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Top 3: American and National League

Adam Shay

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Just over a month has passed since Opening Day and thus far, the 2019 baseball season has been groundbreaking with new MLB records. The Seattle Mariners started the season with a home run in 20 consecutive games, Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger had 37 RBI’s through April, and CC Sabathia became the 17th pitcher to surpass 3,000 strikeouts last night. 

Statistically speaking, players are having incredible early season success due to a wild home-run spike. Not to mention, players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper are injured or having underwhelming power numbers. Seven players have over ten home runs, six with nine home runs, and there have only been 32 games this season.

Aside from the power, the top ten players in batting average are not the usual contact hitters: no Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, or J.D Martinez. Only two players who finished top ten in batting average last year are repeating the same success in 2019. Again, it’s incredibly early in the season, but it’s worth taking notes. Here are the top three players in each league so far:

(Like baseball referenceBold leads the league, Italicized leads MLB).

American League: 

  1. Mike Trout: (25 hits, 6 home runs, 16 RBI’s, 29 walks, .294/.487/.565, 1.052 OPS, and 2.4 WAR). Is anyone surprised he is still the best player in not only the AL, but the MLB? Playing for the last place Los Angeles Angels, he still manages to carry the work load and produce at a high rate. Trout already has a highlight real this year defensively, putting his defensive WAR at 0.9, the highest in the AL and tied for second in the MLB. His power numbers are not as prominent as usual, but that’s due to his remarkable batting eye. It seems highly unlikely he will finish below fifth in MVP voting.
  2. Hunter Dozier: (30 hits, 7 home runs, 17 RBI’s, 15 walks, .349/.447/.686, 1.133 OPS, and 1.6 WAR). Also on a last place team, Dozier has come onto the scene after an abysmal 2018 season. The Kansas City Royals have a potent offense, but their pitching ranks 13th in the AL. The third baseman has shown timely hitting and defense because of his high WAR, despite having played 25 of 29 games. His slash line, WAR, and 15 walks are team-leading making him a crucial factor to a struggling team. Who knows if he can continue to produce at this high rate, but for now, he is a top AL player.
  3. Elvis Andrus: (39 hits, 5 home runs, 20 RBI’s, 10 walks, .361/.425/.583, 1.002 OPS, and 1.4 WAR). Most know for his great defense and goofy antics with now retired Adrian Beltre, Andrus has erupted for a stellar offensive season. Only once in his 11 year career has he batted over .300, completely blowing past his previous high with his .361 average. His power has increased drastically too, never having a season over .500 slugging percentage before. The Texas Rangers are in a tough division with the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, but with Andrus as an offensive anchor, they will need him to continue to be their go-to guy.

National League:

  1. Cody Bellinger: (32 runs, 47 hits, 14 home runs, 37 RBI’s, 18 walks, .431/.508/.890, 1.387 OPS, and 3.5 WAR). The stats are pretty self-explanatory. Bellinger has been the best offensive player this year, breaking records and boosting the Los Angeles Dodgers to a first place 20-12 record. He is a glimmer of Dodger hope as no other starting player has a batting average over .300. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2017, followed by a lack-luster sophomore season, Bellinger had a lot to prove this year. Clearly he has exceeded expectations. With him as the offensive centerpiece, along with other players improving daily, the Dodgers can make it to their third consecutive World Series. 
  2. Christian Yelich: (36 hits, 14 home runs, 34 RBI’s, 20 walks, .353/.460/.804, 1.264 OPS, and 2.1 WAR). The reigning MVP has not missed a step following his phenomenal 2018 campaign. As of now, Yelich has improved in every offensive category and is on pace to overshadow last year’s stats. The Milwaukee Brewers are lucky to be tied for second with the Chicago Cubs since Yelich is the only player with over a .300 batting average. Nevertheless, the team is stacked with stars and behind Yelich’s tear, he should lead the Brewers to the postseason. 
  3. Paul DeJong: (40 hits, 14 doubles, 5 home runs, 13 RBI’s, 10 walks, .342/.403/.607, 1.010 OPS, and 2.2 WAR). DeJong finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Bellinger, following suit and having a sophomore slump. His biggest improvement: batting eye. The past two years, DeJong has had more strikeouts than games played, but not this season as he has 22 strikeouts in 29 games. His power is improving immensely with his MLB leading 14 doubles. At this rate, he should eclipse his career-high 26 doubles by mid-June. The St. Louis Cardinals are in first place (19-10) and with a mixed team of veterans and young talent, they have a shot at making the NLCS. 

Ever wished you could start a career covering your favorite sport? Have you spent time wishing you could combine your love of sports with your passion for writing and reporting? CMN’s Sports Journalism course is an experiential learning program designed to give the practical experience you need to get your foot in the door in this ultra-competitive industry. You’ll get useful, direct feedback on your reporting, exposure to experienced sports journalists and influencers, and a great place to build your portfolio. You can get college credit, too. Get all the details on the CMN's Sports Journalism Course here.

Adam Shay is a graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, During his four years at EIU, he wrote for the Daily Eastern News for two and a half years, covering multiple sports, news events, and writing feature stories. He was also on the rugby club team for two years, a member of the Society of Collegiate Journalists, and finished third in applying for his commencement speech. Currently, he runs a public relations system for a bar in Palatine, Illinois, and in his free time, he is always learning about music, sports history, and American history.

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