Welcome to the first edition of theScore's 2020 Most Valuable Player rankings, where we pick the top five players from each league. The second edition will run in early September.
5. Matt Chapman, Athletics
Chapman is in the AL MVP conversation again this season after finishing seventh in voting in 2018 and sixth last year. The 27-year-old is a force on both sides of the ball. He's currently tied for fifth in the Junior Circuit with six round-trippers, seventh in RBIs, and ninth in hits. Chapman also has the fourth-best defensive rating in all of baseball, according to FanGraphs. The All-Star's a massive part of a club that sits in first in the AL West after an impressive nine-game winning streak.
4. Shane Bieber, Indians
The 2019 All-Star Game MVP is making a serious case to bring home some more hardware in 2020. Bieber is off to a torrid start with a 1.63 ERA and an MLB-leading 43 strikeouts across four starts. He struck out 35 hitters through his first three starts, which was the third-most ever to start a new campaign. The right-hander is also fourth in the AL in WHIP (0.76) and fifth in batting average against (.168). Bieber, 25, also looks like the early favorite to win his first Cy Young Award.
3. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees
LeMahieu picked up right where he left off after finishing fourth in MVP voting during the 2019 campaign. The three-time All-Star leads the AL in hits, batting average, and on-base percentage. He also sits in fourth with a 1.048 OPS. He will have an even bigger role in the Yankees' offense for the next month with Giancarlo Stanton out due to a hamstring injury. The only knock against LeMahieu's case is that teammate Aaron Judge is stealing the spotlight with his ridiculous power numbers.
2. Mike Trout, Angels
Life, death, and Trout. The three-time AL MVP is looking to become the first player to win back-to-back awards since Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012 and 2013. He leads the AL in OPS and is second in homers behind Judge. Trout, who's an eight-time All-Star, hasn't swiped a single bag yet this season after coming into 2020 with 200 career stolen bases. The 29-year-old future Hall of Famer once again finds himself on an Angels team struggling to meet expectations, and it could cost him another personal accolade.
1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
The top three are borderline interchangeable at the moment. Judge narrowly gets the nod because of his prodigious power and the fact he's the driving force behind the best team in the AL East. The Yankees have had inconsistent pitching (outside Gerrit Cole), so the offense has had to pick up the pace. Now, lower body tightness did keep him out of the lineup on Wednesday, which may sound the alarm after an injury-plagued 2019. If he misses time, LeMahieu and Trout will have the opportunity to usurp him, but there's a chance he just needs a couple days off.
5. Bryce Harper, Phllies
Harper seems to attract the critics at a more alarming rate than anyone else in the game, but his results this year should be shutting people up. He's one of the toughest outs in the game and is boasting his best walk rate in ages; his OBP is second in the majors and he sits in sixth for batting average with a more than respectable .356. This is the closest Harper has looked to replicating his MVP season from 2015 when he slashed .330/.460/.649. If he maintains his current pace, he could potentially outperform that line in a much smaller sample size.
4. Mike Yastrzemski, Giants
With the Giants sitting in last place in the NL West, it didn't make sense to pick two players as top MVP candidates. Yastrzemski gets the nod over infielder Donovan Solano, who has surprised everyone with a remarkable start by batting .458 through 16 games. Solano's .520 BABIP and lack of considerable thump give pause. If he keeps it up, though, he'll have to be given more consideration.
Meanwhile, Yaz has seemingly developed elite plate discipline as his walk rate has jumped from 7.8% in 2019 to 19.5% this year. He has cemented himself as the most important figure in the Giants' depleted lineup.
3. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Even before his historic three-homer game (his sixth, tying an MLB record) on Thursday night, Betts had been trending in the right direction. After opening the season by going 3-for-20 in the four-game set against the Giants, he's hit an outstanding .385 with 13 of his 20 hits going for extra bases, earning him a .904 slugging percentage over that 13-game span. Betts' 258 wRC+ is tied for best in the majors during that time with Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon. He's the real deal, and suddenly the best player on a stacked Dodgers team. Betts' presence has more than made up for Cody Bellinger's sluggish start, too. If they can't win with him, it will be a real head-scratcher.
2. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
If you weren't on the El Nino train yet, what are you waiting for? Tatis has slayed opposing pitchers early in 2020, showing remarkable improvement from his stellar rookie season. He leads the NL in homers, steals, slugging, total bases, and WAR, while ranking in the top 10 in virtually every other important offensive category. He's improved his walk rate, power output, and is consistently reaching base out of the leadoff spot - all with an incredible flair for the dramatic that the cameras love.
This is such a weird season that it's not a lock Tatis will win the MVP, even with his improvement. What he's showing right now is that if it doesn't happen this year, it's going to happen down the road.
1. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies
Nobody's hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941, but Blackmon's giving this record a run for its money, and that's why he's leading the way in the NL MVP race. He reeled off a 15-game hitting streak that ended Wednesday and briefly hit an even .500, but his case is so much more than that average. Blackmon's also the major-league leader in hits, RBIs, OBP, and OPS, while slugging at a .681 clip that's insane even for Coors Field. He's been the engine driving the Rockies' surprising start, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
So will it count if he hits .400 in a pandemic-shortened 60-game season? There will be arguments about this one for years to come if it happens. But even if he doesn't cross that magic mark, it's clear that the 2020 NL MVP award is Blackmon's to lose at the moment.