's seemingly always just one hot streak from wresting control of the MVP conversation, and he's heated up enough in recent weeks to make his first appearance on this list.

After starting the season with a .230 average and .805 OPS through April, Harper has turned it up a couple of notches, batting .318 with a .981 OPS since May 1. Like Ramírez in the AL, Harper's growing performance this season hasn't gotten the attention of Ohtani or others on this list, but his name keeps popping up on the leaderboards of important offensive categories. For example, he's in the top five in the NL in homers (15), on-base percentage (.390) and OPS (.908). He also leads the league in intentional walks (eight), which shows that teams remain plenty afraid of him.

If he keeps that up well into the summer, and the Phillies continue to run away with the NL East, Harper's name will only get more attention in MVP discussions.

3. Marcell Ozuna, Braves (six first-place votes)

"Marcell Ozuna, Triple Crown contender" was something literally nobody would've predicted a little over a year ago, but that's where we found ourselves Sunday, when Ozuna entered the day as the NL leader in average (.327), homers (20) and RBIs (62). He no longer led in average after an 0-for-4 day against the Rays, but it continues to be an unbelievable turnaround for the Atlanta DH.

Ozuna's offensive struggles in 2022 and early 2023 are well-documented (he started last season with an .085 average, two homers, and an .397 OPS through April), but he's nowhere near that player anymore. Over his past 162 games, he's hit .302 with 47 homers and 133 RBIs. He's on pace for 47 homers and 146 RBIs this season, which are MVP-worthy numbers anytime.

If Ozuna manages to pull off a Triple Crown, it'll be hard for voters to not give him the MVP trophy.

4. William Contreras, Brewers (one first-place vote)

Contreras is another name nobody likely saw in the MVP conversation before the season, but he continues to prove plenty valuable for the Brewers during what's become a true breakout campaign for the 26-year-old backstop.

His name is among the top 10 in a slew of categories, from batting average (.305) to bWAR (2.7) to OPS (.834), and he's tied with Ohtani for the NL lead in runs (53). Having a lot to do with that are Contreras' 54.2 percent hard-hit, which rates is in MLB's 97th percentile, and his 93.3 mph average exit velocity, which ranks in the 96th percentile. Meanwhile, on defense, he leads all NL catchers in putouts (490) and is second in assists (22).

Contreras has cooled off since hitting .359 through May 15, and he's probably a dark horse candidate in the MVP race from here out. But his inclusion on the list speaks to the ongoing high quality of his play so far.

5. Mookie Betts, Dodgers

Betts led the NL in our first two MVP polls, but the broken left hand he suffered Sunday after being hit by a pitch looks to put a significant dent in his chances this season. But he was certainly well on his way to his second trophy.

Betts was second in the NL in bWAR (3.5) at the time of the injury and was also among the leaders in average (.304), on-base percentage (.405), OPS (.892) and total bases (138). Not to mention the value he adds with his positional versatility.

There's precedent for a player missing a significant chunk of games and still winning an MVP Award (George Brett won AL MVP in 1980 after missing 45 games), but given the competition this season, Betts would likely have a steep hill to climb.

Others receiving votes: Ketel Marte (D-backs), Jurickson Profar (Padres; one first-place vote), Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres), Elly De La Cruz (Reds), Freddie Freeman (Dodgers), Will Smith (Dodgers), Alec Bohm (Phillies), Christian Yelich (Brewers), Teoscar Hernández (Dodgers), Reynaldo López (Braves), Ranger Suárez (Phillies)