(Wire Service Report – Special to Digital Sports Desk) – Mike Trout’s accomplishments will force voters for the American League Most Valuable Player to choose between individual excellence and team success. The Los Angeles Angels center fielder compiled stats that arguably were the best in the league this year, but he did so for a club that finished 21 games out of the division lead and never played a meaningful game after mid-May.
If the voters decide to rule out Trout due to the Angels’ struggles, a multitude of candidates will be in the running for the hardware.
Mookie Betts and retiring-too-soon David Ortiz powered the Boston Red Sox to the AL East title, but their votes could cancel each other out.
Manny Machado and reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson guided the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, to the AL wild-card game, while Adrian Beltre was instrumental in leading the Texas Rangers to the AL West crown.
The National League MVP race figures to be more clear cut. Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, the top performer on baseball’s top team, should stroll to the award over Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy and Los Angeles Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager.
A look at the MVP on each team, as chosen by our national network of baseball correspondents:
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1B Paul Goldschmidt, the perennial winner of this honor, had another strong year. However, Jean Segura was even better, turning in a career year in this first season with the D-backs. Not only did he provide speed and power from the leadoff spot, but he also made the switch from shortstop to second base without a hitch, and his shortstop’s arm at second base contributed to more than a few double plays. He led the league with 203 hits and finished in the top six in doubles (41) and stolen bases (33).
3B Nolan Arenado cemented his position as one of the game’s superstars and maybe its best two-way player. He is in line to win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. For the second consecutive season, Arenado both tied for the National League lead in home runs, hitting 41 this year, and led the majors in RBIs, collecting 133 in 2016. Arenado reached career highs in batting average (.294), hits (182), triples (six), runs (116) and walks (68), and the latter figure helped his on-base percentage rise to a career-high .362.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
SS Corey Seager established himself as one of the top rookies in the game and generated discussion as a National League MVP candidate. Seager posted Los Angeles franchise rookie marks for hits (193), runs (105) and doubles (40). His 193 hits were the most by a first-year player since 2001, when Albert Pujols had 194 and Ichiro Suzuki hit 242. Seager played in 156 games, the most by an NL rookie this season. Seager’s 26 home runs are a club record for a Dodger shortstop. He also finished 14th in the majors with a .308 batting average.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
1B Wil Myers hit .257 on the season with 28 homers and 94 RBIs in his first full season in the major leagues and his first season at first base. He made only three errors. Myers is the first player in Padres history to have a season with 25 or more doubles (29), homers (28) and steals (28). He finished with a .335 on-base percentage and a .459 slugging percentage. Myers set single-season Petco Park records with a .306 average, 18 homers, 93 hits and 58 RBIs, but he hit only .210 on the road.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
SS Brandon Crawford earns the nod over RHP Johnny Cueto because he led the team in RBIs (84) while also expertly manning the most important defensive position on the field. Crawford, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner in 2015, was solid again, tying for the league lead with 11 triples and finishing with a .275 average and a .342 on-base percentage, both career highs. Cueto, meanwhile, couldn’t even get himself named the starting pitcher for the National League wild-card game.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
3B Kris Bryant had a spectacular follow-up to an impressive 2015 Rookie of the Year season. The versatile 24-year-old NL All Star — he played five field positions and also as designated hitter this season — was just the fourth player in franchise history to collect at least 120 runs, 35 doubles, 39 homers and 100 RBIs in a single season, and just the second in the last 85 years. Bryant closed the regular season with a .292 average, and his team-high 39 home runs ranked third in the league.
1B Joey Votto batted around .200 in April and May. Beginning in June, he had one of the finest offensive seasons of any batter in franchise history. “I wish I would’ve started off better, but ultimately, I’m happy with the way I played,” he said. Votto hit .411 in the second half, finishing with 29 homers, 97 RBIs and a .435 on-base percentage. Once he got hot, he stayed hot. “There really hasn’t been a down cycle,” said manager Bryan Price. “Even the outs. Everything was hit on the barrel.”
RHP Junior Guerra, a 31-year-old veteran who was out of affiliated baseball for six years before he was rediscovered and eventually released by the Chicago White Sox in 2015, starred as a rookie for Milwaukee this year. Originally intended to provide bullpen depth, Guerra was brought up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on May 3 to stabilize a struggling rotation and excelled. He went 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA through his first seven big league starts and was 9-3 with a 2.81 mark in 20 starts when he was shut down for the season on Sept. 15.
