We’ve taken a look at Rookie of the Year candidates as well as potential Cy Youngs. It’s time to look at the Most Valuable Player award, starting with the Junior Circuit as always!
Past MVP Winners:
Alex Rodriguez (2003 Rangers; 2005, 2007 Yankees): Rodriguez will be 40 years old come Opening Day, and although he had a comeback season last year, it’s hard to see A-Rod putting up huge numbers to contend for his fourth MVP award. He’ll be chasing Babe Ruth for third-place on the all-time home runs list. He sits 27 bombs behind the Sultan of Swat.
Albert Pujols (2005, 2008, 2009 Cardinals; Angels): Pujols had his best season as an Angel last season and will look to continue that success as him and fellow MVP-winner Mike Trout try to lead the Angels back to the playoffs. However, Pujols is in danger of missing Opening Day and he might not return to the Angels until May. At a time when he’ll be entering his 36-year-old season, injuries will surely continue to creep up on Pujols. He probably won’t be able to contend for an MVP award for the rest of his career, but he can still swing the bat pretty good. The Angels will need all the offense they can get, so Pujols can still be a big threat for opposing pitchers.
Dustin Pedroia (2008 Red Sox): It’s been 8 years since Pedroia won the 2008 MVP, and he hasn’t had as good of an offensive season since. Pedroia is still an elite defender, having won the Gold Glove four times, including as recent as 2014. But it’s a long shot for him to be able to return to those 2008 numbers.
Joe Mauer (2009 Twins): Mauer’s catching days are far behind him and he’ll be playing as the everyday first baseman for the Twins. Mauer is still a big presence in the Twins lineup, but he’s no longer the power threat he once was. Those duties have been transferred over to rookie phenom Miguel Sano. The Twins’ new addition, Byung-ho Park, is also known for his home runs, so Mauer won’t be relied on provide that power that he used to. He won’t be contending for an MVP award any time soon, in my opinion.
Josh Hamilton (2010 Rangers): Hamilton has gone a long way since winning the 2010 MVP. In the midst of PED suspensions and other off the field issues, Hamilton has never been the same player. After the Angels dumped him back to the Rangers, Texas is hoping they’ll get something close to the player he once was to play some games in left field for the Rangers. They’ll manage his time in left field so he doesn’t re-injure himself. With limited playing time and injury concerns, Hamilton will not be contending for a second MVP this season.
Justin Verlander (2011 Tigers): Verlander had an excellent second half last year, and he’s hoping to continue that success into 2016 as Detroit’s ace. He has a good chance of doing just that, but it’s unlikely he can ever return to his lights-out 2011 form to garner consideration for a Cy Young, let alone the MVP. He is still an important piece of the Tigers this year, but don’t bet on JV having a monstrous year to out-perform the sluggers on this list.
Miguel Cabrera (2012, 2013 Tigers): Cabrera had two back-to-back MVP seasons in 2012 and 2013, including winning the Triple Crown in 2012. The past few years, he’s been hobbled with injuries, including landing on the disabled list for the first time in his career last year. However, this will be his first offseason of no surgeries in a few years and he’s enjoyed a normal offseason routine. He’s still the same threat he’s always been, and he has the chance to do even more damage hitting around Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton in 2016. If his power returns as expected, Cabrera will surely contend for that MVP award once again.
Mike Trout (2014 Angels): Trout was the runner-up for MVP in 2012, 2013, and 2015. In his first four seasons in the majors, he’s placed first or second every single time. There’s no reason not to think that Trout can follow up with another MVP-caliber season. Trout, however, will still need the support of his teammates to help him drive in runs. He won’t have the luxury of having Albert Pujols protecting him at the beginning of the season, so the Angels will need Trout more than ever. Expect Trout to deliver.
Josh Donaldson (2015 Blue Jays): Donaldson had a stellar first season in Toronto by winning the MVP. He’s placed in the top-3 before, but he beat out Mike Trout for the MVP award. He has the great privilege of playing alongside other powerful sluggers in the slugfest that is the Blue Jays lineup, such as Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki. He should benefit from having those guys around him once again on his quest to win back-to-back MVPs.
Manny Machado: Machado had a great season last year, and many experts believe that he will win a MVP in 2016. I can’t say that I don’t agree with the fact that Machado will seriously contend for that MVP this year. He’s still so young and, if he can stay healthy year-round, Machado is primed for a huge season alongside Adam Jones, Chris Davis and the rest of the Orioles.
Lorenzo Cain: Cain placed third in the 2015 MVP balloting in a career year. Cain might not return to his lofty numbers in 2015, but he might do just enough to garner MVP recognition with his speed in the outfield and the basepaths.
Prince Fielder: Fielder has protected three MVPs in his career: 2011 with Ryan Braun and 2012-2013 with Miguel Cabrera. After losing nearly all of 2014 with the Rangers due to a herniated disk, Fielder had a comeback last season. After experiencing a normal offseason that didn’t include being traded or injury concerns for the first time in a while, Fielder has the opportunity to light the league on fire and return to his impressive numbers when he was a Milwaukee Brewer. If he can do that, he can contend for that MVP. However, voters might not award him the MVP if he plays DH for the majority of the season, which we’ve seen happen as recently as 2014 when Trout beat Victor Martinez for the award.
Chris Davis: Davis re-signed with the Orioles in the offseason, so he has the added benefit of returning to a hitter-friendly park. Davis has been one of the league leaders in home runs the past few seasons, and he’ll most likely do that once again in 2016. If he cut down his strikeout numbers and raise his batting average, Davis could be looking at serious consideration for the MVP.
Notable Position Players to Switch Leagues:
Justin Upton: Upton will be making the transition from the NL where he’s played for his entire career with the Dbacks, Braves, and Padres to an AL park that’s a bit pitcher-friendly with the Tigers. Upton’s home run numbers might go down at Comerica Park, but his doubles will surely go up due to Comerica’s spacious outfield. He might also transition to hitting for more contact as we’ve seen Ian Kinsler do when he went from Texas to Detroit. He’s an important piece of the Tigers lineup, but it might take him a while to adjust to unfamiliar AL pitchers.
Predicted Finalists: Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Miguel Cabrera
Predicted Winner: Mike Trout