The NL MVP award seems like an obvious choice, doesn’t it? Bryce Harper is having a season to remember for the Washington Nationals. He has the power numbers, the run production, the average — everything you’d ever need out of a primary hitter. Even though the Nationals are likely to miss the postseason, Harper’s case is better than everyone else’s in the National League.
Well, almost everyone else.
The Colorado Rockies are having a terrible season, sitting in last place in the NL West. They haven’t given anybody trouble on the mound, as their pitchers give up runs at ease. One thing the Rockies do well, though, is hit the baseball, owning one of the most productive offenses in the game. A big part of their offensive success belongs to one man who has been consistently awesome all season.
Nolan Arenado has only been in the major leagues for about three full seasons now and has absolutely broken out in 2015. He’s always been good with the glove, but what he has done with the bat has forced the league to consider Arenado as the best overall third basemen in the game. With that, Arenado, despite playing for the lowly Rockies, is more than deserving of the NL MVP; he should be a leading contender.
Need proof to believe this assertion? Read on, and let the convincing begin.
Over his time in the league, Arenado has been among the best defenders in the game. He owns a career fielding percentage of .966 and has been apart of 98 double plays since 2013. This season, among MLB third basemen, Arenado is 7th in fielding percentage, has the highest range factor in the league (indicating that he can cover a lot of ground at the position), and has the second highest defensive WAR in baseball (probably the most important stat for a defender). These numbers alone make him potentially the best fielder at the position, but there’s more.
Aside from the solid stats, Arenado has a knack for making highlight reel plays that save runs, stop big rallies, and give his team a better chance to win. Defense is something that can be overlooked when considering who the best players (or most valuable) in the game are, but when you are as good as Arenado is, it can’t be ignored (especially when you see how good he is on offense).
Unlike his defense, for the most part, Arenado wasn’t impressive at the plate during his first two seasons in the big leagues. He only hit for a total of 28 home runs and 113 RBI in those campaigns. Has it ever changed this season.
Few bats have been more productive, if any, than that of Nolan Arenado in 2015. The 24-year old is second in the NL with 39 home runs, is the leader in the NL with 111 RBI, and owns a solid batting average of .285 to go along with it. His bat has been hot of late as well, owning 9 home runs in September (which is an indication of how he might play on a contending club).
His breakout on offense coupled with his greatness on defense would have Arenado as a top-flight MVP candidate if he played for almost any other team than the Rockies.
In comparing Arenado to Harper, you will see that the numbers match up nicely. Harper currently owns 1 more home run than Arenado, but Nolan has him beat by about 20 in the RBI category. Harper does have a significant edge in batting average and offensive WAR (where he is at a ridiculous 9.6), but that takes nothing away from what Arenado has done at the plate. Harper was expected to have these great numbers; Arenado has burst onto the scene, and because the numbers are this well matched, you have to give the Rockies’ third baseman some love in the MVP race.
On defense, its tough to compare these two (especially considering how much more valuable third base is defensively than is an outfield position), but Arenado has shown his value on the field as well (something that Harper hasn’t exactly done). Again, people tend to discount defense, but it is an important part of the game, and few do it better than Arenado.
Of course, a significant difference between these two is the position of their respective clubs. The Nationals are in contention (although barely, at this point) for the postseason, and the Rockies live in the cellar of the league. This has always been important in determining an MVP, and even though the Rockies’ struggles are in no part the fault of Arenado, this has clearly hurt his candidacy. Still, this is a regular season award, and if you are giving it to the player that has had the best regular season, Arenado’s name has to come up.
Nolan Arenado probably won’t (actually, definitely won’t) win MVP in the NL this season. That takes nothing away from the fact he is one of the best players in the game and has had an unbelievable season. Soon enough, the Rockies will turn into a contending club if he continues to play at such a high level, and he will be a serious contender for the award. Either that or he will change teams.