Boston Red Sox stars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez both factor heavily in the AL MVP race. Here’s how we rank the top-five candidates.
There are many ways to approach the AL MVP ballot. The term “most valuable” is open to interpretation. Regardless of how you view a player’s value, one thing is clear when accessing the loaded crop of candidates in the American League – the Boston Red Sox are going to be a significant factor in this race.
The Red Sox have a pair of worthy candidates but which will be chosen by those leaning toward rewarding a player from the team with the league’s best record? The better all-around player or the slugger who made a valiant run at the Triple Crown? Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez may split some votes, potentially hindering the chances of either taking home the hardware.
That won’t be a concern for the purposes of these rankings, where the only vote factored in is my own.
How did I go about determining the order of this ballot? Several factors need to be considered. The Red Sox won a franchise record 108 games, five more than any other team in the majors. That certainly helps the case of Betts and Martinez but doesn’t automatically lock them into the top two spots. Players were still given consideration even if they play for teams that fell short of the postseason but we also can’t ignore that they played in fewer meaningful games.
The offensive categories are what typically catch our eye. Everyone digs the home run. However, baserunning and defense still matter. We have to consider everything.
WAR is arguably the best all-encompassing statistic we have at our disposal and is a significant factor that you will see referenced often in these rankings. However, it is not the be-all-end-all. Otherwise, we’d simply be filling out our ballots based on the WAR rankings – a task complicated by the fact that Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs don’t even have players ranked in the same order.
I also left pitchers out of consideration. Technically, pitchers are eligible to win the MVP and it has happened on occasion. I tend to favor position players who contribute on a daily basis over a starting pitcher who only participates once every five days. Relievers don’t pitch enough innings to be a factor in my view. Pitchers have their own award for a reason. There are years where a starter is so dominant that they force their way into the MVP discussion but that’s generally in seasons where worthy position player candidates are limited. That’s not the case this year. I had a hard enough time leaving off several candidates outside of my top five before considering a pitcher.
With these criteria in mind, here’s how I would rank the top-five AL MVP candidates.