With only two weeks remaining in the regular season, there isn’t much time left for players to pad their statistics for end-of-year accolades. Here, theScore looks at what each of the main contenders for the 2018 AL and NL MVP awards must do in order to walk away with the hardware.
Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Save for the lowly Orioles, Betts will face some tough pitching down the stretch against rivals and possible playoff opponents. There’s also a possibility the Red Sox opt to rest him with the division locked up.
No matter where the Red Sox have played this year, Betts has hit the ball. His splits are almost even, though he’s displayed a bit more power away from Fenway.
Odds to win: -235
Betts finished in the top 10 in MVP voting the last two years and was runner-up in 2016, but until now the mere presence of Mike Trout in the AL prevented him from being the favorite for the honor.
What Betts needs for MVP
Stay the course and remain healthy. A triple crown may be out of the question, but Betts is within striking distance of a 30-30 campaign that would complete an outstanding all-around season. Health may turn out to be a factor, as Betts has been dealing with a sore side. At this point, he’s the front-runner to take home the award, as he’s put together the most well-rounded season of any player in the majors.
Alex Bregman, Astros
It’s a favorable schedule for Bregman, who has enjoyed hitting against all four of the listed teams. The final week against Toronto and Baltimore will be a chance for him to pad those statistics – when he’s not resting.
It’s not that Bregman has been bad away from Houston, but his numbers outside of Minute Maid Park haven’t been up to the same level. Still, you can bet he’s looking forward to those four games at Camden Yards, where he’s hit three homers in seven career contests.
Odds to win: N/A
How much of a long shot is Bregman? He’s still not being given a line by oddsmakers. Meanwhile, Bregman’s teammate, defending AL MVP Jose Altuve, isn’t even in the running this year yet remains listed at 1,000-1 odds.
What Bregman needs for MVP
Don’t change gears after clinching. The Astros are going to the playoffs once again, and barring the unforeseen, they’ll do so as division champions. Bregman should get some time to rest over the last week or so, but he can’t afford to scale it back too far if he wants that MVP. This race is so tight at the top that he’s going to need one last burst before the playoffs begin in order to lock down the award.
J.D. Martinez, Red Sox
Martinez, of course, has the same schedule as his teammate Betts. Barring further injury concerns for Betts, Martinez could see a lot of time at the DH spot down the stretch for some partial rest days ahead of October.
If ever there was a perfect fit between ballpark and player, it’s Fenway Park and J.D. Martinez. Moving to Boston has turned the 31-year-old into an even bigger offensive monster than he was previously, and the venerable stadium has fueled his triple crown run. And it’s not like this is purely a Green Monster creation, either, since his road splits are more than up to par.
Odds to win: +500
A triple crown chase hasn’t garnered Martinez any love from the oddsmakers.
What Martinez needs for MVP
The triple crown. It may not seem like he has to win the trifecta, but he’s so close to becoming just the second player since 1967 to lead the majors in home runs, RBIs, and average, so to miss now would kind of be disappointing. The problem is, Martinez must catch up to the surging Khris Davis in home runs, while also catching Betts in the batting title race. That’s a tall order this late in the year. If Martinez doesn’t win the crown, it will likely play into voters’ minds in a big way.
Jose Ramirez, Indians
Ah, the benefits of playing in the AL Central. Aside from that potential ALCS preview against the Red Sox, Ramirez will get to pad his stats by feasting on the pitching staffs of two bottom-feeders in the White Sox and Royals.
Ramirez certainly seems to enjoy hitting at Progressive Field. It’s too bad, then, that Cleveland likely won’t have home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Odds to win: +500
It may seem like a two-horse race between Betts and Ramirez, but right now the books don’t see it that way. The odds have Ramirez a ways back of the leaders.
What Ramirez needs for MVP
Get back into a groove, and fast. Although he did get his 30-30 season and should reach 40-30 with ease, Ramirez has struggled in September and lost his chance at a triple crown. He needs to take advantage of the soft schedule, not only to increase his MVP chances but to gain some steam before the playoffs begin.
Mike Trout, Angels
There’s no schedule that can prove too difficult for Mike Trout. Even the two series against playoff-bound Oakland should give him no trouble since he’s spent most of his career torching the A’s.
The only ballparks that might stop Trout are the old wooden ones from the early 1900s where outfield fences sat 500 feet away and spectators adorned in bowler hats lined the field of play – and even there Trout would probably just hit a million inside-the-parkers.
Odds to win: +450
Even though the Angels are about to be absent from October for a fourth straight year, Trout’s still got the second-best odds of winning this award.
What Trout needs for MVP
Do what Mike Trout does. He’s the best player in baseball, and he’s going to get MVP votes despite another injury-shortened season. Trout’s likely going to finish the season as the AL leader in walks, on-base percentage, and OPS without playing 145 games – nobody’s close to him in any of these categories – so the only question left is to wonder whether the combination of his unparalleled brilliance and his being forced to almost singlehandedly elevate a bad, injury-riddled team every single night will be enough to net him MVP No. 3.