LF Starling Marte was shut down for most of the final month because of back issues, but he led the team with a .311 batting average and 47 stolen bases. Teams who dared to test his arm often paid, to the tune of 17 assists. Marte was consistent at the plate, experiencing just one down month, hitting .323 in April, .326 in May, .345 in June, .294 in July, .252 in August and .421 in September. If the Pirates opt to trade Andrew McCutchen, Marte would be an ideal replacement in center field.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
On a team with no clear-cut pick, INF Matt Carpenter edges SS Aledmys Diaz, C Yadier Molina and RHP Carlos Martinez for the award. Carpenter was on pace for a 30-homer, 100-RBI year from the leadoff spot when he sustained a right oblique injury July 6 and had to sit out a month. Carpenter wasn’t the same hitter after returning, but still finished at .271 with 21 homers and 68 RBIs in 129 games. He also walked 81 times, becoming the only National League player to walk at least 80 times in each of the past three years.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1B Freddie Freeman carried the team on his shoulders for much of the year. Although he got off to a horrible start and was hitting .156 on April 20, he roared back to have an MVP-caliber season. Freeman hit .302 with a career-high 34 homers and 91 RBIs. He had 83 extra-base hits, tying him with Hank Aaron for the fourth most in a season in franchise history. Freeman hit for the cycle and was a three-time selection as NL Player of the Week. He is signed through 2021.
CF Christian Yelich hit .298 — just two points off his career best. He had 38 doubles, 21 homers, 98 RBIs, 72 walks, a .376 on-base percentage and an .859 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) — all career highs. In fact, they weren’t just career highs, they blew out everything he did previously in his four-year career. Yelich, a 24-year-old California native with a tall and skinny frame, could truly develop into a monster player as he matures and gets stronger.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets were 72-54 when OF Yoenis Cespedes started and 15-21 when he did not. He is an imperfect player prone to slumps at the plate and absentmindedness in the field, but he is the Mets’ most essential player. Cespedes (.280, 31 homers, 86 RBIs) likely will opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and the cash-poor Mets have to pray his quirks and age (31) turn off potential suitors and/or that his obvious affection for New York leads him to accept a little less than he could get elsewhere.
On a team with little experience, RHP Jeremy Hellickson was a steadying presence for a young rotation. The Phillies acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and he produced a 12-10 record with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts. As the team struggled and injuries ended RHP Aaron Nola’s and RHP Zach Eflin’s seasons, he was important. Hellickson is a free agent this year, and the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year said he would to remain in Philadelphia.
Even after 2B Daniel Murphy had a record-setting postseason for the New York Mets in 2015, the Nationals could not have fathomed the type of year Murphy would have this year when he signed with Washington as a free agent in time for the 2016 season. He had a career year, hitting .347 with a .390 on-base percentage, a .595 slugging percentage, 47 doubles, five triples, 25 homers and 104 RBIs. He was slowed in the season’s final weeks by a strained buttocks, managing only three at-bats after Sept. 17.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros 2B Jose Altuve led the American League in batting (.338) and hits (216) and became the first second baseman to win multiple batting titles since Rod Carew, who won five between 1969-75. Altuve is the first second baseman in history to reach 100 runs, 200 hits, 40 doubles, 20 home runs, 95 RBIs and 30 steals and just the sixth player regardless of position to reach those benchmarks. He finished fourth in the majors in Win Above Replacement (7.6) and was an MVP candidate before a late swoon coincided with the Astros’ fade from the postseason picture.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Nobody else on the Angels came close to the kind of season CF Mike Trout produced. Trout he amassed 29 home runs, 100 RBIs and 30 stolen bases, and he finished fifth in the American League with a .315 average. He also led the major leagues with 123 runs, a .441 on-base percentage and a team-record 116 walks while finishing second with a .991 OPS. Most important, Trout achieved such feats while staying off the disabled list and maintaining his sense of unbridled joy.
The A’s acquired LF Khris Davis on Feb. 12 from Milwaukee for a pair of prospects, C Jacob Nottingham and RHP Bubba Derby, and he proceeded to make that deal look like a steal for Oakland. Davis tied for third in the major leagues in home runs (42) and tied for 17th in RBIs (102). He displayed remarkable power to the opposite field, especially for a player listed at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds. Davis has a weak throwing arm, but the A’s got him primarily to hit home runs, and he exceeded their expectations in the power department.
After a frustrating 2015 season that included some discouraging comments from outgoing bench coach Andy Van Slyke, 2B Robinson Cano answered all doubters with one of the finest years of his career. Cano hit a career-high 39 home runs, went over the 100-RBI mark for the first time as a Mariner and flirted with a .300 batting average, a mark he reached nine times in his career but fell just short in hitting .298 this season. “Robbie, really from the get-go, from spring training through the season, has just had a phenomenal year,” manager Scott Servais said.
