Baseball expert Jordan Duffy, a fantasy MLB expert, previews the NL MVP in his debut article.
With a 60-game season, many things become much more of a crapshoot. The NL MVP was already going to be tricky to predict prior to COVID-19. Will an established, perennial all-star like Betts or Yelich win? Could Bellinger repeat his 2019? Or will a young phenom like Acuña or Soto rise above the competition?
With the small sample size of 60 games, what would normally be an insignificant hot/cold streak could be the difference between winning the MVP and not even being in the conversation.
Christian Yelich +700
I know what you are probably thinking: did you forget that Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers? No, I did not. Mookie Betts is the overwhelming favorite to win MVP after leaving Mike Trout’s shadow in the American League, but I decided to go with a bolder decision in Christian Yelich.
I went with Yelich as he is the superior offensive player, while Betts is more well-rounded. Although voters have become a lot better about considering every aspect of the game in recent years, defensive statistics are notoriously volatile and in a shortened season, voters will likely put a larger emphasis on offense.
There’s no question that Yelich is the real deal. Following his 2018 MVP campaign, Yelich put up another MVP caliber season in 2019 (and he likely would have repeated had a broken kneecap not cut his season short). His peripherals also have supported the results: 99th percentile for xwOBA and xSLG, and 98th percentile for xAVG and Exit Velocity, according to Statcast.
Honorable Mention: Mookie Betts (duh)
Big name to be avoid: Cody Bellinger
Cody Bellinger is coming off a huge year, which goes without saying considering he is the reigning MVP. Having just turned 25, he looks very appealing at first glance; however, his stats were heavily inflated by a very hot start.
Bellinger finished 2019 with 7.8 fWAR—tied with Yelich for the NL best—but 3.8 (~49%) of it came during his first 46 games. That was 1.0 fWAR ahead of Yelich, who ranked second at the time.
In his remaining 110 games, he played much more like the Cody Bellinger we had seen in previous years. Although still very good, it’s not MVP material. He put up 4.0 fWAR—which was good for 18th in the MLB and 9th in the NL in that timespan. He slashed .263/.373/.562 for a wRC+ of 136.
Those numbers closely reflect his career numbers prior to 2019: .263/.347/.522 and a wRC+ of 128.
Mookie Betts +285
Ronald Acuna Jr. +600
Christian Yelich +700
Juan Soto +800
Bryce Harper +1200
Fernando Tatís Jr. +1200
Javier Baez +1800
Ketel Marte +2000
Nolan Arenado +2000
Peter Alonso +2000
Kris Bryant +3000
Paul Goldschmidt +3000
Eugenio Suarez +3500
Jacob DeGrom +3500
Manny Machado +3500
Rhys Hoskins +4000
Max Scherzer +4500
Trevor Story +5000
Anthony Rizzo +6000
Andrew McCutchen +8000
Nicholas Castellanos +8000