Mike Trout is the best player in Major League Baseball. This statement should go without saying, but as the season winds down it serves as a reminder when pundits and fans debate who is the most valuable player in the American League. There isn't much discussion over in the National League. They have a clear front-runner in Kris Bryant who leads the NL in WAR from Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus. However, in the AL voters have to circle back to the timeless discussion of what "most valuable" means.
Personally, I wish the MVP award went to the player who had the best season. Based on that criteria, it should go to Trout as like Bryant; he leads the AL in WAR from Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus. He is hitting .323/.439/.578 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI. Want to grade offensively using wRC+? He leads the clubhouse with a 175 wRC+. No matter how you want to slice it, Trout is the best, but in a year that the Angels are 60-75, he is not getting enough help elsewhere on the field to truly feel his impact.
Or maybe in a crazy way, Trout is hurting the Angels. For a franchise that is in pressing need to add prospects to their farm system, Anaheim is tied with the Philadelphia Phillies for the 10th pick. Tiebreakers would be necessary to decide who has the ninth pick in next year's MLB Draft (the Chicago White Sox currently at 11th, just four games better than the Angels and Phillies), but the bonus pool money is not a significant difference.
If you remove the best player from every team, each one would significantly be worse, but remove Trout from the Angels and I don't think it's impossible to say they would be the worst team in baseball. Gaining millions of dollars in bonus pool money and the opportunity to add the best available amateur talent to a farm system that is desolate. Which means that Trout's outstanding season is having lots of impacts, but he plays on a team that probably needs to be tanking.
There will be voters who will cast a ballot without Trout's name on it for MVP because they adhere to the belief that the player with the best season on a team that is going to the postseason should earn the honors. I think for the 2016 season, this is going to be a popular stance, but voters are entering muddy waters with a stacked race. There are no clear-cut choices after Trout, and the following four players can make an excellent case to be MVP.
Josh Donaldson - Toronto Blue Jays
The reigning AL MVP is at it again. He is hitting .297/.407/.578 with 34 home runs and 92 RBI. Donaldson leads the AL in runs scored with 108 and is second in WAR with 7.1 wins according to Fangraphs. Toronto is currently tied with the Boston Red Sox for first in American League East with a 76-59 record.
Mookie Betts - Boston Red Sox
Speaking of Boston, their 23-year old outfielder is taking his game to a new level. After a fantastic 2015 season that saw Betts become a six-win player, Betts today is worth 7.8 wins, second to Mike Trout according to Baseball-Reference. He is hitting .319/.359/.560 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI with 104 runs scored, joining teammate David Ortiz 30/100 club.
Jose Altuve - Houston Astros
Houston Astro second baseman will win the AL batting title. Altuve's batting average is .348 and second in the AL with qualified hitters is Boston's Dustin Pedroia hitting .325. Adding to the contact, the 5'5" hitting machine has added power to his stroke with 64 extra base hits (22 home runs, 37 doubles, 5 triples) and 26 stolen bases. His team is still in the postseason race with a record of 71-64, just three games back in the wild-card.
Manny Machado - Baltimore Orioles
Hard to believe that Machado is only 23 years old, but in his fifth season, we see his finest yet. After bouncing back from a major injury in 2014, Machado finished fourth in the AL MVP race in 2015 hitting .286/.359/.502 with 35 HR and 86 RBI. This season, his slash line is .305/.358/.565 with 33 home runs and 85 RBI playing excellent defense at third and shortstop. Baltimore is still in the hunt to win the AL East and is holding on to one of the wild-cards.