Michael Trout was already the best player of his generation and on track to be in the "Best Player Ever" conversation. So how is it that as he approaches his 1,000th game for the Angels he still has the ability to surprise us?
Haven't we already seen the best of Trout?
Yet here we are with Trout getting even better than he has ever been, having arguably his best season and leading the American League in walks, runs and on-base percentage. He's also a close second in home runs and total bases.
Trout is on track to become the 11th player in history to win three Most Valuable Player Awards. He has also finished second three times and fourth once. Even with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts having his best season and Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez continuing to get better, Trout was the runaway winner in MLB.com's poll of 37 reporters and editors.
Meanwhile, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman outdistanced Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Nationals ace Max Scherzer to win the NL poll.
Our 37 voters were asked to rank their top three players, with five points going to a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote and one point for third-place vote. Therefore, the maximum number of points a player could get was 185.
Here's how the voting went:
1. Mike Trout, Angels (171 points)
Trout is on pace for a cool 50-homer, 39-double, 133-walk, 136-run season. His on-base percentage is up for the fourth straight season, and his defense is better, too. Trout's career WAR is closing in on 60 before his 27th birthday, and if he has six more seasons like his first six, he'll be in a neighborhood in which only Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and a few others reside. Fans of another era got to watch Williams and Musial. We can tell our grandkids we were the lucky ones who got to watch Trout.
2. Mookie Betts, Red Sox (119 points)
Betts has gotten MVP votes in all of his first three full seasons, and that'll be true again this season. If not for Trout, Betts would likely be the runaway winner this year as he flirts with a batting title (.359) and also leads the Majors in OPS (1.187). Oh, he's also headed for a third Gold Glove Award for his play in right field.
3. Jose Ramirez, Indians (28 points)
Ramirez was third in AL MVP Award voting last season, behind only Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge, and he's putting together another tremendous year. He's on track for more than 50 homers and nearly 50 doubles, and he could also top 20 stolen bases for the second time in his career.
Others receiving votes:J.D. Martinez (Red Sox), Manny Machado (Orioles), Altuve (Astros)
1. Freddie Freeman, Braves (150 points)
The Braves' rise to prominence has once more shone the spotlight on one of baseball's best players. Freeman is leading the NL in intentional walks, which is a tribute to the problems he presents opposing teams. Both his batting average (.339) and OBP (.435) are career highs, and he could flirt with his first 50-double season.
2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (89 points)
Arenado's offensive game is so complete that his defense at third sometimes gets overshadowed. He makes the spectacular play look routine, and some older scouts say he compares to any third baseman they've ever seen. On top of all that, Arenado is having his best offensive season, headed for a 30-double, 30-homer season, with the NL's highest OPS and his name dotted across the leaderboard in an assortment of areas.
3. Max Scherzer, Nationals (50 points)
Did you know Scherzer pitched, too? After he keyed a game-winning rally with a pinch-hit single in Atlanta last weekend, we thought it would be worth reminding people of the thing he's better at than almost anyone. The Nationals are 11-2 when Scherzer starts on the mound and 23-23 with anyone else. His 11th season might be his best, as he leads the Majors in strikeouts (133) and the NL in WHIP (0.83). If Scherzer stays healthy, he will crack 200 innings for a sixth straight season and become the fifth player in history to win four Cy Young Awards.