The MLB odds say it’s a two-horse race between Bryce Harper and incumbent Kris Bryant for this year’s National League MVP award. But there are other horses out in the field.
Every year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America hands out the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award to two lucky recipients: the Most Valuable Player in the National League, and the MVP of the American League. These awards are almost always controversial. There’s no clear definition of what “Most Valuable” means, so the writers (two for every city with a team) can use whatever criteria they see fit.
Last year’s National League MVP wasn’t very controversial. Chicago Cubs 3B/OF Kris Bryant was the first name on 29 of the 30 ballots, and deservedly so, after leading the senior circuit with 8.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). At press time, Bryant is the 2-1 favorite at bet365 to defend his title, with 2015 MVP Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals next on the MLB odds list at 7-2. Which of these bad boys will get it done?
Before we go too far down the rabbit hole, let’s acknowledge the existence of some other baseball players. Nolan Arenado, the outstanding third-baseman for the Colorado Rockies who led the senior circuit in home runs the past two seasons, is the third-favorite for MVP at 5-1. Then you have Bryant’s teammate, Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo, leading the peloton at 10-1. And there are a lot of quality players in this peloton. Any one could make a solid MLB pick at these prices.
But will any of them outperform Bryant this year? The 2017 projections are out at FanGraphs, and they have Bryant leading the NL at 7.6 WAR according to ZiPS, and 5.7 WAR according to Steamer. This will be his third-season in the majors; Bryant is still getting better at his job, so if he stays healthy, everyone else has some serious catching up to do.
Having said that, there hasn’t been a back-to-back MVP on the senior circuit since Albert Pujols in 2008-09, and the Cubs won’t be quite as newsworthy this year now that they’ve broken the 108-year Curse of the Billy Goat. Let’s consider the Los Angeles Dodgers and SS Corey Seager instead. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year was second to Bryant at 7.5 WAR, he projects among the league leaders again in 2017, and he’s available at 12-1 as we go to press. That’s six times the payout you’d get with Bryant.
Free MLB Pick: Corey Seager (12-1)
Best Line Offered: at bet365