We've got roughly a fortnight left in the 2016 regular season, so the various races and derbies are beginning to take on a final shape. While there's still time for things to change, it's always fun to discuss how the individual awards races are going to shape up. Let's do exactly that and examine the NL MVP race as it stands at this late hour.
Before we dive in, let's point out that our awards power rankings posts are not our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. These are intended to be a snapshot of where things stand at the moment, and we're making subjective judgments on how the vote would turn out based upon recent historical voting tendencies.
On that latter point, we know that winning matters and making the playoffs matters even more. Even if you disagree, that's just how it goes with voting for the MVP. With all that in mind, let's jump in ...
Bryant's case is simple: He's the best player on the best team in baseball. He's spent time at six different positions this season (while providing plus fielding at third and the outfield corners), and along the way he's put up an excellent batting line of .296/.390/.566 with 37 homers and 33 doubles. As well, he's hit into just three double plays all year.
The swing changes he made late in the 2015 season have stuck in a big way. This season, he's an every-day middle infielder for a first-place team, and he's batting .348/.392/.598 with 25 homers and a good shot at a 50-double season. Those would be MVP-grade numbers for a first baseman, but Murphy's a second baseman who'll likely play in more than 150 games.
Arenado has perhaps been the NL's most valuable fielder this season, and his offense is obviously strong, as well. Sure, his park-adjusted numbers are "merely" very good (130 OPS+ for the season), but his 38 homers and 123 RBI will surely attract some voter eyeballs. In terms of overall value -- i.e., offense and defense -- few have been better than the Colorado third baseman in 2016.
The Dodgers rookie shortstop has been a remarkably steady presence for the NL West leaders. While the Dodger roster around him has endured injury upon injury, Seager's played in 145 games with more than 1,200 defensive innings at shortstop. At the plate, he's batted .314/.374/.526 with 25 home runs and 39 two-baggers. By comparison, the average big-league shortstop this season has hit .263/.319/.409. Also keep in mind that Seager makes his home in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.
Rizzo's split his time between the third and fourth spots in the Cubs' lineup this season. When you're batting third or fourth for the best offense in baseball, you're a producer. So it is with the 27-year-old first baseman. Right now, he boasts a .938 OPS, and he's on pace for 80 extra-base hits. Voters still drawn to RBI will note that Rizzo ranks third in the NL in that category.
The Giants, who are narrowly in wild-card position right now, have dealt with injuries and prolonged offensive slumps this season, but Bumgarner has been the stabilizer. In 2016 1/3 innings, he's put up a 2.66 ERA (153 ERA+), while registering 231 strikeouts and a 4.44 K/BB ratio. He's also notched a quality start 74.2 percent of the time.
The Mets' rotation has been beset by injury, and the offense around Cespedes has generally failed to perform adequately. Cespedes, though, has enjoyed one of his best seasons at the plate. After 120 games, he's batting .289/.359/.553 with 30 homers. Cespedes is going wind up a little light on games played by MVP standards, but some down-ballot support seems highly likely.
Since getting clear of his early-season run-prevention struggles (he ended May with an ERA north of 4.00), he's been the best pitcher in baseball. Right now, he leads the NL in innings, and he boasts an ERA of 2.78. As well, Scherzer's 259 strikeouts leads the majors, and his 5.18 K/BB paces the NL.
Votto continues on as one of the best all-around hitters in baseball. He'll wind up with more than 650 plate appearances, and along the way he's authored a slash line of .319/.432/.531 with 25 homers and 102 walks.
Freeman's definitely put the injury woes of 2015 behind him. This season, he's batting .295/.392/.554 in 146 games, and he's already gotten to 75 extra-base hits and 300 total bases. That kind of volume and rate-based excellence will earn Freeman some support.
Honorable mention: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals; Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks; Kyle Hendricks, Cubs; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; DJ LeMahieu, Rockies; Jon Lester, Cubs; Starling Marte, Pirates; Buster Posey, Giants; Wilson Ramos, Nationals; Tanner Roark, Nationals; Jean Segura, Diamondbacks; Noah Syndergaard, Mets; Justin Turner, Dodgers; Jonathan Villar, Brewers; Christian Yelich, Marlins