We are almost in October, which means that the contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders in Major League Baseball. Division leaders are asserting themselves at the top of the standings, wild card hopefuls are fighting for survival, and teams on the outside looking in are hoping find ways to sneak into the postseason picture at the 11th hour.
From an individual standpoint, players are hitting home runs this season at a pace that hasn’t been seen since the so-called “Steroids Era” of the early 2000’s. On Tuesday, Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon’s solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays was the 5,694th home run of 2017, setting a new all-time regular season record. While some players are helping their teams push for the postseason, others are standing out on their own despite their teams’ lack of success.
Of all the peloteros in MLB, a handful have taken hold of the narrative for the 2017 season, whether it’s by leading their contending teams or, in the case of one burly South Beach slugger, by making home run history. As we inch closer to October, the candidates for National and American League Most Valuable Player are starting to emerge from the grind of a long season. Here are the three Latino players–all of whom were All-Stars this year–that have made the strongest cases to take home the MVP hardware for their respective leagues.
American League: Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez
The Indians are the hottest team in baseball right now, and this 25-year-old Dominican is a major reason why. Ramirez has been a nightmare for opposing pitchers with his .314/.367/.576 slash line with a .944 OPS. He also has 27 home runs, 75 runs batted in, 98 runs scored and 314 total bases–if traditional stats are more your speed.
During the Cleveland’s historic 22-game winning streak–which lasted from August 24 through September 14–Ramirez went 30-for-71 from the batters’ box, while collecting 8 home runs, 14 RBI’s, 11 extra base hits, and 4 stolen bases. Perhaps more impressively, he only struck out 3 times during that whole time.
The spark that he provides at the heart of the batting order helped the Indians score a total of 142 runs during that epic winning streak–the second longest unbeaten streak in MLB history. The Indians have already clinched the American League Central division title thanks in-part to Ramirez’s efforts, and now they hope to clinch home-field advantage. At the end of the day, Ramirez has proven his candidacy for AL MVP…although he will likely finish in second at best, thanks to the insane year Jose Altuve is having in Houston.
National League: Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado
If the season ended today, the Rockies would be in the National League playoffs as the final wild card team. But with a little over a week left in the regular season, Colorado is hanging onto that wild card spot by a thread. The Rockies hold a slim one game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers, but the play of Arenado (who is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent) has helped keep that lead intact. His slash line contains all career-high numbers of .309/.372/.587, with a career-high OPS of .959.
His 34 home runs has given him 30-plus homers for the third straight season. His 125 RBIs give him 100-plus in that category for the third consecutive year as well. In August and September alone, Arenado has gone 24-for-46 with 11 home runs, 34 RBIs, 10 extra base hits, and 24 runs scored. The National League West is one of the more difficult divisions in baseball, but with Arenado at the top, the Rockies have survived this long. If the third baseman keeps up this offensive output, Colorado could secure their October slot and get him closer to the NL MVP trophy.
Honorable Mention: Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton
The Marlins won’t make the postseason this year, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have an MVP candidate on their roster. The 27-year-old, $325 million outfielder leads the majors in home runs (55), slugging percentage (.631), is second in the big leagues in RBI’s (117), and ranks third league wide in OPS (1.008).
Stanton–who is of Puerto Rican ancestry–is on pace to reach 60 home runs, a feat that hasn’t occurred since 2001. While baseball’s single-season home run records have long been demolished (by hook or by crook, depending on who you ask), Stanton’s amazing season is no doubt MVP-worthy. Stanton wouldn’t be the first player to win the National League MVP on a losing team, but the last time that happened was 1987. In terms of raw numbers and “value” to his team, Stanton is second to none, but considering how poor the Marlins have been compared to the Rockies (or Paul Goldschmidt’s Diamondbacks), it would be a welcome shock if Big Giancarlo hoists the MVP trophy come season’s end.