Why George Springer is your 2017 American League MVP
Through the first two months of the 2017 Major League Baseball campaign, it sure looked as though Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was destined to claim his second consecutive American League MVP award. Trout has long been putting up outrageous numbers at the plate, but he’s outdone himself to start this season. Through 47 games, the two-time MVP is hitting .337/.461/.742 with 14 homers, 36 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He was on pace to set career-bests in a number of categories, which is hard to imagine considering his numbers have been so consistently stellar in the past.
However, disaster struck over Memorial Day Weekend while the Halos were in Tampa. Trout injured his thumb sliding into second base during a game and it was announced shortly thereafter that he needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in his digit. The injury is expected to keep him sidelined for at least a month. While that’s awful news for the Angels and baseball as a whole, one thing the injury does open up is an opportunity for a new player to lay claim to the AL MVP award that Trout previously appeared to have on layaway.
So, while Trout is still undoubtedly the most valuable player in the American League, he’s not going to win the award this season unless he returns well ahead of schedule. As a result, we’re likely to crown a new MVP for 2017.
Reward the Astros
Entering play Monday, the Houston Astros are setting Major League Baseball on fire. Their win on Sunday sealed a three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers that put them at an insane 41-16 overall. They are 13.5 games up on the Angels and Seattle Mariners already in the AL West, which means the division title has essentially already been locked up. Assuming they keep up a relatively steady pace, the Astros are going to cruise past the 100-win plateau.
If they keep rolling along and finish the season with baseball’s best record, the Astros are going to be handsomely rewarded once awards season comes around. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. each look primed to contend for the Cy Young Award, while AJ Hinch is likely your early leader for Manager of the Year. Aaron Judge may already have Rookie of the Year locked up, but Yulieski Gurriel and Alex Bregman will garner some votes, too.
Amazingly, the Astros also appear to have a trio of legitimate Most Valuable Player candidates. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are the two most well-known names on the roster, and both players are once again putting together MVP-caliber seasons. Let’s not talk about them, though. Let’s talk about why George Springer is the most valuable player in the American League (non-Trout division).
The sample size is obviously small, but Springer has put the Astros’ offense on his back during their current 10-game winning streak. Over his last nine contests, Springer is 20-42 (.476 average) with seven home runs, 13 RBI and an absurd on-base-plus-slugging (OPS) of 1.511. On the season, Springer is hitting .280/.350/.545 with 16 homers and 37 RBI. His 43 runs scored also rank fourth in all of baseball.
When he’s on, Springer is completely capable of carrying an offense the way few others in baseball are capable of doing. He presents a unique challenge for pitchers from the leadoff spot in the Astros’ order. Most teams will have a pesky, slap-hitting, on-base type of hitter occupying the first spot in the lineup. Springer gets on base at an excellent clip, but a slap hitter he is not. Springer brings thunder to the top of the order, and his six leadoff home runs already this season alone is a testament to the kind of influence he has on the rest of the Astros’ hitters.
It’s not a coincidence that the Astros have really taken off once Springer started swinging a hot stick. The top-three in the order of Springer, Altuve and Correa is an absolute murderer’s row for opposing pitchers, and there is really no weak spot in the entire nine-man order. It gets easier after those three, but not by much.
Seven of Springer’s 16 home runs this season have led off an inning. He has a way of establishing a tone early in games, and the rest of the Astro hitters have been following suit. It’s no coincidence that Houston leads the American League in numerous offensive categories, including average, runs scored and hits. Springer is the spoon that stirs the Astros’ collective pot.
Springer was properly rewarded for his current hot streak when he was named as the American League’s Player of the Week for May 29-June 4. He does have a way of running hot and cold, though, and an extended cold spell could tarnish his case as the league’s MVP once the season is all said and done.
As of Monday, Betonline lists Springer at +2000 to claim that AL MVP trophy. Judge is currently listed as the favorite at +200, but it’s hard to imagine a player that isn’t on the Astros winning this award if they finish the season at the top. Altuve is listed alongside Mookie Betts at +800, while Correa checks in at +400.
Where’s the love for Springer? He isn’t the household name that some of these other guys are as of yet, but he’s quickly making a case to change that.
Few seem to have really jumped on his bandwagon as far as winning the award goes, so you should make an effort to get on this one while you can. He’s gaining plenty of momentum, and the Astros seem to be a runaway train these days.
Trout is Exhibit A that says team success doesn’t always come into play when determining MVP, but it is a major factor in most years. Last season, Trout became the first player from a non-playoff team to win the AL MVP since as a member of the Texas Rangers in 2003. Considering the Astros already seem to have a postseason spot all-but locked up, it stands to reason that one of the aforementioned three names will be named MVP once it’s all said and done. Correa and Altuve are clear candidates, but neither comes with the value that Springer does at +2000