When Mike Trout suffered a calf strain in mid-May that will likely keep him out until July, teammate Shohei Ohtani was the easy call to take his role as the AL MVP favorite. But that might not last long.
The two-way Angels star is still the +125 favorite to win his first MVP Award, and the first that would go to an eligible AL pitcher since Justin Verlander (2011). Yet Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+230) is hot on his tail after hitting two home runs over his last six games, tying him for the MLB lead (18) with Ronald Acuna Jr.
It's not just one hot stretch propelling Guerrero, either. He's hit at least .300 in all three calendar months of this season, and his fWAR (3.5) and wOBA (.459) entering Wednesday were both by far the best in the majors. The 22-year-old phenom boasts a walk rate (14.6%) nearly identical to his strikeout rate (15%), and Toronto is 13-7 this year when he records a multi-hit game.
Still, can he compete with the value Ohtani brings as a pitcher and position player? The 26-year-old owns a top-10 fWAR (1.9) as a hitter and he's added 0.9 fWAR as a pitcher, which would be a top-50 mark among qualified starters. The narrative is also on his side after breaking Statcast records as a hitter to complement 100-mph heat from the mound.
This is still Ohtani's award to lose. You can't tell the story of the first two-plus months of the MLB season without mentioning him, and if the Angels can tread water with Trout shelved, Ohtani will be able to put his stamp on the campaign while pushing L.A. to the playoffs.
Ultimately, Ohtani will win or lose this award on the mound. He was knocked around a bit in late May before recording 10 strikeouts during Friday's win over the Mariners. Guerrero isn't showing any signs of slowing, and he could end the season as the most valuable hitter in baseball. But it'll be tough to deny Ohtani the hardware if he can approach that value from two different positions.
|Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||+230|