HBT First-Half Awards: National League MVP

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: National League MVP.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bryce Harper leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage–and is one point from the top batting average–while playing good defense in right field for the Nationals. He has some major competition from Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but Harper’s nearly 100-point edge in slugging percentage and superior defensive value are enough to separate them for now. Goldschmidt is having a spectacular, MVP-caliber season, but Harper has been even better.

Deciding on the third spot was tough, because Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo are deserving based on their great hitting and Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado, and A.J. Pollock are deserving based on their very good hitting combined with defensive value. I went with McCutchen, who won the MVP in 2013, finished third in 2014, and has hit .343 with a 1.033 OPS in his last 60 games after a brutal start to the season.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

It’s really hard to do any other 1-2 in the NL MVP race than Harper and Goldschmidt. Harper leads the league in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage and is a single point behind Goldschmidt in average, if you care about such things. Which isn’t to slight Goldschmidt in the least — his 2015 season is better than a great many actual MVP seasons over the past couple of decades so far — it’s just that Harper is better than him in just about everything that matters. Goldschmidt has a couple more stolen bases and some RBIs, but that doesn’t amount to much. He also plays in a much better hitter’s park. Sorry, Goldy.

The real race for the MVP, such as it is, seems to be for the third slot. As Aaron said above, you can pick six or seven guys here, depending on your tastes. My tastes, like Aaron’s seem to be, are more about all-around greatness than merely batting numbers. I can’t, however, look past McCucthen’s slow start and give him the nod over someone like Buster Posey, who has hit fantastically and consistently while playing one of the most important defensive positions around. I give a different answer if you ask me which of them I’d want on my team starting tomorrow and going through the end of the year, but an award is, by definition, a retrospective thing and, with all due respect to Mr. McCutchen, you can’t erase the month of April.

Video: Aristides Aquino becomes fastest player to 10 home runs in MLB history

Aristides Aquino
AP Images
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There’s no two ways about it: Aristides Aquino is having a rookie year for the ages. The hot-hitting Reds outfielder tacked another item onto his already lengthy list of accomplishments on Friday, clubbing a two-run, 396-foot home run off of Adam Wainwright in the sixth inning of the Reds’ 13-4 loss to the Cardinals.

The blast came far too late in the game to upset the Cardinals’ nine-run lead, but was otherwise perfectly timed for the rookie. It marked his 10th career home run in just 16 major-league games, officially making him the fastest MLB player to 10 homers in league history. (On a less-thrilling note, it was also the first home run allowed by the Cardinals in 32 2/3 consecutive innings.)

So far in 2019, Aquino is batting a robust .353/.400/.961 with 11 extra-base hits, 19 RBI, a 1.361 OPS, and 0.8 fWAR through 55 plate appearances. Friday’s feat follows other impressive performances from the 25-year-old, who collected three homers against the Cubs last Saturday and tied Trevor Story‘s previously unbeaten record for most homers through his first 10 career games. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon adds that Aquino’s torrid home run pace also eclipsed the standing record held by the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins, who delivered nine home runs through his first 16 career games in 2017 (per Elias).