The 2019 MLB season has been a roller coaster to this point. Seriously, there was a moment there where everyone had to wonder if the Seattle Mariners were actually a World Series threat.
In that same breath, we all worried if the defending champion Boston Red Sox (specifically Chris Sale) had lost their magic.
As wild as it’s been overall, it’s been much tamer in the NL. Defending NL MVP Christian Yelich picked up right where he left off. He’s again mashing the ball (18 homers) and seems prepared to defend his personal crown while lifting the Milwaukee Brewers back to the playoffs.
He won’t go uncontested, of course, as Cody Bellinger is shredding with 15 dingers and a blistering .401 batting average. Both of these guys have been so good that they’re must-see TV.
They’re so dominant right now, that even when their teams are down, you still believe they have a chance when they come to the plate. If star mashers like this don’t encourage live betting on baseball, I’m not sure what will.
As amazing as they’ve been, it might be foolish to stop the race for the 2019 NL MVP there. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s probably Yelich vs. Bellinger and nothing else matters.
But there are other candidates out there and it’s still early in the season. Injuries, team failure and/or cooling off at the plate can knock anyone out of the running. Besides, defending a league MVP award just isn’t an easy thing to do.
With that said, here’s a look at a few viable NL MVP sleepers you may not want to write off just yet:
Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
The preseason favorite by many to win the 2019 NL MVP, Arenado is a little further down the line after a slow start out of the gates. It probably doesn’t help matters that his Rockies have been rather pedestrian and aren’t a lock for the playoffs.
But you can win the MVP without having a good team around you. It’s also worth noting that despite a slow start, Arenado has 11 home runs and is batting a crisp .314 from the plate.
Provided Arenado’s power ends up producing more long balls by season’s end, he’ll be one of the top NL MVP sleepers to monitor.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Baez is no stranger to efficiency at the plate, as he launched a career-high 34 homers in 2018 and hit at a solid .290 clip.
He’s actually even better so far in 2019, as he’s slaying with an absurd .326 batting average and already has 11 long balls to his name.
That’s far off the leader in the NL, but Baez can get hot in a hurry. He’s also been a huge reason for Chicago’s rise back to the top of the NL Central. If the numbers keep coming and Baez can get the Cubs to the playoffs (or even win the division) again, he’ll have to be considered for NL MVP.
Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres
This is a bit of a reach, to be sure. Machado hasn’t yet lived up to his insane contract, but he’s helped a usually bad Padres team hover around the playoff conversation.
Despite not tearing the cover off the ball, Machado still has nine homers and is batting a respectable .267 from the plate. He hasn’t even gotten hot yet and he’s operating out of the pitcher-friendly Petco Park half the time.
If Machado can blow up like he’s capable of doing and San Diego pushes for a playoff run, it’s going to be hard to ignore him in the NL MVP voting process.
I wouldn’t completely rule out a pitcher contending for the 2019 NL MVP, either. The trouble there is I’m just not sure who it’d be yet.
Zach Davies of all people leads the NL in ERA at the moment, while usual studs like Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw just haven’t been quite as dominant as they need to be.
The odds are good that the NL MVP is handed to an elite bat and like I said, it’s likely to be Yelich or Bellinger. Just don’t be too shocked if one of these sleepers tosses their hat into the ring at some point later in the year.