Close, but no cigar. These players are certain to appear on ballots given that the baseball writers who vote for this award can rank 10 candidates. They all had great seasons but didn’t do quite enough to crack my top five.
You won’t find any Yankees on this list. No, this isn’t an example of a Red Sox fan hating on our greatest rival. The New York Yankees won 100 games and set a major league record for the most home runs hit in a season yet nobody in their lineup stands out as an MVP candidate.
Reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton blasted 38 homers and drove in 100 RBI but was still considered by many to be a disappointment during his first year in pinstripes. Aaron Judge played well on a per game basis but missed too much time with a wrist injury to warrant consideration. Didi Gregorius was an early-season favorite but a brutal slump in May took the shine off his candidacy and he never rediscovered the power stroke he showed in April.
Matt Chapman may have warranted a top-five spot if his strong second half had led the Oakland A’s to a division title. His overall numbers at the plate are more solid than spectacular but voters do love a strong finish and Chapman hit .308 with a .962 OPS after the break. He’s an excellent defensive player with 29 defensive runs saved, giving his value a significant boost. His 8.2 bWAR ranks third in the league and he’s sixth with 6.5 fWAR.
The toughest omission is Francisco Lindor. The Cleveland Indians shortstop won’t win the award considering he’s not even the top candidate on his own team but his numbers aren’t far from his more worthy teammate. Lindor is actually tied with Jose Ramirez with 7.9 bWAR while Fangraphs only gives Ramirez a slight edge, 8.1 to 7.6 WAR.
You can certainly make a case that Lindor belongs in the top-five, I just couldn’t bring myself to put him ahead of any of these five candidates.