Any player nominated for a Most Valuable Player Award has clearly had a great season. But describing what this year’s MVP candidates accomplished as “amazing” undercuts their seasons.
In the American League, home run history was made in the East, while last year’s MVP continued to make its own unique history on the mound and at the plate in the West. Meanwhile, in the middle of the country, a left-handed slugger guided his team to the best record in the junior circuit.
In the National League, a player flirted with a Triple Crown and competes for his first MVP Award against two of the best third basemen the sport has ever known, one of whom is his teammate.
Here’s a look at the case for each of the six MVP candidates before the winners are announced on Thursday at 6pm ET on MLB Network.
Trying to measure up to a player who hit 62 homers in Aaron Judge, set an AL record, and was a dominant two-way player in Shohei Ohtani is tough, but Alvarez has some impressive credentials of his own. He placed third or fourth in a division champion lineup with 106 wins, finishing seven games for the Yankees and 33 games for the Angels.
Alvarez hit .306 with 37 home runs and 97 RBIs, a 187 OPS+ and a 1,019 OPS in 135 games, placing second behind Judge in OPS in the AL. He also ranked second in the AL in percentage hit hard (59.8 percent), second in on-base percentage (.406), second in slugging percentage (.613), third in home runs, fourth in batting average, runs (95) and walks (78) and tied for fifth place in RBIs.
He was named AL Player of the Month for June as he led the AL in batting average (.418), on-base percentage (.510), slugging (.835) and OPS (1.346). His 6.8 bWAR placed fourth in the AL behind Judge, Ohtani and Andrés Giménez of the Guardians.
Plus, Alvarez wasn’t limited to DH. He made a career-high 56 starts in left field and had seven outfield assists, ranking second among AL left fielders. The Astros were 25-6 in games where Alvarez homered. — Brian McTaggart
In a bid to become the first Yankees outfielder to win an MVP Award since Mickey Mantle in 1962, Judge turned down a century-long walking season after turning down a contract extension on Opening Day, setting an American League single-season record with 62 home runs while batting. .311/.425/.686 in 157 games.
The 30-year-old led the Majors in home runs, runs (133), RBIs (131), slugging percentage, on-base percentage, OPS+ (211) and total bases (391), finishing with five points batting average for catching of the Twins’ Luis Arraez (.316) for a Triple Crown.
Judge’s pursuit to shatter Roger Maris’ 61-year-old AL record for single-season home runs captivated the sports world for weeks, culminating in a 62nd blast in the second game of a doubleheader on October 4 in Texas.
The fourth major leaguer to hit 62 or more home runs in a single season, Judge led the Majors in homers with 16 over the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber (46), the largest gap since the Athletics’ Jimmie Foxx led the Majors with 17 homers in 1932.
Judge has previously received MVP votes in 2017, ’18 and ’21 and finished second to the Astros’ Jose Altuve in ’17 when he was the AL’s unanimous Rookie of the Year. — Bryan Hoech
While Judge chased history with his home run total, Ohtani once again made history of his own in 2022.
Incredibly, the two-way superstar was even better than in 2021 when he unanimously won the American League MVP Award. Ohtani, 28, hit .273/.356/.519 with 34 home runs, 11 stolen bases and 95 RBIs in 157 games, while also going 15-9 with 219 strikeouts in 166 innings on the mound. He became the first player in AL/NL history to qualify with the league-leaders as both pitcher and batter in the same season.
Ohtani became the first player in AL or NL history with 10 wins on the mound and 30 home runs at the plate in the same season. Hall of Famer Babe Ruth is the only other player with 10 wins and 10 homers in the same year when he had 13 wins and 11 homers in 1918.
Ohtani also became the only player in AL or NL history to have both an eight RBI game and a career strikeout 13 game, accomplishing the feat in back-to-back days against the Royals on June 21 and 22.
As a pitcher, Ohtani led the American League in strikeouts per nine innings and led the league in 10 games with at least 10 strikeouts. Among the AL leaders, he was third in strikeouts, fourth in ERA and tied for fourth in wins. And as a hitter, Ohtani ranked third in the AL in extra-base hits, fourth in home runs, and fifth in OPS.
