With the 2018 season winding down, it’s time to talk about the players worthy of winning season-ending awards. The National League has seen plenty of perennial players put up career seasons while helping their respective clubs win games. Not only is the NL playoff race tight, but so will the MVP race be when the season ends.
It’s been hard to ignore what players have accomplished, especially for those on teams amid contention for the postseason. It’s anyone’s guess who will take home the NL MVP trophy, but there are five players that should be considered over everyone else.
1 Christian Yelich- Milwaukee Brewers
2018 stats: 27 HR, 83 RBI, .315 AVG
Christian Yelich is having the best season of his career. After spending his first five seasons with the Miami Marlins, Yelich has brought his talents to a Brewers club hungry for their first postseason berth since losing in the NLCS in 2011. Yelich’s 27 home runs are a career best and he’s on pace to pass his career high in RBI at 98. His .315 batting average is also a career-high, and his dominance has been a key component to the Brewers' season success.
Yelich is second in the league in hitting behind Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett and his .309 batting average at home is seventh best among hitters with at least 40 games played in their home stadium. What looked like a gamble to bring Yelich into a crowded outfield at the beginning of the year has turned into a jackpot for the club as their quest for the postseason continues.
2 Freddie Freeman- Atlanta Braves
2018 stats: 20 HR, 82 RBI, .306 AVG
Freddie Freeman is having another excellent year. He started the All-Star Game for the first time in his career and his .306 batting average is the best on the Braves among team qualifiers. After being overshadowed by first basemen like Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and Anthony Rizzo, Freeman has finally gotten the spotlight in what has been a down year for all three first basemen.
The Braves are also on top of the NL East for the first time since 2013 and appear to be heavy favorites to win the division. Freeman was also on the last team to make the postseason and his leadership in a young clubhouse has helped the Braves win sooner than they were expected to. Though Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies have stolen most of the spotlight on the Braves, Freeman has continued to play well, hitting one point shy of his career-best .307 last year. If the Braves make the playoffs, let alone win the division, Freeman should be a favorite to take home the NL MVP Award.
3 Nolan Arenado- Colorado Rockies
2018 stats: 31 HR, 92 RBI, .301 AVG
After getting snubbed by the BBWAA last year, Nolan Arenado picked up right where he left off last season while helping the Rockies in a quest for another postseason berth. With the Rockies sitting in first place in the NL West, Arenado should be in consideration for NL MVP, especially if the Rockies make the postseason for the second consecutive year.
Arenado leads the Rockies hitters in every offensive category and he has the chance to record 130 RBI for the fourth straight season. Arenado has hit a bump in the road recently though, finishing August 0/17 and being 4/29 in his last seven games. The good news, though, is the Rockies are in first place in the NL West and if Arenado can pick up his offensive game, a division title for the club isn’t out of the question. If the Rockies win the division, it would be their first one in franchise history, and if Andrew McCutchen and Josh Donaldson secured MVP titles after snapping their teams' playoff droughts, Arenado should earn one if he helps his club win their first division title.
4 Javier Baez- Chicago Cubs
2018 stats: 30 HR, 100 RBI, .299 AVG
Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez has finally put all the tools together, and he’s proving why he’s an MVP-caliber player. In a year that has seen the Cubs lose both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant to the DL on multiple occasions, Baez has stepped up to the challenge of keeping the Cubs in the playoff race. As of today, Chicago sits in first place in the NL Central and is looking to make its fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
Baez is also having a career year at the plate. His 30 home runs and 100 RBI lead the Cubs and his 5.1 WAR is the best among position players on the team. Baez has been a key piece in the Cubs success since 2016 and his stellar season has kept the Cubs in the race in what is now a tight NL Central. Though the Cubs have reached the postseason each of the last three seasons, and likely will again this year, Baez could still secure the MVP award if the Cubs were to reach the World Series and win it all again.
5 David Peralta- Arizona Diamondbacks
2018 stats: 26 HR, 74 RBI, .296 AVG
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta is having the best season of his career. His 26 home runs are second on the team but are also career high for the speedy outfielder. Paul Goldschmidt has been tearing the cover off the baseball since June 1, but Peralta has been doing that all season, even in Arizona’s rough stretches.
The Diamondbacks offense has been the most inconsistent offense in baseball this season, but Peralta has carried the weight of the team when they needed someone to put the team on their back. That Arizona is still in the race for the postseason is incredible, even with the early season struggles Goldschmidt was going through. Though many people around baseball won’t acknowledge it, Peralta’s consistency at the plate is why the Diamondbacks could win the NL West. In such a case, it’d be a disgrace not to put Peralta in the MVP conversation.
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