The 2016 MLB season is a quarter of the way complete with every team playing somewhere between 38 and 43 games. In addition to a few of the top teams playing up to expectations, some of the league’s young superstars are playing better than ever.
Reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson has struggled of late, but players like Mike Trout and Manny Machado continue to put up big numbers. Bryce Harper has followed up his National League MVP season in a big way, and he has plenty of competition for the award this year.
Below is a look at MLB’s top performers through the first quarter of the season.
AL MVP: Jose Altuve (.345, 9 HR, 26 RBI)
The Houston Astros have arguably been MLB’s most disappointing team, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Altuve has been the best position player in all of baseball. He’s at the top of nearly every AL category: first in stolen bases (15), runs (38), hits (57), doubles (17), on-base percentage (.433); second in batting average (.345) and third in slugging percentage (.612) and walks (24). The second baseman is only three home runs behind the AL leader, and he’s in the top 20 in RBI as a leadoff hitter.
Altuve’s biggest competition comes from Machado (.319, 11 HR, 26 RBI), who might win the award if voting took place now, because of how well his team has played. Projected to finish last in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles are in first place with the AL’s best record. Machado has been their best player, with a slash line of .319/.377/.652 in addition to his great defense.
Trout (.327, 10 HR, 31 RBI) has been great, as usual, and he’s headed for another MVP-caliber season.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (.254, 11 HR, 29 RBI)
His batting average is nearly 150 points worse than that of teammate Daniel Murphy, but Harper is unquestionably the most-feared hitter in all of baseball. Following one of the best offensive seasons of the last decade, the defending MVP is being treated like Barry Bonds, leading the league with 45 walks and on pace to get more free passes than the all-time home run leader did when he hit 73 long balls in 2001. Harper makes the most of his at-bats, sitting just five RBI behind the MLB leader, despite teams constantly pitching around him. Adding the fact that he has a .574 slugging percentage as the best player on a first-place team, Harper is the MVP.
A few surprise candidates like Murphy (.397, 6 HR, 27 RBI) and Aledmys Diaz (.372, 6 HR, 21) should get consideration. Murphy leads the majors in hits, and he’s on pace to end the season with 237. Diaz has come out of nowhere in his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals to be the best shortstop in MLB with a 1.039 OPS.
Nolan Arenado (.301, 13, 33 RBI) is one RBI away from leading MLB in home runs and runs batted in, though his OPS is 128 points lower away from the thin air of Colorado.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale (9-0, 1.58 ERA, 62 K)
It’s not hard to figure out why the Chicago White Sox are sitting atop the AL Central when they are guaranteed to win every time their ace takes the mound. Pitchers’ individual records are often not an accurate depiction of how well they’ve performed, but Sale’s nine victories speak volumes about his 2016 campaign. Sale’s two worst starts came in early April when he began the year with back-to-back wins, going seven innings and allowing three runs each time out. In his last seven starts, he’s allowed more than one run just once. Opposing batters are hitting just .163, and his 0.72 WHIP is the best in the AL.
Jose Quintana (5-2, 1.54, 47 K), Sale’s teammate, is the only AL starter with a better ERA, and he’s one of 11 MLB starters that have a WHIP under 1.00. Cleveland’s Danny Salazar (4-2, 1.80, 61 K) doesn’t even have half as many wins as Sale, but he’s allowed a .157 average with 10.98 strikeouts per nine innings.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (6-1, 1.67 ERA, 88 K)
Kershaw continues to be the best pitcher of his generation, further cementing his place in MLB history as an all-time great. His pin-point control is as good as ever with four walks in 70 innings, giving him an otherworldly 22-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio—Phil Hughes set the all-time mark in 2014 with 11.6 strikeouts for every walk. His 0.70 WHIP would be the best ever if the season ended now, and he’s doing all that he can to make up for the loss of 2015 Cy Young runner-up Zack Greinke.
The fact that Kershaw should win the award over Jake Arrieta (7-0, 1.29 ERA, 55 K) more than anything highlights how dominant the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher has been. Giving the Chicago Cubs’ their best chance to win a World Series in decades, Arrieta has arguably pitched better than he did in last year’s Cy Young season. He’s surrendered three earned runs just once, going at least seven innings and giving up no runs on four occasions. Arrieta ranks first in ERA and second in WHIP (0.84), maintaining a perfect regular-season record since July 25.
AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara (.307, 5 HR, 13 RBI)
The rookie has been good enough to earn himself a spot in the heart of Texas’ lineup. His batting average is 43 points higher than the No.2 rookie on the list, and he’s tied for the rookie lead in walks in just 33 games. At just 21 years old, Mazara could get even better as the season moves along.
Houston’s Tyler White (.243, 7 HR, 18 RBI) and Minnesota’s Byung Ho Park (.233, 9 HR, 15 RBI) are the only rookies that have been nearly as productive. White got off to a fast start, but he has just two home runs and four RBI in May. Park has hit for very good power with a .525 slugging percentage, but he doesn’t hit for average and strikes out a lot.
NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz (.372, 6 HR, 21 RBI)
Diaz is the clear choice, considering a case could even be made to give him the MVP award. His average is 61 points ahead of the closest rookie, and his 1.039 OPS ranks fourth in all of baseball. Diaz likely won’t keep up this pace the entire season, but his numbers should still be outstanding when the season is over.
Trevor Story (.287, 12 HR, 31 RBI) is still in the running, and he might ultimately win the award. He burst onto the scene with seven home runs in the first week, and he has more home runs on the road than he does when playing at home in Colorado. The shortstop has just two home runs in May, though he’s raised his average this month.