What a week for the Chicago Cubs. They can’t sweep Awards Week the way some classic films sweep the Oscars, but three out of four ain’t bad. At 6 p.m. tonight, MLB Network will unveil the final award, and the most prestigious one: the Most Valuable Player award. We know the three finalists: in the American League, it’s Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, and Lorenzo Cain; in the National League, the trio consists of Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto. But lest we forget: the fun part about the MVP ballot is that voters have to offer their top 10 choices, not just five. This means guys way off the radar still get some love for stellar seasons that seemingly go unnoticed by the casual fan. Because it’s too late for Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, or Cy Young balloting, here is DraftAmerica’s AL and NL ballot, ranked 1-10 just like the BBWAA pros:
1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Let me preface this pick by saying this isn’t about being tired of seeing Trout win the award. The best and most valuable player deserves it, and Donaldson, in my opinion, is that. It doesn’t hurt that his heroics helped Toronto reach the postseason for the first time since 1993, while the Angels came up just short. That wasn’t Trout’s fault, as he had a much stronger final month than Donaldson. But both players were extremely clutch all year, especially Donaldson, who hit three walk-off homers in 2015. The stats are almost identical for the two, with Donaldson and Trout both clubbing 41 home runs. The major difference was RBIs, where Donaldson had 123 to Trout’s 90. Donaldson also led the league with 122 runs scored for the league’s best offense. It’s hard to pick against him, so I won’t.
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Trout could almost be 1A, but he’ll have to settle for runner-up. Had the Angels reached the playoffs, he might get a boost, but the reigning two-time All-Star Game MVP came up well short in RBIs and runs scored, even if his power numbers and sabermetrics were on par with Donaldson’s.
3. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
With apologies to finalist Lorenzo Cain, Keuchel needs to be in the discussion. He won 20 games for an Astros team that won just 86, but that number was still good enough to give the franchise its first playoff berth in a decade. Keuchel was untouchable at home, setting a record by going 15-0 while also earning Cy Young honors. The all-or-nothing Astros offense needed every bit of Keuchel’s brilliance, because Houston nearly succumbed to a late surge by the Angels before getting in and taking the Royals to the brink in the ALDS.
4. Lorenzo Cain, Kansas City Royals
Cain’s numbers don’t quite stack up, but it’s almost sad that he’s the only member of the World Series champions to register in the top three of any of the major awards. More than his .307 average, 16 home runs and 28 stolen bases, his fourth-ranked 7.7 WAR was a tribute to his defensive brilliance and being the catalyst for a relentless KC offense that, while lacking a true superstar, was as tough as any in baseball. Cain is in the discussion mainly because he was the most valuable player on a World Series winning team, and that isn’t something to be taken lightly.
5. Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals
Let’s apply the same logic for Morales: if Cain was the Royals’ MVP, Morales was not far behind. One of the more under-the-radar free agent signings last offseason, Morales contributed early and often, leading the club with 22 homers and 106 runs batted in. As a designated hitter, his WAR numbers are severely lacking, but so what? He was Kansas City’s biggest run producer and was clutch from start to finish, batting .335 with runners in scoring position.
6. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
So much for having knee troubles. Machado played in all 162 games for Baltimore, pacing the top of the order with big-time offensive production. He was fourth in the league with 102 runs scored, and clubbed 35 home runs while driving in 86 runs. He also won a Gold Glove at third base, and kept an Orioles team with major depth issues stay afloat for most of the year.
7. Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
It wouldn’t be fair to omit Bautista. He was second in runs scored (108) to Donaldson, with only one fewer homer (40) and 114 RBIs, third in the AL. He is hurt somewhat by a .250 batting average, but his presence was just as important for the potent Toronto lineup that led the league in most of the major offensive categories.
8. Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals
Davis was remarkable in the regular season, yet found a way to be even more dominant in the playoffs. He was baseball’s best reliever, surpassing even the lethal Yankees tandem of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. He was 8-1 with a 0.94 ERA, but when closer Greg Holland went down, Davis transitioned seamlessly to closer and amassed 17 saves. Kansas City’s lockdown bullpen starts — well, really it ends — with Davis’ greatness.
9. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
The 2014 AL home run leader came up just short in 2015, finishing three behind former teammate Chris Davis with 44. But Cruz was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing Seattle season, also finishing third in the league in slugging with a .566 mark.
10. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles
It’s impossible to leave Davis off the ballot, as he won the home run title for the second time in three years and giving the Orioles their third straight league-leader in long balls. The incredibly-streaky Davis also led the league with 208 strikeouts, but he saved his best for last, finishing 2015 on a tear. In September/October, Davis hit .318 with 12 homers as the Orioles tried desperately to hang around the playoff chase before coming up short.
Honorable mention: J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers; Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers; Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers; Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays.
1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Like him or not, Harper is the clear-cut favorite for the hardware. He was the only offensive bright spot for a majorly disappointing Washington team that was picked by many to win the World Series yet barely finished above .500. In 153 games, Harper led the Senior Circuit in homers (42), runs (118), OBP (.460), slugging (.649), and OPS (1.109). He finished strong, batting .333 with 11 homers over the season’s final month, even as his team faded out of playoff contention.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt was undoubtedly the first-half MVP in the NL, batting .341 with 21 homers and 70 RBIs. Unfortunately, he tailed off in the second half, batting just .298 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs as Arizona slipped towards the NL West cellar. Goldschmidt is easily the most under-appreciated great player in the game today and plays as hard as anyone. He also has limited protection in the D-backs’ lineup, which would explain his league-leading 29 intentional walks. Here’s hoping one day Goldschmidt, the 2013 NL MVP runner-up, wins the award soon. But it doesn’t look like it will happen in 2015.
3. Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Once again, I am disagreeing with the voters’ consensus top three, eschewing Votto in favor of the NL Cy Young winner. Arrieta went on an almost unprecedented run as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break, racking up 22 wins while leading the league with four complete games and three shutouts, not to mention a no-hitter. With the rest of the rotation often a question mark, Arrieta virtually carried the Cubs over the season’s final two months.
4. Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Arenado is another superstar who gets no national recognition playing for a bad Colorado team. He continues to do his part, tying Harper for the NL home run crown with 42 while leading the league in RBIs (130) by a whopping 20 over Goldschmidt. He won yet another Gold Glove at third base, and there is absolutely no debate about whether his numbers were inflated by Coors Field, because he actually hit two more home runs on the road than at home.
5. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
I opined very early in the season that Carpenter would win the award, and he is worthy of a top five vote. The Cardinals won 100 games, and while everyone will point to their stellar pitching, it was Carpenter setting the tone atop a very inconsistent lineup by hitting a career-high 28 homers. He also led the league in doubles (44) and was fifth in runs scored (101). As far as sabermetrics, he once again was up near the top (third) in pitches seen per at bat with 4.22 and helping wear opposing pitchers down.
6. Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
Grinch may have lost out on the Cy Young award, but he deserves an MVP vote after the year he had. The Dodgers won the NL West primarily on the strength of Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, but even more so Greinke. The right-hander went 19-3 while leading the league in ERA (1.66) and WHIP (0.84). While Kershaw had another typical Kershaw year, the rest of the rotation was abysmal, and the lineup relied too much on the home run ball. LA’s third straight NL West title came in large part because of Greinke’s efforts.
7. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
I’m dropping Votto to seventh despite his stellar year in yet another lost Reds campaign. He finished near or at the top in the less sexy categories like walks (first, 143), pitches seen per at bat (second, 4.34), OBP (second, .459) and WAR (third, 7.6). Still, the Reds had a dreadful season and Todd Frazier’s outstanding season overshadows Votto’s just a tad as well.
8. Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Melancon racked up 51 saves, leading the National League and setting a Pirates franchise record in the process. He was 51-for-53 in save chances for a Pirates team that won 98 games, second-most in baseball. Considering just how many close games Pittsburgh played — and won — Melanin deserves a vote.
9. A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks
What a year Pollock had, earning a well-deserved All-Star berth. He finished second in hits (192) and runs scored (111) while also cracking the top 10 in doubles (fourth, 39), stolen bases (fourth, 39), WAR (fourth, 7.4), triples (eighth, 6), and slugging percentage (ninth, .498).
10. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
Rizzo led the league in games played (160) and hit by pitches (30), and was among the leaders in RBIs (third, 101), doubles (fifth, 38), home runs (sixth, 31), and WAR (sixth, 6.3). He provided “veteran” leadership for the Cubs despite being only 26 years old.
Honorable mention: Jason Heyward, St. Louis Cardinals; Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates; Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants; Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants.