Major League Baseball

Breaking Down the National League MVP Candidates by Andres Chavez

Andres breaks down the top candidates in the Nalational League for MVP...

Sep 6

Breaking down the NL MVP race

If the MLB season ended today, the American League would have its Most Valuable Player (MVP) decided. There is no way Shohei Ohtani loses the award at this point. The competition in the National League, however, is different. There is no clear-cut candidate in the NL, even though a couple of them probably leads the pack. Here are the five primary MVP candidates in the National League and several others who may get votes:

Fernando Tatís  Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

If the San Diego Padres still have a realistic shot of making the postseason, it is because Fernando Tatís Medina Jr. has carried them all season long despite playing on one shoulder. The budding superstar has a .280/.366/.635 line with 37 home runs and 24 stolen bases, not to mention his 1.001 OPS.

If he hadn’t missed several games due to his shoulder subluxation, he might have had a shot at a 40-40 season. But, unfortunately, it looks like he might have to settle for a 45-25 instead. Per Baseball-Reference, Tatís Jr. is third in MLB in WAR (Wins Above Replacement, with 5.7), first in slugging percentage, second in OPS, fourth in home runs and fifth in steals. As a result, he may be the favorite to win the award at this point.

Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

I guess you didn’t know that Bryce Harper is hitting .300 with a 1.000 OPS as of Monday afternoon. The lefty slugger is slashing .301/.411/.589 with 28 homers, 82 runs scored, 66 RBI, and a 1.001 OPS.

He is second in MLB in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, third in OPS, ninth in doubles (32), fifth in walks (74), and third in runs created (102). Harper is why the Philadelphia Phillies are still in the playoff hunt, and his overall excellence in 2021 makes him an excellent MVP candidate.

Max Muncy, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Max Muncy isn’t talked about enough as an MVP candidate. Nevertheless, the Dodgers’ star is slashing .257/.384/.536 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 81 runs, and a .921 OPS. In a year in which the Dodgers have had to play without Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Dustin May, and Mookie Betts for extended periods, Muncy has been a consistent producer. Muncy’s 5.3 WAR is the third-best mark in the National League. He is also ninth in MLB in on-base percentage and fourth in walks (75). He can play three positions in the infield, he is durable, consistent, and powerful, and he deserves a long look as the most valuable player in the National League.

Trea Turner, SS/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Trea Turner is now Muncy’s teammate with the Dodgers, Turner is perhaps the league’s premier power-speed artist after Tatís Jr., with 21 dingers and 26 thefts between the two teams. Turner is what you would call a true five-tool performer. He is hitting .321/.367/.514 on the season, with a .882 OPS. He can get on base via walks, has power, is lightning-quick, and can adequately defend the two middle infield positions.

He would have to finish the season strong to be considered for the MVP award, but he is a candidate nonetheless.

Zack Wheeler, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Pitchers don’t usually win the MVP award. Clayton Kershaw was the last one to do it in 2014. And while it’s unlikely he will get the hardware home, Phillies’ pitcher Zack Wheeler is undoubtedly a deserving candidate.

He leads the National League in pitching WAR with 6.1 and has contributed an excellent 2.91 ERA in 188.2 innings. His ability to take the ball every five days and go six or seven innings is underrated, and he has taken his strikeout prowess to another level, fanning 217 hitters so far.

Philadelphia would be at least third or fourth in its division if not for Wheeler and Harper. Instead, they are second thanks to them.

Other candidates likely to receive votes: Freddie Freeman, Juan Soto, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Willy Adames, Brandon Crawford, Paul Goldschmidt, Austin Riley, Kevin Gausman, Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Walker Buehler, and Jesse Winker.