National League MVP Odds and Arguments
The return of Fernando Tatis has caused his MVP odds to jump from around -110 early in August to -300 currently. He is the overwhelming favorite, but the current price shift has greatly increased the plus-money figures on everyone else to create a window of opportunity for those looking for a sizable score. In-and-out of the lineup much of the season, Tatis has a great risk to miss more time down the stretch to leave the door open in this vote, while the Padres now also look like they will be in danger of missing the playoffs. Here are the top candidates in the MVP race including a few that may be worth considering for a long shot wager in case Tatis falls back out of the lineup.
Fernando Tatis, San Diego, -300
Tatis remains the clear favorite in the NL MVP race as the NL home run leader. He has missed 31 games however and while he returned with two home runs last Sunday after sitting for two weeks, his shoulder issue is a lingering concern that could open the door for another candidate in the final seven weeks of the regular season. Tatis isn’t even a qualified hitter right and he is playing for a 3rd place team that may be losing its grip on a playoff position that was assumed most of the season. Those are things that could matter to some of the older block of BBWAA voters who may already begrudge Tatis for the flair he plays with. Priced at around -300 it is his award to lose but there a few candidates that could warrant a look, banking on Tatis missing time and the Padres continuing to slide in the coming weeks.
Bryce Harper, Philadelphia, +475
A past MVP and one of the most recognized players in the game Harper is fourth in the NL in wRC+ thanks to his high walk rate. His rather pedestrian home run and RBI counts will need to grow substantially in September and most importantly his candidacy will hinge entirely on the narrative that he carries the Phillies to the NL East title. While Atlanta leads the division currently and has looked like the much better team overall, the race is close and a rise to the top fueled by Harper is still in the realm of possibility. Unlike the other candidates on this list Harper won’t face a threat of losing votes to his teammates as he has been the clear top performer on the Phillies.
Max Muncy, Los Angeles, +900
Perhaps the best candidate to catch Tatis in home runs is Muncy who has 26 but also has the potential for a big closing run to reach close to 40 home runs as he often has been a streaky performer. Muncy also is a threat to hit conventional benchmarks of 100 runs and/or 100 RBI to bolster his case. His WAR is also currently the highest in the NL among qualified candidates. He doesn’t play a premium defensive position however and he has plenty of competition within his own locker room as emerging as the clear choice among several standouts for the Dodgers will be a challenge.
Trea Turner, Washington/Los Angeles, +1700
The best value on the board might be Turner, who like Muncy will face the challenge of splitting votes with his teammates. Turner also has not hit quite as well since joining the Dodgers as his season line over 96 games in Washington puts him on this list. Turner has been a valuable defender at an important position, and he has a chance to win a batting title while also a possibly a NL stolen base title with Starling Marte now in the AL. A 30/30 performance is not out of the question for Turner but the problem in that argument is that Tatis has a chance to do that as well. It would take quite a finish but hitting leadoff in a highly productive Los Angeles lineup will afford Turner an opportunity to compile great statistics down the stretch.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta, +1700
The case for Freeman to take a second straight MVP crown does not currently have much traction but a big final month that clinches an NL East title for Atlanta in the absence of the early season MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuna does offer a compelling argument that could resonate with voters. In contrast to Tatis and Harper, Freeman is beloved by the press and his numbers are not too far off what will be the required pace. A subpar defensive performance is hurting his WAR while he also offers little on the basepaths. If he can match the September that he delivered in 2020, hitting .375 with 32 RBI in the final month, it is not an impossible outcome.
Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati, +5000
Joey Votto, Cincinnati, +5000
These Reds stars have matching odds as both continue to push Cincinnati closer to a playoff spot that seemed highly improbable just a few weeks ago. Jesse Winker is not much further down the list as well as Cincinnati has received great production from the lineup. Castellanos is a serious threat to win the NL batting title while Votto is charging in the home run leaderboard. Both have high strikeout counts with not enough walks to support their case, but both are still in the NL’s top seven in wRC+, while top 10 OPS performers, though neither is close enough on the WAR leaderboard for serious candidacy. If one stands head-and-shoulder over the other to carry the Reds past the Padres for the second NL wild card spot there is a chance, but it is not overly realistic as the pricing suggests.
Manny Machado, San Diego, +6000
While much of this article centers on the possibility of the Padres losing Tatis and crashing out of the playoffs, what if they lose Tatis and still finish strong? That scenario would boost Manny Machado’s case and he has rather quietly produced a great season line in the shadow of his teammate. He could reach the 100 run and 100 RBI benchmarks, and a big final month could get him to 30 home runs and close to a .300 batting average. Climbing into the top 10 for WAR and wRC+ would not take a herculean performance down the stretch and Machado has one of the stronger defensive ratings on this list at a valuable position. Winning the comparison case with his teammate will however require Tatis effectively shutting down for the rest of the season.
Juan Soto, Washington, +7000
Given that Washington has faded out of playoff contention Soto’s case will need to overcome a significant hurdle, but he has taken the most walks in all off baseball even in just 107 games and he could hit over .300 with 30 home runs while getting close to 100 runs and RBI for an MVP caliber traditional line. He is certainly one of the best players in baseball even if he is not a serious threat in this discussion barring significant setbacks for most of the other players on this list. Giancarlo Stanton won the 2017 NL MVP and Harper unanimously won the 2015 NL MVP on non-playoff teams as the playoffs may not be as much of a requirement as it is presumed. In 2017 Stanton only received 10 first place votes in a year where six different players received 1st place votes, a scenario that is possible this year.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco, +7000
15th in the NL in wRC+ and 5th in WAR, Crawford’s case might be better than this pricing represents. The Giants after all have baseball’s best record and Crawford is a good story as a veteran having a career season. He is only two home runs away from a career high and has a chance to reach 100 RBI for the first time in his career. Crawford could also make a charge to the batting title currently only sitting about a dozen points back. His excellent defensive rating at a premium position adds to the intrigue of his candidacy but Crawford has missed 21 games to keep his counting statistics a notch below where they likely need to be. San Francisco has been the surprise story of the season and voters will be looking for someone to reward as he has a chance to garner some votes, though 1st place votes do not currently seem likely.
Justin Turner, Los Angeles, +9000
Turner’s season line could wind up looking somewhat like the lines of his two teammates on this list with a big final month. He hit .394 in September 2020 before the Dodgers went on to win the World Series and for his career, September has been his best hitting month in terms of batting average. Missing significant time in August has bumped his case down on this list but if he surpasses his teammates in the coming weeks as the Dodgers pass up the Giants for the top spot in the NL, the argument would be clear. Turner is a long shot, but the gap in his odds compared to Muncy and Trea Turner should perhaps not be quite so large as he is the face of the team in Clayton Kershaw’s absence.