Let’s get this out of the way upfront, so nobody cries foul: the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton would be on this list, if (a) you hadn’t heard of them; and (b) an upcoming MVP season wasn’t pretty much an inevitable for both.
At the moment, what’s keeping Trout from winning MVP awards hand over fist is his team’s lackluster performance, which all comes down to that force ScoreBig controversially put on the Most Overpaid players list, the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera. Stanton’s main competitors appear to be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, who led his team into the National League Division Series in 2013; and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dominant pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who nobody can seem to hit (though pitchers hardly ever get MVP awards). The latter two play for contenders, whereas Stanton’s club is a perennial loser. So it’ll likely be an uphill battle for him despite his ridiculous numbers.
That said, Trout and Stanton have both been in their respective leagues long enough to make their case. But, it’s time to hunt down some other stars, who will be in the running for MVP awards for years to come — or might even get a handful of votes when the time comes for handing out awards this year. In doing so, we looked at 2014 WAR versus career WAR; and chose players that are not necessarily playing for a big-market team.
1. Josh Donaldson – Oakland Athletics – Third Baseman
Current WAR: 4.9 (2nd overall in AL)
Career WAR: 14.1
The Oakland Athletics’ Josh Donaldson had a breakout season in 2013, hitting over .300, scoring 89 runs, bashing 24 home runs, and driving in 93 RBIs. It earned him the respect of MVP voters, who rewarded him with a 4th-place showing. This season, he’s wasted no time building on last year’s successes, scoring 65 runs, slugging 21 HRs, and driving in 70 RBIs already — on his way to eclipsing 2013’s stellar stats. If the A’s win the division (which they’re leading by a pair of games at the moment) and make the playoffs — and Donaldson sustains his productive pace — MVP voters could come ’a calling once again.
2. Charlie Blackmon – Colorado Rockies – Right Fielder
Current WAR: 1.9
Career WAR: 2.0
At the beginning of the season, the Colorado Rockies had an overcrowded outfield situation on their hands just like their NL West division rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers. And above all odds, Charlie Blackmon, who exceeded his rookie limits during the 2011 season, out-played his competition, won one of the coveted starting spots, and never gave it up. Batting .300-plus, scoring 53 runs, smacking 14 HRs, and eclipsing his 2013 RBI totals by 30 (!), Blackmon’s making the case for nicest surprise performance of 2014. Did we mention he’s nearly tripled his speed on the basepaths, with 18 swipes vs. 7 all of last year? The career WAR is low because he’s been untested as a starter — but given the stats he’s put up, if the Rocks make a move out of the NL West basement, he could start seeing a few MVP votes. Even if they don’t, he’ll surely make the 2015 Opening Day roster.
3. Todd Frazier – Cincinnati Reds – First Baseman/Third Baseman
Current WAR: 3.7
Career WAR: 9.3
One of the best stories to come out of this year’s All-Star Game was that the Cincinnati Reds’ Todd Frazier, as a Little Leaguer, got to meet New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter back in 1998, after Frazier’s Toms River, New Jersey, team won the Little League World Series. Just 3.5 games out of first, the Reds could make a serious run before the year’s over — and given how well Frazier’s been playing, in tandem with other young-guns Billy Hamilton and Devin Mesoraco, he could see some MVP votes if his team makes a push into the postseason. Also take note of that career WAR — second only to Josh Donaldson on this list. Frazier’s a Big Red machine all by himself.
4. Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – Starting Pitcher
Current WAR: 3.3
Career WAR: 6.5
The Atlanta Braves lost two of their starting pitchers for the season early on, so it was up to young starters like Julio Teheran, who had a breakout 2013 campaign, to step things up. Without a doubt, he’s become the de facto ace of the staff, posting a 2.64 ERA, and is 9-6 with 127 punch-outs to start off the 2014 season. Notice also his current 3.3 WAR, which will likely crest around 3.5 (a slight improvement over last year) — a tell-tale sign that he’s an integral part of the team’s winning ways. If he can continue pitching at a high level for the rest of the season and helps Atlanta button up the division, there will be no doubt that he’ll be in the NL MVP discussion (not to mention the Cy Young).
