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Making the cases for 2018 NL MVP

Who has been the best player in the National League this season?

MLB: NLCS-Workouts Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 season is over, and that means the debates for some of Major League Baseball’s prestigious regular-season awards — the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young, the Rookie of the Year, the Gold Glove, the Silver Slugger, and the Manager of the Year — are happening right now.

In this series, we are going to make cases for those players and managers who are in the running for these awards to come away with the hardware in their respective leagues. We will end our series by examining the candidates for the National League Most Valuable Player award.

  1. Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers — The Brewers’ big offseason acquisition is a big favorite to win his first MVP award after having a monster season for the NL Central champions. The 26-year-old slugger had a shot to become the first player in the NL to win the Triple Crown since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick back in 1937, as he led the league in batting average (.323) and finished tied for second in RBI (110; one behind fellow MVP candidate Javier Baez) and third in homers (36; two behind fellow MVP candidate Nolan Arenado). He also led the NL in OPS (1.000), WAR (7.4), slugging percentage (.598), total bases (343), runs created (131.4) and runs created per 27 outs (8.72), and put on a memorable final month of the season that saw him hit .370/.508/.804 with 10 homers and 34 RBI. Yelich has already won a NL Silver Slugger award this year and will try to become the Brewers’ fourth different MVP winner in franchise history, along with Rollie Fingers (AL MVP in 1981), Robin Yount (AL MVP in 1982 and 1989), and Ryan Braun (NL MVP in 2011).
  2. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies — The Rockies were a playoff team for the second straight year in large part because of Arenado and his great ability to play at a high level. The 27-year-old right-handed slugger led the entire NL in home runs with 38 and ranked in the top five in the NL in OPS (second with .935), RBI (tied for second with 110), slugging percentage (third with .561), extra-base hits (tied for third with 78), total bases (fourth with 331), runs created (fourth with 117.8), WAR (fifth with 5.6), and runs (fifth with 104). Arenado has also already won a NL Silver Slugger this season, but he also came away with a Gold Glove honor, making him the only player among the MVP finalists to win one of those awards this season. As great as those honors are, Arenado hopes to become only the second Rockies player to win the NL MVP. The Rockies’ lone winner was Larry Walker back in 1997.
  3. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs — The Cubs wouldn’t have been a playoff team if it wasn’t for the play of Baez. The 25-year-old right-handed hitter, who also played shortstop and third base, led the entire NL in RBI (111) and ranked in the top five in the NL in extra-base hits (second with 83), WAR (third with 6.3), total bases (third with 336), and slugging percentage (fourth with .554) while also adding 34 homers and 101 runs. Like the other two candidates, Baez also won a NL Silver slugger and was a finalist for a Gold Glove at second base. Baez will try to become the 11th different Cubs player to win the MVP, joining Frank Schulte (1911), Rogers Hornsby (1929), Gabby Hartnett (1935), Phil Cavarretta (1945), Hank Sauer (1952), Ernie Banks (1958, 1959), Ryne Sandberg (1984), Andre Dawson (1987), Sammy Sosa (1998) and teammate Kris Bryant (2016).