Mike Trout injury: Angels superstar still favorite for AL MVP, but these five players could make a late push

On Sunday, the Angels announced that center fielder Mike Trout will undergo foot surgery this week, which means his 2019 campaign is over.  Trout sees his age-27 season end with a slash line of .291/.438/.645 with 45 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 134 games. 

Presently, he leads the majors in WAR, OBP, OPS+,  and walks while pacing the AL in slugging percentage and OPS. The expectation is that Trout, despite the missed time, is going to win his third AL MVP award, and he'll very likely deserve it. 

That said, that Trout's 2019 season is now over and frozen forevermore does create at least a sliver of an opening for some other candidates. Our own Mike Axisa took an exhaustive look at the AL MVP race as it stood just prior to the bad news about Trout, and now we'll home in on the few candidates that, according to this scribe, have the best chance to overtake Trout in the balloting. 

Should we rank the top five? People, we should rank the top five. So here we go with the five AL MVP candidates mostly likely to surmount Trout ... 

1
Alex Bregman Houston Astros 3B
Bregman at this writing boasts a slash line of .295/.420/.569 with an OPS+ of 159 in 145 games. He's also got 73 extra-base hits and 300 total bases. Bregman's of course a primary third baseman, but this season he's also logged 53 starts at shortstop, most of them while Carlos Correa was out with injury. As well, he's missed just six games all year. Given the injuries to Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer, Bregman's been the lineup linchpin for what may be the best team in all of baseball. That will have traction with voters.
2
Matt Chapman Oakland Athletics 3B
The A's are barreling toward 97 wins or so, and they're heavy favorites to claim one of the two AL wild-card spots. Chapman has been a huge part of that success, obviously. He's in the discussion for best defensive third basemen in baseball (and in the discussion for best defender at any position), and this season he's sitting on 34 home runs, 35 doubles, and an OPS+ of 129. What also helps Chapman's case is that he's been very clutch this season. He's got an OPS of .861 overall, but that figure rises to 1.057 with runners in scoring position, 1.038 in "late and close" game situations, and 1.005 in high-leverage/clutch spots. No, clutch performance isn't really any kind of sustainable skill, but it does have a place when it comes to MVP-voting considerations.
3
Marcus Semien Oakland Athletics SS
Semien has the highest WAR of any Oakland player, and that puts him squarely in the discussion. He's worked assiduously to make himself into a plus glove and shortstop, and now he's one of the best defenders in baseball at that position. As well, Semien this season is enjoying a career year at the plate: 135 OPS+ with 75 extra-base hits in an MLB-leading 150 games played.
4
DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 2B
LeMahieu has been central to one of MLB's most compelling storylines this season -- the Yankees' status as one of the best teams in baseball despite an absurd run of injuries. LeMahieu has played in 135 games with a line of .328/.375/.516 with 24 home runs and time spent at second, third, and first. Like Chapman, he's also got strong numbers in clutch situations. The only thing working against LeMahieu are his sub-par September numbers.
5
Justin Verlander Houston Astros SP
If a pitcher sneaks in and claims the hardware, then it's likely to be Verlander. Right now, he leads the majors in innings, K/BB ratio, WHIP, innings per start, and wins, and he tops the AL in ERA, ERA+, and games started. Verlander's a combination of workload volume and dominance at the run-prevention and peripheral levels. Throw in the appealing narrative of his doing all this at age 36, and you've got an MVP candidate.


This isn't an exhaustive list of AL players with MVP-grade numbers this season -- Gleyber Torres (Torres can easily crack this list with so much as another hot night), Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Gerrit Cole, Jorge Polanco, and others merit mention. However, the five names above, thanks to their outputs and other "soft" factors, have the best chance of toppling Trout over the final two weeks of the regular season. As things stand now, though, Trout remains the deserving favorite. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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