As we get deeper into September, and towards the changing of the leaves in October, the MLB regular season is winding down as playoff races come down to the wire. In addition, the races for both the American and National League's Most Valuable Player awards are heating up, as are the debates over who should win them. In this column, I will examine four potential candidates for both awards and why (or why not) they deserve it.
1. Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
What can I say about Ohtani that nobody else hasn't said already? No, really, I just wrote a column about the guy less than a month ago. In all seriousness, you could make an argument that he is having the greatest season in Major League history. As of the time of this writing, Ohtani is third in home runs with 44, second in extra-base hits with 74, fifth in total bases with 295, fourth in slugging percentage at .592, and fifth in OPS at .952. Oh, and for the 10 people who don't know, he pitches too. Ohtani is 9–2 as a starting pitcher with a 3.28 ERA, and 146 strikeouts in 123 and a third innings pitched. No player in major league history has ever hit more than 40 home runs while also striking out over 100 batters. Not a single one. The award really feels like his to lose at this point, and I wouldn't be surprised if the vote is unanimous. But, for the sake of this column, we have to give an honorable mention to another guy.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
If his name seems familiar, it should. Guerrero is a second-generation big leaguer, son of the Hall of Famer Vlad Sr. Maybe this is too early to say, but at the tender young age of 22, maybe he might join his pops in Cooperstown someday. Guerrero is one home run ahead of Ohtani, as of the time of this writing, for the major league lead with 46. He also leads the majors with 119 runs scored, 178 hits, a .321 batting average, and 342 total bases. Not to be ignored, he also leads the American League in on-base percentage (.411), slugging (.617), and OPS (1.029). Unfortunately for Vladdy Jr., unless he suddenly becomes Toronto's fifth starting pitcher, it seems as if he will come up short in the race for the award.
1. Bryce Harper, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
What does Bryce Harper have to do to get some respect around here? The man only leads the majors in slugging percentage (.624), and OPS (1.052), despite missing time due to injuries. Harper was, at one point, a wunderkind prodigy on par with the NBA's LeBron James or hockey's Sidney Crosby with the level of hype surrounding him. And he, for the most part, delivered for the team that drafted him, the Washington Nationals, putting up perennially great numbers, winning Rookie of the Year in 2012 and MVP in 2015. However, Harper was subject to much derision after he signed a mammoth 12-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2019 season. That same year, the Nationals would go on to win the World Series without him. But that should not take the shine off what he has accomplished as a player this year, or any other year for that matter.
2. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS/OF, San Diego Padres
The Padres have been one of baseball's biggest disappointments this year, barely clinging on to a wild card spot in a year when many people thought they would make the jump to serious World Championship contenders. However, this has not been because of a lack of performance from their 22-year-old superstar, affectionately dubbed "Nando". Like Harper, Tatis has also missed time with injuries, but still put up monster numbers, with a .620 slugging percentage, .988 OPS, 39 home runs and 26 stolen bases. With four more swiped bags, Tatis would become a member of the exclusive 30-30 club, as well as the first Padre to ever do it.