The prestigious Most Valuable Player award dignifies the cream of the crop in each league. Perhaps the most sought after award by players, this award is an impressive checkmark on any player’s resumé. However, some MVP seasons are better than others. These guys have truly been the best of the best in the last 10 seasons. In effort to make this offseason move along faster, I will be ranking the 10 most recent MVP seasons in the National League. Let’s take a look at the rankings.
10. Joey Votto – 2010
Joey Votto, aka The On-Base Machine, is just that. In 2010, Votto slashed .324/.424/.600 and accumulated a 7.0 bWAR. His dazzling on-base percentage of .424 led all of baseball that year and his .600 slugging percentage paced the National League. Additionally, Votto homered 37 times that year–a career high. Votto’s 1.024 OPS points to a very strong offensive campaign. Votto was nothing spectacular in the field as he also posted 3 DRS. Although Votto had a strong season in 2010, this may not have even been the best season of his career (2015, 2017). Still, this season was spectacular enough to land Votto a trophy and the #10 spot on this list.
9. Kris Bryant – 2016
2016 was a magical year for the Cubs and Kris Bryant alike. The young superstar posted a 7.4 bWAR and led a young Cubs team to a World Series title. In the end, Bryant slashed .292/.385/.554. Bryant had an OPS of .939 and an OPS+ of 146. He also led the league in runs scored (121). Kris Bryant experienced the power that he was projected to have as a prospect when he sent 39 balls over the outfield walls. Perhaps what Bryant did best was play several positions. In 2016, he accumulated more than 50 innings at first base, third base, left field, and right field. In fact, he was quietly quite good in the field. In the outfield, he posted 5 DRS and at third base he had a DRS of 4. Although Bryant’s legs did not add much value (8 steals), his strong offensive numbers and defensive versatility contributed to his value and earned him an MVP award.
8. Buster Posey – 2012
Earning an MVP award can be quite difficult for a catcher considering how different the position is compared to that of an infielder or outfielder. Buster Posey is the only catcher in the last 10 years to win MVP in the National League. Moreover, Posey was the first NL catcher since Johnny Bench in 1972 to win the MVP award. Posey’s dominant 2012 season saw him accumulate a 7.6 bWAR and slash .336/.408/.459. Posey’s .336 average and 171 OPS+ led all of baseball in what was his strongest offensive year to date. On the other side of the ball, Posey was less than spectacular. He was actually pretty bad. In 2012, Posey had a negative DRS of -3. Although he struggled on defense, his batting title and the success of the 2012 World Series winners, San Francisco Giants, guided Posey to an MVP title.
7. Giancarlo Stanton – 2017
Former Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton easily had the most powerful season of anyone on this list. In 2017, Stanton clobbered 59 homers–12 more than the next closest total. Stanton played 2017 on a weak Marlins team but saw vast success as he put up a 7.6 bWAR. Overall, the superhuman slashed .281/.376/.631. In total, he had an OPS of 1.007. Before being shipped to New York, Stanton left an impact by leading the league in slugging percentage as well as OPS+ (169). Stanton did not necessarily turn heads due to his ability to hit for high average or on-base skills, but rather his ability to vaporize the ball. Stanton’s power surge in 2017 overshadowed the success he had in the field as well. In fact, over the course of the 2017 season, Stanton accumulated 10 DRS. Although the Marlins were not competitive in 2017, Stanton’s power was enough to capture an MVP award.
6. Andrew McCutchen – 2013
Andrew McCutchen was the face of the Pirates when they reached the playoffs in 2013, the first time since 1992. In that season, McCutchen put up an 7.9 bWAR and slashed .317/.404/.508, good for an OPS of .912. The centerfielder also had an OPS+ of 157. McCutchen clubbed 21 homers and stole 27 bags. Although Cutch never actually led the National League in any major offensive categories, he put up very strong numbers in many of them. On the other side of the ball, McCutchen was very solid as well as he put up 6 DRS in centerfield. Although he did not post astounding numbers in any certain category, McCutchen put up very strong numbers in several categories which made him a true 5-tool player and helped guide the Pirates to the playoffs.
