When the news of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s elbow injury came out before the season, a ton of offensive responsibility in the San Diego Padres’ lineup shifted to Manny Machado. All Machado has done with that added pressure is to rake through a quarter or so of the season, leading the National League in hits and possessing the best National League MVP odds so far.
The MLB season is a long one and a lot can change over the next few months. For right now, though, Machado is the guy to beat. There are plenty of other worthy candidates in the NL who could be MLB MVP winners so let’s run through some of them:
Manny Machado (+325)
With his partner on the left side of the Padres’ infield out for a few months, Manny Machado has certainly picked up the slack. He has — almost single-handedly — kept San Diego afloat in Fernando Tatis Jr.’s absence, posting a ridiculous .999 OPS and 197 OPS+. He “only” has seven home runs and 23 RBIs but has the top batting average (.353) and on-base percentage (.433) in the NL, so opposing pitchers are having a devil of a time getting him out.
Machado is also playing his trademark stellar defense at third base as the Padres look like one of the better teams in MLB. It might be tough for him to keep his National League MVP odds up once Tatis returns and takes back some shine but that shouldn’t take away from how good Machado has been.
Nolan Arenado (+425)
If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to have another magical run to the playoffs, it’ll likely be on the shoulders of Nolan Arenado. With much of the St. Louis offense slumping other than he and Paul Goldschmidt, Arenado has been awesome so far. He’s batting nearly .300 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs and feels like a shoo-in for his 10th-straight Gold Glove at third base. Arenado has always been an elite run producer and now he’s getting on base more with some additional power, which makes his case as the NL MLB MVP much stronger.
Juan Soto (+650)
Some of the more traditional statistics don’t favor Juan Soto much, as he has driven in only 11 runs so far this season and is batting just .250. But, he is leading the Majors with 32 walks and has a 157 OPS+ despite a slow start to the year. It’s not his fault that the Washington Nationals are one of baseball’s worst teams and that Soto doesn’t have much lineup protection, so he doesn’t get as many pitches to hit as he should. It’s telling that he has drilled eight home runs but has so few RBIs. Soto should always be in the National League MVP odds mix despite how bad his team is and it’s unfortunate the Nationals’ shortcomings will likely handcuff another one of his MVP bids after he finished 2nd in 2021.
Bryce Harper (+900)
The only thing keeping Bryce Harper out of the inner circle of NL MVP candidates right now is the health of his right elbow. That injury has forced him to miss some time and has made him a DH-only player for over a month and while that hasn’t seemed to affect his performance at the plate — he leads the NL in slugging and OPS — it’s very hard for a DH to win the MVP award. Unfortunately for Harper, his injury isn’t going away any time soon so his National League MVP odds are going to take a deserved hit. It may not matter, if he ends up posting a statline similar to what he did in 2021, he still could take home his second-straight trophy.
Ronald Acuña Jr. (+1000)
Baseball is lucky to have Ronald Acuña Jr. back healthy as he’s one of the game’s most exciting players, not to mention one of baseball’s best sluggers. But, his return from a devastating torn ACL last season is going slowly as he hasn’t returned to peak form yet. It’s still early in the season, though, so he has plenty of time to get himself back into the MVP mix as his timing and power slowly get back to normal. He hasn’t been bad in the 12 games he has played but he hasn’t been the Acuña Jr. we’re accustomed to seeing just yet.Follow us on Twitter