The first half of the 2017 MLB season has been a very interesting one. In the National League, you have surprising breakout seasons with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Brewers all sitting in playoff spots at the moment. Then you have the Cubs, Mets, and Giants, all teams who made the 2016 playoffs, currently sitting under .500. Of those three teams, the Cubs are the only one with a real shot at the playoffs, with the Mets and Giants around the bottom of the MLB in wins. At the top of the NL, the Dodgers sit at 61 wins by the All-Star break, eight wins above the number two Diamondbacks, with 26 wins in their last 30 games.
In the American League, there are a far greater amount of teams in the middle compared to their NL counterparts. Four of the top five teams by wins in the MLB are NL teams. Three of the bottom four teams by wins in are NL teams. 13 of the other 21 teams are smack dab in the middle of the pack from the AL. The Red Sox are the only 50 win team, 11 games over .500, with the Rays sitting three wins back only four games over .500. Besides the White Sox, Tigers, and A’s, every other AL team has between 41 and 50 wins. The NL has just five teams between 41 and 50 wins.
First Half MLB Award Winner and Candidates
As far as individual players go, the leagues essentially switch when it comes to parity when considering the first half MLB MVP winners. Below are my top five choices for each league for the first half MVP awards. If you are interested, check out our article on the Baseline Times First Half Cy Young Winners as well.
American League – OF Aaron Judge – .329/.448/.691 30 HR 66 RBI 197 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR in 84 G
Could anyone else have been in this spot? Judge has lit the baseball world on fire in 2017 and is not only the best player in the AL this season but in all of the MLB. He leads the MLB in home runs, wRC+, and fWAR. In the AL, Judge had a 1.1 fWAR lead over the second highest ranked position player. Not only is judge the first half MVP winner, he has a great head start for the second half as well.
2. SS Carlos Correa – .325/.402/.577 20 HR 65 RBI 161 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR in 81 G
Correa had a rough first few weeks of the 2017 season, hitting just .196/.292/.250 with 1 extra base hit in his first 65 PA. Since then, Correa has hit an astounding .347/.421/.638 in 302 PA, good for a 181 wRC+. Correa has been one of the better hitters in baseball this season while at the same time playing good defense at SS for the Houston Astros. On a team with at least three players good enough to be in the discussion for the first half MVP award, Correa is the best to me.
3. 2B Jose Altuve – .347/.417/.551 13 HR 18 SB 161 wRC+ and 4.4 fWAR in 86 G
For the fourth straight season, Altuve is a hit machine. He has had 200 or more hits each of the last three seasons and is well on his way this season already sitting at 116. What has changed the last two seasons for him is that along with those hits, he’s starting to hit for very good power. Last season he slugged .531 with 71 extra base hits, and this season is already at a better pace with a .551 slugging percentage and 40 extra base hits to this point. You could easily flip Correa and Altuve around here because they have been both so amazing great for the Astros.
4. OF Mike Trout – .337/.461/.742 16 HR 10 SB 208 wRC+ and 3.4 fWAR in 47 G
No one likes to see players get injured, but the injury to Mike Trout in 2017 has been my least favorite (with apologies to Freddie Freeman). The injury to Trout robbed of us an excellent MVP race between he and Judge, seeing which player could amaze us more. In just 47 games Trout was worth 3.4 fWAR this season, right around a pace of 10 or so fWAR. Amazingly enough 10 fWAR would actually be just the third highest of his career after his first two season totals.
Currently, Trout is rehabbing and may be back soon, but with the time missed, it’s hard to believe he could overcome the gap between Judge and the rest of the league. However, if he comes back and plays as great as ever, it will be interesting to see what people think about 120 or so games of peak Mike Trout vs the full season of the others.
5. 3B Jose Ramirez – .332/.388/.601 17 HR 10 SB 157 wRC+ and 3.9 fWAR in 86 G
Putting Ramirez fifth on this list may look a bit odd, seeing as he has been as good or better than everyone mentioned so far minus Aaron Judge. What that really says is that the group below Judge are all so insanely close together in value, that no matter what order I arranged them in there would be people who had a problem with it.
