Nolan Arenado is quite decorated already, with five Gold Gloves, four All Star nods and three Silver Slugger Awards. But is this the year the Colorado Rockies All-Star wins that elusive National League MVP?
Arenado’s been in the MVP race the entire season. However, he’ll need a sizzling September for a shot at winning the Colorado Rockies’ second ever MVP award, after Larry Walker in 1997.
The offensive numbers are there. Even after a disappointing August (.776 OPS with just three home runs), Arenado is still slashing an elite .299/.381/.554 for a .935 OPS. And with Charlie Blackmon’s relatively disappointing campaign, Arenado needn’t worry about splitting votes like in 2017 (even as Trevor Story deserves to be in the conversation).
But if voting were held today, Arenado would get Coors’d by his home/road splits. His home OPS is 1.099 while his road OPS is a pedestrian .797.
So — as if it already weren’t important enough — it’s imperative Arenado plays a major role in carrying the Rockies to the playoffs. Because while he fights national media’s Coors Field bias, he’s also up against a crowded and impressive field of MVP candidates.
Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals is one of the front-runners. The infielder leads the NL in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) at 5.4 and home runs with 35, even after a dreadful start where he slashed .140/.286/.272 through May 15. He’s been remarkable since then, raising his numbers to .271/.389/.567 for a .956 OPS, while guiding the Cardinals back into postseason contention.
Freddie Freeman deserves front-runner status as well. The Atlanta Braves first baseman is a Joey Votto-type player, maintaining excellent offensive numbers (.890 OPS, 20 HR and 36 doubles) along with those intangible leadership qualities the Baseball Writers Association of America (the voters) craves. He’s seen as the main man on a team that should win the NL East after going 72-90 last season.
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Meanwhile, Javier Baez is having a fantastic season for a Chicago Cubs team that should coast to a NL Central title. The second baseman/shortstop is near the top in every offensive category, with a .908 OPS, 30 home runs, league-leading 100 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. Plus, like Arenado, his stellar defense makes for many an eye-popping GIF.
Amongst this crowd, what’s an Arenado to do?
First and foremost, the Rockies need to make the playoffs. Arenado is essential to the Rockies’ campaign, and his openly competitive spirit and leadership should help some voters latch onto his cause. We’ll need signature glimpses of a fired-up Arenado, not the angry Arenado toppling bubble-gum buckets in the dugout.
Arenado is already well-known for his defense. However, a few “web gems” wouldn’t hurt his chances. Rockies fans who’ve watched every pitch should know Arenado remains an elite defender, if not the best ever at his position. But a slew of late-season fielding highlights on voters’ Twitter feeds could pay dividends.
Finally, Arenado needs an extended surge at the plate. Leading the league in a few offensive categories — particularly home runs and OPS — could eliminate some of the Coors bias. That’s especially true if he rakes during the team’s final, nine-game road trip.
Right now, I have Arenado sitting behind Carpenter and Baez. But it is remarkably close. Give him a month to punish opposing pitchers, and Nolan could lap the field.