Proving that getting older means nothing, 3B Adrian Beltre continued to amaze at age 37. Beltre, who signed a two-year extension with the Rangers through 2018, led the way once again for a Texas club that won its third division titles with him on the roster. All he did was hit .300, surpass the 30-homer mark for the first time since 2013 and eclipse the 100-RBI mark for the first time since 2012. He added to his already Hall of Famer resume as he moved into the all-time top 40 in both home runs and RBIs.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
LHP Chris Sale (17-10, 3.34 ERA) turned in one of the best campaigns of his career. He walked 45 and struck out 233 in a career-high 226 2/3 innings. He led the majors with six complete games. However, Sale’s on-field dominance came along with off-field distractions. He ripped the front office during spring training after Adam LaRoche retired instead of curtailing the time his son spent in the clubhouse. In late July, Sale destroyed throwback uniforms before a scheduled start because he thought they were uncomfortable. The team suspended Sale five games for the outburst.
Jose Ramirez began the season as the Indians’ super utility player. He was so proficient in that role that one month into the season he played his way into being an everyday player, eventually landing permanently at third base. Ramirez hit .312, with 46 doubles, 11 home runs, 76 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. He batted a team-high .357 with runners in scoring position. He was also one of the hardest hitters in the league to strike out, fanning just 62 times in 618 plate appearances.
1B Miguel Cabrera is easy to overlook because he puts up solid numbers every season — even when not healthy. Relatively free of injury this season, Cabrera saw his power return in a big way. The team leader in home runs (38) plus RBIs (108) again, he was second to CF Cameron Maybin in batting average and drove in 27 runs in September to lead the Tigers’ failed playoff push. He homered in three consecutive games (a total of four) at the end of September to spark Detroit victories.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
1B Eric Hosmer set career highs with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs, which led the team. Hosmer, who was selected to his first All-Star Game, also plays Gold Glove defense. His importance to the team is illustrated by his results in wins and losses. In the 80 victories Hosmer participated in, he hit .307 with an .880 OPS. He played in 78 defeats, and Hosmer batted .221 with a .631 OPS in those games.
Even as the losses piled up, Brian Dozier was putting together one of the best seasons ever for a second baseman. Dozier set an American League record for home runs in a season at the position with 40. He finished with 42 total home runs, joining Harmon Killebrew as the only Minnesota players to hit 40 or more in a season. He had just five homers through May but led baseball with 28 home runs after the All-Star break. Dozier hit .268 and added 99 RBIs, 104 runs and 18 stolen bases while providing steady defense.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
3B Manny Machado struggled over the final few weeks but was still the team’s MVP. He hit .294 with 37 homers and 96 RBIs and again showed why he is arguably the top defensive third baseman in baseball. He might have helped more in the field than he did at the plate because of the number of runs and hits that his skill with the glove denied opposing hitters. The scary part for opponents: He is just 24 and probably will improve.
BOSTON RED SOX
A dead heat between DH David Ortiz and RF Mookie Betts. Both are deserving of the award, but Betts is seen as more of a favorite because he plays in the field — and led all players with 32 defensive runs saved for the season. But can you really overlook what Ortiz did in his final season? Betts finished at .318 with 31 homers, 113 RBIs, an .897 OPS, 26 steals, 122 runs, 214 hits and great defense. Ortiz ended at .315 with 38 homers, 127 RBIs and a whopping 1.021 OPS.
NEW YORK YANKEES
It is tempting to pick C Gary Sanchez, but in reality RHP Masahiro Tanaka was the MVP. While uncertainty loomed many days when other starting pitchers took the mound, Tanaka delivered most times and cemented his status as an ace. He finished 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA (third in the American League). As the Yankees made a surprising late-season surge, Tanaka went 7-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his final nine starts. Last year, he pitched under the specter of a torn ulnar collateral ligament and possible Tommy John surgery, but those concerns have subsided.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
3B Evan Longoria was back to his old self in 2016, resetting his career high with 36 home runs and just missing 100 RBIs — he finished with 98, getting just three in the final 11 games. His bat was the best it had been since his first three seasons with the Rays, helping a power boost that saw the team hit 49 more home runs than the year before. Longoria was particularly effective on the road, where he batted .287. He hit just .258 at home.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
3B Josh Donaldson can win games with his bat, his glove and his aggressiveness on the bases. While he did not have quite the season he had in 2015 when he was the American League MVP, he still batted .284/.404/.549 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs while dealing with nagging injuries. His 109 walks were second in the AL and third in the majors. Over the past two seasons, Donaldson has 78 homers, and 44 of them either tied the game or put the team ahead, the most in the majors by any player in that span.