Arena: Checking out the MLB's MVP Candidates

The All-Star break has come and gone and the second half of the MLB season is kicking into gear. There are a handful of standout MVP candidates, but nobody has fully separated themselves from the pack. However, there are still some clear frontrunners who should remain in the MVP conversation for the remainder of the season.

AL MVP Candidates:

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Remarkably, Aaron Judge is on pace to join Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki as the only rookies to ever win an MVP award.

He has taken the league by storm, dominated in the Home Run Derby and elicited comparisons to Babe Ruth for his behemoth stature and incredibly powerful swing. Judge even has a chance to bring in a triple crown as he’s first in the AL in home runs, second in RBIs and third in BA. He’d be the first rookie to ever win a triple crown and would join Miguel Cabrera as the only players to achieve a triple crown since 1967.

Judge may not get to 60 home runs (he’s on pace for 57) or win a triple crown, but he’s electrified the Yankees fanbase and is the most obvious candidate for AL MVP.

 

Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

Only 22 years old, Correa’s dominance in his third season further emphasizes that the MLB’s youth movement is in full swing.

Batting .325 with 20 homers and 65 RBIs, Correa is the key piece in the Houston Astros lineup that turns them from good to great. Though Correa is in his third season in the league, he is three years younger than Judge and plays a more demanding position as a shortstop.

Though Correa may not win the MVP this season, his steady progress and development suggests that multiple MVP awards may be in his future. At the least, Correa should win a silver slugger award this year.

 

Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals

Vargas has had an under-the-radar MLB career and totes a career ERA of 4.05, but he is almost single-handedly carrying the Royals into the playoff picture.

Vargas is currently leading the AL with 12 wins and a 2.62 ERA. In only 17 starts, Vargas is just two wins from matching his career high, highlighting just how out of the blue this season has been. Vargas has been especially out of the spotlight in recent years because of injuries that allowed him to only start 12 games over the previous two seasons combined.

Vargas relies on a high ground-ball rate and doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, which hurts his chance to win the MVP unless he fully dominates in the second half. Though he may not win the MVP, Vargas could still become the most unlikely Cy Young winner of the last decade.

 

George Springer, Houston Astros

The second Astro on this list, Springer proves just how dominant the ‘Stros have been in the AL.

Springer has always had big-time power, but this season his contact rate, on-base percentage and slugging have gone up tremendously. He currently holds a .310 batting average, is second in the AL with 27 homers and is fifth in the AL with 60 RBIs.

Springer is also great in center as he has plus-instincts to make plays on the ball and his solid speed gives him good range. With a big second half, Springer could surpass Judge as the AL’s leader in homers.

 

NL MVP Candidates:

Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have bounced back from last year’s abysmal season in a big way, mostly because of the steady bat of Paul Goldschmidt.

The first baseman leads the current NL wildcard leaders in every major hitting stat, including: batting average, RBIs, homeruns, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits and walks.

Goldschmidt has never won MVP honors, but his D-Backs teams usually aren’t very competitive, which likely has hurt his place on previous ballots. However, now that he is the unquestioned leader of one of the league’s contenders, voters will be forced to take him seriously.

 

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitchers don’t usually win MVP awards, but most pitchers don’t dominate the way Kershaw does. Let’s not forget that he won the NL MVP in 2014 when he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.

His current 2.18 ERA isn’t quite as good as in 2014, but he’s on pace for 25 wins and about 30 more strikeouts than he had when he hoisted the MVP.

Kershaw has been dominating for so long that it seems like he’d be old by now. Yet, he only turned 29 in March. If Kershaw can stay healthy and continue his dominance for a few more years, he’ll go down in history as one of the best pitchers ever.

Kershaw is one of the most important players on one of the league’s very best teams, giving him an inside track to take home his second MVP.

 

Daniel Murphy / Ryan Zimmerman / Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

It was so hard to pick just one National, so here's three.

Murphy, Zimmerman and Harper rank one, two and three, respectively, in NL batting average. Each has at least 63 RBIs and at least 14 home runs as they have led the Nats to a huge lead in the NL East.

Harper probably has the best chance of separating himself from the pack. He previously won the NL MVP in 2015 and certainly has a big fan-club of media members who could help him with votes.

Though none of these three are putting up astronomical power numbers, each has proven they are contenders for the award this year. However, since they are all on the same team, it may end up hurting their individual chances.

 

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

The 33-year-old Votto is having arguably the best season of his career, but may lose out on the MVP due to being on the lowly, last place Reds.

Currently first in the NL in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS, Votto has been the lone bright spot in a dull year for the Reds. So bright in fact, that his name is finally out of trade rumors as he’s proven too valuable to give up.

Votto is on pace for 48 home runs and 125 RBIs, which would shatter his previous career highs. Considering that he won the MVP in 2010, shattering those numbers would give him a strong case, regardless of how hard the Reds are struggling.