As the final month of the baseball season begins, theScore’s MLB editors break down the leading candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards in the American and National Leagues. Today, we’re ranking the favorites for the 2018 AL MVP.

5. Alex Bregman

 .296 .395 .549 162 7.0

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Bregman has rapidly ascended from quality infielder to bonafide superstar since getting the call in 2016, and became a household name during Houston’s 2017 postseason run, with amazing defensive plays and incredible walk-offs.

This year, the third baseman has been the most reliable Astros player on a club with reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve, World Series MVP George Springer, and former first overall pick Carlos Correa. Bregman’s only downfall is that the AL race features a top four who are a tier above the rest of the league. But the 24-year-old has certainly arrived.

4. J.D. Martinez

 .335 .407 .641 175 5.4

Martinez is tantalizingly close to capturing the first Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera, and second since fellow Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski. The only thing holding him back is his teammate Mookie Betts, who has a slim one-point edge in batting average, and Athletics designated hitter Khris Davis, who has one more homer.

Both Cabrera and Yastrzemski won the MVP, but they also played a position. Martinez is poor defensively, even by Miggy’s replacement-level standards during his 2012 MVP campaign, which relegates him to designated-hitting duties. It’s not that designated hitters don’t deserve accolades, but when compared to players such as Betts and Mike Trout, who have hitting stats close to or better than Martinez’s and also play strong defense, it’s hard to make the case that the Red Sox slugger is the most valuable player.

3. Jose Ramirez

 .287 .402 .590 160 8.0

Ramirez marks the beginning of the AL’s three-headed monster. With one month remaining, there’s little question that most voters will put Ramirez, Trout, and Betts atop their ballots. The order in which they rank those three is still yet to be determined.

You can make a compelling case that Ramirez belongs anywhere from first to third. After his unpredictable breakout in 2016, the versatile infielder took another step forward last season into the upper tier of MVP hopefuls. Now, the 25-year-old has taken yet another leap, nearly doubling his walk rate from 8.1 percent in 2017 when he finished third in MVP voting, to 15.5 percent in 2018. Ramirez’s 1.41 walk-per-strikeout rate leads the majors by a wide margin.

2. Mike Trout

 .305 .456 .604 184 8.0

Always the bridesmaid. At least, that’s the way it’s starting to feel for the two-time MVP who has never finished lower than fourth in voting throughout his six-year career.

Despite missing time due to a jammed wrist and bereavement, Trout leads the majors in walks, on-base percentage, and OPS+. The center fielder has been the best offensive player in all of baseball once again, but while his defense has improved since last season, it’s not enough when comparing him to Betts. Trout’s 1.3 runs saved in center pale in comparison to Betts’ 8.4 in right, which helps explain the slight discrepancy in WAR. Betts is still within striking distance, but Trout needs to have a spectacular final month to take home the hardware.

1. Mookie Betts

 .336 .426 .627 178 8.5

With the slight edge in slugging and the benefit of being on a playoff-bound team, Betts is the AL MVP, for now. It’s rather archaic to vote based on whether a player’s team is headed for the postseason, but it seems permissible when the race is this close.

Betts is mired in a bit of a slump, at least, by what Red Sox fans have come to expect from their star outfielder. Since Aug. 12, Mookie is 20-for-77 (.260) with two homers and a .778 OPS. Yet he is still leading all of baseball in batting average and is second in slugging percentage to teammate Martinez. With more than 20 games remaining, Betts needs just three stolen bases and one homer to give MLB its first 30-30 season since 2012 – an AL honor he’ll likely have to share with Ramirez, who may get there first as he needs just one steal to cement the milestone – and the first Red Sox player to do so since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011.

Honorable mention: Francisco Lindor (Indians), Matt Chapman (Athletics), Davis (Athletics)

(Pictures courtesy: Getty Images)
(Statistics courtesy: FanGraphs)