Javier Baez, Cubs
Though the Cubs have zero off days remaining, Baez still gets to play his last nine games in his home city of Chicago thanks to that trio of road contests on the South Side.
Some hitters love swinging at Wrigley – but not Baez, who’s been a machine on the road this season.
Odds to win: +240
In a crowded field that features an array of choices who bring a variety of different strengths to the field, it’s Baez who currently sits as the Senior Circuit’s odds-on choice for MVP.
What Baez needs for MVP
Luck. Saying this is not meant to denigrate Baez in any way. The 25-year-old was known as a defense-first player until finally breaking out as a hitter this season, and he’s done that while continuing to play Gold Glove-worthy defense at not one, not two, but three infield positions. He’s been the Cubs’ rock this year. Yet even though he leads the NL in RBIs and total bases, Baez may not have enough to even get into the top three of MVP voting this year. Rarely does a defense-first player nab this award, even one who’s shown vast improvement at the plate. Baez needs some luck courtesy of the spotlight he’s afforded from playing on the NL’s best team to make this happen. A little flourish at the end wouldn’t hurt either.
Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
Carpenter gets a mixed bag down the stretch. On the one hand, there are important games against possible playoff opponents in Atlanta and Milwaukee – but he also gets the lowly Giants and a trip to Wrigley, where he’s hitting .458 this season.
Somewhat surprisingly, the road has been far friendlier to Carpenter this year.
Odds to win: +325
It’s been four years since Carpenter last received MVP votes, and there may still be some skepticism about his candidacy. With that in mind, the fact that he’s got the third-best odds in the NL right now is surely a welcomed sight for those who enjoy and appreciate his game.
What Carpenter needs for MVP
One last surge. Carpenter is capable of doing that, especially in his career season that’s seen him morph from a quiet-doubles and on-base machine into an all-around threat at the plate by crossing the 30-homer mark for the first time. If he can use this week to push his on-base percentage even closer to – or perhaps even past – the .400 mark, not to mention pushing the Cardinals into the playoffs, his case will get a major boost. No matter what happens, Carpenter is almost certain to ride this career year into the top three of MVP voting.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies
The final slate of home games for Colorado will consist of a couple NL East teams that will likely be playing out the string. Arenado is likely to benefit from the scheduling god’s gift.
As you’d expect, Arenado is a far better hitter in the thin-aired friendly confines of Coors Field. He hasn’t enjoyed the Rockies’ many road trips to their California-based division rivals this year.
Odds to win: +325
Arenado is tied with Carpenter for the third-best odds in the NL.
What Arenado needs for MVP
A final week for the ages. The Rockies are in a dogfight, and may have just lost star shortstop Trevor Story to an elbow injury at the worst possible time. If the Rockies are going to get back to the playoffs, let alone win their first division title in franchise history, it will now fall on Arenado – the face of this team – to pull them there. He’s more than capable of doing that with both his glove and bat. Pushing the Rockies to October by himself, right before the writers (many of whom have shown tendencies to hold Coors Field against hitters come award season) submit their ballots might provide the recency bias needed to get over the hump and claim his MVP.
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Aside from that final series in San Diego, Goldschmidt gets a slew of contenders to close out the campaign.
Goldy’s been much better on the road this year. Unfortunately for him, it’s a Chase Field-heavy schedule down the stretch.
Odds to win: +700
As Arizona’s season has slid away, so have Goldschmidt’s odds of winning the MVP.
What Goldschmidt needs for MVP
A playoff spot. Goldschmidt’s actually been money for the suddenly sinking D-Backs in September (.329/.426/.576), but it hasn’t done a thing to turn Arizona’s fortunes around. Realistically, his MVP chances for this year rests on what happens to his team, and that’s bad news for him. His best shot may have been last season when he was done in by an incredibly crowded field and a historically close vote.
Christian Yelich, Brewers
Between the final set against a Tigers team looking to go home and three NL Central rivals that he’s torched at the plate this year, it should be an easy final week for Yelich. It’s too bad for him that he has just one game left against the Reds this year since he’s hitting a ridiculous .481 against them over 13 games.
Yelich has truly taken to life at Miller Park, but his splits are also incredibly even. It’s hard to avoid getting hurt by his bat no matter where the game is being played.
Odds to win: +800
Yelich has now hit for the cycle twice this season and is among the leaders in multiple slash-line categories, yet somehow remains well behind the pack in the eyes of the oddsmakers.
What Yelich needs for MVP
Keep this strong finish going. Yelich has been one of the main reasons why the Brewers have stayed afloat in September, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. He’s in very good position to get a plethora of votes, and right now this might be his trophy to lose.
(Splits courtesy: Baseball-Reference)
(Odds courtesy: OddsShark)