Three Up, Three Down: Anthony Rendon Makes MVP Push
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals
Christian Yelich is out for the year after a grisly knee injury. Cody Bellinger has slowed down and hit .241/.349/.517 since Aug. 1. Rendon, meanwhile, just keeps getting better. The Nationals third baseman has pushed into the major league lead with a .333 batting average, ranks fourth with a .417 on-base percentage and is third with a a .629 slugging percentage. He leads the National League in doubles (43) and leads the majors in RBIs (119). Rendon has also been at his best in the heat of the pennant race with the Nationals trying to hold on to a playoff spot. Since the All-Star break, Rendon has hit .370/.454/.652 to carry Washington's offense down the stretch. The 2010 College Player of the Year and 2011 No. 1 draft prospect has lived up to his billing as a potential franchise player, and now he is making a strong case to add a Most Valuable Player award to his collection.
Yordan Alvarez, DH, Astros
How good has Alvarez been in his major league debut? Well, since the Astros called him up on June 9, Alvarez leads the American League in OPS (1.084). The mashing Cuban wunderkind has surged into the lead for the American League Rookie of the Year award and shows no signs of slowing down. At a time when many rookies hit a wall as the league gets better scouting reports on them and the grind of the long season starts to take a toll, Alvarez has hit .306/.420/.660 since the start of August. The two-time Top 100 Prospect is already batting in the middle of one of baseball’s best lineups, and he has reinforced the strength of the Astros' long-term offensive outlook.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Reds
Most of the Reds’ big offseason deals fell flat, but acquiring Gray and extending his contract continues to look like a win. After a solid start to the season, Gray has kicked it up a notch as the season has gone on. The 29-year-old righthander has a 1.84 ERA since the start of July, second-lowest in the majors behind only Jack Flaherty. Gray's 6.3 hits allowed per nine innings is the lowest in the National league, and he also ranks in the top 10 with a 2.80 ERA (fifth), 1.09 WHIP (eighth) and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings (ninth). Not much else has gone right for the Reds this year, but the acquisition of Gray has given them a frontline pitcher to build around moving forward.
Orlando Arcia, SS, Brewers
The race for the worst OPS in the majors is on, and Arcia has a double-digit lead with just under two weeks to go. Arcia’s .622 OPS is the lowest among 139 qualifying major leaguers this season, followed by Yolmer Sanchez (.633), Joe Panik (.642), Mallex Smith (.656) and, surprisingly, Lorenzo Cain (.663). Once ranked as high as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, Arcia simply has not shown the ability to handle the bat in the major leagues. The 25-year-old shortstop is now a .241/.291/.358 career hitter, with his batting average declining each of the last two seasons.
Rougned Odor, 2B, Rangers
Anthony Rendon (NL) and Tim Anderson (AL) lead the batting title races. Odor leads the anti-batting title race. The 25-year-old Venezuelan has the lowest batting average in the major leagues at .205, and it is not helped by other parts of his slash line. His .282 on-base percentage is second-worst in the majors, ahead of only Arcia’s .280. Odor is on pace to have a sub-.300 on-base percentage for the third time in four years and a sub.-210 batting average for the second time in three years. While Odor has been better lately, with a .306/.370/.776 line in 13 games since Sept. 1, he went 4-for-42 with 14 strikeouts in the preceding 13 games. Without more consistency and better overall performance, the Rangers will be hard-pressed to continue running Odor out as an everyday starter.
Rick Porcello, RHP, Red Sox
With less than two weeks left in the regular season, Porcello has a healthy lead for worst ERA among starters. Porcello’s 5.77 ERA ranks dead last in the majors among qualified starters this season, followed by Yusei Kikuchi (5.46), Reynaldo Lopez (5.44), Jake Junis (5.24) and J.A. Happ (5.07). Porcello's ERA is trending in the wrong direction, too. The 30-year-old righthander has a 9.69 ERA in three September starts, during which opponents have hit .345/.387/.642 against him. With free agency looming after the season, Porcello is struggling in his final push to show teams he’s worth signing to any kind of significant contract.