The National League MVP Race Is Remarkably Close

By , RADIO.COM Sports

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is having one of the greatest rookie seasons in baseball history, as he's hit 43 home runs and driven in 102 runs. And yet, Alonso is likely to become an afterthought in the National League MVP race.

Alonso may finish in the top five in National League MVP voting. That's how deep the race for the National League's most coveted award is in 2019.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, the reigning National League MVP, has a very real chance to repeat as the winner of the award. Yelich, 27, has slashed .326/.421/.672 with 43 home runs, 93 RBIs and a 7.0 fWAR (fWAR is FanGraphs' version of WAR, which you can learn about here) in 2019. Even with nearly a month left in the 2019 season, Yelich has topped his 2018 season total in home runs, he's improved on his on-base percentage and slugging percentage from 2018 and is very likely to top the 7.6 fWAR he posted a season ago.

In a normal year, Yelich would be running away with the MVP in the National League. 2019 Yelich would edge out 2018 Yelich. But 2019 Yelich may not edge out some other contenders for the award.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Cody Bellinger has exploded in his third major league season, as he's hitting .311 with 44 home runs, 103 RBIs and a National League leading 7.3 fWAR.

While Yelich tops Bellinger in stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, Bellinger has graded out significantly better in right field than Yelich. Bellinger, still just 24, has 10 outfield assists and 19 defensive runs saved from right field in 2019. Yelich, meanwhile, has seven assists from right field, but he also has -4 defensive runs saved.

Cody Bellinger (left) and Christian Yelich (right) are both contenders for the National League MVP Award.
Cody Bellinger (left) and Christian Yelich (right) are both contenders for the National League MVP Award. Photo credit (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

In a world that makes sense, Bellinger's defensive prowess could separate him from Yelich if the two continue to put up nearly identical offensive production. More likely is that Bellinger's team success - the Dodgers have 90 wins, 20 more than the Brewers - could break the tie.

But while the "Yeli vs Belli" debate has dominated much of the 2019 season, there's a late entrant to this contest - Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Rendon is in a contract year. It's safe to say he's made himself quite a bit of coin in 2019, regardless of who ends up signing the checks.

The 29-year-old would win the National League batting title if the season ended today, as he's hitting .337. His .417 on-base percentage tops Bellinger's .414 mark. Rendon has "just" 32 home runs, but he leads the trio with 111 RBIs, which is likely to play well with more traditional voters. His 6.7 fWAR falls just short of Yelich and Bellinger, but is still within striking distance of the two.

Rendon has one defensive run saved and a 4.6 defensive WAR, so while his fielding tops that of Yelich, it doesn't separate him like Bellinger's does.

All of this isn't meant to overlook the tremendous seasons that Ketel Marte, Ronald Acuna Jr., J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Story are having in the National League. But this appears to be a three-horse race that's entering the final stretch. And while Bellinger appears to have a slight edge, it's not difficult to imagine any of the trio ultimately walking away with the 2019 National League MVP.