Published On: Thu, May 3rd, 2018

NL MVP Power Rankings: Harper making hay in walk year

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At the end of each month, theScore’s MLB editors will break down the leading candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards in the American and National Leagues. Today, we’re ranking the early favorites for the 2018 NL MVP.

5. Tommy Pham


AVG OBP SLG WRC+ WAR
.330 .447 .521 172 1.5

The only thing more refreshing than a 30-year-old becoming one of the league’s best outfielders is that player being so open and frank about improving through the use of advanced analytics.

“I say, I wanna run faster,” Tommy Pham said in an interview with Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated early in April, “I’ll look at my mechanics and see I have a bad knee drive. What causes a bad knee drive? I lack ankle flexibility. OK, so if I fix my ankle flexibility, I can achieve a dorsiflex position which could drive my knee up. OK, I need to improve my stride frequency. Let me go run 30-degree incline sprints at 18 miles per hour so I can improve my stride frequency. And let me do some overspeed training so I can train my neuromuscular system to run faster than I’m biologically capable of. You know what I mean?”

Uh, not really, no. But whatever works, because Pham’s been on an absolute tear to begin 2018.

4. Freddie Freeman


AVG OBP SLG WRC+ WAR
.333 .444 .568 173 1.5

After finishing April 2017 with a 222 wRC+, a lot of people considered Freddie Freeman the early favorite to win National League MVP last year. However, an injury derailed his campaign as the slugger wound up missing the last two weeks of May and all of June.

While he hasn’t been as hot in 2018, the Atlanta Braves first baseman is certainly making some early-year MVP impressions. And, now Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson have arrived in full force, Freeman may benefit all season from some lineup insulation … finally.

3. Rhys Hoskins


AVG OBP SLG WRC+ WAR
 .296 .444 .510 165 1.1

Since Rhys Hoskins got promoted in August of last season, just five players have a better OBP over at least as many plate appearances as the young Philadelphia Phillies stud: Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Charlie Blackmon, all of whom garnered some MVP consideration last season.

The 25-year-old may not be slugging as prolifically as he did last year over his first 50 games, but he has certainly announced his presence and helped lend credence to the front office’s moves toward winning this winter, when it may have seemed one year too soon.

2. A.J. Pollock


AVG OBP SLG WRC+ WAR
.300 .361 .691 179 2.0

Fresh off winning the NL Player of the Month for April, no player has been as hot as the Senior Circuit’s leader in WAR: A.J. Pollock.

Pollock has gone yard 10 times – tied for the NL lead – with six of them coming at Chase Field, the home of a newly installed humidor intended to combat the dry Arizona weather and prevent home runs. After injuries derailed his 2016 and 2017 seasons, could Pollock finally kick on from his incredible 2015 campaign?

1. Bryce Harper


AVG OBP SLG WRC+ WAR
.268 .464 .598 176 1.3

If you would like to make one of the best hitters in baseball upset, all you have to do is walk him, apparently. And, so far this year, Bryce Harper has happily obliged. With a .464 OBP, the 25-year-old is seeing the fewest pitches inside the strike zone in the NL (37.4 percent).

While he’s behind Pollock in WAR, Harper’s ability to walk nearly twice as often as he strikes out (27.9 percent versus 15 percent) while also finding enough pitches in the zone to sock 10 dingers makes him the most likely MVP candidate out of the NL right now.

Honorable mention: Blackmon (Rockies), Albies (Braves), Brandon Belt (Giants)

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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