Even though it’s only a little over a month into the season, baseball analysts love trying to predict who is going to have an MVP-caliber season or who might win the MVP in the fall. And yes, I occasionally take part in these activities. Usually, I’d take a look at all of the best players in the National League and try to pick four or five who have the best shot at riding their good seasons to the end and at bringing home some hardware. Last year, I had some pretty good predictions. (In my top five, I had Daniel Murphy, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, and Corey Seager, who all finished in the top five in MVP voting.) But this year I can’t even pick through the Nats. With so many players currently having torrid seasons, I’m going to look at potential MVP candidates on the Nationals instead of looking at potential MVP candidates in the National League.
I mean, who else would be first on this list? The reigning NL Player of the Month is having the best start of his career, and no one will deny that his numbers are absolutely torrid. Ryan Zimmerman is leading the MLB in average (.393), home runs (13), RBI (34), slugging (.820), OPS (1.251), and hits (48). His average dipped under .400, (oh no, how unfortunate) and he’s leveled out slightly, but he’s still lighting up the league. Pitchers quiver in fear when he steps to the plate. In his thirteenth year in the league, the biggest question on everyone’s mind is whether this start is sustainable. Because if it is, and Zim continues to lead in all categories for the rest of the season, we might indeed be looking at an MVP.
Is Bryce Harper returning to MVP form? All signs are pointing towards it. After a lackluster 2016, Bryce has picked up the pace and is beginning to tear up baseball again. Harper is currently second in the National League in average (.372), T-7th in home runs (10), T-5th in RBI (29), first in runs scored (37) and on-base percentage (.496), and second in OPS (1.213). He’s been on base just under half of the time, which is no small feat. MVP Bryce is back, and he’s putting up numbers to put his name in the conversation yet again.
We can’t forget about last year’s MVP runner-up, who’s kind of been lurking in the shadows and not getting so much attention from baseball media. If there’s one thing Daniel Murphy can do, he can hit. Murphy’s average is tied for 10th in the NL (.331), he’s T-3rd in RBI (30), he’s scored 24 runs, and he has a .941 OPS. He doesn’t have as many league-leading numbers as some of his teammates, but it’s nothing to turn your nose at. There are plenty of teams out there that would kill to Murphy’s numbers in their lineup. Additionally, Murphy’s consistent hitting is enough of a threat to protect Zimmerman and force opposing pitchers to pitch to him.
If the Nats played only the Phillies all year, there would be no question about who would be the MVP. Jayson Werth loves to torment his old team. In eight games against Philadelphia this year, Werth is hitting .433 with 3 home runs, 8 RBI, and a 1.252 OPS. Absolute domination. But his overall numbers shouldn’t be slept on: Werth is hitting .299 with 6 home runs, 20 runs scored, a .395 OBP, and a .900 OPS. Werth has solid numbers and has a proclivity for hitting in the clutch and providing an important veteran presence on the team (not to mention entertaining interviews with Dan Kolko). If history stands true, Werth will only get hotter as the summer rolls on. So, we’re likely to see Werth’s numbers only get better and better.
This one is a bit different. Every analyst I’ve listened to has heralded Trea Turner is a potential future MVP candidate. And after the numbers he had last year, why shouldn’t they think that? Last year Turner hit .342 with 13 home runs, 40 RBI, 53 runs scored, a .370 OBP, a .937 OPS, along with a scorching 33 stolen bases. But Trea hasn’t exactly been producing those numbers this year. Of course, it’s a bit unrealistic to think Trea would remain that hot all year, but the anticipation was that he’d produce just a little bit more than he has. So far this year, Turner has hit .260 with 13 RBI, 6 stolen bases, a .302 OBP and a .722 OPS. Solid numbers, but not at the pace he was going at last year. He had a bit of a hot stretch for a while, but we’re all waiting for that spark to come back and for last year’s Rookie of the Year runner-up to come back in full form. If he can get the bat going, he has the potential to be so much more.Tags: Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Jayson Werth, Nationals, Nats, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Washington Nationals