Cody Bellinger. Christian Yelich. Ronald Acuña Jr.. Ketel Marte. Anthony Rendon.
Those remaining in the NL MVP race are a potent bunch. Does Cody Bellinger have the upper hand? Does he have enough left in the tank to make a late push if he doesn’t?
Here is a breakdown of the top five in the NL MVP race — in my opinion — and who Cody Bellinger leads and trails.
1. Christian Yelich
At the beginning of the season, it appeared to be a two-horse race between Cody Bellinger and the Brewers’ outfielder Christian Yelich. Now, it appears that Yelich has the upper hand with just one month remaining in the regular season.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) September 8, 2019
Yelich currently leads Bellinger in nearly every offensive category that matters and has leap-frogged him in wins above replacement (WAR) in recent weeks.
On the season, Yelich holds a .330 batting average, 1.103 on-base plus slugging percentage, and 173 wRC+. He has even chipped in an elite 7.6 WAR. He has even added 30 stolen bases while only being caught twice. Phenomenal.
While his defense certainly lags behind Bellinger’s — -4 outs above average (OAA) to Bellinger with 7 in limited time — Yelich may have enough of an offensive lead over Bellinger to take the crown. Factor that in with voters typically negating defensive value, Yelich might be the slam-dunk candidate with a small fraction of time remaining this season.
The whole “Yelich MVP supporters don’t care about defense” logic is a little flawed, IMO. It’s not that they don’t care about defense, it’s just that they believe his superior offensive contributions outweigh Bellinger’s superior defensive contributions, which is very fair
— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) September 9, 2019
2. Cody Bellinger
Bellinger’s start to the 2019 campaign was extraordinary and that is most definitely an understatement. You simply cannot even put it into words. Through two months to start the season, the 24-year-old Bellinger posted an astronomical 205 wRC+ and .379/.465/.749 slash line. He was incredible.
Bellinger takes the HR lead with Number 44. ? pic.twitter.com/iXM2k2RTFm
— Baseball Lifestyle™ (@BsbLifestyle__) September 3, 2019
Since June began, however, his numbers have expectedly dipped. He has since slashed .256/.373/.569 with a 137 wRC+. Those are still fantastic numbers, but in comparison, Yelich has slashed .344/.435/.659 with a 175 wRC+ in that same span. Yelich stayed consistent while Bellinger ‘swayed’.
Overall, Bellinger has slashed .306/.410/.642, posted a 165 wRC+, and has accumulated 7.3 WAR.
Regardless, Bellinger has had an amazing season. There just might not be enough there for him to surpass Yelich, notwithstanding an astronomical slip from Yelich.
3. Anthony Rendon
Possibly the most underrated player in the majors for a few seasons running, Rendon is finally getting some recognition.
NL players with a higher August fWAR than Anthony Rendon:
NL players with a higher August WRC+ than Anthony Rendon:
NL players with a higher August OPS than Anthony Rendon:
No one. pic.twitter.com/DafWKQviRK
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 3, 2019
In 2019, Rendon has pushed a phenomenal .337/.417/.630 slash line, 162 wRC+, and 6.8 WAR. He has been outright dominant at the plate.
In a field of fierce competitors, Rendon fits right into the top tier along with Yelich and Bellinger. There is an outside chance Rendon gets some love above Bellinger based off of his batting average — something voters tend to prioritize — alone.
4. Ketel Marte
Ketel Marte has been one of the biggest stories of improvement this season and has placed his name firmly in the MVP conversation with his play and by helping the Arizona Diamondbacks get into the Wild Card race.
Ketel Marte is slashing .367/.426/.657 (1.083 OPS) over his last 83 games (80 starts). He's a great defender and can play three premium positions in second base, shortstop, and center field. He's only 25 and is up to 6.4 fWAR this year. One of the most underrated in the game.
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) September 5, 2019
Marte holds a .330/.390/.599 slash line and 151 wRC+ on the season. He has also chipped in a 6.9 WAR and 8 DRS in center field.
He certainly tops other contenders like Acuña Jr. and Alonso and might not be as far behind Bellinger as you think.
5. Ronald Acuña Jr.
Possibly the most dynamic athlete in the majors not named Mike Trout, Acuña Jr. silenced the sophomore slump and has been almost good this season as in 2018.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is trying to reach the 40-40 Club before the end of this series. pic.twitter.com/y4JLfFMiB9
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) September 6, 2019
On the season, Acuña has posted a .280/.364/.515 slash line and 123 wRC+ in his chase for a 40-40 season. He currently has 38 home runs and 34 stolen bases under his belt. Those numbers all do look nice and it is a fantastic season when also weighing in his 4.9 WAR mark, but he simply does not stack up to Yelich nor Bellinger.
Acuña should garner a handful of third place votes, but he has a fairly low chance of being the MVP or the runner-up for that matter.
Yes, I do not have Cody Bellinger as the current MVP of the National League. I strongly believe he is not. While his season has been one for the ages, the 2019 campaign of Christian Yelich has been even more impressive which is crazy to say.
Regardless of if Bellinger takes home the honor or not, he has been phenomenal and should continue to be for the next decade and then some.