Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
We’re not anywhere near the second half of the season to this point, but since he’s off to another fantastic start in this 2014 campaign, it’s worth observing Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was considered an MVP candidate for much of the 2013 season before disappearing for a stretch for most of the month of July, and struggling to regain his consistency until he re-established himself in the month of September.
Donaldson’s 2013 was particularly impressive given the fact that he only had 89 games of service time to his credit prior to last year. He finished with a slash line of .301/.384/.499/.883, while going for a 7.7 WAR and a 148 wRC+, with those latter two figures representing elite numbers. He hit 24 home runs, knocked in 89 runs, while posting very respectable strikeout and walk rates. In short, he established himself as a premier third baseman in this league.
This season, he’s off to another solid start, though his numbers haven’t approached the elite level to this point. Nonetheless, he’s the offensive leader of one of the top teams in baseball, with the A’s looking to capture their third consecutive American League West title.
The batting average isn’t there like it was last year, but Donaldson’s BABIP has dipped nearly 40 points and his strikeout numbers are higher than they were throughout last season. The additional at bats as the season wears on should help that strikeout percentage, currently just over 21 percent, to shrink some. Even with his average sitting at .261, the majority of his numbers actually look quite good.
He’s at seven homers thus far this season and has already knocked in 25 runs. His ISO is at a very impressive .214, so he’s hitting for extra bases. His wRC+ is up at 130, which is another impressive figure. If his average ticks up as the season wears on, then those numbers are going to get even better. The fact that they’re already solid while he’s hitting in the mid-200s helps to illustrate how dangerous he is at the plate. If that BABIP goes up, so will his numbers across the board.
We sort of forgot about Josh Donaldson as an MVP candidate last year because of how badly he tailed off in July, which carried over into August. He hit just .233 during that month, while recording only a trio of home runs and knocking in a season-low eight runs. He was able to pick the pace back up in September, though, which carried over into the start of the year.
Make no mistake about it, even though he plays his games in one of baseball’s smaller markets, and on the West Coast, Donaldson is an elite player at his position. If he can continue to hit for extra bases and reach base at the rate that he is, he’s going to be in the mix for the American League Most Valuable Player award at the end of the year, especially as the offensive catalyst for a contending A’s ballclub.