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MVP Poll: Favorites carry big leads into 2nd half

@RichardJustice
July 10, 2019

Mike Trout remains firmly on track to become the 11th player in baseball history to be a three-time Most Valuable Player. In a first half that has delivered all sorts of surprising teams and players, Trout’s commanding lead in the American League MVP race is precisely what we’ve come to

Mike Trout remains firmly on track to become the 11th player in baseball history to be a three-time Most Valuable Player. In a first half that has delivered all sorts of surprising teams and players, Trout’s commanding lead in the American League MVP race is precisely what we’ve come to expect from this generation’s best player.

In the National League, the favorite is still Cody Bellinger, and commandingly so. The 23-year-old Dodgers outfielder has used his second full season in the big leagues to establish himself as one of baseball’s brightest young stars.

Same as it ever was. MLB.com reporters have been polled four times about their MVP picks, and Trout and Bellinger have been the choice each time. Most recently, Trout received 34 of 36 first-place votes, while Bellinger earned 33.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, the defending NL MVP, has finished second in each NL poll, and Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has finished third in the last three.

Things are less clear in the AL. Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who had never placed in the top five in three previous polls, received a resounding 27 second-place votes and five third-place votes. Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu ended up in third.

Here’s how we did the poll: MLB.com reporters were asked to rank their top three choices in each league. First-place votes were worth five points, second place was worth three points and third was worth one.

Here’s a look at the leaders:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1) Mike Trout (34 first-place votes)

He’s an eight-time All-Star and is the first player since Derek Jeter (2006-12) to be voted into the AL starting lineup in seven consecutive seasons. He’s just the sixth AL player to start at least six times before his 28th birthday, joining a list that includes five Hall of Famers: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ivan Rodriguez, Rod Carew and Ken Griffey Jr. He finished the first half by homering six times in four games to bring his season total to 28.

2) Alex Bregman (0 first-place votes)
He vowed to improve his defensive metrics at third base after last season, and he has made good on that promise. He’s second among AL third basemen with four defensive runs saved, trailing only Oakland’s Matt Chapman. Two seasons ago, he made a similar commitment to improve his strike-zone discipline. Since then, only Trout, Bryce Harper and Carlos Santana have drawn more walks.

3. DJ LeMahieu (1 first-place vote)
He’s one of the key players who has helped keep the Yankees atop the AL East despite injuries to their core players. He was an NL batting champion for the Rockies in 2016 and is leading the AL in the category in his first season with the Yankees. He leads the Majors with 36 multi-hit games and is batting a league-best .462 with runners in scoring position. His 12 home runs are already the second-highest total of his career, and he’s hitting .818 with the bases loaded. His 45 hits in June were the most for a Yankee in a calendar month since Jeter had 46 in August 2009.

Others receiving votes: Matt Chapman, Jorge Polanco, Carlos Santana, Xander Bogaerts, Whit Merrifield

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. Cody Bellinger (33 first-place votes)
Among players aged 23 or younger, Bellinger’s 30 home runs are the fourth-most all-time at the All-Star break and are the most since Mark McGwire had 33 in 1987. Bellinger is the 38th player to hit his 30th homer before the break and the 19th in the NL. He has reached base in 81 of 85 starts and leads the NL with 220 total bases. His on-base percentage has been above .400 every day this season.

2. Christian Yelich (3 first-place votes)
If not for Bellinger, the defending NL MVP would be the story of the first half. Some wondered if he could build on his breakout 2018 season, and he has delivered across the board. His 31 home runs are five fewer than he hit all last season, and his batting average (.329), OBP (.433) and OPS (1.140) are all higher. He and teammate Mike Moustakas have combined for 56 home runs, which is tied for the fourth-most by teammates at the break in history. (Mantle and Roger Maris had 62 in 1961; Alex Rodriguez and Griffey Jr. had 62 in 1998.)

3. Josh Bell (0 first-place votes)
He has put together one of the best first halves in Pirates history with 30 doubles, 27 homers and a 1.024 OPS. His 84 RBIs are the most by an NL player at the All-Star break since Albert Pujols had 87 in 2009. He hits the ball hard as consistently as almost anyone. His 93.3 mph average exit velocity is the seventh-highest in the league. Only two players -- Rafael Devers and Jose Abreu -- have hit more balls at 95 mph or better than Bell’s 133.

Others receiving votes: Max Scherzer, Ketel Marte, Nolan Arenado

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.