5. Christian Yelich – 2018
Next on the list is Christian Yelich, the most recent MVP winner. Although he was not a clear frontrunner until the end of the season, Yelich put up some very dominant numbers in a career year. In 2018, the 26 year-old put up a 7.6 bWAR and slashed .326/.402/.598 for an even 1.000 OPS. He sneakily stole 22 bases and mashed 36 home runs. His average and slugging percentage led the league and he came very close to capturing the rare Triple Crown. The outfielder led the NL in OPS+ (164) and total bases (343) as well. Yelich was serviceable in the field in 2018 as he posted 4 DRS. Ultimately, the 2018 Brewers would not have been able to sustain success without Christian Yelich in the middle of the lineup. Yelich put the 5 tools of baseball on display in 2018 and won a much deserved MVP award.
4. Ryan Braun – 2011
Braun enjoyed a strong season in 2011 that resulted in a 7.7 bWar. However, it was by no means the most spectacular on this list. The MVP slashed .332/.397/.597 for an OPS of .994, which led the National League. Braun clubbed 33 long balls but what may be more impressive is he stole the same amount of bases. Braun was able to hurt the other team from the plate or on the base path. He was by no means a terrible fielder but he was not a spectacular fielder either as he racked up 3 DRS. Despite losing in the NLCS, Braun was a key cog in a strong 2011 Brewers team. With his glory days behind him, Braun has not enjoyed this kind of success since 2012. However, his 2011 season comes in as one of the strongest MVP campaigns we’ve seen in the past 10 years.
3. Clayton Kershaw – 2014
Kershaw is the only pitcher to appear on this list. In fact, the previous pitcher to win an NL MVP award was Bob Gibson in 1968. For a pitcher to win both Cy Young and MVP in the same season is a special feat. Over the course of the 2014 season, the lefty posted a 7.7 bWAR. As you may have guessed, Kershaw led not only the national league, but all of baseball in several categories. These categories include ERA (1.77), ERA+ (197), FIP (1.87), WHIP (0.857), and K/9 (10.8). Kershaw had a truly special season in 2014. Although he did not eclipse 200 innings, Kershaw was nearly unhittable for the entirety of the season. He also racked up a DRS of 7, 2 more than the season in which he won a Gold Glove (2011). Like Votto, Kershaw’s MVP season may have not even been the best of his career, but it was truly something special nonetheless and lands him in the top half of these rankings.
2. Albert Pujols – 2009
It’s easy to forget just how dominant “The Machine” was. In one of his best seasons, Pujols put up a 9.7 bWAR and slashed a mind-boggling .327/.443/.658. This line was good enough for an MLB-leading OPS of 1.101. Pujols also led the league in runs (124), OBP, SLG, OPS+ (189), and TB (374). Pujols had one of the greatest offensive seasons in recent memory. The future Hall of Famer was going to do damage one way or another and he was a quintessential part of a Cardinals team that reached the postseason. Additionally, Pujols was outstanding on the right side of the infield as he tallied 17 DRS at first base. Although his body has grown old, Pujols put up an unforgettable MVP campaign in 2009 and is arguably the best MVP season we have seen in the past 10 seasons. However, he lands just short of number 1 in my rankings.
1. Bryce Harper – 2015
With his current status as a free agent, Harper is garnering attention and speculation nearly every day. However, this blurb is about his outstanding 2015 season. Simply put, Harper was the player everyone expected him to be when he was young, and then some. He put up an even 10.0 bWAR and slashed .330/.460/.649. His OBP and SLG led all of baseball and accumulated to an OPS of 1.109. His OPS+ (198) was just short of the crazy mark of 200. The sweet-swinging lefty smacked 42 long balls in 2015. In the outfield, Harper was also very good. He posted 9 DRS over the season in 2015. Offense and defense combined, Bryce Harper was a truly dynamic player in 2015 and earns the top spot in these rankings.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know! Be sure to keep an eye out for my “Ranking the 10 Most Recent AL MVP Seasons.” Follow me on Twitter: @__tylergreen__