Add it all up and there is no more valuable player in baseball than Ohtani, who is the elite both as a pitcher and a hitter. — Rhett Bollinger
Arenado is arguably the best all-around player in the game and possibly the best third baseman in history. That is the opinion of Hall of Famer and 16-time Gold Glover Jim Kaat, who strongly believes that Arenado, together with Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should be named as the best all-around players in baseball.
Determined to bounce back from what he considered a bad year in 2021 and prove that his past production wasn’t just a product of Colorado’s thin air, Arenado put together arguably his best all-around season. While teaming with MVP finalist Paul Goldschmidt, Arenado led the Cardinals to the first division title of his 10-year MLB career. He finished first in NL in WAR (7.9), second in slugging (.533), sixth in batting average (.293), 11th in home runs (30), fourth in RBIs (103), third in doubles (42) and fourth in OPS (.891). He won the Player of the Month award in April and August, the only two-time winner in NL.
Defensively, Arenado was even better. The 31-year-old third baseman matched an Ichiro Suzuki goal by winning his 10th straight Gold Glove to start his career.
Arenado’s biggest obstacle to eventually winning an MVP is, of course, Goldschmidt. The first baseman finished second to Arenado in the NL in WAR, falling short by a Gold Glove. Like Goldschmidt, Arenado has never been an MVP, but he came close several times, finishing eighth (2015), fifth (’16), fourth (’17), third (’18) and sixth in (’19). — John Denton
It’s time for the superstar first baseman to take his rightful place among the game’s greats who have also won MVP awards. He has twice finished second in the NL MVP voting, third once, and sixth twice. He lost to Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton in 2013 (NL best 36 HRs, 125 RBIs) and ’15 (33 HRs, 110 RBIs) despite monster numbers. This season, in which he has already won the NL Hank Aaron Award, MLBPA’s Most Outstanding Player Award and a Silver Slugger, looks like the best chance for the 35-year-old “Goldy” to finally be crowned MVP.
On August 25—when he batted the Cubs for three hits, two home runs, and five RBIs—Goldschmidt led the NL in batting average and RBIs and trailed Schwarber by one in home runs. Goldschmidt’s attempt to become the NL’s first Triple Crown winner since Joe “Ducky” Medwick in 1937 would fall short, but not before posting his best all-around season.
The NL leader in OPS (.981) and slugging (.578), Goldschmidt won the NL’s Player of the Month award and the NL’s Player of the Week three times in May. He also finished in the top five in the NL in WAR (7.8, second), on-base percentage (.404), batting average (.317), home runs (35), and RBIs (115). In addition to helping the Cardinals win an NL Central crown, Goldschmidt was a Gold Glove finalist and the nominee for the franchise’s Roberto Clemente Award. He is the heavy favorite to become the first Cardinal to win the MVP since Albert Pujols in 2008 and ’09. – John Denton
Machado led the National League with 7.4 fWAR – the highest total for any Padres position player since Ken Caminiti in 1996. Fittingly, Caminiti was the last (and only) Padre to win an MVP award.
If Machado joins him, it would be a bit of an upset, with Goldschmidt the presumptive favourite. But Machado built quite a case by taking the Padres to their first full-season playoff berth in 16 years.
He hit .298/.366/.531 with 32 homers and his usual excellent defense at third base. In addition, Machado stepped in when the Padres needed him most. He was for much of the early part of the season used to be the offense of the Padres. Fernando Tatis Jr. was absent and trade reinforcements would not arrive until early August.
Machado punched through it all – with one blip. At the end of June, he suffered a horrific ankle injury. The Padres feared he would be out for months. Instead, Machado only missed 10 days.
He played hurt and his numbers were hit, but the Padres desperately needed Machado on the field. Remove his .694 OPS from July and chances are he’s the MVP front runner.
Instead, he’s caught up in a close battle with a few Cardinals – though for some, the fact that he’s being judged along with a few teammates is enough reason to see Machado as the most valuable.
“I’m biased,” said Padres manager Bob Melvin. “But it depends on what your definition really is for MVP. … Goldschmidt, those numbers are fantastic, but he also has Arenado behind him. So, look, it’s going to play out the way it plays out. But I don’t see a man more valuable to his particular team in this league than Manny Machado is to us.” — A. J. Cassavell