Every team, whether they’re in first place or last place, has a standout. This is someone who has been the best player on the roster, the one who, if everyone were playing like he is, would be the leader of the best team in baseball. Every bill got an MVP. Every team has a star.
We’ve chosen that MVP for every team so far. They do not get a patch on their jerseys, but their teams would be lost without them.
All stats entering Wednesday.
Blue Jays: RHP Alek Manoah
4-0, 1.45 ERA
This will probably end up being Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by the end of the year, but Manoah has been incredible for the Blue Jays so far, a revelation for a team that has needed every inning he and fellow stud starter Kevin Gausman have been able to give them.
Orioles: LHP Bruce Zimmermann
1.48 ERA, 1 HR in 24 1/3 innings
The Orioles’ pitching has been quite a surprise so far, and Zimmermann, a journeyman who grew up in Maryland but has been floating around the Minor Leagues for six years now, is the perfect avatar of the improvement. His peripheral numbers do not support that ERA, but whose could? And how do you not root for the local kid?
Rays: SS Wander Franco
.319 / .344 / .560
You could have gone with Ji-Man Choi here, were he not on the injured list. Instead we’ll go with the guy who’s going to be the MVP of this team for the next decade; at least it sure looks like it.
Red Sox: RHP Garrett Whitlock
1 ER in 16 2/3 IP
Whitlock has done it as a starter and as a reliever, and he has been vital for a staff that needs every good inning it can get. The four-year extension Whitlock got last month is a symbol of Boston’s faith, and he’s more than living up to it so far.
Yankees: RF Aaron Judge
.303 / .361 / .674, 9 HR
It’s all about health with Judge, and he has been splendid and upright from the start. With all the drama around the inability of the team and Judge to agree to an extension before the season began, he has exploded in the early going for a Yankees team that has looked unbeatable for a week and a half now.
Guardians: 3B José Ramírez
.341 / .421 / .707, 28 RBIs
It is now nearly impossible to remember that awful first half Ramírez had a couple of years ago. He’s playing at his peak right now, and he’s definitely an MVP frontrunner so far. The lineup around him has been better than expected, and he’s reaping the benefits.
Royals: RHP Zack Greinke
2.57 ERA in 28 IP
Look, I do not know how he’s doing it, either. Greinke has struck out seven hitters in his 28 innings, which isn’t even how they played baseball in the 1910s. And yet, he leads this team in WAR and gives them the best chance to win every five days, even though the Royals are still 1-4 in his five starts.
Tigers: RHP Michael Fulmer
9 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 3 H
You could also have gone with the newly acquired Austin Meadows, but Fulmer has filled the role built for him – basically, freelance relief artist – to perfection. If they can get their offense going, the Tigers can get back in this thing.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton
.290 / .343 / .710, 7 HR
The old axiom continues to apply: When Buxton plays, the Twins are a first-place team, and when he doesnt, they are something very different than that. He’s on the field almost every day now, so the Twins are in first place. It’s apparently that simple.
White Sox: LF Andrew Vaughn
.283 / .367 / .566
In a season where just about everything has gone wrong for the White Sox so far – and they’re still in striking distance in the AL Central – Vaughn’s emergence as the star the White Sox have long been expected has been a bit of a lifesaver . But the Sox will be without his services for a bit after he sustained a right wrist bruise from a hit-by-pitch, landing him on the 10-day IL.
Angels: CF Mike Trout
.319 / .449 / .694, 6 HR
You can pick Taylor Ward here if you want – he does actually have better numbers than Trout so far, if you can believe that. But this is Mike Trout, and this is the good stuff. This is the Trout we were waiting for. If he’s healthy all year, this could be the all-timer season… and the Angels are in first place.
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander
2-1. 1.73 ERA, 9.7 K / 9
The Astros couldn’t have been certain what they’d be getting from Verlander, who had barely pitched in two years. They’ve gotten the ace they traded for all those years ago, a guy who defies time and physics every time he stands on a mound at this point.
Athletics: 3B Sheldon Neuse
.329 / .393 / .461
Much has been made about the A’s trying to replace Matt Olson at first base, but what about the job Neuse is doing in place of Matt Chapman at third? The defense might not quite be there, but the bat certainly is.
