With one month of the season down, you’re sure to see all sorts of “Who’s in the MVP running?” pieces littering your various sources of baseball-related news and updates. (We’ve done a few ourselves!) But when you are watching one team in particular — your team in particular — you’re looking for your best player: You’re looking for your MVP.
So, today at The Thirty, we look at the MVP for each team so far. Not necessarily the most high-profile player, the most well-loved or the most well-paid; just the best player on every team so far. Maybe they’ll keep it up all year and maybe they won’t, but you’ll always have April 2021.
So, yes: This is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s all coming together for Vlad Jr., perhaps a year later than many had thought but right on time considering the kid is still only 22 years old. Now, if the rest of the lineup would help him out …
Cedric Mullins has been the pleasant surprise in the lineup, but the real story in Baltimore is Means becoming the true ace he’s been hinting at the past couple of years. He has taken his productivity of 2019 and his raw stuff of 2020 and combined them. It has created one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Speaking of pitchers who are finally becoming their best selves, Glasnow is making the Rays (as usual) look smart for sticking with him as they moved on from Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. Glasnow is 27: This is absolutely his prime.
Listen, 2020 was a rough year for a lot of people: You, me and definitely Martinez (.680 OPS last season). He now looks like the hitter we’ve come to know and love. And don’t look now, but he has his team in first place again.
He has been everything the Yankees have asked him (and paid him) to be for the first two seasons, and he’s certainly the best thing they have going right now.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland: José Ramírez, 3B
Key April stat: .908 OPS
Shane Bieber, as always, is right there with Ramírez, and they can probably share MVP trophies if they want. The problem is how difficult it is to come up with whoever would be third here.
It’s rather remarkable how many pitchers are on this list so far, isn’t it? A top-shelf starting pitcher gets you a long, long way right now. Danny Duffy has never been this good.
And yes, here’s another one, a lefty who is finding his stride at the right time. It’s particularly the right time for the Tigers, who might have themselves a pretty big trade chip come July.
Twins: Byron Buxton, CF
Key April stat: .426/.466/.897 slash line
The injuries are starting to sneak up on Buxton a bit, which just makes appreciating the opportunity to watch what he’s doing, while you can, all the more vital.
We will all remember that 8-for-8 start, but it’s not like Mercedes stopped hitting when that streak was over. This ride may end eventually, but if the White Sox end up winning the division by a game or two, this streak by Mercedes may be remembered as a primary reason why.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Mike Trout, CF
Key April stat: 1.304 OPS
This is the TROUT GOING HAM season we all thought he might be capable of pulling off. I’m pretty sure he’s the MVP of the NBA, the MLS, the NHL and collegiate equestrian right now.
One of the reasons this A’s run has been so enjoyable is that it hasn’t been driven by any one guy, but if you were to pick one guy, Olson’s the best hitter this team has going and the center of everything they’re trying to do.
Every once in a while, we’ll see a solid player who explodes with his career year long after you expected him capable of it. Is this that year for Gurriel?
Mariners: Ty France, 2B
Key April stat: .289/.386/.464 slash line
Heck yes, right? France has been the perfect avatar for this Mariners team so far: Young(ish), surprising, relentless and a heckuva lot of fun.
Rangers: Nick Solak, 2B
Key April stat: 7 home runs
It’s unexpected that the Rangers’ best player has been, by sort of a wide margin, Solak. But he’s earned it.
The Braves have all sorts of problems right now, but while they figure out how to fix them, the NL MVP frontrunner gives them considerable wiggle room with which to work.
The whole Derek Jeter/Kim Ng Marlins plan is to put talented young players in a position to perform and succeed. What Chisholm has done so far is pretty compelling proof of concept.
The craziest thing about deGrom — who, we remind, has won two of the past three NL Cy Young Awards — is that he’s never been even close to as good as he is right now.
Nationals: Trea Turner, SS
Key April stat: .302/.348/.558 slash line
Juan Soto’s going to have plenty of time to catch up over the last five months of the season, but Turner has been the star for a team hanging around the top of the division.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Corbin Burnes, RHP
Key April stat: 49 strikeouts, 0 walks
Burnes is on the injured list right now, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be on there very long, and all told, it’s not like he’s going to walk any guys whether he’s on that list or not.
Molina is recovering from an injured right foot right now, but he won, pretty much, two or three games by himself in the first month of the season. If the Cardinals figure themselves out by September and reach the playoffs, those games Yadi gave them in April will have been the difference.
Cubs: Kris Bryant, 3B
Key April stat: 16 extra-base hits
The Cubs are a huge mess right now, but Bryant looks like his old MVP self. And just in time for free agency … or maybe even the Trade Deadline?
Evans’ numbers have dipped a bit after a torrid start, but the conventional wisdom of the Pirates vanishing from the public consciousness when Ke’Bryan Hayes got hurt has proven untrue, almost entirely because of Evans.
The Reds’ hitters have slowed down after a torrid start, requiring the rotation to carry them yet again. But did anyone see Mahle as the guy who would lead the charge?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Carson Kelly, C
Key April stat: .507 OBP
The former Yadier Molina backup is putting up numbers right now that Yadi has never approached in his entire career. Heck, he’s almost putting up Albert Pujols numbers.
The Dodgers are still great though no longer on that 130-win pace they were briefly on, but Kershaw, as always, is doing his part.
Giants: Buster Posey, C
Key April stat: .361/.418/.705 slash line
I’m sorry, but Posey taking a year away from baseball and then returning to lead his team to the playoffs and win his second MVP Award (and his first since 2012) would be the greatest story in baseball imaginable.
Let’s not overcomplicate this: Even with the shoulder issues, Tatis is still showing everybody how it’s done every time he steps on the field.
You could go with a couple of Colorado’s starters if you wanted — Jon Gray is going to be quite a Trade Deadline coup — but McMahon has been hitting the ball the way the Rockies have been hoping for for years … and doing it as Nolan Arenado’s replacement.