MLB MVP Rankings: Races coming down to the wire in each league
Welcome to the fifth and final edition of theScore's 2022 Most Valuable Player rankings, where we pick the top players from each league. Let's look at who the favorites are to take home the hardware with less than one month remaining in the regular season.
5. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
In a season in which so much has gone wrong for the Red Sox, Bogaerts' play has been one of the few bankable commodities. The free-agent-to-be continues to wrap out hits and is putting together arguably his best season at the plate. He's already amassed a career-best 6.0 fWAR, which is second among AL position players. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bogaerts' season is his defense. The 29-year-old has faced questions about an eventual move to second base, but he sits in the 93rd percentile in outs above average and has saved two defensive runs after giving away five last season. Red Sox fans may need to savor their last few games with the longtime stalwart in the fold as it appears increasingly likely he'll be wearing a different uniform in 2023.
4. Yordan Alvarez, Astros
Injuries to both hands played a big role in Alvarez hitting just one home run across 77 at-bats in August. The 25-year-old appears to be feeling better as he's already hit a pair of long balls in just 33 September at-bats. He's also showcased his surprising impact in left field, saving seven runs defensively. As important as Jose Altuve is to Houston's success, a healthy and productive Alvarez could be the difference-maker in the AL as the Astros look to make another deep run in October.
3. Jose Ramirez, Guardians
The Guardians continue to turn their nose up at preseason predictions and are in the driver's seat to claim their first division title since 2018. Ramirez is still Cleveland's offensive engine. The versatile switch-hitter sits inside the top 10 in the American League in home runs, RBIs, wRC+, and fWAR. He's also maintained his status as one of the toughest outs in baseball, striking out just 11.7% of the time on the season.
2. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
Ohtani is arguably putting together a better year than his transcendent 2021 MVP season. The 28-year-old could reach 40-plus homers and 200-plus strikeouts at the end of the campaign. He's firmly in the conversation for the Cy Young, and it isn't outlandish to envision a scenario where he takes home both awards in November. The two-way star has lowered his ERA and walk rate while increasing his K/9 from last season. In any other year, he'd be running away with the award. However, a star for one of baseball's marquee franchises has found a way to keep him at bay thus far.
1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
Judge is authoring one of the greatest walk-year seasons in recent memory. The slugger turned down New York's seven-year extension offer before the season and bet on himself to earn more in free agency. Despite Ohtani's brilliance, Judge still holds almost a two-win advantage in fWAR. The 30-year-old is just five home runs away from passing Roger Maris' Yankees record of 61 in a season. If the offensive brilliance wasn't enough, Judge has shown his worth patrolling center field. Although he stands 6-foot-7, he's graded as a solid defensive option this season. Judge is on pace to become just the fourth player since 2010 to amass 10 WAR in a season, joining Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, and Buster Posey.
5. Manny Machado, Padres
It's been a tumultuous time for the Padres since our last update. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was suspended for 80 games, while marquee trade deadline acquisition Juan Soto has struggled to find his footing. The one constant is Machado's offensive prowess. After a difficult July, he rebounded in August to the tune of a 1.011 OPS with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 29 games. The 30-year-old has continued to produce at the plate in September and will need to maintain that trend if San Diego hopes to reach the postseason and win a series for just the second time since 1998.
4. Mookie Betts, Dodgers
Betts has already set a new career high in home runs and is quietly putting together one of the best offensive campaigns of his career. The 29-year-old sits inside the top five in the NL in homers, wRC+, OPS, and fWAR. The Dodgers were the first team to clinch a postseason berth, and they claimed their ninth NL West title in the last 10 seasons Tuesday. Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman are the most imposing offensive trio in the game and will play pivotal roles for the Dodgers as they hope to win a second World Series in three years.
3. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals
Although he's off to a sluggish start in September, Arenado has put any concerns about his ability to hit away from Coors Field to rest with a great offensive season. The 31-year-old owns the highest wRC+ of his career and has lowered his strikeout rate to an impressive 12%. The nine-time Gold Glove winner continues to be the best defensive third baseman in the league, ranking in the 99th percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant.
2. Freddie Freeman, Dodgers
Freeman has been one of the league's most consistent hitters, hitting above .300 in every month but April - when he hit .299. He leads the NL in batting average and hits while sitting inside the top three in runs scored, OPS, wRC+, and fWAR. The 2020 NL MVP has closed the gap in the race and could win the award if he finishes the season on a high note. It's hard to envision a better first season with a new franchise than Freeman's maiden voyage in Southern California.
1. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
A sluggish start at the plate in September will likely cost Goldschmidt a chance at becoming baseball's first triple crown winner since Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Despite some recent offensive doldrums, Goldschmidt is still well-positioned to break through for the first MVP win of his 12-year career. The 35-year-old leads the NL in fWAR, wRC+, and OPS. With Freeman hot on his heels, Goldschmidt needs to produce numbers closer to his season averages to put the finishing touches on one of the more improbable MVP triumphs in recent memory.