A way-too-early look at MVP race

August 1st, 2020

You might be the sort who believes it’s way too early to even think about a Most Valuable Player Award ballot. But given the condensed schedule, one could argue it’s the perfect time to start talking about it.

First, there’s Teoscar Hernández, who entered Saturday tied for the Major League lead in home runs with four. He’s a big reason Toronto has been one of MLB’s most interesting teams, both for what its doing on the field and the circumstances in which its doing it.

At this very early point, Hernández has played his way onto your AL MVP Award checklist, and while it’s impossible to know how things will play out, it’s fun to acknowledge his steady climb in all or parts of five seasons.

There are some other less-than-household names in the MVP Award races as well, and while there are miles to go, a way-too-early look at the MVP Award leaders has to be taken in the right spirit.

American League

José Ramírez, 3B, Indians (1.244 OPS)

You’re probably thinking, “Wait, hasn’t this guy already won an AL MVP Award?” He finished third in 2017 and '18 and seemed to go about a month without making an out in the latter season. He’s off and running again, spraying line drives and looking like he’s having the time of his life.

Giancarlo Stanton, DH, Yankees (1.384 OPS)

He began the season with plenty to prove in terms of staying healthy after playing just 18 games last season. He might not have been ready for the original Opening Day, but so far, he's put up numbers that are hard to comprehend.

Teoscar Hernández, CF, Blue Jays (1.176 OPS)

Speed and defense were his strengths as he made his way through the Astros' system before being dealt to the Blue Jays in 2017. His early breakout this season has been an offense-fueled one, with elite hard-hit percentages and disruptive speed on the bases.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (1.099 OPS)

His challenge is proving he can stay on the field after missing chunks of time the last three seasons. What the 25-year-old and former No. 1 overall pick has shown in the early part of this season is that he is still capable of being one of the game’s best players.

JaCoby Jones, CF, Tigers (1.349 OPS)

He’s a reminder that players do not have a developmental timetable. This 28-year-old kept getting chances because he was a defensive presence in the outfield and because his hands were so quick that a breakthrough seemed possible. He entered Saturday with a .423 batting average with three doubles and three home runs, and he figures prominently in the turnaround the Tigers see coming.

National League

Mike Yastrzemski, OF, Giants (1.321 OPS)

He may end up being one of Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s smartest acquisitions. He arrived in a minor trade with the Orioles before the 2019 season that drew little attention, but he passed every test in his rookie season and entered Saturday leading the NL with a .528 OBP.

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (1.046 OPS)

He debuted at 20 years old last season and showed more than a few flashes of greatness in 84 games. He’s even better so far this season with a .421 OBP entering Saturday and the speed to change games in all sorts of ways.

Nicholas Castellanos, RF, Reds (1.214 OPS)

He has collected a hit in every game for his new team and came into Saturday with a .464 OBP. After one game, he returned to the field and spent a half hour working on his defense. Beginning at last year’s Trade Deadline, when the Cubs acquired him, he’s hit .326 with 18 home runs in 58 games.

Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves (1.084 OPS)

His name is scattered among the NL leaders in an assortment of categories, and it could be the start of the breakout season that was forecast for him since the D-backs made him the No. 1 pick of the 2015 Draft. His attention to detail and quick hands has made this kind of start seem inevitable.

Max Muncy, 1B, Dodgers (.966 OPS)

He gets overlooked at times because the Dodgers have so many stars, but few NL hitters have been more productive the last three seasons. He entered Saturday with a .390 OBP, and his three home runs trail only Colin Moran (four) in the NL.