The National League MVP race lacks clarity with six weeks down in the 2021 MLB season.
Ronald Acuna Jr. is the betting favorite right now, and for good reason, but he’s far from a dark-horse.
He leads the NL in home runs (12), slugging (.646) and OPS (1.042) to go along with a 1.6 WAR.
Acuna Jr. has received MLB MVP votes in every year of his career, and this season looks to be headed in the same direction.
Even still, the door is left wide open for some other players to sneak in.
Many of the preseason favorites for the NL MVP are off to slow starts this year.
This has allowed the race to open up a bit, which makes it a great time to look at some dark-horse candidates.
Jesse Winker is becoming one of the most underrated players in baseball, but that won’t be the case for long if he’s able to solidify himself in the MVP race this season.
Winker currently leads the NL in batting at .344 and also boasts a 1.002 OPS.
Jesse Winker over his last 162 games
Pretty, pretty, pretty good 😉 pic.twitter.com/do6kcGfW78
— And This Blog Belongs To The Reds (@ATBBTTR) May 14, 2021
At the very least, Winker figures to be an All-Star this season, which would be the first selection of his career.
Winker has posted an above-league-average OPS+ in all five seasons of his career.
Winker’s Reds are even on the season at 19-19, good for third place in the NL Central.
Trea Turner is coming off of a fantastic 2020 season in which he finished seventh in the MVP race.
He’s been just as good this season, slashing .329/.369/.938 through 36 games.
Turner has 17 extra-base-hits to this point, a pace that would likely mark the best power-hitting season of his career is he’s able to maintain the success.
Turner’s WAR is right where it needs to be at 1.9, which is on pace to become a career-best for the 27-year-old.
The Nationals have been slow out of the gate at 16-20, but the difference in the NL East from top to bottom is only three games.
Like Winker, Turner is likely looking at his first MLB All-Star selection this season.
Jacob deGrom makes the list as a dark-horse candidate because he’s a pitcher, and only two pitchers have won MVP honors since the turn of the century.
deGrom already feels like a lock for the NL Cy Young award, but if he keeps up his current pace, he’s going to have something to say about the MVP award, too.
Through six starts, deGrom has allowed three earned runs in 40 innings.
That’s good for a 0.68 ERA, which of course leads all of Major League Baseball.
60+ Ks and an ERA under 1.00, first six games:
Randy Johnson, 2000
Jacob deGrom, 2021
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) May 11, 2021
He also leads the NL in FIP (1.06), WHIP (0.60) and K/9 (14.6).
deGrom is currently sidelined with right side tightness, but if he returns and picks up where he left off, he will be in the MVP race all year long.
The Mets currently sit atop the NL East at 18-16.