Baseball’s 2023 MVP Contenders
There are just two weeks to go in the 2023 Major League Baseball regular season. Contending teams are making their final push for an MLB Postseason berth. The next two weeks will be epic. Only two divisional races have been decided so far. The final two Wild Card berths in both the American and National Leagues are completely up for grabs!
Four teams have already punched their tickets to the MLB Postseason. The Baltimore Orioles will make their first postseason appearance since 2016. They are still battling for the A.L. East crown with the Tampa Bay Rays who have clinched an MLB Postseason berth for the fifth straight year. Only two games separate the O’s and Rays in the A.L. East.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched a postseason berth for the 11th consecutive season. They have now won the N.L. West for the tenth time in those eleven seasons. The Atlanta Braves have MLB’s best record and have clinched the N.L. East crown. They will make their sixth consecutive MLB Postseason appearance and are vying for their second World Series win in three years.
Contending teams will look to their star players to help them clinch a ticket to baseball’s postseason. The MVP races in both leagues are just as tight as the standings. Players would much rather get a World Series ring than an MVP trophy – but why not have both?
Here are three players in the running for Most Valuable Player award in each league:
(Stats Key: AVG = Batting Average, HR = Home Runs, RBI = Runs Batted In, R = Runs, SB = Stolen Bases, SLG = Slugging, OPS = On-Base Plus Slugging, WAR = Wins Above Replacement, ERA = Earned Run Average, WHIP = Walks Plus Hits Per Inning, K = Strikeout, SO9 = Strikeouts Per 9 Innings)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels: 10.1 WAR
2023 Stats: .304 AVG, 44 HR, 95 RBI, 20 SB, .654 SLG, 1.066 OPS; 10-5, 3.14 ERA, 11.4 SO9
Ohtani looked like he was going to run away with the A.L. MVP award at the All-Star break. The Angels decided to buy at the trade deadline. Then everything went south. The Angels went 8-19 in August and have posted a record of 12-30 since July 31st.
That added insult to injury, literally. Ohtani’s production slowed in the second half but remained a bright spot before tearing the UCL in his pitching arm. He continued to DH, but recently suffered an oblique strain that ended his season.
Ohtani is arguably the best all-around player in MLB, but he may lose some MVP votes. He cleaned out his locker and left the Angels on Friday. Ohtani was then spotted arriving in Japan on Saturday. He’s a free agent at the end of the season. Leaving his team early may not impress MVP voters.
I guess we can rule out him returning to the Angels. We might rule out his second A.L. MVP award too.
Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners: 5.8 WAR
2023 Stats: .290 AVG, 30 HR, 99 RBI, 95 R, 36 SB, .849 OPS
There haven’t been many guys in MLB who have had a hotter second half than Julio Rodriguez. Since July 1st, J-ROD had hit .350, smashed 17 homers, drove in 57 runs, and stole 18 bases. The Mariners have gone 40-23 during that time to get back into Wild Card contention. If that’s not the definition of an MVP candidate, then I don’t know what is.
Rodriguez has posted MLB’s 23rd ever 30-30 season (home runs and stolen bases) and is on the verge of his first 100 RBI season. J-ROD is in the top-10 in the American League in several offensive categories including 3rd in both RBI and stolen bases.
He should receive heavy consideration for A.L. MVP if the Seattle Mariners manage to qualify for the MLB postseason for the second straight year.
Corey Seager, Texas Rangers: 6.7 WAR
2023 Stats: .340 AVG, 31 HR, 92 RBI, 83 R, 1.060 OPS, .657 SLG
Imagine if Corey Seager had stayed healthy all season. The Rangers star shortstop has played in only 105 games coming into Sunday’s slate of action. Despite missing 44 games, Seager is in the top-10 in the American League in most batting categories!
His 1.060 OPS is second in the A.L. to Ohtani and his .340 batting average leads the league. Corey Seager’s presence in the Rangers lineup is a big reason why Texas has the highest team batting average and has scored the most runs in the American League
Like Rodriguez, Corey Seager should receive heavy consideration for A.L. MVP if the Texas Rangers clinch a postseason berth.
Ronald Acuña, Jr., Atlanta Braves: 7.6 WAR
2023 Stats: .337 AVG, 37 HR, 98 RBI, 135 R, 66 SB, 1.004 OPS, .586 SLG
Acuña’s stat line looks like something out of MLB’s “The Show.” The Braves’ 25-year-old outfielder is performing like the 2023 season is a video game. He’s vying to post MLB’s first 40-40 season since Alex Rodriguez in 1998. Hell, Acuña, Jr. could finish with 40 homers AND 70 stolen bases!
In addition, Acuña, Jr. leads all of MLB in runs scored. He’s second in the N.L. in batting average, third in OPS, third in slugging, and fifth in home runs. Acuña, Jr., has done all of this from the leadoff spot in the Atlanta Braves lineup.
Outside of pitching, Acuña, Jr. has been the best player on the best team in MLB. That sounds like an MVP to me.
Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers: 8.1 WAR
2023 Stats: .310 AVG, 39 HR, 103 RBI, 121 R, 13 SB, .599 SLB, 1.009 OPS
Mookie Betts is vying to become just the second player in MLB history to win the MVP award in both leagues. The late Frank Robinson is the only person to achieve this feat to date. Like Acuña, Jr., Betts has done his damage from the leadoff spot in the Dodgers lineup.
Betts leads the N.L. in OPS. He’s also second in runs scored, second in slugging, third in RBI, and fourth in home runs. Betts is a big reason why the Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched their tenth N.L. West Division Title in eleven seasons.
It will be a tight vote for this year’s N.L. MVP award. Betts’ performance won’t make it easier for voters.
Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves: 6.8 WAR
2023 Stats: .281 AVG, 52 HR, 129 RBI, 117 R, .617 SLG, 1.005 OPS
Olson’s first season as a Brave in 2022 was solid (.240 AVG, 34 HR, 103 RBI) replacing the beloved Freddie Freeman at first base in Atlanta. His 2023 season has made Braves fans almost forget about Freeman altogether.
Matt Olson leads Major League Baseball in home runs and RBI by a wide margin. He also leads the N.L. in slugging, is second in OPS, and fourth in runs scored. Often times it’s been Acuña, Jr. getting on base and Olson driving him in. Those two have paced the Braves NL-leading offense.
Olson is also a big reason why the Atlanta Braves are chasing the 2019 Minnesota Twins team record of 307 home runs.
MVP voters certainly have their work cut out for them in choosing MVP winners in both leagues. It will be especially tough choosing a National League MVP this year. If I were one of the writers who cast MVP ballets this is what mine would look like. Here is how I rank the top-5 in both leagues:
American League – Winner: Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners
1st Place: Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners
2nd Place: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
3rd Place: Corey Seager, Texas Rangers
4th Place: Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
5th Place: Marcus Semien, Texas Rangers
National League – Winner: Ronald Acuña, Jr., Atlanta Braves
1st Place: Ronald Acuña, Jr., Atlanta Braves
2nd Place: Matt Olson, Atlanta Braves
3rd Place: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
4th Place: Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers
5th Place: Corbin Carroll, Arizona Diamondbacks
How would your MVP ballots look?