The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award race has yielded three tremendous all-around players as finalists in Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez and Michael Trout. Each slugged more than 30 home runs while stealing more than 20 bases, as well as playing strong defense at his respective position. It's no
The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player Award race has yielded three tremendous all-around players as finalists in Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez and Michael Trout. Each slugged more than 30 home runs while stealing more than 20 bases, as well as playing strong defense at his respective position. It's no easy decision to name one MVP from this trio, but that's exactly what will happen when the winner is announced Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Here's the case for each finalist.
Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Five-tool star Betts has worthy credentials to win the first AL MVP Award of his career at the age of 26. Betts, who stayed in the leadoff spot the entire season for the World Series champions, had the best FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (10.4) for a position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 (11.9).
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After finishing second in the AL MVP Award race to Trout two years ago, Betts has an even better candidacy this time around. The right fielder was a force in every way possible, winning the batting title with a .346 average while adding 47 doubles, five triples, 32 homers, 129 runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. His 1.078 OPS was second in the Majors behind only Trout (1.088), and Betts earned his third straight Gold Glove Award for his defensive excellence.
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Betts' numbers were remarkable across the board. He was a .364 hitter at home while hitting .331 on the road. He belted 13 homers at home and 19 on the road. Against lefties, Betts had an OPS of 1.207. Against righties, it was 1.037. Betts hit .330 or higher in every month except June, when he still had a respectable .290 mark.
"He impacts the game like no other player in the big leagues -- running the bases, playing defense, hitting for power," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "You see the numbers. It was a special season for him."
-- Ian Browne
Jose Ramirez, Indians
Ramirez burst onto the scene two seasons ago, surprising the baseball world with a performance that led to a third-place finish in AL MVP Award voting. The Indians star showed this year that his overwhelming showing was no fluke.
Once again, Ramirez is contending for premier season-end hardware. That is fitting, considering that only Betts (10.4) and Trout (9.8) were able to top the 8.0 WAR (per FanGraphs) that Cleveland's switch-hitting slugger posted in 2018.
Ramirez was an AL Gold Glove finalist at third base and picked up a Silver Slugger Award for the second consecutive campaign. Heading into August, he looked like a favorite for the AL MVP Award, but a two-month slide hurt his stock on the ballot down the stretch. Considering the extent of Ramirez's late-season troubles, the numbers he piled up are staggering.
In 157 games, Ramirez turned in a .270/.387/.552 slash line to go along with 39 home runs, 38 doubles, 34 stolen bases, 105 RBIs, 110 runs scored and 106 walks (compared to 80 strikeouts). Ramirez did all that despite batting .202 with a .724 OPS in the final 50 games of the season.
Ramirez's 8.0 WAR was the highest for an Indians batter since 1953 (Al Rosen, 9.1) and was tied for the 12th-highest single-season total in franchise history. Ramirez also joined Bonds (1992, '95-97), Jeff Bagwell ('97, '99) and Bobby Abreu (2001, '04) as the only players in MLB history to have at least 30 homers, 30 steals, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 100 walks in a single season.
-- Jordan Bastian
Mike Trout, Angels
A model of consistency, Trout has established himself as a perennial AL MVP Award candidate over his first seven full seasons with the Angels, and he has already won the prestigious honor twice, in 2014 and '16. He will finish in the top three for the sixth time in his career after falling to fourth place last season due to a thumb injury that forced him to miss seven weeks of the regular season.
Widely considered the best player in baseball, Trout is coming off what he considers to be his strongest overall campaign to date. He batted .312 with an MLB-high 1.088 OPS, 39 home runs, 79 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 140 games in 2018. Trout also set career highs in on-base percentage (.460), OPS+ (199) and walks (122), and he compiled the second-highest WAR (9.8) in the Majors, according to FanGraphs, trailing only Betts (10.4).
Trout's relentless drive to get better became clear in his push to improve his defense in center field, which had been rated unfavorably by advanced fielding metrics in recent years. After recording minus-6 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, Trout focused on quickening his jumps and playing more aggressively this year. His efforts paid off, as he recorded plus-8 DRS in '18, earning him a Gold Glove Award nomination for the first time since '15.
"He achieved his goal," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in October. "What a surprise. It's pretty remarkable. Remarkable player, remarkable person."
-- Maria Guardado