These two players are climbing in MVP races

May 28th, 2019

and remain solidly atop's second American League and National League Most Valuable Player Award poll, but two new names -- Twins shortstop and Pirates first baseman Josh Bell -- have moved onto the leaderboard and bear watching.

Both are having breakout seasons, and Polanco, who leads the AL with 67 hits and is second with a .332 batting average, is a big reason the Twins have baseball’s highest-scoring offense and a 10-game lead in the AL Central.

Meanwhile, Bell is having the breakout season to define all breakout seasons. He’s on an early pace for a 50-homer, 50-double year. Only Bellinger and have a higher OPS.

We polled reporters and asked them to rank their top three choices in each league, with five points for a first-place vote, three points for second place, and one point for third. There were 39 voters in total.

American League
Mike Trout, Angels (26 first-place votes)
Trout's greatness can be defined in lots of different ways. For instance, finishing first or second in AL MVP voting in six of his first seven seasons. Here’s another: Trout is five stolen bases from becoming the 10th AL player with 250 home runs and 200 steals. None of them did it before their age-28 season.

, Astros (11)
Springer was Trout’s most serious threat to another AL MVP trophy until injuring his left hamstring on Friday. The Astros are hoping he’ll miss only a couple of weeks, but that’s uncertain. He’s currently tied for second in the AL in fWAR and ranks first in home runs and second in OPS.

Jorge Polanco, Twins (2)
Just when it was easy to wonder if he’d ever achieve the greatness once forecast for him, Polanco is having an amazing breakout season. To understand his success, begin with the basics: He’s hitting the ball harder than ever before. His 87.7-mph average exit velocity is the best of his career (84.9-mph career average). So is his frequency of hard-hit contact (39 percent this season versus 28.2 percent for his career). Polanco is one of five Major League shortstops with two five-hit games in a season since 1998.

Others receiving votes: Joey Gallo, Adalberto Mondesi, Eddie Rosario

National League
Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (39 first-place votes)
Bellinger's 4.3 fWAR is nearly a full point better than the next-highest player (Trout at 3.4), which is perhaps the best indicator of how dominant his season has been. With the Dodgers positioned for a seventh straight NL West title and leading the NL in runs, Bellinger is atop MLB in a slew of offensive categories, including batting average (.383), hits (72), total bases (143) and OPS (1.229). Only Yelich has more home runs. Bellinger is hitting .387 with nine homers and 39 RBIs with runners on base.

Christian Yelich, Brewers
Yelich has followed up a breakthrough MVP season with an even better one. He’s on pace for 62 home runs, 124 runs, 94 walks and 29 stolen bases, which would better his 2018 totals in those categories. He’s still only 27 and could still be getting better as the Brewers try for back-to-back postseason appearances for only the second time in franchise history.

Josh Bell, Pirates
Bell's 35 extra-base hits through the Pirates' first 50 games were the second-most in franchise history, and he added two more in Monday's doubleheader. He’s first in the Majors with a 1.283 OPS and 11 home runs in May. Bell is just the sixth Pirate to hit at least 10 home runs in May and sits one homer shy of Jason Bay’s team record of 12 in 2006.

Others receiving votes: Javier Baez, Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado, Paul DeJong