July 21, 2024

The competition for American League Most Valuable Player is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory.
Four AL players — New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson, Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., and Yankees outfielder Juan Soto — lead the fWAR (FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement) leaderboard, with Houston Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker close behind.

Cleveland Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan and Boston Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran round out the top ten, bringing the total to seven AL players among the fWAR leaders in Major League Baseball.

Kwan’s rise has been spectacular, yet he isn’t even the top player on his squad. Neither is Duran. So, for the time being, there are five great possibilities that could compete for the distinction at the end of the season.

Judge currently leads with a 5.0 fWAR, although Henderson is just behind him at 4.7. Witt comes in second at 4.6, followed by Soto at 4.5. Tucker is at 3.2.

 

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“Juan’s definitely got my vote based on what he’s done all year, coming up big to making great defensive plays,” Judge told The Post. “He’s always on base for me. He makes my job much easier. “He and [Anthony] Volpe are the driving force behind this offense.”

Judge’s modesty is astounding, as he enters Monday leading the league in home runs (26), runs batted in (64), walks (57), slugging percentage (.686), and OPS (1.111). He also leads the AL with 22 doubles and is tied for fourth in hitting average (.299).

While Judge has been probably the finest player in baseball this season, he simply wanted to recognize his superstar teammate.

“If he’s not the best hitter in the game, he’s right up there,” Judge said about Soto. “He has amazing bat-to-ball skills. He has such a keen eye that he isn’t scared to take two strikes, even against people he hasn’t seen before. He does not mind going for two strikes. Two strikes, 3-2, 0-0; the guy is a superb hitter.”

At this moment, voters could not go wrong in either direction. As of Monday, Soto is slashing.315/.433/.592 with 18 home runs, 55 RBIs, 55 walks against 51 strikeouts, and an OPS of 1.025.

It’s difficult to define “most” valuable when both of these guys contribute significantly to baseball’s top club. Fortunately, voters have more than three months to cast their votes.

 

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