5. Brian Dozier – Minnesota Twins – Second Baseman
Current WAR: 2.8
Career WAR: 7.2
Third only to Josh Donaldson and Todd Frazier in career WAR on this list, it’s obvious that the Minnesota Twins have something special in infielder Brian Dozier. He had comparable WAR (3.8) in his first full year in the majors to another, much higher-profile second baseman, the Boston Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia (3.9). The following year? Pedroia won the MVP. While Dozier isn’t playing for a championship squad just yet — the Twins are dead last in the AL Central — he has the potential of helping his team rise to the occasion. And seeing some MVP votes down the road to boot.
6. Marcell Ozuna – Miami Marlins – Center Fielder
Current WAR: 3.2
Career WAR: 3.9
Talk about a force to be reckoned with in 2014. Miami Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna has nearly doubled his RBI total year-over-year (53) and has hit five times as many dingers (15), in part due to regular playing time. Remember, he’s not even the crusher of note in the Marlins’ outfield (see: Giancarlo Stanton). He’s rumored to be part of early trade discussions, so if he were to join a contender, it would all but lock up his potential. Just imagine what would happen if he were neck-and-neck with his current (or former) teammate for a future MVP award. Yikes.
7. Starling Marte – Pittsburgh Pirates – Left Fielder
Current WAR: 2.1
Career WAR: 8.7
Don’t ever count out the Pittsburgh Pirates. After have a breakout 2013 campaign and winning the NL Wild Card, baseball started taking the team seriously again. Starling Marte is one of the main reasons why. That career WAR doesn’t lie! A five-tooler, Marte is a threat all over the diamond — and although he shares a team (and the spotlight) with perennial MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, it’s entirely possible that he could eclipse his teammate in the future. Another way to get out from under McCutchen’s shadow? Get traded. He’s apparently being courted by the Seattle Mariners. Whether he stays or goes, Marte’s a definite MVP candidate of the future, in our books.
8. Nolan Arenado – Colorado Rockies – Third Baseman
Current WAR: 1.6
Career WAR: 5.6
Arenado got off to a monumental start in 2014, with a 28-game hit streak, and was one of the reasons the Rockies were so hot (they’ve since nose-dived into last). Any time you get into hit-streak territory, people start talking Joe DiMaggio and his 56-gamer. Now, we’re not making any sort of apples-to-apples comparison in the least, but given Arenado’s first-year WAR of 3.9, we gather he’ll be upping the ante once he gets his footing back from his recent, lengthy DL stint (good thing he plays in a hitter’s ballpark). If that means winning a boatload more games for his struggling ball club, that could spell some MVP votes.
9. Chris Owings – Arizona Diamondbacks – Shortstop
Current WAR: 2.1
Career WAR: 2.4
The Arizona Diamondbacks will need to get their act together — whether it be this or next year — and one way they might be able to do it is via their talented rookie shortstop, Chris Owings. Despite battling a sore shoulder of late, the sure signs of talent are there: .277 batting average, 66 hits (15 doubles), and 26 runs just past the All-Star break. He also has a WAR 7-times higher than it was the previous season. If he can stay healthy, he’ll likely be in the National League Rookie of the Year discussion. And given the talent that’s passed through the shortstop position over the last 25 years, he could have a breakout performance at any point in his young career.
10. Christian Yelich – Miami Marlins – Left Field
Current WAR: 2.1
Career WAR: 3.3
We had to put the Miami Marlins’ Christian Yelich on this list to prove a point. With list-mate Marcell Ozuna and 2014 MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton, he makes up one of the most ridiculous outfields in baseball. He’s already nearly matched last year’s hits total, has seen increased power in HR/RBI categories (each stat has doubled), upped his runs total, and eclipsed last year’s total stolen bases. We’re going to predict a rise in WAR before the season’s through — and the potential for great things to come. Could one of those be a World Series title to add to 1997’s and 2003’s?
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Atlanta Braves Brian Dozier Charlie Blackmon Christian Yelich Cincinnati Reds Colorado Rockies Josh Donaldson Julio Teheran Marcell Ozuna Miami Marlins Minnesota Twins MLB Nolan Arenado Oakland Athletics Pittsburgh Pirates Starling Marte Todd Frazier