Choosing an MVP depends on many things, but in baseball the potential candidates are usually decided before the season even begins. Any of the players on this list have in some way been associated with the MVP voting in the past.
Some are rising new jacks who are already considered among the game's elite, but don't have the hardware to show for it. Others have been at the top of the totem pole and crave a return to dominance. Some make being great look so easy that it's taken for granted when the ballots are cast.
Here are The Shadow League's leading MVP Candidates in each league.
SS Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles)
The Shadow League has been following Machado’s rise since he was a 19-year-old phenom finding his way in 2012. The glove is incomparable at third. A rush of 72 homers over the last two seasons say the 24-year-old’s bat has caught up and he’s an MVP waiting to be unleashed. He finished fifth last season. Now it’s his turn.
OF Mookie Betts (Boston Red Sox)
Mike Trout (Baseball's MJ) impeded Betts' shot to become the first African-American to win an AL MVP award since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997. The 23 year old had a breakout 31-homer, 113 RBI season for the AL East champion Boston Red Sox, but Trout is currently a bigger name and voters were making up for MVP’s Trout could-or-should-have-won in the past. This season, Betts is owed an MVP.
IB Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Miguel Cabrera actually had the second-most homers he’s ever hit in a season in his sure fire Hall of Fame career in 2016. But Miggy’s standard of excellence is so lofty and consistent that the two-time MVP finished 9th in MVP voting despite jacking 38 bombs and hitting .316. Cabrera would have to win another Triple Crown to get some MVP love as he is a victim of his own greatness, but always a statistical threat.
3B Josh Donaldson (Toronto Blue Jays)
Josh Donaldson is the 2015 MVP and his bat is long and lethal. Edwin Encarnacion moved on to Cleveland and Joey Bats is coming off of a down year, so Donaldson will have to carry the offense and continue to wield a lit glove in a tough division.
Sleeper Pick: 2B Robinson Cano (Seattle Mariners)
Future HOF'er Robbie Cano had his best season in 2016 since ditching his Yankees pinstripes for a $240 million deal. Cano’s power returned as he hit 39 homers with 33 doubles and an .882 OPS. Defensively, he made three errors all season. If Cano can finally get Seattle back to the playoffs and put up stud numbers, then he’s a legit MVP threat.
3B Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs):
Bryant came, saw and conquered in just his second MLB season. The cornerstone of this current Cubs World Series-winning, curse-breaking squad, Bryant has a great shot to become the first repeat NL MVP since Albert Pujols in 2008-09 with the Cardinals.
How far up can Bryant go after posting a 39-homer season in which he produced a .939 OPS.? The Cubs are so good right now that 50 homers is not out of the question.
OF Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals):
“The Brand Name” is always a candidate for MVP. He’s only 24 years old, has already been in MLB for six years and should eclipse 150 homers this season. People forget he was a pup when he came in with all of the fanfare and hype of an NBA No. 1 Draft pick. He’s already bagged one MVP in 2015 and he’s coming off of a down year with an eye on a $400 million coupe in free agency in 2019. If Harper wants to attract those numbers, he has to recapture his elite form. Finally leading the long overdue Nats to a World Series appearance wouldn’t hurt his cause either.
SS Corey Seager (LA Dodgers)
If he doesn’t suffer from a sophomore slump, the reigning (and unanimous) NL Rookie of the Year will quickly rise up MLB’s best player list hitting in a loaded Dodgers lineup. Kris Bryant, here comes Seager.
P Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants)
We had to put one hurler in on the list, although I'm not a fan of pitchers winning MVP awards. That's what the Cy Young is for. Madbum is the exception. Not only is he the most clutch playoff pitcher in baseball, he’s prime for a 20-win season and he could become the first modern era pitcher to hit 10-15 homers and win 20 games, which would be MVP worthy.
Sleeper: OF Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
The 2013 NL MVP has a chip on his shoulder after the Pirates openly shopped him in the offseason and implied that he was on the decline. Don't sleep.