With that said, Jose Ramirez has been quite spectacular this season after being a very good utility type player last season. Ramirez has upped his offense to a very high level in 2017, especially the last month and a half or so. Since 5/26, Ramirez has 33 extra base hits and is hitting .398/.441/.747 with a 210 wRC+ in 179 PA.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Sale, George Springer, Mookie Betts
National League – 3B Justin Turner – .377/.473/.583 10 HR 183 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR in 65 G
Over the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Turner has changed from mediocre utility infielder to a legitimate star 3B. This season, Turner not only leads the NL in batting average, but the entire MLB. A high batting average is not all Turner has accomplished in 2017, despite Eno Sarris calling it an empty BA just a week or so ago. Turner also has the highest OBP in the MLB sitting at .473, and the highest wRC+ in the NL by 16 points over Joey Votto at 183. Currently, Turner does not technically qualify for the leaderboards but is likely to after this weekend or into early next week.
Another big value to Turner is his excellent glove at 3B. Turner is not the best fielding 3B in the NL, an honor which Nolan Arenado currently holds, but it may be the next best thing. If you couple that excellent defense at 3B with his league leading hitting, this puts Justin Turner at 4.1 fWAR, tied for the NL lead, and with 15-20 fewer games played than his competition.
2. 1B Paul Goldschmidt – .312/.428/.577 20 HR 67 RBI 13 SB 153 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR
Paul Goldschmidt is having yet another elite year. What is different from this to previous years of his elite play is that it is actually for an Arizona Diamondbacks team that is actually right in the thick of the playoff hunt. At the moment the Diamondbacks have 53 wins, which is the third most in baseball. They have a 2 game lead over the Rockies for the first Wild Card spot and 9.5 over the Cardinals and Cubs after that.
The only offensive category that Goldschmidt leads in is runs scored, but he is top 10 in HR (8th), RBI (4th), SB (8th), BA (10th), OBP (3rd), SLG (8th), wOBA (4th), wRC+ (4th), and fWAR (3rd). Goldschmidt hasn’t been the best in any significant category but has been exceptional in every offensive category this season.
3. 1B Joey Votto – .315/.427/.631 26 HR 68 RBI 167 wRC+ and 3.8 fWAR
What can you say about Joey Votto? Outside of an injury-shortened 2014, Votto has not had a wRC+ under 155 since his second full season in the majors back in 2009. Outside of that 2014 season, he has not had an fWAR under 4.6 since 2009. Votto is a model of offensive consistency, and maybe the most overlooked star of this generation.
In 2017 Votto is not only getting on base like usual, with his .427 OBP, but is hitting for the best power of his career to this point. Votto leads the NL in slugging percentage at .631, .031 points higher than his previous career high. He is already with 26 home runs through 88 games, with his career high being 37 back in 2010, the same year of his previous career high .600 slugging percentage. There is very little reason why Votto couldn’t be second and Goldschmidt third on this list, but I gave a very slight edge for Goldschmidt helping lead the Diamondbacks to the third best record in the first half.
4. 3B Anthony Rendon – .304/.407/.552 16 HR 54 RBI 148 wRC+ and 4.1 fWAR
Despite being tied for the NL lead in fWAR with Justin Turner, Anthony Rendon was not voted to the All-Star team. It definitely seems like one of the bigger oversights in recent memory, despite 3B in the NL being absolutely stacked this season. Rendon is not only putting up a great offensive season, tied for 5th in wRC+, but has been a tremendous fielder at 3B this season, similar to Justin Turner.
However, Rendon has been a bit overshadowed this season by teammates Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, both of whom got major attention for a huge first couple of months. As it’s turned out, Rendon has done better for longer than both of his Washington Nationals teammates in overall value and is very deserving of being in the NL MVP discussion. More people may prefer Bryce Harper in this spot, but for me Rendon has done just a bit more to be here instead.
5. SS Corey Seager – .298/.395/.502 13 HR 139 wRC+ and 3.6 fWAR
As the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager has not only improved his game from last season with better on-base skills (7.9 BB% in 16 to 13.5% in 17), but continues to hit for good power and measure very favorably in fielding by UZR. Seager does not have flashy HR or RBI numbers but has a great line drive swing that results in a lot of extra base hits. His numbers aren’t flashy like you would expect an MVP candidate to be, but his overall game being so good to great at everything with very few holes provides a huge amount of value.
Honorable Mentions: Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Daniel Murphy, Marcell Ozuna, Cody Bellinger, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw
As always for those wanting to learn more about some of the advanced stats mentioned here, go to Fangraphs.com.