MLB roundtable: Who’s the early AL MVP favorite following Mike Trout’s injury?

The 2021 MLB regular season is now eight weeks old and I think we’ve all

The 2021 MLB regular season is now eight weeks old and I think we’ve all settled into the daily grind that is marathon regular season baseball. The 60-game sprint was fun in its own way last year given the circumstances. Give me the full 162-game experience every day of the week though.

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we took a stab at predicting who will throw the next no-hitter. This year we prematurely tackle a major awards race.

With Mike Trout injured, who is your early AL MVP favorite?

R.J. Anderson: It’s way too early for this kind of talk, so I’m going to give a handful of reasonable candidates as opposed to one “frontrunner.” I think the most obvious candidates are Xander Bogaerts, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and, of course, Shohei Ohtani. Byron Buxton and Gerrit Cole also deserve recognition, though it’s unclear to me how the voters will treat either of them.

Matt Snyder: The biggest question here involves Trout’s teammate, Shohei Ohtani. How much do we value a player who has been one of the best power hitters in baseball while also an incredible power pitcher with excellent run prevention, albeit on a bit of a shorter workload than other pitchers. If we combine the value of the hitting and the pitching, he really does feel like the most valuable player in the league, to me. He shouldn’t get punished because every other pitcher on his team is terrible and there isn’t much support from other position players, either, but the Angels being bad might affect things here. If it’s not Ohtani, I think it’s pretty obvious most roads point toward the coronation of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Fun fact: While there have been father-son combos that produced MVPs (Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. come to mind), there has never been one where both the father and son won said hardware. Vlad Sr. was the 2004 AL MVP. 

Katherine Acquavella: My early frontrunner would have to be Shohei Ohtani. To be as good as he’s been at the plate is impressive (15 home runs, .270/.330/.956 slash line), but to add on the fact that he’s a starting pitcher, a solid one at that (2.37 ERA in 30 1/3 IP), has to be enough to make him the Most Valuable Player. It’s difficult to put his two-way performance into perspective since this is something baseball fans haven’t seen in over a century. All this to say, it’s still possible Mike Trout comes back from this injury and regains his status as favorite to win another AL MVP Award.

Mike Axisa: I’m a “the best player is also the most valuable player” simpleton, so it’s Ohtani for me too. He’s producing like a top-end DH and flirting with the league lead in home runs, and he’s been excellent on the mound, albeit in limited starts. Still, I think whatever he gives the Angels on the mound more than makes up for his lack of defense as a DH. Xander Bogaerts, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Gerrit Cole are also in the mix, with Bogaerts ahead of the other two for me.