Cody Bellinger just put together five of the best weeks any Major League player has ever had, and so this is where the National League Most Valuable Player discussion begins. As good as Christian Yelich, last year’s winner, has been, Bellinger is the very clear and very early 2019 front-runner.
As for the American League, stop us if you’ve heard this one before:
Bellinger and Trout were the runaway winners of the first round of hypothetical MVP Award voting by MLB.com staff. Bellinger received all 41 NL votes, while Trout got 36 of the 41 AL votes. Yelich got 39 of the 41 second-place votes in the NL.
Cubs shortstop Javier Báez, who finished second in last season’s actual NL MVP Award balloting, was third in this opening round. Meanwhile, AL voting reflects the changing face of the game, with A’s third baseman
Chapman finished seven in last season’s AL voting. Gallo did not receive an MVP vote, nor has he appeared in an All-Star Game. Both of those things are on their way to changing this season.
Here’s a breakdown of the leaders, with their “share” listed in parentheses. A share is their vote points divided by the highest possible number of points, which in this case is 205.
1) Cody Bellinger, OF, Dodgers (100 percent): Bellinger’s 97 total bases in March/April were the most on record, smashing Chase Utley’s 2008 record of 85. His .455 batting average against right-handed pitching is 80 points higher than the next-highest hitter (Yelich), and he’s hitting .319 against lefties. His overall numbers have a video-game quality: .403 batting average, .814 slugging percentage, 1.291 OPS.
2) Christian Yelich, RF, Brewers (58 percent): In almost any other year, we’d be raving about how Yelich, after an incredible breakout season in 2018, got even better in 2019. OK, we’re doing that anyway. His batting average is up 16 points, to .342, and his OPS is up 232 points, to 1.232. He also leads the Majors with 15 home runs, one more than Bellinger.
3) Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (10 percent): Baez has led the Cubs on a 16-4 sprint to the top of the NL Central with seven home runs, 61 total bases and a 1.088 OPS. His overall 1.001 OPS is second among all Major League middle infielders.
Others receiving votes: Paul DeJong, SS, Cardinals; Pete Alonso, 1B, Mets; Willson Contreras, C, Cubs
1) Mike Trout, CF, Angels (94 percent): Trout’s greatness can be measured in all sorts of ways. His six top-two finishes in AL MVP voting put him in rarified air. Ted Williams holds the all-time AL record, with seven top-three finishes. Trout’s 66.8 career WAR is 126th on the all-time list and higher than a handful of Hall of Famers, including Craig Biggio (65.5) and Willie McCovey (64.5). He began this season by reaching base in 29 straight games and is currently posting what would be a career-high .471 OBP. He’s also walking (31 BB’s) almost twice as often as he’s striking out (16 K’s), which is almost unheard of in this era.
2) Matt Chapman, 3B, A’s (28 percent): Chapman’s reputation was established with his defensive play; he and Houston’s Alex Bregman are the gold standard at the hot corner in the AL. And his offense keeps getting better: In 2017 he slugged .472, and this year he’s at .597 after posting a .508 mark last year.
3) Joey Gallo, OF, Rangers (19 percent): Gallo has dramatically remade his approach and his strike-zone discipline: His walk rate is up, from 13 percent to 20 percent, and his strikeout rate is down a bit, from 36 percent to 33 percent. He’s now hitting .270 after hitting .208 combined over the previous two years and, more important, he already has 11 homers while slugging .660.
Others receiving votes: Jorge Polanco, SS, Twins; Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals; Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox; Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers; Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Rays; Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros