I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that the greatest baseball player on Earth, Mike Trout, is hurt and going on the disabled list. The good news is that Aaron Judge might actually benefit from it because it gives him a better chance at the American League MVP Award. When I say chance, I really mean it makes this a fair fight.
It’s not even June yet, so we’re still a long way away from learning the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player, but Judge is making a strong case to be considered. Through his first 46 games, the six-foot-seven outfielder is hitting .319/.419/.687 at the plate and already has 17 home runs. If this keeps up, Judge will be on pace to hit 50-60 dingers by the end of the year. That should be enough to make him the favorite for the award, but it’s really not.
Mike Trout, meanwhile, has hit .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs and 10 stolen bases while accumulating 3.6 WAR already. That’s how good he has been so far. Judge, despite his success, has “only” been a 2.5-WAR player. Looking around the field, there are a few players who are putting their name in the (early) MVP conversation.
Twins third baseman Miguel Sano is having an impressive 2.5-WAR season by hitting .292/.406/.590 with 12 home runs. Rays outfielder Corey Dickerson is at 2.4 WAR and is hitting .345/.390/.616 with 12 home runs. Judge, though, has been superior to them in several categories. Players like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve could also join the conversation if they go on a tear from here.
Compared to the lot of them, Trout is still the superior player. He’s been the MVP twice in the last three seasons and could have won a few more if it wasn’t for the voters. Even if he misses a full two months because of a torn UCL in his thumb, would the voters care? There’s a chance that some of his stats would still be in the lead. There’s also a chance that he comes back in late July and picks up exactly where he left off. In that scenario, Judge has no chance.
Despite this reality, it’s important to simply enjoy the run that Judge is on right now. It’s one of the greatest runs a Yankees rookie has ever been on. While it’s hard to talk about the MVP race, he’s easily in line to start the All-Star Game after receiving more votes than anyone not named Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. He also has a good chance to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. At the moment, his biggest threats to the title include Mariners outfielders Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel (BEN GAMEL??), Athletics infielder Chad Pinder, and White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson. You would expect Andrew Benintendi to be among the favorites for the award, but so far he’s been underwhelming for the Red Sox, leaving Judge at the top of the competition.
In the end, he can only control what he does on the field for himself, so he won’t be thinking about this any time soon, if ever. He’s also only 46 games into his season. Let’s just enjoy what he does from here and worry about awards in a few months. Maybe the MVP Award is an unrealistic dream, but Rookie of the Year would be an incredible accomplishment for Judge and the Yankees’ farm system. That’s what I’ll be rooting for the rest of the way.