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 NL MVP.
5. Javier Baez, Cubs
In a Cubs lineup featuring a former MVP and a host of All-Stars, it’s the electric Baez who shines for the first-place club from the Windy City.
The 25-year-old entered Thursday leading the NL in slugging percentage among qualified hitters and tied for the lead in RBIs with 100.
Baez has always had dynamite in his bat, but his wRC+ is 36 points higher than his previous career best, while his isolated power skyrocketed from .207 last year to .276 this season.
The combination of his offensive dynamism and defensive versatility – he’s played four different positions for the Cubs this year – helps the free-swinging Puerto Rican edge out fellow infielders Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman.
4. Christian Yelich, Brewers
What a past couple of months it’s been for Yelich.
In 52 games in July and August, the 26-year-old outfielder hit 15 home runs, drove in 42 runs, recorded 17 doubles, and had 77 hits for the Brew Crew, who have control of a wild-card spot and are nipping at the heels of the Cubs in the NL Central.
Six of Yelich’s 35 hits last month came during a historic performance against the Reds on Aug. 29 when he became the second hitter to record a cycle in 2018 – joining Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox – and just the eighth player in Brewers history to do so.
3. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
The salsa-eating machine has certainly left his mark on baseball over the past four months.
After hitting .155/.305/.274 in March and April, the 32-year-old Carpenter has since recorded 33 home runs, 66 RBIs, and 35 doubles, including two consecutive months (June and July) with an OPS over 1.040.
No qualified hitter in the NL has a higher wRC+ than Carpenter and he’s been about as valuable to the Cardinals as J.D. Martinez has been to Red Sox.
Carpenter has been one of the biggest contributing factors to the Cardinals’ hold on a playoff spot after it looked early in the year as though they were destined for another postseason miss.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
Like Carpenter, Goldschmidt turned things around after a rough stretch early in his campaign.
Since the beginning of June, Goldy has crushed 24 home runs, driven in 61 runs, and recorded 112 hits.
His spectacular turnaround saw him post a whopping 228 OPS+ in June after recording a lowly 47 in May. It now sits at 142 overall, closer to his career mark, and the Diamondbacks are just two games back of the division lead.
1. Jacob deGrom, Mets
DeGrom’s season is both perplexing and historic.
He owns baseball’s lowest ERA among starters and is worth more fWAR than any other pitcher. Yet here he is with eight wins because the team he plays for doesn’t score runs on the days he pitches.
In 28 starts, deGrom has allowed a total of 42 runs (35 earned). In 12 of his starts, in which he’s 0-7, the Mets have provided him with two or fewer runs of support. When the Mets score three or more runs during a deGrom start, he’s 8-1.
The right-hander is so good at limiting runs, he made history during his last outing after allowing three or fewer runs in 25 consecutive starts – a major-league record for a single season, dating back to 1913.
DeGrom is poised to become the first pitcher to win a Cy Young and MVP in the same season since Clayton Kershaw did so in 2014.
Honorable mention: Arenado (Rockies), Freeman (Braves), Lorenzo Cain (Brewers)
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
(Statistics courtesy: Fangraphs)