This is a one-horse race. Indeed, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to bet the exacta: Bryce Harper as the MVP, winning it unanimously.
Harper was far and away the best and most dominant player in the NL in 2015, leading the league in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS+, homers and runs. His line of .330/.460/.649 was outstanding, with his OPS of 1.109 the highest of any player in baseball since 2008 and the 79th best of all time. His OPS+, 195, is the 71st best of all time — tied for Mickey Mantle’s 1962 MVP season — and is the best in baseball since Barry Bonds’ 2004 campaign.
There was no one close to Harper in 2015. Moreover, the two other finalists for the award, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, didn’t play for winning teams, neutralizing the only potential reason for someone to vote against Harper (i.e. that the didn’t carry his team into the playoffs).
I honestly hope that an evil, Silver Age comic book criminal with a name like “The Fortune Teller” doesn’t take your family hostage today. But if he does, and if he says he’ll only let them go free if you beat him by correctly predicting some future event, go with Bryce Harper winning the NL MVP tonight.
Things aren’t as clear-cut in the AL, but there is a favorite.
Josh Donaldson hit .297/.371/.568, with 41 HR, 123 RBI and an OPS+ of 155. He likewise led the American League in total bases with 352. While he was snubbed when the Gold Glove was awarded, Gold Gloves are stupid. He’s one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball and flashed great leather in 2015. He had big hits. He was seen as the driving force behind the Toronto Blue Jays’ breakthrough, collecting a number of memorable and game-winning hits along the way. He looked, walked and talked like an MVP Award winner and it’ll be somewhat surprising if he doesn’t take the hardware tonight.
His closest competition is Mike Trout who had another outstanding season in a short career that is already packed with them. He hit .299/.402/.590 with 41 HR, 90 RBI and led the league in slugging, OPS and OPS+. Offensively speaking he was superior to Donaldson by most measures, but hitting in a much tougher park for offense and having no one around him in his lineup getting on base for RBI opportunities harms his case in the eyes of voters who may not look quite as deeply at his value. Not that bypassing Trout would be patently unreasonable. His second half was not as strong as his first and he slumped in August when a lot of people start to pay attention to individual awards races. Those things will hurt him even if he did almost single-handedly keep the Angles in the playoff picture until the very end of the season.
If the question is “who should win the AL MVP Award,” you couldn’t go wrong with either player. If the question is “who will win the AL MVP Award,” the answer is likely Donaldson.