Mariners: SS JP Crawford
.357 / .450 / .595
The Mariners’ phenoms haven’t quite gotten it going yet, so it’s up to the former ones to carry the team. Crawford, a big-time Phillies prospect before being dealt to Seattle, is getting the job done. This is the best possible version of Crawford – really, a sneaky AL MVP candidate at this point.
Rangers: SS Corey Seager
.270 / .327 / .416
That Seager is off to one of the worst starts of his career and is still the best player on the Rangers right now tells you all you need to know about how Texas has started in 2022.
Braves: RHP Kyle Wright
3-1. 1.74 ERA, 10.7 K / 9
Apologies to Austin Riley, who has become a superstar, but there has been no bigger revelation in Atlanta than Wright, who is instant ace material. His first step forward came in last year World Series. Here’s the next one.
Marlins: 2B Jazz Chisholm Jr.
.313 / .360 / .657
Pablo López has been the ace of the staff, but the Marlins have plenty of pitching. They need bats, and that’s what Chisholm has provided, elevating himself to the next level. He looks like a guy who’s about to make a whole bunch of All-Star Games, doesn’t he?
Mets: RHP Max Scherzer
4-0, 2.61 ERA, 12.2 K / 9
You could go with Francisco Lindor, or even Jeff McNeil, here and you’d be fine. But no player more vividly illustrates how different the Mets seem this year than in past years than Scherzer. Having him on the roster just makes the whole team feel transformed.
Nationals: RF Juan Soto
.258 / .405 / .472
All told, Josh Bell – who actually has a higher OBP than Soto, if you can believe that – probably should be the pick here. But Soto is still the guy this whole team orbits around.
Phillies: RHP Corey Knebel
0.96 ERA, 4 saves
For all the talk of defensive issues heading into the year, the Phillies’ offense has been a bit of a disappointment: How does Bryce Harper only have a .304 OBP? Knebel has been a godsend for a traditionally beleaguered Phillies bullpen.
Brewers: LHP Josh Hader
9 1/3 IP, 0 ER, 10 saves
Pick your Brewers pitcher at this point. Corbin Burnes is a totally fine pick, as he has been dominant since a rough Opening Day. But Hader has given up only two hits and has finished off every game in which he has appeared. He’s the same guy as ever.
Cubs: OF Seiya Suzuki
.263 / .380 / .500
Suzuki has been everything the Cubs could have wanted, emerging as an early fan favorite. We’ll see if he can keep this up all year, but right now this looks like one of the smartest free-agent pickups of the offseason.
Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
.333 / .424 / .417
The power hasn’t shown up yet, but otherwise this is the star, on both offense and defense, that the Pirates were planning on having heading into last year. You can build around him, and the Pirates are doing just that.
Reds: RHP Alexis Diaz
11 2/3 IP, 0.77 ERA
Yeah, finding Reds who are thriving right now is… difficult.
D-backs: RHP Merrill Kelly
1.27 ERA in 28 1/3 IP
Kelly has teamed up with Madison Bumgarner – who looks like himself again – to give the D-backs a surprising 1-2 punch atop their rotation.
Dodgers: 1B Freddie Freeman
.298 / .381 / .464
It’s not easy to pick a Dodgers MVP – they’re just consistently excellent everywhere. But Freeman has put up the best numbers in the lineup so far, so we’ll just go with him.
Giants: LHP Carlos Rodón
3-1. 1.55 ERA, 12.7 K / 9
What injury concerns? The Giants have kept their veteran rejuvenation program going with Rodón, who has been magnificent. And there they are, just as they said they would be, contending no matter what you think.
Padres: 3B Manny Machado
.375 / .440 / .591
It’s probably about time for Machado to win an MVP Award, right? He and Eric Hosmer have kept the Padres’ offense afloat with Fernando Tatis Jr. out, and when their star comes back, this lineup will look almost unmanageable.
Rockies: RHP Chad Kuhl
3-0, 1.90 ERA
CJ Cron and Randal Grichuk are hitting the ball all over the place, and Kuhl isn’t really striking anybody out, but a 1.90 ERA while pitching for the Rockies will absolutely get one’s attention. Half of his starts have been in Coors Field, too. He has given up three runs at home and two on the road.